Sunday, 11 April 2021

Back to Business

The BTO has confirmed that we can go ringing again, so not ones to let the grass grow under our feet, the SRG has already trundled forth thrice. Numbers have been quite good for the time of year, although unsurprisingly quite a lot of our birds have been re-traps of our resident species- we seem to have been specialising in Dunnocks and Blue Tits.

However, some of our migrants have returned, and we have been ringing good numbers of Chiffchaff, a couple of Blackcaps and Willow Warblers and a solitary Common Whitethroat. Two SRG records have been broken already for 2021! Firstly PMN trapped and ringed two Stonechats at the dam in February, which is an annual record for Stanford:

Secondly, on Saturday 10 April Dave extracted a lovely male Redstart from Safari, which is the earliest record for the site, two birds having been ringed historically on the 16th, in 1977 and 2002. Otherwise, these are almost exclusively an autumn species for us.

A most beautiful 5 male redstart! Excellent start to the year.

PS Our Bearded Tits have sadly moved on- no breeding records for this year.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Moth Report 2020


Theo, our trainee, has written up a summary of the moths which have been recorded during 2020. This includes the following weird and wonderful beasties:

Poplar Hawkmoth

Peppered Moth

Lunar Hornet Clearwing 

Buff Tip

The full report can be found on the SRG website in the Flora and Fauna section, or can be accessed directly from this link: SRG_moths_2020.pdf (

Sunday, 7 February 2021

From Russia with Love

We are still not able to ring at the reservoir, but our Sightings Officer Chris H, lives very near and still attends to his regular birding. Here is his account of a recent encounter: 

Saturday 6th February was a very still day. As I arrived at the reservoir for my daily walk the fog started to form and the whole place was very quickly covered in a dense blanket – not the best of conditions for checking for birds!

I headed off to the reedbed on the Leicestershire side of the reservoir. Having spent a short time there I made the decision to carry on despite the fog – after all the weather forecast was saying that it would clear by 10.30am.

As I made my way around past the dam there were some signs of the fog clearing. As I scanned through the ducks closest to me, I was drawn to a tightly bunched group of swans right in the middle of the reservoir although they were barely visible. My instinct told me that this was very unusual for the resident Mute Swans. As the fog began to clear further, I realised that I was looking at a sizeable group of ‘wild’ swans. They were either Whooper or Bewick’s, the latter being a very scarce visitor to the county these days. 

One of the key identification features to separate the two is the extent of yellow on the bill which is very obvious and extensive (beyond the nostrils) on Whooper Swan. I checked each bird in turn and soon concluded that I was looking at Bewick’s Swans – 18 in total.

Each year Bewick’s Swans undertake one of nature’s greatest migrations, flying thousands of miles from the breeding grounds in the far north of Russia to Western Europe. Sadly, not all make it and numbers have plummeted over the last 30 years dropping by a third in recent times, with fewer than 21,000 left. They’re under threat from illegal hunting, lead poisoning, loss of wetland habitat, predation, and colliding with man-made structures (e.g., powerlines).

What were these birds doing at Stanford? They may have already arrived in the UK earlier in the winter and could have been moving from the east coast to feeding grounds in the south west such as Slimbridge or vice versa. The fog may have interrupted their journey and they found safety until being able to continue. They could also be birds that were wintering in Europe and have been pushed this way due to the exceptionally cold weather currently. 

The birds were only visible to me for around 15 minutes but it was amazing sight to have that number of Bewick’s in one group, all showing well and calling to each other. It was quite a sight when they all took to the air and headed off.

The last records for the reservoir were both in 2019 – a group of 9 and 2 in November and December.

Chris Hubbard

Thursday, 21 January 2021

We Are Postponed

 Sadly, 2021 has started with another lockdown. So once again we are following BTO and government guidance, are unable to access the reservoir, and are limited to ringing at home. This means that scrub bashing is cancelled for this year. 2020 also had an early lockdown, but we did go on to have the best ever year at Stanford. For more details, our annual report is now available from our website at: 

This is a sad way to start the year, but we all hope to return to some sort of socially distanced ringing when the migrants return.

Anyway, no need to start the year on a gloomy note. Here are a couple of crackers from last year: 

We are certainly hoping this lovely male Beardie and his partner will stay around for the breeding season.

Nice Pied Flycatcher, only the second ever ringed at Stanford.

Who knows what the new year will bring? Best wishes to all who follow our exploits, stay safe and watch this space...

Peter N

Friday, 4 December 2020

Before The Rains...

After a hectic Autumn, things have quietened down at Stanford. In November, we only ringed 504 birds. The weather has been fairly grim. Our winter visitors have been scarce, with only 5 fieldfare, 177 Redwing and 25 Lesser Redpoll ringed. A brave foray into the paddock at the reservoir produced a grand total of 7 birds starting off with three re-trapped wrens, the expedition was partly mitigated by two new Treecreepers. 

