Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Control Breezes In

Meeting at 0430 hrs Tuesday 28th June, with Masai Mick and Webmaster Mike, we were greeted by a chilly, breezy and overcast morning for a ringing session at "The Point" area at Stanford.  The conditions were not great and the morning's catch certainly reflected that - just 66 birds processed with 32 of these being new birds.

Whitethroats were in strong evidence (13 new and 9 retraps) and as such comprised one third of the total catch.

Whitethroat awaiting extraction

A male control Blackcap (L 858207) was the highlight of the session.

On a quiet morning, there was time for more photographs:

Looking down the path from The Point towards the Old Railtrack
The "Line" net ride at The Point

Waiting in Line

Our Webmaster at the net

Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Busy Week In June

We have four main ringing areas at Stanford and, during the breeding season especially, we alternate our visits as much as possible.  This week we created a record as we managed to cover all four areas in five days. 

On Tuesday (21st) with me suffering with a bad back Masai Mick was the only one available and went to Stanford on his own. Unfortunately the weather was not great, with the wind being the main problem.  However he managed to process 87 birds before the wind just got too bad, 50 new ringed with 37 retraps.  The juvenile Sedge Warbler with the deformed bill that was ringed last week was retrapped with no change in its weight of 10.4 grams so it seems to be surviving alright. Mick also caught the first young Lesser Whitethroat of the year - hopefully it will be the first of many!

Thursday (23rd) Mick & Mike ventured into the larger of the two reed beds that we have at Stanford and had ringed 44 new birds with 48 retraps before the heavens opened and they got absolutely drenched - lucky I missed that!  They had managed to ring 8 new Reed Warblers plus 23 pulli and processed our third control Reed Warbler (BTO ring number L528926) of the year.

Friday saw me back on my feet as I joined Mick & Mike along with Adam as we gave a demonstration on the wonders of bird ringing to a U3A (University of the Third Age) group from the Lutterworth Branch – thanks to Brian for organizing that.   

some of the U3A visitors
The better weather resulted in the best catch of the week with 63 new birds with 40 retraps.  The new birds ringed included three juvenile Treecreepers with new additions to our ever increasing warbler totals of 11 Sedge Warbler, 14 Whitethroat, 7 Blackcaps and a Garden Warbler.  One of the Sedge Warblers was yet another with a deformed bill.

Our second Sedge Warbler with a deformed bill

An adult shows what it should look like

Saturday (25th) and we were back at our base on the Old Railtrack. Having handled and ringed, for the first time, a few of the adult Swallows at her father’s farm with us last Monday, Lisa Adams seems to have caught the ringing bug and so met up with the rest of the Group at our normal meeting time of 0430 hrs.  The overnight wind and rain cleared and we tentatively put up just a couple of nets around the feeders and then erected a few nets in adjacent rides as the morning progressed.  

 At about 0800 hrs 9 year old Louis arrived, with his mother and younger brother Alex, and correctly identified his first Treecreeper in the hand (our fourth this week) – this boy has potential!   

Louis identifies Treecreeper
Alex and Louis with a Great Tit

The poor conditions resulted in just 65 birds being netted of which 31 were new.  At the close, a trip to the other side of the Reservoir to ring five Kestrel pulli brought our tally of new birds at Stanford this week to 193 ringed with 158 retraps – well worth the effort and thanks to all those involved.

All in all, a very busy week and one in which Lisa "A" progressed rapidly:

On Monday with her first bird in the hand - a Swallow
On Saturday discussing the finer points of emargination

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Skomer Island Trip

Becca recalls her recent trip to Skomer:

At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer on Skomer Island for a week.  Having never even seen a Puffin before stepping onto the island, I was in absolute heaven living in the researchers’ accommodation with views of hundreds of Puffins greeting me each morning.

Accommodation on Skomer

My main role on the island was to assist a PhD student from Oxford University with her studies of the foraging behaviour and migration patterns of the Manx Shearwater.  The nocturnal nature of shearwaters meant some very late nights, but the chance to handle these fantastic birds and to experience the phenomenal atmosphere created by 120,000 "Manxies" calling in unison was well worth the lack of sleep!  We deployed a total of 21 GPS units on individuals that were due to leave their burrows to feed out at sea on return of their partners – the data retrieved will contribute to the University’s long term studies into these birds.


With only a week on the island, I was keen to experience as much of the bird life as possible. This wasn’t difficult when living with David Boyle – an incredibly knowledgeable birder who has lived and worked on Skomer for the past nine years.  I assisted him with identifying colour ringed birds and was able to handle Razorbill chicks whilst he ringed this year’s broods that had so far managed to avoid the wrath of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

Razorbill chick

Adult Razorbill

Helping the Teifi Ringing Group with ringing of Shags and Great Black-backed Gulls on Midland Island (see earlier Blog uploaded 10th June) was a definite highlight – and it was certainly a relief to survive jumping off the boat onto the craggy rocks of the island!  The other big highlight was having Springwatch filming on Skomer Island all week.  Although more stressful than glamorous behind the scenes, it was good to meet the crew and Iolo Williams was surprisingly pleasant and down to earth (I am perhaps biased as he brought us cakes and beer on the final day of filming!)

