Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Annual Report 2022

The latest annual report is now available from our website, Stanford Ringing Group (  (always worth a browse), or directly from 2022-annrep.pdf (  Enjoy.

'Very impressed, I couldn't put it down!'

Monday, 23 January 2023

Scrub Bashing Starts Again!

Many people are surprised by the number of warblers ringed at Stanford. In part it is due to the enthusiasm of the ringing team, who put in the hours of ringing that produce such valuable data. However, the team also put in many hours of habitat maintenance or scrub bashing as it is locally known, during the winter months. If left unmanaged the wetland area around the reservoir would turn from reeds and bramble to blackthorn and willow and eventually wet woodland would emerge. Many warbler species nest in low level vegetation so, unless woody vegetation is cut back, the numbers of breeding birds here would quickly decline. From January through to early April, instead of ringing, we turn up on a weekend morning armed with loppers, bowsaws and, for those who are licensed to use them, chainsaws, to work on site in anticipation of our summer visitors. 
Saturday started cold and frosty but at 8 am a team of 11 ringers and local volunteers arrived at the railtrack to start work. After a warming cuppa and brief chat, we split into teams to cut back the rampant blackthorn and encroaching willow and hawthorn. The sound of chainsaws soon reverberated around the reservoir. 

Beth suitably attired for hard work. A range of malcontents and recidivists in the background

One team, led by Adam, started a fire with donated cardboard and scavenged ash, which burns well even when green. Others used hand tools to attack the blackthorn.
Thick leather welding gloves are essential for this job to keep out the inch long thorns. Some of us dragged felled branches along the path to feed the fire. It was certainly warm work and good exercise. The fire soon gained enough heat to burn even the wet green willow.

Adam tends to the fire; very welcome on a cold morning

Regular tea breaks kept us going for nearly four hours and by the time we finished we had transformed an area so that that little remained above head height, except a few elegant birch trees.
Weather permitting, we will be repeating this every weekend until April in preparation for the
return of the migrant warblers and a bountiful ringing season in 2023.

Unceasing toil at Stanford!

Do you feel you could work this hard? We are always looking for volunteers to help us, contact details can be found on our website Stanford Ringing Group (
Posted by Kate M

Sunday, 11 December 2022

Winter Ringing at Stanford

 A cold snap has hit the UK, but a mere detail like that is as nothing to the boys and girls of the mighty Stanford Ringing Group!

On Saturday 10th December, the temperature varied from a decidedly nippy -3 degrees C, to a comparatively balmy +1. Not put off, a large team met up at 0600. Dawn and Beth went to the Paddock, whilst Adam, Dave, Jade, Jo, Stuart and Peter met up on the rail track. Battling with frozen guys  and sub zero metal polls, we put up nets from Safari to Box 16, plus the Paddock giving a total of 27, a mammoth undertaking. Despite the cold, it was a sunny morning with very little wind, so it perhaps wasn't quite as challenging as this photo might suggest:

Dave, Stuart, Adam, Jade and Jo in full winter plumage

The first round was very productive, with a good number of thrushes, both resident and winter visitors:

A nice selection of our thrushes: (L to R) Redwing, female and male Blackbirds and Fieldfare

It is particularly nice to have decent numbers of Fieldfare; the total for 2022 is 24 so far, in comparison to a decidedly meagre single bird in the previous year.

The totals from both locations were, for new birds: Wren 2, Dunnock 1, Blackbird 11, Fieldfare 2, Song Thrush 3, Redwing 23, Blackcap 1 and Reed Bunting 3. We were really pleased to re-trap a number of our resident species, who seem to be surviving the cold weather very well, these were: Wren 7, Dunnock 4, Robin 9, Blackbird 3, Cetti's Warbler 2, Long Tailed Tit 2, Blue Tit 7 and Great Tit 3. Also, we had a re-trap Yellowhammer, which is a very rare event- the first since 2001!

Well 2022 is drawing to a close, and in many ways it has been a horrible year, but nothing puts off our birds as they go through their lives, perhaps a lesson for all of us. Last words go to one of our residents:

'Merry Christmas, see you in 2023!'

