Sunday, 3 October 2021

Late season Barn Owl news

Lewis and I checked a few boxes towards the end of September for outcomes and possible second breeding attempts. In one Kirklington box we found a bird of the year (that probably fledged in July) seemingly paired up with a male. It had been ringed on Mansey Common in June 11 km away.  

On the same day we ringed 10 chicks from 3 late broods. One of these had a one-eyed female that had both eyes when ringed with her chicks less than a kilometre away in May. 

We also had a brood of 6 very small chicks at Barkestone-le-Vale that should fledge in November - weather allowing. On the downside, two clutches had been abandoned as is often the case with late barn Owl breeding.


Chicks of the one-eyed mother (Lewis Aaron)

 Releasing a male caught near Southwell. There are two boxes 75m apart here and we suspect he had fathered broods in both. (Lewis Aaron)


Thursday, 16 September 2021

Recent Recoveries

The first recoveries round-up for a while kicks off with an 8-year-old Kestrel, a bird ringed in Kinoulton in 2013 and found dead in Claypole near Newark exactly 8 years later.

A Common Tern, ringed in 2016 at Attenborough, was seen at Straws Bridge in Ilkeston in May, the ring being read by the observer.

A Mute Swan met its fate hitting a tree in Hilton, Derbyshire in May, having been ringed in Linby in 2015.

The Attenborough Sand Martin colony continues to provide plenty of recoveries. Birds ringed elsewhere and controlled at the reserve include two from Rutland, and another from Bagworth Heath in Leics. An Attenborough-ringed bird was also controlled at one of the colonies in Rutland.

Another continuing source of recoveries are the Lesser Redpolls which were caught mainly at Bestwood and Holme Pierrepont in the huge influx of birds in autumn 2020. Several birds were controlled throughout the winter at Ramsley Moor in South Yorks, and this continued until late spring, with the last bird controlled on 16 May. After a gap of 3 months, another was controlled at the site in August.

Further afield, a bird ringed at Holme Pierrepont in October was controlled at a site near Dumfries in May, whilst a Bestwood-ringed bird was found dead near Brora, Highland in May.

One of the Siskins caught in late winter in Tom’s garden in Colwick was controlled at a site in Nethybridge, Highland. The same bird was found in a moribund state a few days later following some poor weather.

Continuing with finches, a Greenfinch ringed at Brackenhurst in November was found dead near Borrowash, Derbyshire in August. A Goldfinch ringed in Colwick in September was controlled in Cropwell Bishop in March. A Starling was also controlled at the same site in Cropwell Bishop in March, having been ringed in Sibthorpe in June 2020.

A Blackbird, ringed in 2017 at Stoke Bardolph, was seen in a nearby garden, where its ring was read by the Observer, 4 years on.

A Blue tit, rarely seen in the recoveries section, was controlled in Tom’s garden in August. It had been ringed at Oxton by Cliff the previous September.

This year's breeding season has resulted in a number of warbler recoveries:

A Chiffchaff, ringed at Ramsdale in 2019 was retrapped at Ulley CP by Sorby Breck ringers in July. Another Chiffchaff, ringed at Bestwood in August 2020, was retrapped by French ringers in Messanges in October the same year.

A Blackcap, ringed at Holme Pierrepont in September 2019 was caught in Southwick, Northants, in August this year. Another HP bird, caught in 2020, was trapped in Zerkegem, Belgium in April.

A Garden Warbler, ringed in august 2017 at Hazelford, was caught at Langford Lowfields this July.

Finally, a Reed Warbler was trapped at Holme Pierrepont in July this year, and 3 weeks later was caught again by ringers at Stanford reservoir on the Leics/Northants border.


Friday, 30 July 2021

A hat-trick of Grasshoppers

The morning of Sunday 25 July looked ideal for ringing, the only problem was that I had "dad duty" from 9 o'clock whilst my partner went for her last COVID vaccine.

I decided that an early 4am start would give me a few hours on Manor Floods, a site less than 5 minutes from my house. My 4-year-old twin son Isaac, decided that he wanted to join me. So we both set off into the first light.

Having not been at the site for 4 months I was greeted with waist-high grass. Given my time limitations and my son in tow, I decided just to put up just one 18m net across my favourite ride.

Obviously, Isaac was my lucky charm. That one net in just under four hours produced 19 birds, including 3 Grasshopper Warblers. Two juveniles and an adult male; the first Grasshopper Warblers caught by the group since 2018!

Total birds (new/retrap): Whitethroat 2/0, Willow Warbler 5/1, Grasshopper Warbler 3/0, Robin 1/0, Great Tit 2/0, Blue Tit 4/0, Blackcap 1/0



Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Attenborough CES - updates

CES Session 2 - 16 May

Mick T, Kevin, Gary, and I carried out the second CES in a break in the appalling weather we have been having this spring. Catching was steady throughout the morning with another new Song Thrush being caught and the first Garden Warbler of the year also processed. Birds overhead included Hobby and the first few flocks of Swifts.

