Friday, 21 February 2020

End of Year Round Up for 2019

Whilst Britain is lashed by various storms, it is time to write up a brief summary of our totals for the year, courtesy of the group’s secretary Adam, who has sent round totals on a spreadsheet.
Numerically, we have broken our own 40 year record for new birds and hence grand total (8,376 and 10,343 respectively). Controls have been very much in line with previous years (23) and have generally confirmed that our warblers fly down the west coast of France and through the Iberian peninsula en route to West Africa. The balance has been made up with 1944 retraps.
A number of species have done exceptionally well. We have had the best year ever for a number of species, including Blackcaps (2360), Blue tits (636) Sedge warblers (453), Reed warblers (439), Willow warblers (392), Garden warblers (119), Long tailed tits (97) Song thrushes (54) and Redstarts (16). Adam has applied himself diligently to the nest boxes and is largely responsible for recording breaking numbers of Stock doves (62) and Tawny owls (8).
All in all, a difficult year to follow. In summary, we have rung 61 species, the second best ever total, despite no birds of prey, or very strangely no House martins. At present we are busy scrub bashing, and will be until the end of of March, when our migrants start to return. It will be nice if and when the rain stops falling- perhaps by June?
Peter N

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Classic Rarity at the Res

Mick, Dave, Stuart and Peter N shimmied out on Saturday 12 October. We met at 0430 and put nets up at Stanford Reservoir from Safari to John's ride, and up the the railtrack. Numbers of birds have settled down now we have weathered the waves of migratory Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Instead, we are starting to enjoy our winter finches, so we ringed Goldfinch, Greenfinch and a solitary Lesser redpoll. We also ringed five Blackbirds, which are likely to be migratory. Anyhow, by far the most exciting bird of the day (as predicted by me in my previous log!), was extracted by Dave from the 30' net running along the edge of Oak ride:

This Yellow browed warbler was ringed by Stuart, a new bird for him! This was only the fourth YBW to be ringed at Stanford (readers of the blog may remember we ringed one last year). That was on the 10th October, so there seems to be a tight time frame for their arrival at the res. For non birders, they may not seem too exciting, being quite similar to the more familiar Chiffchaff. The two wingbars identify them as being a different species, but they are still part of the Phylloscopus genus; in this case P. inornatus. Note too the pronounced yellow supercillium which almost met its counterpart at  the back of the head and gives the bird its name.

Totals for the day were a leisurely 77 new and 12 retraps. Anyway, off to the White Hart, where strangely enough it was Stuart's round! Firecrest next...
Peter N

Monday, 7 October 2019

Autumnal Catch Up

Autumn is now upon us, already we have had one morning which required ice to be scraped off windscreens. As usual we have been busy and the weather has been reasonably benign, so no excuse for slacking, or being on holiday. By 19 September we had broken 6000 birds for the year with approximately 4200 warblers, including 2000 Blackcaps. Every weekly group session thus far has produced more than 100 new birds, with some big numbers (185 new on 19 September and 268 on 21 September). However on 14 September, we broke all our records with a total of 613 new, including a staggering 430 Blackcaps, 70 Chiffchaff, 30 Reed warbler, 19 Sedge warbler, one Grasshopper warbler and one Whinchat (only the 3rd at Stanford res). We also had 19 retraps.
The MRG (Midweek Retired Gentlemen's) club (Mick & Peter N) have produced good numbers too, usually around the 100 mark. Thankfully, the supply of Blackcaps seems to be dwindling and we are looking forward to the winter team of Lesser Redpolls and Redwings arriving shortly.
However, it has been a strange year in some respects. Despite a good breeding season in our nest boxes, the Tree Sparrows seem to have forsaken us, and we are lucky to get a single bird on a session now. Similarly our finches have been notable by their absence; we hope that when the supply of wild food in the fields and hedges starts to dry up they will remember our feeders and return for the winter.
On the plus side, we had a Sedge warbler of ours controlled in France, in Frossay on the Loire, having travelled 360 miles in 8 days. Excellent, and unlike most of our retrapped birds, actually heading in the right direction!
Our most recent session on Saturday 05/10/19 produced 141 new plus 18 retraps. The standout bird was undoubtedly produced on the first round, in a V shaped arrangement of two 60' nets in a stubbly field:
 This is only our fifth Skylark at Stanford, and the first since 1980. It was duly ringed by Adam and sent on its way. We are now waiting for our first Yellow browed warbler, it will be here any day now...
Peter N

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Winding up the CES and Breaking (another) Record

On Tuesday 3rd September, Mick, Dawn and Peter N met up to complete the final CES session for the year. We have had such a storming season of late, that the day's total of 90 new birds plus 14 retraps seemed a bit humdrum, but it kept us busy and even allowed a tea break or two- a nice change.
As before warblers were very evident, it was notable that the emphasis had changed from Willow warblers to Chiffchaffs, and there were few Sedge warblers (in stark contrast to the previous week). Clearly we are entering into Autumn, soon it will be Redpolls and Redwing.
The standout bird was a single female Redstart. Not only a lovely bird in itself, but also the 16th this year, a new record for Stanford.

