Sunday, 9 September 2018

House and Swallow

On Saturday 8th September the team sallied forth once more at Stanford Reservoir. Mick and I met at 03:45 to put up nets, allowing the troops (Adam, Dawn, Dave, Stuart and Peter B) to turn up at a leisurely 06:15. The first three rounds were fairly standard, lots of Blackcaps and Chiffchaff. At around 10:00 we had a major flock of 1000+ mixed hirundines come over. Quickly, we turned the callers onto Swallow and House Martin. This gave us good numbers of all three species, mainly juveniles. Clearly these are the most aerial of birds, so it might be interesting for our readers to see the birds in the hand.
This swallow is one of this year's birds. This is shown by the lack of tail streamers, and the rather duller colours in comparison to the adults.
Juvenile Swallow

This house martin is also a juvenile; it too has duller colours than the adults and the tertials have thick white tips.
Juvenile House Martin

On this Sand martin, you can also see pale edges and tips to the tertials, so this is also a juvenile.
Juvenile Sand Martin

The morning was topped off with a new Meadow Pipit. In total we had 137 new birds. A fantastic session was had by all and we repaired in a timely fashion to the White Hart to celebrate. 
Peter N.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Rare Warbler at the Res

We ring approximately 500 Reed Warblers every year. On each of these birds we measure the notch on the second primary and then close the wing to see where it lines up. On Reed Warblers it lies between the last two primaries and the secondaries. We do this because there is a very similar and rare bird, the Marsh Warbler which by contrast has a shorter notch which aligns with the mid-primaries. On Thursday 9 August Mick, Adam and I were working our way through a selection of small birds on the CES, when Adam found a warbler with a notch of 9mm (a bit too short for a RW), but which crucially fell between primary 6 and 7.

Reed and Marsh Warblers

The bird on the left is a Reed Warbler, on the right is the Marsh. As the Collins Guide puts it 'immature Marsh and Reed Warblers are extremely similar'. Something of an understatement. We also confirmed it with the length of the inner claw in relation to the adjacent toe, and the supercilium. This is only the fourth Marsh Warbler to be ringed by the SRG and I think it is true to say that without measuring the notch, we really wouldn't have picked this fabulous bird from its congeners. 

Marsh Warbler

These birds definitely fall into the category of Little Brown Jobs (LBJs), but for ringers that is part of the challenge and we will certainly be measuring our notches for many seasons to come.

Peter N

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Sat 23rd June 2018

On Saturday 23rd we finally experienced one of our best June days for a long time. At 04:30 I met Dawn, Dave, Jo and Peter R at the railtrack gate on a calm and clear morning with promises of warm sunshine by the weather forecasters.
We decided that we would try the stretch from the feeding station to the Point near the hide which has been an area reportedly busy with newly fledged young over the past week.
Pete, our groups helper, soon joined us just as we returned from emptying the nets and the early indications of a busy day were clear as 80 birds were quickly processed in the first round which consisted of many juveniles of Warblers and Tits but very few juvenile Finches or Buntings which was reflected by the lack of adults too. Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were the most numerous warblers throughout the day but there are still no signs of Grasshopper and Cetti's Warbler breeding this year.
Both of Stanfords reedbeds took a hammering during the winter months with heavy snow flattening almost all of the Leicestershire one and part of the Northants side. A single net in the latter proved fruitful with a handful of Reed and Sedge Warblers trapped but we will have to wait until July before venturing over to the other side.
The day continued with reduced but good numbers with each net round averaging around 25 birds which included some newly fledged Willow and Sedge Warblers, these were returned to the area where they had been caught for release. Pulli included single broods of Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows  and Swallows that brought the days total to 193 birds processed of which 117 were juvenile, 64 adults and 12 pulli.
A nice day at the office.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Back to Ringing!

Scrub bashing is now officially over and the breeding season is upon us. Since the 8th of April we have returned to our weekly Saturday ringing sessions. The first two have been quiet, but the southerly winds last week brought warmth and a nice selection of returning warblers.
On April 21st, Peter N and Dave met up at 0530 and put up nets from the feeders to the bench ride- half way along the poplars at Stanford reservoir. We were joined a little later by Mick. The first couple of rounds were quite productive and we welcomed back some old friends. These included Lesser Whitethroats (7), Willow Warblers (2), Chiffchaff (4) and one Reed and Sedge Warbler apiece. The fall of Lessers was particularly exciting, as we had a poor year for these in 2017. Still missing thus far are Cetti’s and Grasshopper Warblers, but there is plenty of time. 
Totals were 17 retraps, 30 new birds. A very promising start to the new season. 
Peter N
Lesser Whitethroat - P Norrie