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Wren 2/0, Long-tailed Tit 3/1, Robin 2/1, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blackcap 4/1, Great Tit 2/2, Blue Tit 3/0, Reed Warbler 1/0, Dunnock 1/1, Song Thrush 1/1, Blackbird 2/0, Treecreeper 0/1.

CES Session 3 - 23 May

A gap in the poor weather allowed us to get out to complete the third CES session. Catching remained slow throughout the morning with only 25 bird being processed. The variety, however, was nice with Goldcrest, the first juvenile of the CES sessions and another new feisty Jay being caught. The latter chewed through Alex’s fingers whilst both being extracted and processed – somehow more senior ringers felt that this would be a “good experience” for him!

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Jay 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Great Tit 2/1, Blackcap 5/1, Reed Warbler 2/0, Blue Tit 4/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/0, Wren 2/0, Goldcrest 1/0.

CES Session 4 - 31 May

Mick T, Kevin, Gary, and I made it out for the fourth CES. Despite the recent warm weather, most of the morning was quite cold and overcast, the cloud only lifted as we started to close the nets. Despite this, catching was steady for most of the morning, but only a handful of juveniles were caught. Given the poor spring this may be a portent of a poor breeding season, but only time and data will tell. Other birds included the first Cuckoo of the year heard and a Buzzard overhead.

Bird processed (new/retrap):
Blackbird 1/1, Dunnock 3/1, Blue Tit 3/1, Great Tit, 1/1, Robin 2/1, Bullfinch 1/0, Garden Warbler 1/0, Blackcap 1/0, Chiffchaff 4/2, Long-tailed Tit 8/4, Wren 1/1, Treecreeper 1/0, Cetti’s Warbler 0/1


Examining Blackcaps (A. Phillips)

CES Long-tailed Tit release


Saturday, 15 May 2021

Brackenhurst Tawny Owls

Some nice footage of a Tawny Owl feeding young at one of our Brackenhurst boxes here: 

This box has also held Kestrels and Stock Doves over the years. In 2021, the owls raised 2 chicks and the female was also trapped and ringed.

Sunday, 9 May 2021


Towards the end of February, I was working from home and when I noticed a Siskin on one of the sunflower heart feeders. This was the first Siskin I’d seen in the garden (other than flyovers) since the first winter we moved in, when I'd recorded a single bird on one occasion. 

A few days later, I was ringing in the garden, not catching much, when a female Siskin flew into the net. It was accompanied by a male, which evaded capture, but was a great surprise and it was pleasant to ring my first Siskin since the faraway days of ringing at Rushcliffe CP.

In the following days, more and more birds arrived and soon, the garden was alive with a constant buzz of wheezing Siskin song and pew-pew calls. The next chance I got, I put a net up and managed 10 birds one morning before the sun rose above the nearby houses and stopped play. The birds didn’t go anywhere and the in following few weeks I caught 44 new birds and retrapped a few in the process. Towards the end of the period I was catching more retraps than new birds, so I presumed I’d marked most of them. Unfortunately other commitments meant I couldn’t trap quite as much, although by the beginning of April, numbers were starting to dwindle. It was interesting to note that after I thought they’d disappeared, some birds returned from time to time, which led me to think these could be local breeders.

I haven’t seen any more in the garden for about 3 weeks so presume they have disappeared, but it was nice to be lucky enough to have them choose my garden to fill their ‘hungry-gap’ at the end of the winter. Hopefully they’ll be back one day...

The photos below show some of the ageing criteria for these birds.

A first-winter female with 2 old greater coverts and typical juvenile tertials with ill-defined edges and wear. Also note the pointed tail feathers with the limited green of the female:


A first-winter male, also with 2 old coverts. The tail is more adult-like than many juvenile tails, nice and round, but the wing gave it away as a young bird. Some of the 1st winter males also seemed to have grey feathers mixed in with the black crown: 

And an adult female with no moult limit (though the photo almost appears to show one – this wasn’t the case), a nice rounded tail, and tertials with much more defined edges than that of the young bird above: 



Friday, 7 May 2021


Group members will know that I like to get out ring-reading when I can, and although the extent of what I do is pretty small, I get a great deal of pleasure from finding ringed birds and reporting them, and it gives a little extra value to my birding.

I don’t get out as much as I’d like, but the main areas I cover are Trent Bridge and Victoria Embankment, Stoke Bardolph, and other sites I usually bird at like Holme Pierrepont and Colwick. The main target is Black-headed gulls, and over the years I have managed to find a few birds. Rewards are slim and it can be very disappointing to find a big flock, hungry for bread, without any ringed birds. Finding a ringed bird, especially if its got a handy colour ring on, is therefore very rewarding.

I have found birds that have been ringed in numerous countries, including Poland, Norway, The Netherlands and Denmark, as well as a small number of British ringed birds. It isn’t always easy, and along the way I have misread some colour-rings and therefore lost the chance at finding out life-histories. Most frustrating is attempting to read unfamiliar metal rings, and just this year I have found 3 Finnish metal-ringed birds that were always too flighty to get a full code from. (Finnish rings have an alpha-numeric code separated with a full stop, just to make things complicated!)