Photo Dawn Sheffield

Who knows what further records we will break this year? The annual total must be a possibility...
Finally, there is a nice video of the group courtesy of our friend Graham Barker on YouTube: Summer's End With The Stanford Ringers
Enjoy! Peter N

Friday, 30 August 2019

Tuesday 27th August

Another excellent day ringing at Stanford Reservoir

Mick, Peter N and I met on the rail track at 04:30. We put up the nets, added callers and by the time daylight was approaching, it was clear that there were lots of birds moving around. The first round was extremely fruitful and included a beautiful adult Tawny Owl - the first adult I have seen in the hand. I had the pleasure of ringing the bird and soon had some holes in my skin! This was the second adult caught in a mist net this year, but it has been approximately a decade since the last adult was caught in this manner.

Tawny Owl. Photo: Chris Hubbard

On the way back to the ringing station, we met local birder Chris Hubbard who took one look at our bounty and immediately offered to scribe for us. This left Mick free to continue extracting while Peter and I got on with ringing. The spread of species was excellent and as if the Tawny wasn’t enough excitement, we had more highlights to come. Numbers were fantastic: 134 Blackcap, 58 Sedge Warbler, 47 Reed Warbler, 35 Whitethroat, 32 Willow Warbler and 1 Grasshopper Warbler. The day was peppered with Redstarts and we ringed 9 in total. The last round yielded a Yellow Wagtail, which was a lovely way to end the day. The totals for the day were 358 new birds and 14 retraps. With so many birds clearly moving through, we are hoping for another good session on Saturday. 

Redstart. Photo: Chris Hubbard

Redstart. Photo: Chris Hubbard

Yellow Wagtail. Photo: Dawn Sheffield

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Record Breaking Day at the Res

We have had some good 100+ days recently, as migration has now started. On Saturday 24 August the team, consisting of Mick, Dave, Dawn Stuart and Peter N met up at 0430 at the rail track, and headed off as usual to put up nets from the Feeders to Bench, and all points in between. The night had been clear and still, making it ideal for migration, so we were hopeful we would have a busy day. After the nets were put up, we had time for a brief cup of tea which was just as well, as it would be the last one for a few hours. Time to start extracting.

The first round produced 150+ birds and we started ringing at some speed, whilst Mick went off to start the next round.  Chris Hubbard, one of the Res birders was drafted in to scribe (thanks, Chris). The birds just kept coming, with Mick and Dave extracting for most of the morning. Highlights included 163 Blackcap, 143 Whitethroat, 70 Reed warbler, 38 Sedge warbler, 6 Grasshopper warbler, 6 Redstart, 1 Spotted flycatcher, 3 Lesser Whitethroat and 62 Willow Warblers. We were all amazed by the sheer volume and variety. Even better, Dawn got to ring her first Wheatear, a juvenile. The bird was in the net along the track and is only the 3rd ever caught and ringed by the Group. 

*Photo courtesy of Chris Hubbard

By the end of the session we had broken three Stanford records; annual totals for Sedge and Willow warbler, and the total number for one day, with 526 new birds and 17 retraps. Even at 1200 there was a steady trickle, but we were all in need of fluids, so by 1300 we had packed up and staggered off to the White Hart. A superb morning.


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Warbling in Early Summer

There are now lots of juvenile birds around, so we have to get out and ring them! The weather had been either windy or wet, or both, so we weren’t sure if there would be much about, however as it transpired we didn’t need to have worried.
Mick, Adam, Dave, Kate and I met up on Saturday 15th June at the railtrack at 0430, plus Sam, who is interested in learning how to ring. For the CES, we put up a minimum of 14 nets (plus sundry others at the feeders), so it is quite labour intensive. We got them up nice and quickly on a cool, still morning and Dave and Adam then went off to attend to the local nest boxes we have scattered through the woods surrounding the reservoir.
After a well deserved cup of tea, we started the first round. There was no shortage of birds! We had 50 birds on the first round and almost as many on the second. It was nice to see that there were plenty of juveniles around. Unavoidably, there were many juvenile tits, but also good numbers of migratory warblers. It looks like Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff are going to have a good year, as too are our resident Tree sparrows. However there were some notable absentees, including Grasshopper and Cetti’s warblers. We are a bit concerned that the former, although reeling early in the year, haven’t bred, although it is likely that the latter have - up at the Point.
Anyway, we worked quite hard with Mick scribing and Kate and I ringing in a stalwart fashion, while Sam handed us the bird bags and probably wondered what he had got himself into. At the end of the day we had 111 new birds ringed and 76 retraps processed. Just 13 short of the double ton! Standout birds were one juvenile Willow tit and a juvenile Kingfisher. This is our second Kingfisher this year, which is reassuring- they had a horrible year in 2018 due to the blizzards from the east last year, so we are delighted they are breeding again.
Dave and Adam carried out a nest box check and ringed two adult and two pulli Stock Doves, 8 Swallow pulli and 9 Tree Sparrow pulli, plus 3 Barn Owl nestlings, courtesy of Park Farm.
After all this work, we could barely manage to lift our glasses in the White Hart, but I’m glad to report we managed some fluid resuscitation before heading home.

Peter N