Sunday, 7 August 2016

It’s Amazing What Turns up in Your Nets at 0500

A trainee writes: It’s been busy at Stanford reservoir in the last few weeks. We are now truly up to our ears in juvenile birds (‘3Js’ in ringing parlance; the ‘3’ means it is this year’s bird and the ‘J’ that it is still in juvenile plumage). 
On Monday 1st August Mick and Peter went out ringing along the poplars at Stanford and logged up 115 new birds, with 40 Whitethroat and 26 Blackcap. However, the main surprise was found at 0500 by Peter who came across a strange large brown bird in a net. But hang on, are birds meant to be hairy? Expertise was clearly called for and Mick duly attended our first bat of the year. But not any bat, this was a Noctule, the largest bat in Britain. Mick extracted it with some robust language ringing around the reservoir. As can be seen this is a very handsome animal with some alarming teeth which it is not reluctant to use. We then had the opportunity to take some pictures. When we were finished, the bat had clearly taken a bit of a liking to Mick, and in fact would not fly, so we draped it on a tree, from where it eventually flew off.

Saturday 6 August was our regular CES day. Mick was out early putting up nets in the pitch dark (not sure how he manages this). We had a good turn out; Dave, Stuart, Dawn and Peter arrived at a marginally more civilised 0430, joined by Viv who was with us to be assessed for her ‘A’ permit (success, well done Viv!). Jo also turned up to make a guest appearance and hog any glamorous birds which we might have. We had a stonking morning, with 156 new birds and 52 re-traps, of which 85 were Whitethroats, mainly 3Js. Considering that this has been a rather wet and cool Spring/ Summer, this is a great result! 

Peter Norrie

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Day of Juveniles

Our ringing sessions are normally on a Saturday morning, but this weekend Saturday was far too windy to be ringing so the decision was made to ring on Sunday. Well we met at 4.30 at the rail track gate. Mick was back from yet another holiday, this time in Scotland and the Orkneys, and together with Adam, Max, Peter and myself we went and erected the nets between the feeders and the Northants reedbed. We made our base at the bench midway between the reedbed and the feeders. After all the nets were up Adam, Max and Peter went one way and myself and Mick went the other. As soon as we started extracting the birds from the reedbed and the point nets, it was obvious we were going to have a large number of birds to process. We actually ran out of bird bags so I took the birds back to Adam and the others, for them to process while I returned to Mick with more bags to carry on extracting. Moments later I returned to the ringing base with  another arm full of birds. Mick had given me one bird that he won't ID  saying you'll have to ID it back at the ringing base.
At the base I took the bird out of the bag and I have to admit was baffled, as were the other trainees. So with Adams assistance we ID'd the bird as a juvenile Yellow Wagtail. We do not catch many Yellow Wags and normally in the Autumn migration, the last being in 2014.

The session continued with 4 of us ringing while Mick continued extracting the birds from the nets. Max who has only just started ringing had a baptism of fire with numerous new species for him to ring, including a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.
As the day progressed and the number of bird caught reduced, Adam and Peter checked some nest boxes and in total ringed 16 Tree Sparrow pulli.
We had an extremely good days ringing having processed 194 birds, many of which were juveniles, including a young Cetti's Warbler. 133 were new and 61 retraps including 2 controls.

Cetti's Warbler 1 -0   Grasshopper Warbler 2 - 1  Reed warb  17 - 8,  Sedge  warb 10 - 6 , Whitethroat 
39 - 6 ,  Blackcap  8 - 1 ,  Garden Warb 0 - 3 ,Chiff   5 - 3 , Willow warb 5 - 2 ,  Wren 1 - 0 , Great Spotted Woodpecker  1 - 0 , Dunnock  4 - 2 , Tree Sparrow 26 - 4 , Yellow Wagtail 1 - 0 ,  Reed Bunt 4 - 1 , Great Tit 3-  16 , Blue Tit 1 - 6 ,  Bullfinch 1 - 1,  Robin 2 - 0 , Chaffinch 2-0, Goldfinch 0-1.  

By the end of the day we all needed to retire to the pub for a well earned drink..

Sunday, 26 June 2016

What a difference a week makes

At Stanford Reservoir, Northants our CES 5 on 18th June produced just three juveniles out of a miserable total of 30 birds which was more than likely due to heavy losses after an almost entire week of torrential rain leading up to the weekend.
CES 6 yesterday was a completely different story with a total of 105 birds processed throughout the day. However, only 58 contributed towards CES.
Of those 58 CES birds, 41 were juveniles and 17 were adults. Highlights of the day were this years first juvenile Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Goldcrest.
Unfortunately we were rained off an hour early and with everything soaking wet and all packed up decided to visit the dam for a look around. A family of Grey Wagtails were feeding on the pond weed in the outflow so we decided to set up a 20' across the channel and see if we could catch some.
Two juveniles of both Pied and Grey Wagtails were caught although the adults proved far too net-wary. A Mute Swan caught by hand on the dam ended a rather damp but productive morning.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Renewing the Constant Effort at Stanford

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.
Peter N
Juvenile Robin by P Norrie

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Saturday 30th April

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

Monday, 25 April 2016

Annual Report

Hi All

Well I'm back from sunny Cyprus, with a few tales to tell (but that's for a later post).

Just a reminder that the groups annual report is out so just click on the link below.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Boys (and Girls) are Back in Town!

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! Peter N.