Monday, 23 January 2017

Scrub Bashing!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The SRG hordes are out every Saturday morning armed only with with loppers, saws, Thermos flasks and sundry other tools to to cut back the scrub which has grown up over the year at Stanford reservoir. We’ll be doing this, weather permitting until April. This promotes a dense undergrowth in spring at the reservoir. To explain why we do this throughout the cold and damp months, here is a quote from a letter kindly sent to us by one of our regular birdwatchers:

There was a late spring evening last year when I stood quietly at the back of Blower’s Lodge Bay. From this one spot, I could hear Grasshopper Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler, plus the usual ‘commoner’ species.
This diversity is a testament to the hard work the group puts into managing the habitat’.

What a kind thought! This is absolutely true, the warblers (and indeed many other birds) love the dense undergrowth generated following scrub bashing, where they feel secure to nest and bring up their young; so we feel our effort is very well spent. Please note that readers are very welcome to join us in this endeavour- contact details can be found on the SRG main web site (a link can be found on this page on the right).
Following a morning’s bashing, we had our annual shin-dig on the 21st January at our spiritual home, the White Hart in South Kilworth, with SRG members and various partners. Here is the commemorative picture of the event- those of a sensitive nature may wish to turn away now…

Stanford RG annual gathering - 21st Jan 2017
Back - Peter N, Ed, Andy, Clare, Simon, Judy, Peter B, Peter R, Adam, Lynn
Front - Kate, David, Jo, Dawn, Denise, Mick


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

To all our readers and followers we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Autumn update

Peter N writes: No doubt Mick will give us an end of year summary soon, but it has been noted that the blog has been looking a little sparse, so here is an update. It has been a fabulous year at Stanford with some fabulous birds. In September we ringed our first ever Wryneck (see earlier posts), and last month we ringed the first ever Common Snipe (ringed by Kate, our new trainee). So that is two absolute stonkers.

Common Snipe by P Norrie
Adam had been running a sweepstake for the next new species to be ringed, and Snipe was on the list, so that ended it, congratulations to Lesley. This raised £135 for the group, well done Mr H for organising it.
I won’t steal Mick’s thunder by doing a preview of the years statistics, except to mention our Redwing totals. Redwings are migratory thrushes, about the same size as a Song thrush, but with a nice red under-wing and flank, plus a pale eye stripe. They come to us to over-winter from Scandinavia and points north when the weather gets colder. We never chase totals (cough, cough) but this year we have been able to ring throughout December, because the weather has been dominated by high pressure. By contrast last year December was largely a washout as front after front came in from the Atlantic. We have been out three times a week before dawn with the Latvian love song playing on the Mp3 players and the nets set high! This has paid off and we have now ringed over 900+ To celebrate this, here is a commemorative picture of ‘Mr 900taken on a cold grey morning.

2016's 900th Redwing by P Norrie
Will we get to crack the 1000? We start scrub bashing in January in preparation for the return of the breeding birds and December is moving on; if the weather holds we might be able to get another five sessions in, so it is possible but far from certain… for all of this and much, much more, keep watching this blog!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Iceland Ringing Trip

Peter N visited Iceland between 19 and 29 September. Here is a brief report of his birding and ringing activities:

Iceland is very very beautiful and very very expensive! Autumn is actually quite a quiet time bird-wise to visit. The dominant species are Redwing (Icelandic- dark and large) and Meadow pipit, both preparing to migrate. My contact at the South East Iceland Ringing Observatory was Brynj├║lfur Brynj├│lfsson, known to everyone as Binni. He very kindly drove me from Reykjavik to Hofn where the observatory is based, stopping at some birding hot spots on the way down. The town can also be accessed by plane (Eagle Air) and bus. The Observatory has been established for more than 10 years and is the result of a lot of hard work by Binni and his friend Bjussi. Each year they ring c.30-35 species. It is based about half a mile outside of Hofn, and is thus easily accessed:
Bird Observatory - by P Norrie
I had three mornings of ringing. The weather was… well let’s say challenging, but we got some nets open each day. My ringing list reflected the general birding, as follows: Redwing, Meadow pipit, Wren (Icelandic subspecies- big!) Blackcap and Snipe (new ringing species for me). On day two the boys kindly let me ring two Merlin, first year birds, male and female:
Merlin 1stW male - by P Norrie

Merlin 1stW female - by P Norrie
Fantastic! The obs usually gets a handful of Merlin every year, but this was the first time they had had two on the same day; it must be the SRG vibe working its magic. In the afternoons Binni invariably took me birding, and we chalked up stonking views of Gyrfalcon and Harlequin duck. He is a birding legend in Iceland and, while we were out, spotted Iceland’s first confirmed Black Scoter. Many thanks to Binni for his kindness and hospitality, and we hope he will visit us in the near future. If you are passing his way he is always keen to hear from birders (and ringers in particular), and can be contacted on I plan to return in Spring 18, to see Iceland in the breeding season. PETER

Monday, 26 September 2016

Cyprus 2016

This is in Memory of Alan Crabtree who sadly died recently.
Alan had been the ringer in charge on Cyprus for many years.