Friday, 2 September 2022

Stanstock III: A Great Gathering of the Group at the Reservoir


Our annual celebration of migration is nominally scheduled for the last whole week of August, leading up to the Bank Holiday. The Gods of Ringing smiled upon us this time, and we had decent weather from Saturday 20th through to Tuesday 30th, so we ringed pretty solidly for 11 days. This was backed up by a good turnout of SRG members, so in addition to Railtrack, for part of the time we had two ringing stations, covering the Railtrack and Point; about 27 nets. As before, a contingent camped out supplemented by day visitors. It is no exaggeration to describe it as a walloping great success!!

Jade, Heather and Kate look industrious

Stuart and Dawn look chilled

Kate, Adam and Peter look... not sure of the correct adjective

The full species count for new birds was: 

Blackcap 1394, Whitethroat 409, Sedge Warbler 349, Willow Warbler 285, Reed Warbler 178, Robin 93, Lesser Whitethroat 72, Garden Warbler 70, Chiffchaff 49, Grasshopper Warbler 40, Blue Tit 27, Redstart 14, Wren 12, Goldcrest 10, Swallow 9, Long-tailed Tit 8, Reed Bunting 7, Blackbird 5, Song Thrush 5, Cetti's Warbler 5, Stock Dove 4, Whinchat 4, Linnet 4, Spotted Flycatcher 3, Great Tit 3, Sand Martin 2, Dunnock 2, Bullfinch 2, and single Tawny Owl, Pied Flycatcher, Wryneck , Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, and Goldfinch!

A young Tawny- great way to start the week

Very smart juvenile Whinchat

Juvenile male Pied Flycatcher

What is getting to be an annual event; Wryneck- a great way to finish the week.

So that is a total of 3,067 new birds, plus 422 retraps and 14 controls over the 10 days, beating last year's new bird total of a mere 1795 by a whopping 1272! Origin of the controls will be confirmed in the annual report due out at the end of January; look out for it on
Time for a well earned rest... only joking, time to go out ringing once again!

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Great Morning at the Reservoir

We usually ring on a Saturday, weather permitting. We have recently had a number of excellent sessions, and been moving around the site, starting to ring lots of juvenile birds; our resident birds seem to be having a really good season. These sessions are augmented by midweek ringing, usually with Mick or Adam, both retired, both keen.

Tuesday 12 July was designated as a mid week excursion, and as if by magic, suddenly a big chunk of the team were available! So... Mick and Adam set up in the Paddock, Stuart and Kate ambled over to Blower's Bay, and Dave and I, plus Jade our new trainee, donned waders and staggered into the Leics reedbed.

Everyone had a good morning, M&A ringed 87 new and retrapped 18, S&K ringed 45 new and retrapped 18. These were a good representative bunch of pretty much what we would expect at this time of the year, good numbers of Blackcap, Robin, Chiffchaff, Sedge, Reed and Garden Warblers and sundry others. Very nice.

Over in the reedbed, much to everyone's surprise, things were afoot! Firstly, we ringed a slightly drab 3J female Nuthatch, which was a ringing tick for Jade, as well as being a bird that we don't necessarily catch every year. This was in fact the first for the year! 

At Mick's suggestion, Dave and I put up a 40' two shelfed net out to a patch of shingle, exposed as the water level has dropped. At 0900 I went out and found a large brown bird next to the shore! I promptly extracted it and brought it back:

Wow! the first Moorhen since 2009, and a full adult to boot! I don't think that Jade could believe her luck as Dave helped her put an F ring on, jammy is perhaps the term that springs to mind:

That made it a brilliant session, two new species for the year and loads of Reed and Sedge Warblers. Come 1100 it was time to take down the nets as it was getting warm, and Dave was in need of beer. The final net to come down was a 60' in the scrub leading up to the ringing station. As I trundled over, Jade appeared in a state of agitation- there was a possible bird of prey in the net, let's get a move on! Cripes, what was it? Most likely it would be a Sparrowhawk (we get 2/3 per year), which would be good. Less likely it would be a Kestrel which we get every couple of years, which would be brilliant!
But no, it was something else...