Becca with the Teifi RG

All in all I had a fabulous week and am looking forward to getting back to handling all of the fantastic birds at Stanford with the Stanford RG again!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Saturday 18th June

Mick writes:

Knowing that ex Stanford Ringing Group member, Kester Wilson was coming up from Cornwall to visit his parents for the weekend and intended to drop in to see us at Stanford on Saturday we were hoping for fair weather for his visit.  Kester was a trainee with us from 1991 to 1994 and had not been to Stanford for many years.

Mick & Kester share a joke

With a poor weather forecast of heavy rain for most of Saturday morning the prospects for a good session were not good and certainly at 0300 hrs the rain was lashing down but an hour later it had stopped so much so that I set off for the planned meeting at 0430hrs with the other Group members.  On arrival at Stanford, although not raining, it was clear that the windy conditions would restrict us as to the number of nets that we would be able to erect. With the reduced netting, we still managed to ring 60 new birds with 44 retraps.  

A juvenile Sedge Warbler with a deformed bill was of interest and the best retrap of the day was a Garden Warbler ringed by us as a juvenile in 2004 - as such, it is our second oldest of this species to be retrapped at the site.

Juvenile Sedge Warbler with deformed bill

We also had an adult Whitethroat with an extra growth to the upper mandible:

"Tubenose"  Whitethroat

So far this month, with relatively poor weather, we have already exceeded last year’s June total of 317 birds ringed with 549 new birds.

June totals for some species of interest, with June 2010 figures, in brackets are

Sedge Warbler 49 (25)
Reed Warbler 90 (9)
Whitethroat 92 (71)
Blackcap 84 (11)
Tree Sparrow 117 (89)
Linnet 48 (28)

Monday morning John and I made our second visit to a local farm to ring two broods of Swallow that were too young on our previous visit last week.  We also managed to net some of the adult birds as they flew in and out of the building but they soon became wise to what we were up to and managed to find ways round the net.  In total we have ringed 26 pulli and 7 adults there – thanks to Bob and Lisa for allowing us access and for their assistance.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mid June

Mid June and despite the seemingly incessant wind we’ve somehow already exceeded 2010’s June ringing total.

The highest total catch was on 11th when we processed 191 birds of which 101 were new. This was the day that 9 year old local lad Louis chose to visit us. A junior version of Chris Packham, to him it must have seemed rather easy to catch birds as each net round produced yet more wriggling bird bags. As we know it’s not like this every day…

Nevertheless, June so far, has generally seen good catches – each visit producing around 60 new birds. As usual at Stanford, warblers have predominated and the first 1J’s of the year for most species suggest another good breeding year. Of note in the first half of June have been new Blackcap (55), Whitethroat (63) and Reed Warbler (79). On 17th Adam managed to catch 82 Reed Warblers in one session alone (60 new, 21 retrap, 1 control).

Grasshopper Warblers have made a welcome return to Stanford recently, albeit in a small way after many years of absence. 25 years ago, when we located the nests of as many as six breeding pairs on the Northants side of the Reservoir in one year alone, they were regarded as a regular species but they declined sharply in the years to follow before disappearing altogether. Ringing evidence so far this season suggests at least two breeding pairs present this year.

Grasshopper Warbler
And, the first Green Woodpecker of the year graced our nets on 16th.

Green Woodpecker, male
And just in from Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada - Mick finds the incessant net rounds followed by the knitting classes were just too much....

Sleepy Mick

Friday, 10 June 2011

It's A Small World - Old Meets New

Mike Townsend writes:

During my recent six week trip to Canada ringing at Long Point Bird Observatory, (trip report to follow in due course), it was really great to meet up with a friend and trainee from the very early days of the Stanford Ringing Group.

Richard Dobbins was a fresh-faced 17 year old when I first meet him. Richard was training with us for a couple of years before going to University in Hull but he kept in touch until he graduated and moved to London. Some 25+ years later we met up again by chance at Long Point. He was still the same old Richard - still great company and it was as if we had seen each other only last week. Richard has now moved back to Pembrokeshire in Wales and runs his own ringing group (Teifi RG) undertaking a CES and ringing seabirds. 

You can imagine my surprise when, on my return to the U.K., I discovered that one of our latest recruits Becca is currently on Skomer monitoring seabirds. A phone call to Richard told me he was off to Skomer that very night to ring Shags and other seabirds on Midland Island. 
Here are the photos that recorded the event of one of the earliest members of SRG with one of the newest.

Becca at Shag's nest
Becca watching ringing of GBB Gull chick

Monday, 6 June 2011

Windy May

The seemingly incessant wind throughout the month of May resulted in a couple of planned ringing sessions cancelled and several brought to an early conclusion.  Despite this, we managed to mist net and ring 121 new birds which, together with pulli, resulted in 468 new birds.  Particularly encouraging were the new bird totals for Whitethroat (19), Garden Warbler (11), Tree Sparrow (18) and Linnet (11).

The complete May totals can be seen on the SRG web site by clicking this link May Totals

Many thanks to Mike Newhouse for this photo of a singing Grasshopper Warbler taken in April

Grasshopper Warbler - Stanford