Bycatch from this activity includes ringed geese and swans. The Canada Geese are all from the Nottingham Uni project, but I feel I have added value to their project by regularly reporting birds, though sightings from this project have dropped off somewhat, perhaps due to the birds not being ringed for the last few years. In March I stepped up efforts and in doing so discovered a few flocks of Mute Swans, so managed a few ring numbers there too – particularly easy as they allow you to actually handle the ring to get the code in some cases! I have also read rings of Common Gull, Little Egret, and on wider excursions, waders such as godwits and Avocets. Frustratingly, every Grey Heron and Cormorant I check never seems to have a colour-ring (sorry Jim!).

I just wanted to give a brief outline of my experience of ring-reading, and encourage others to give it a go. I gave it a lot more effort to the end of last winter and hope to continue this effort later in the year. All you need is a site with plenty of birds hanging around, a few loaves of bread, and a bit of patience... Happy hunting!



Thursday, 6 May 2021

Attenborough CES visit 1, Sunday 2 May

After a year’s absence from Attenborough, it was nice to be back carrying out the first CES season of 2021. The weather was almost ideal when Gary, Kev, Mick Pearson and I met at 05:50 with no wind and a little cloud.

Pete Stanyon and the Attenborough volunteers had done a brilliant job clearing the rides and we managed to get all the nets up and guyed before 07:00. Catching was steady throughout the morning, with the first Reed Warbler of the year caught, and with a Jay, Cetti’s Warbler and a Treecreeper adding to the interest. Unusually, no Dunnocks were trapped. In total 31 birds were processed,  comprising 26 new and 5 recaptures.

The totals were as follows (new/recapture):

Blackbird 1/1, Blackcap 6/0, Blue Tit 4/1, Cetti’s Warbler 1/0, Chiffchaff 3/0, Great Tit 1/1, Jay 1/0, Long-tailed Tit 2/0, Reed Warbler 1/0, Robin 1/1, Song Thrush 2/0, Treecreeper 1/0, Wren 2/0





Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Recent recoveries

Now ringing and birding is a lot less restricted, our recoveries are coming in a little more regularly once again. As predicted before Christmas, the Lesser Redpolls that were ringed in huge numbers in the autumn are beginning to get picked up by ringers elsewhere. Sorby Breck ringers in particular are catching very high numbers of Redpoll, especially at their site at Ramsley, and they have controlled two birds ringed by our group in the autumn. These birds were both ringed at Bestwood by Mick, in November and December, and one was controlled at Blackburn Meadows near Rotherham at the end of December, and another at Ramsley in April.

Other Redpoll recoveries include a bird ringed at Bestwood in December, recovered a few miles north at Bilsthorpe only a week later. A bird ringed at Holme Pierrepont on 11 October was recovered in Shropshire in April, and another HP bird, ringed on 16 October was contolled in Edwinstowe in January. Birds are still being caught in decent numbers so we can probably expect some more movements to be reported soon.

Other passerine recoveries are summarised below:
  • a Chiffchaff, ringed on 31 August last year at Ramsdale was caught by French ringers at Dourges, Pas-de-Calais in the beginning of October
  • another bird ringed at Ramsdale on the same date, a Goldfinch, was recently found dead in Woodborough, at the end of April
  • another Goldfinch, ringed in Tom’s Colwick Garden in January, was retrapped by Sorby Breck ringers at a site near Sheffield in April
  • a Blackbird ringed at Attenborough in 2016 was found dead on the reserve in February this year
  • Probably the most interesting recovery here, involves a Fieldfare, ringed in Cropwell Bishop by another ringer in 2018, and resighted at Devonshire Farm in February. The birds metal ring was read in the field and shows that this rarely recovered species can be faithful to an area in successive winters, as the two sites are only a few kilometres from one another.
Of the few raptor recoveries we have had, a Kestrel ringed in Owthorpe in 2014 is perhaps the most interesting, found dead this year near Beeby in Leicestershire.

More ring-reading from Tom resulted in a Rutland Water-ringed Black-headed Gull being seen at Trent Bridge in November. It had been ringed as a chick in 2019, and had been seen the previous winter at Clumber. The Norweigian Common Gull (J18V), ringed in 2016 and seen last winter at Trent Bridge, was seen again at the same site in March this year. Further afield, the Black-headed gull, ringed at Attenborough in 2019 that spends its time in Cork, has been seen again at the lough in Cork this last winter period.


Wednesday, 14 April 2021


An early breeder, we have ringed Raven nestlings at one site since 2014. To date 21 chicks have been ringed and the average brood size has been three. Nineteen have also been colour-ringed. We've had one recovery so far, a chick from 2014 was found dead in a sheepfield in West Yorkshire, 73 km away. 

Jim & Christian


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Cormorant movements

As can be seen from the map below, reproduced from the 2020 report, Cormorant CX4 (5268887 - purple line) is highly mobile, regularly commuting between Merseyside and the south-east coast. It has now been seen again at Havergate Island NR in Suffolk where it seems to like spending the winter.