A trainee writes: The ringing year is now well into its swing at Stanford. We have a portion of our ringing site which is used for the Constant Effort Sites (CES) Scheme. This is a national survey which is organised by the BTO (amongst others). In the CES, ringers operate the same nets in the same locations over the same time period at roughly 10 day intervals throughout the breeding season. The Scheme provides valuable information on the abundance of birds, their survival and breeding success. The CES is an important source of scientific information which influences conservation nationally. The fact that we then retire to the White Hart at the end of each session is because we have exhausted ourselves in the interest of science. It is a hard life being a ringer.
Anyway, we have thus far completed four CES sessions and, as usual, for this part of the season it has been a little slow because the adults are too busy sitting on eggs or foraging for youngsters to wander into our nets too often. However, we keep ourselves busy. On Saturday 4th June we met up at 0430. Adam decamped with Stuart and Max to continue his ongoing pulli (nestling) ringing marathon. The boys duly ringed 50 Great Tits, six Blue Tits, five Tree Sparrows and five Wrens. The saga continues…
This left Mick, Dawn, Dave, Peter N and Pete B to conduct the CES. It was one of the better early summer efforts, with all 10 of our resident warbler species making an appearance. Numbers for the session were 22 new birds and 33 re-traps, including a new pair of linnets. Of special note were three Grasshopper Warbler re-traps; this makes us think they are definitely here for the season, which is the first for quite a few years.
Finally we ringed a family of three newly fledged Robins plus their dad! Definitely a sign of things to come. Below is a picture of a juvenile Robin, he looks a bit miffed but we look forward to seeing him again later in the year.
Another ringing session at Stanford Reservoir on Saturday to get into the swing of things before the CES season is upon us. David & Angus, Dawn, Peter, Pete and myself met at a not too unreasonable time of 06:00 and erected 13 nets to the sound of at least three reeling Grasshopper Warblers. This species hasn't bred at Stanford for three years and along with Cetti's Warbler, their reintroduction has been the main focus of our winter habitat management program since. It's too early to say but perhaps all our hard work has finally paid off.
The first net round produced just thirteen birds including a retrap Grasshopper Warbler and a male Cetti's with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat also in attendance. The second net round included a retrap female Cetti's and a Lesser Whitethroat followed by another retrap Grasshopper Warbler. Before the day was finished we managed yet another Grasshopper Warbler, this time a new one and the fourth this spring!
As luck would have it, Jo turned up just in time to ring this one, she had never seen this species in the two years she has been with us so it shows how uncommon they really have become in recent years. A total of 17 new and 21 retraps was a fair result for late April and left us time to erect some Treecreeper nestboxes that Pete kindly made. We checked some large boxes too which resulted in an adult and a single pulli Stock Dove being ringed. Another box included an adult Stock Dove carcass under a squirrels drey. We have suspected that squirrels have been killing adult Stock Doves whilst on their nests for many years and this was proof of that. Consequently, we evict Grey Squirrels wherever and whenever we can. Two female Tawny Owls were still incubating and a Jackdaw had laid three eggs in another. We also checked a few tit boxes on our way around and found one Blue Tit sitting with many others still eggs covered. One Tree Sparrow nest checked last week had advanced from nest-lined to two eggs.
Not a bad start but there's still a long way to go.
Robin with white primary and secondary feathers. Photo by D Sheffield
A trainee writes: After three months hard labour scrub bashing, it has been great to get back out ringing. Following some intriguing sightings on the reservoir it can now be confirmed, the warblers are back!
Mick and Dave are still lounging around the pool in Cyprus, so Adam, Dawn, Peter, Stuart, Max and Pete met up on Saturday 23rd at 0600. Although rather fresh (i.e cold and windy), it was a beautiful sunny morning. We split into two groups, Team Dawn went down the track and started from Safari ride, Team Adam started from Berry ride and we met up at the feeders. As we were putting up the nets, both teams heard singing grasshopper warblers, a scarce species, and one which had not been heard on the res last year. If you don’t know this song, it is an unmistakeable insect like reeling, which is just as well, as they do skulk in the scrub for most of the time. The first round actually yielded up one of these beauties, and in fact we ended up with a total of three new birds! Stonking!
Although totals for the day were modest, 20 new and 27 retraps, it was really exciting to see some old friends: Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were ringed, all new for this year. Across the res we could hear a male Cuckoo calling, so we are hoping to ring at least one this year! Next week we are starting the CES, so we are back to some serious ringing over a glorious (weather permitting) summer!
Recently we were informed of a Kingfisher recovery. The bird had travelled a magnificent 68km north into Nottinghamshire. This is the furthest any of our Kingfishers have moved so you can imagine my suprise when I read of a Kingfisher on the BTO Demog blog site that had been ringed in Germany, 12km from the Polish border, then flew into a window in Market Harborough just 15km short of our site at Stanford !!! Oh well, better luck next time!
Merry Christmas to all our readers and fellow bird ringers and I hope you all have a happy new year. As many of us know feeding wild birds can be an expensive hobby and like numerous other ringing groups we like to keep our feathered friends supplied with a variety of seeds, peanuts and other foods to help them through the year. As our group is now almost totally self-funded we have struggled more this year than any other year to find the funds to cover the costs of birdfood, rings and other equipment.
Over the last two months Stanford Ringing Group members have been asking relatives, friends and work colleagues to sponsor them on a birdwatching day at the reservoir which would involve counting all species seen during a 4 hour walk around the perimeter. The money raised will be used to help towards the funding of the feeding station which costs us approximately £400 per year and greatly helps our wintering resident species such as Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer.
So today Mick and Dave arrived early to erect some nets for a short ringing session and Peter, Jo and myself got there a little later to walk off the Christmas turkey and carry out our sponsored walk. The morning got off to a great start with 2 Short-eared Owls at the inlet end with Barn Owl, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Green Woodpecker all putting in an appearance within the first half hour. Whilst driving down the railtrack I followed a male Merlin up to the ringing base where Mick and Dave had just completed the first round of the nets. Two Cetti's Warblers extracted from the nets were added to the list as were Snipe, Woodcock and Tawny Owl (heard) whilst the nets were being erected.
After a quick refreshment break Peter, Jo and myself set off on our walk around the reservoir leaving Mick and Dave to carry on with ringing and recording species around the bay. Apart from the usual species we added Goosander, Buzzard, Stock Dove and Goldcrest to the list to give us an impressive total of 65 species seen. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those that kindly sponsored us and those that continue to support the ringing group as without your support it would not be possible for us to continue our work year after year.
The final species list was Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Pheasant, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Woodcock, Snipe, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Short-eared Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Skylark, Cetti's Warbler, Wren, Treecreeper, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Robin, Dunnock, Tree Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.
What a dire month we have had with only 356 birds ringed, our worst total since 2011. The weather conditions have been terrible all month with wind and rain badly affecting what we could do. In fact we were only out on 7 dates all month (9 in 2014) and one of those was rain affected, with the nets up it started to rain (not forecast) at dawn so down they came again. The result :- wet kit, wet birds and I was soaked as well.... not a great day!!!! Of the 356 birds ringed Redwing was the most abundant with 170 followed by Goldfinch on 40 and Tree Sparrow on 30. All the rest were in much reduced numbers to what I would have expected for the time of year. For example during the corresponding month last year we caught 38 Blackbird - 26 this year, 24 Blue Tit - 7 this year , 93 Tree Sparrow - 30 this year and finally 41 Reed Bunting to 12 this year, a concerning downward trend. It will be interesting to see by the years end if things even themselves out at all.