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

End of a Fabulous Year

Peter N writes: The winter solstice has now passed, and we are into the new year, best wishes for 2018 to all our readers.
Adam, our group secretary, has now compiled the complete records for 2017, These will eventually be presented in the annual report, but here is a brief summary of what we have been up to. Over the year, we processed a total of 61 species comprising 9,874 birds. Of these, 7078 were new, 640 were pulli, and 2,156 were retraps. The commonest bird was the Blackcap (2083), but the rarest was Mick’s stonking Dusky Warbler; a once in a life time event (probably). Just staying with the Blackcaps, if we assume a weight of 18g per bird, that gives a figure of 37.5 kilos total weight- that’s a lot of avian biomass, northern Europe is clearly a productive place. I have been ringing with the group for three years now, and even as a novice have racked up a total of 6,112 birds, so many thanks to all who have guided and generally put up with me over the years.
The group also likes to travel and meet people. During the year we have had expeditions to Cyprus, Spurn and Skokholm. Recently I had an excellent experience ringing in Gambia for two weeks in November. I stayed at the Lemonfish Guesthouse in Kartong, and ringed at Kartong Bird Observatory with a group of fellow Brits. This is a fabulous place, and if you are travelling to the Gambia for a bit of winter sun, should be a must for anyone interested in birding. I ringed 60 new species, which was exciting but what was even more interesting (for me), was getting to ring a lot of waders in the flooded gardens nearby, including a lot of the birds that spend the summer in Europe, e.g. Common and Marsh Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Not uncommon, but difficult to gain much experience with - especially if you live in the middle of England.

Dave is famously reticent about mention of the birds he has ringed abroad, but here are a couple of photos to remind me of warmer times, as we go about our annual scrub-bashing, to get the reservoir conservation work done in time for the return of our warblers:

Long-tailed Nightjar

Oriole Warbler

Monday, 13 November 2017

October roundup

Well after a brilliant September! Hopes were high for October to be as good but with only 720 birds ringed this represented just under half of last years total for the month. With constant winds coming from between South through West to North West and periods of rain as well we felt we were constantly battling the weather conditions. With the weather how it was it was not surprising that the expected  Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs petered out very quickly with only 38 and 84 respectively being ringed this month, well down on previous years. Goldcrests moved through in smaller numbers this year with 54 being caught, in contrast Blue and Great Tits moved through in greater numbers than usual, probably reflecting the good breeding season we had here. During this period we also managed to ring 4 Coal Tits which is good for our site. Adam tried a roost catch in the Reedbed managing to catch 15 Starling and the only Reed Buntings (6) for the month. With all the Finches and Buntings well down in numbers the month just faded away. During recent years October has brought increasing numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers to Britain and both Leicestershire and Northants have had their fair share despite being as far from the sea as you can get. During this period Stanford has managed to catch 2 and observed another so you could say Stanford is a bit of a local hot spot recording 3 of the 9 records for Northants. Incredibly, we also caught the first for Northants at Naseby and Adam had one in his mothers garden in Corby so during the middle two weeks of October we get out as much as possible in the hope of catching more, this year being no exception. So with that in mind a small break in the weather on the morning of the 19th before more rain was due I decided to go out for a short session. What a great decision I made! Although it had been a poor morning numbers wise the last bird extracted was exceptional. As it was proving very slow that morning and the weather was closing in I decided to pack up. When reaching the last net I noticed a warbler in the bottom shelf with its back to me, as I walked past it to turn the tape lure off I thought "oh, a late Reed Warbler" so you can imagine my reaction on my return to find it was in actual fact a DUSKY WARBLER !!!! Absolutely amazing and probably out best species to date. I quickly text a local birder who was on site within 10 mins who took all the published photographs. An article along with photo's can be seen on Northamptonshire Bird Sightings web page.


Monday, 2 October 2017

September Totals and Highlights

It's been a funny September with us achieving our best ever months total of 2532 new birds ringed from 14 sessions, an average of 181 per session. What an achievement for this truly landlocked site! Our lowest catch was 66 on the 4th and our highest was 448 on the 2nd whilst the weekend of the 9th/10th produced 2 exceptional catches of 338 and 320 respectively. Under 10 retraps from the previous day also demonstrates how quickly birds are moving through at this time of year. At the beginning of the month we went through a period of time when each session we seemed to catch a Redstart resulting in 7 for the month and a total of 15 for the year which is excellent for us as no Redstarts breed in either Leicestershire or Northants. The 'bread and butter' species for us at this time of year are Blackcap and Chiffchaff, two short distance migrants that winter mainly in the Mediterranean basin. This year catching 1255 and 519 respectively. This weekends catch of Blackcap sends us over our best yearly total for this species and also being our first species to go over 10000 ever caught. The top 5 species ringed at Stanford are Blackcap 10080, Blue Tit 7845, Whitethroat 6460, Great Tit 6046 and finally Chiffchaff 5713, this is in stark contrast of when we first started ringing at Stanford in 1976 when Blackcap and Chiffchaff were infrequently caught. In fact after 10 years of ringing at this site we had only ringed 138 Blackcap and a paltry 45 Chiffchaff. How times change!. Again, this year we have caught 10 species of warbler to date resulting in 4112 new birds so far compared to 4560 last year. With about 2 weeks of warbler catching to go and weather willing we may just equal last years warbler total. Finally, where have all the Blackbirds gone? We are just entering October and we have only ringed 19 this year... in fact we have ringed more Song Thrushes with 20 being ringed. Very concerning indeed! Mick

Sparrowhawk - 1st year male

Lesser Redpoll