Now I know that this entry is slightly out of date as Mick, Denise and myself went to Cyprus in April and May. But it has taken this long for our techni-phobe Group Leader Mick to get me the photographs.
Anyway, Mick and Denise went to Cyprus for approx 6 weeks and met up with Mel Preston and his wife Janet in Polis.  I joined them mid way into their holiday for only a week but what a week I had. I managed to ring everyday. I was there either with Mel and Mick, Bill Jones or a group of ringers from Sorby Breck,  Paul, Steve, Mark, and Geoff.

The star of the trip was a Lesser Grey Shrike which I believe was only the second ringed on the island.

Below are just a few of the birds caught by us during this period.

Lesser Grey Shrike

Bonnelli's Warbler

Zitting Cisticola


Bee- Eater

Night Heron

Wood Sandpiper

Little Egret

Squacco Heron

Different variations of Yellow Wagtails

Collared Flycatchers

 Wood Warbler

Barred Warbler

Red Backed Shrike

Golden Oriole

When we were not ringing we either relaxed by the pool or watched other wildlife on the island.

Denise posing

Nice pinny Mel

Hummingbird Hawk Moth


Spur- Winged Lapwing

A great time was had by all, and thanks guys for your help and patience.

Looking forward to next years trip.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A New Site Record

Again Saturday this week was too windy for ringing, so it was agreed that we should ring on Sunday morning. Mick and Adam valiantly elected to get to the reservoir in the middle of the night and erected nets at 10 rides.So all the rest of us had a lie-in and didn't get to the site until 6am. So myself, Dawn and Stuart trundled down the track to practice our 'fieldcraft ' as Adam calls it. In other-words to try not to wake Mick and Adam.ha ha.  Not really its to be quiet on our arrival with no slamming of car doors etc thus scaring any birds in the area.
On checking 8 of the 10 rides on the first round it appeared to be very quiet with only a small number of birds caught. So Mick went and did the last two on his own while the rest of us started to process the birds. After emptying the ninth net Mick returned to base with both arms full of bags containing the birds. He then went off loaded with more bags to empty the last net. After a while Mick returned ladened with full bags, I had started a second round of nets and found my first net full of chiffchaffs, by the time I had emptied it with Dawns help, Mick had caught up with us and told us to return to the base as they were inundated with birds.So we returned and started processing the birds. That is where we stayed for the rest of the morning, with Mick constantly emptying the nets.
Normally after the first 2 or 3 rounds the number of birds vastly reduces. However today there was large number of hirudines present (2000+), so mp3 bird callers were changed to hirundine.
By midday fingers were sore from removing the rings from the plastic strings and still Mick was returning with large numbers of birds.
But by 1pm all the nets were down and the pub was calling!!!
Todays ringing was absolutely incredible we processed a staggering 380 birds.   of which 370 were new birds.we had 131 Chiffchaff, which is just unheard of. 2 of the Chiffs were controls one of which was ringed in Jersey, Channel Islands. We also had 110 Blackcap ,64 House Martins , 33 Swallows, 9 Reed Warbler, 6 Willow Warbler, 4 Sand Martin, 4 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and a single GardenWarbler. Plus other odds.
This is a new record for the site, thanks to everyone involve for any absolute fantastic days ringing.

Below is a link to an aerial view of part of our ringing site and the reservoir. by kind permission of        Simon Watts Wild Presentations

For anyone who is interested in starting to ring and wishes to join, below is an idea of what ringing is about. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Blackcaps are definitely here.

Well because of the bad weather yesterday the team decided to go ringing today. Adam and Mick got to the reserve early about 3am and erected the nets. That meant that the rest of us Peter, Stuart, Kate and myself could arrive later and didn't have to be there until 6am..
The first two rounds were crazy catching over 100 Blackcaps including 2 controls and 30 odd Chiffchaffs.
We continue to catch a few Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers as they pass through the area.  It was also good to catch one of our previously ringed Cetti's Warbler, and a new Coal Tit which I believe is only our second for the year. After the first two rounds the number of bird caught reduced and it gave Adam, Stuart and Kate the opportunity to check one of the pole boxes containing Barn Owl pulli. We had previously ringed 5 of the 6 pulli about 2 weeks ago. The youngest at that time had been too small to ring.. However today it was large enough and Stuart was fortunate enough to ring his first Barn Owl.
By midday we had taken the nets down and were having some refreshment at our local hq The White Hart.
During the week there had been sightings of Common Sandpipers in the area of the dam..After some discussion  Adam, Stuart, Peter and myself decided to see if they were still around..
On arrival we spotted 2 on the overflow wall. So we erected two nets in the overflow gully and a couple of Spring traps on the overflow wall.
After about 3 hours we had had great success catching 3 new and 1 retrap Grey Wagtails and one of the two Common Sandpiper. Lucky Adam.
At this time of the year we get several stop off during their migration south but we very rarely catch and ring them. The last Common Sandpiper caught and ringed at Stanford was in 1984.

So all in all we all had a great days ringing, processing 210 birds of which 132 were Blackcaps, including 2 controls, 39 Chiffchaffs, 5 Reed Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Whitethroat 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers a Coal Tit, the Barn Owl Pulli and of course the Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper, showing distinctive wing bar.

Common Sandpiper

Grey Wagtail