However the retiree midweek ringers Mick and Peter N have had some luck. Our resident patch birder, Chris H reported a pair of Bearded Tits at the reservoir. On the first visit to the Leicestershire reedbed we were told that the birds had just flown off,  but on our second visit on the 16th, we were initially  rewarded with a nice female beardie:

The first ever ringed at Stanford! This was then followed by an even more pristine male:

Stonking! There had also been reports of Brambling amongst the Beech trees at the main entrance to the reservoir, so the midweekers decided to have a go at finding them. On the 20th we put up a line of three 60' nets under the trees while it was still dark and waited. At 1000 we thought our chances had gone, expecting to find Brambling early in the morning. However on the next round there was a very nice female in the last net:

This was then followed by an even nicer male. Two days later, Peter N was ringing again at the top road, when he found a really cracking male, which was ringed by Theo, a ringing tick for him:

This means that, despite all the obstacles, we have broken the previous annual  record for the number of species ringed, which stood at 63, with this year's total of  69! 

Best wishes for all ringers out there, let's hope for a peaceful and uneventful 2021 (and lots of birds).

Thanks to Chris and Theo for photos 

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Autumnal Morning at the Reservoir

The weather in Autumn has been fairly dreadful. Mick, Dawn and Peter N went to the res on 04/11/20, the day before lockdown II, to make the most of a reasonable forecast. We met up at 0530 and put up nets between Oak and Berries before dawn. Numbers were enough to keep us ticking over. General consensus was that it was a decent morning, despite poor numbers of Redwing and zero Fieldfare. To quote Mick, 'we want just one really good bird' to complete the day.

Peter N ambled down to Mick's ride at 0930 and found four Blue Tits surrounding a decidedly good bird, a nice male Firecrest!

We have had a total of 10 Firecrests since 1998, so it is very much a rarity for us, and always exciting, as well as being a ringing tick for Dawn. We finished the morning with some nice finches, including a control goldfinch. Excellent!

Totals are: Blackbird 2, Blackcap 1, Blue Tit 14, Cetti's Warbler 2, Chaffinch 1, Chiffchaff 2, Greenfinch 7, Goldcrest 7, Goldfinch 8, Lesser Redpoll 3, Redwing 2, Reed Bunting 2 Robin 2, Tree Sparrow 1, Wren 5, Yellowhammer 2

Thanks to Chris H for the photo.

Monday, 7 September 2020

What a Week!!!

This is a summary of the ringing at Stanford which took place between 27 August and 2nd September 2020. It was an extraordinary week. The centrepiece was our very own festival of 'Stanstock', modelled very much on Woodstock from 1969:


Not to be confused with:

Woodstock (or possibly the other way round)

For Stanstock, various group members comprising Dave, Theo, Kate, Stuart and Peter N camped out on the nights of 29 (nets up), 30, and the 31st of August, allowing ringing for three consecutive mornings. All nets were furled overnight and storm guyed. In addition, the group at large ringed on 27th August, and Mick, who clearly can't stop, ringed solo on the 2nd September.

It was only one evening at the White Hart, one Chinese takeaway and a fry up at base, plus beer, that kept us going. The weather was generally mild and (finally) with low winds. Over the week, we ringed a total of 1,595 new, 44 retraps and 3 controls. New birds were as follows:

Blackcap 651, Whitethroat 335, Willow Warbler 186, Sedge Warbler 112, Reed Warbler 85, Chiffchaff 67, Lesser Whitethroat 26, Robin 26, Garden Warbler 17, Grasshopper Warbler 15, Redstart 15, Blue Tit 15, Wren 6, Swallow 6, Great Tit 5, Chaffinch 5, Dunnock 4, Spotted Flycatcher 3, Goldcrest 3, Siskin 2 and single Tree Sparrow, Sand Martin, Lesser Redpoll, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Whinchat, Buzzard and Wryneck!




The Wryneck is perhaps the most beautiful bird we have caught (subjective opinion), and this was only the second ringed at Stanford. If anything, the Buzzard is even more amazing; this is the only one we have ever ringed. Apparently Mick was on his own on the track, pondering life, when it just glided out of the woods directly into the nearest net, set across the track hedge. This was completely unprecedented and hasn't happened in 40 years of ringing (although there are some nets with buzzard sized holes in them)!

The three controls were all British: Sedge Warbler, Sand Martin (very unusual) and a Willow Warbler. We have ringed 59 species this year. The Stanford record is 63, so we are confident that we can equal this, and possibly beat it. Watch this space. 

Stanstock is likely to be an annual feature as the last week in August seems to be great for migration. To top it all off, friend of the SRG Simon Watts has an excellent film of one day of the proceedings, which can be found on:

Stanford Ringing Group is entirely self funding. We are registered with easyfundraising. This provides us with funds at no cost to the user, whilst shopping on the interweb; if readers would like to help us,  please use the link

Thanks also to Chris H and Theo for photos.