Triple cripes, it was a Hobby, the only one ringed at Stanford ever! Ever! These catch dragonflies and hirundines in mid air for a living and are amazing birds, so quite what it was doing in the lower shelves of a mist net tucked into scrub is a bit of a mystery. Anyway, after some mild exclamations of surprise, I extracted it, which was fun and a bit pecky. Back at the ringing station I asked Dave if he fancied putting a ring on it. He thought about it a bit and decided that on balance he probably did. What a bird! Quite small, but very solid and muscular. We aged it as a five (hatched last year) male:

So that was the third new species for the day. We ringed a total of 80 plus 32 retraps. So the group en masse ringed a grand total of 212 new and 68 retrapped. What a day!
Peter N

Sunday, 29 May 2022

A Foray into Darkest Leicestershire

 As followers of this blog may know, most of our ringing is based on the rail track access courtesy of Parker Farms, which is in Northants. The border between Northants and Leics actually runs through the reservoir, and so when we went ringing in the Paddock on Saturday 28th May, we crossed into the badlands of Leicestershire. Mick, Dave, Jo and Jade (a potential trainee) put up nets along the Paddock, whilst Adam, Peter and Stuart went into the Reedbed, a few minutes walk further along. 

Results were largely in line with expectations for the time of year; in the Paddock there were 13 new and 18 retraps, in the Reedbed 29 new and 33 retraps. The major surprise of the session was an adult Jackdaw which wandered into one of the nets in the Paddock, no doubt looking for food for a hungry brood. 

Adult Jackdaw

We do get to ring a number of Jackdaw as pulli (nestlings) in boxes, but this has never happened in all the 40 years that Mick has been ringing at Stanford! Whatever next?

Adam and Peter, in the distance, messing around at the end of the dog leg in the Reedbed

Meanwhile, in the Reedbed, it was nice to see a good return of Reed Warblers; we had 26 birds ringed by us in previous years safely arrived back for the breeding season. This makes them our most site faithful species. The oldest was ringed six years and 354 days ago. Given that it is of the order of 3,500 miles from Stanford to their wintering grounds in West Africa, that means it has around 42,000 miles on the clock! Not bad for a little bird which weighs about 12 grams, or 1.5 times the weight of a pound coin. 

Barn Owl chicks

Adam, whose work ethic cannot be faulted, also checked a nest box to find a lovely brood of Barn Owl chicks. These were very recently hatched and too small to be ringed, but we will of course return in a few weeks time to do the decent thing. 

Add into all this a steady trickle of juvenile birds, including Chiffchaff, Robins and Dunnocks, and it is shaping up to be a good season. We are now back into our usual ringing on Saturday mornings; watch this space for further adventures with the mighty SRG!

Peter N

Sunday, 1 May 2022

2022 Beckons!

Fantastic to be out and ringing again. Scrub bashing is over and we are starting regular Saturday sessions. Ringing is a bit hit and miss this early in the year, but we are pleased to report a good return of our migrants. Warblers are our speciality and we have already ringed Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden, Grasshopper, Willow, Reed, Sedge, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat (a personal favourite), as well as our local overwintering birds. 

First Gropper of the year (photo AGH)

On Saturday 30 April, Peter Mick and Stuart were out bright and early and put up nets from Church to Berries, a total of 15 nets. Pete B joined us a bit later. Numbers were decent for the time of year, with 16 new and 28 retraps. Whilst having a tea break, Stuart noticed a Robin busily returning to a nest just behind the ringing station (i.e. Mick's Kia). Mick promptly retrieved three pulli (nestlings), which Stuart ringed:

Stuart concentrating. Pete B assists

Ringed Robin Pullus

If anyone is interested in joining us or coming to visit, feel free to contact me via It should be an interesting year as we have already ringed a couple of unusual species, and it follows three excellent ones!