Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Garden ringing

The last few days have offered a break in the weather for a couple of back garden ringing sessions.
On Monday, the 30' was erected at 07:00 and it wasn't long before the first birds were in the net, a couple of retrap House Sparrows and Blue Tits. After that it was very quiet with one or two Goldfinches dropping in to feed on the sunflower hearts and niger seed but still managing to stay clear of the net.
With an hour of checking an empty net I decided it was time to take down. As I walked up the garden, a Woodpigeon flew into the net, the 4th this year. I had only just released the newly ringed Woodpigeon when a Sparrowhawk zipped through and landed in the net. A juvenile male and the 2nd this year.
I didn't plan to erect the net today but after seeing a flock of 10+ Goldfinches on the feeders late morning it was enough to tip the scales. Five Goldfinches, one Blue Tit and one Greenfinch later it was time to take down. After putting my shoes on I noticed a Sparrowhawk flash past the feeders and then disappear. I didn't see it come out and assumed it had got away. I cursed my luck as I walked up the path but as I got half way I could see it was in the net. This one was a cracking adult male and was no where near as feisty as the juvenile caught on Monday.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ringing Demo Delights

Strong winds and heavy rain forecast for most of the days of last week with just a narrow window of flat, calm and dry conditions for Saturday until midday before the deluge returned made the planned ringing demonstration for the local Burbage Bird Club look decidedly dodgy to say the least.  Finding a suitable date to suit both parties had pushed the event further back towards the end of November than we would have liked - amid concerns for the effectiveness of the demo both in terms of the number of birds and spread of species that we would have to show them.

We need not have worried - Adam, Masai Mick and Webmaster Mike arrived early to near perfect ringing conditions (for the time of year) of a frosty, slightly misty, dry and calm morning to erect the nets and put the sound systems in place before dawn.  Meanwhile I met the bird club members together with Paul, a potential new SRG trainee, at the entrance to the Railtrack at a more sensible hour before we drove down to the base camp just as the lads were returning from their first extraction round of the nets with an impressive 39 birds.

This first catch included 28 Redwing, a Fieldfare and a Woodcock that Mick had extracted from a net line erected on the reservoir's perimeter grass footpath.  As this was only the sixth Woodcock ringed by us at Stanford and with the last one being some five years ago, the visitors were in for a rare treat indeed.

Mick shows off the Woodcock

The 6th ringed Woodcock for Stanford

The second round of the nets produced just 15 birds and demonstrated the need for erecting nets before the birds start to move off in the hour after dawn - the early ringer catches the birds!

A female Green Woodpecker, albeit a retrap, provided another treat for the demo and brought the cameras out again.  Webmaster Mike announced that this was only the second time that he had processed this species - the first being when he ringed this individual in November last year.

female Green Woodpecker

and from a different angle

Later in the morning a change to the bird calls being played resulted in eleven Lesser Redpolls plus a British control.  This year's total for this species is now 264 and is nearly double the number that we ringed last year.

Several continental Blackbirds with their all black bills and pale edged chest feathers provoked further interest and the number of species continued to increase with Robin, Tree Sparrow, Wren, Treecreeper, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and the usual Blue and Great Tits being processed.

A total of 67 new bird ringed and 20 retraps plus one control of 15 species was the final tally for the morning and was as good as we could have hoped for.  The exact totals, with retraps in brackets, were:

Woodcock 1
Green Woodpecker (1)
Wren (1)
Robin (3)
Blackbird 9
Fieldfare 1
Redwing 32 (2)
Blue Tit (4)
Great Tit 1 (2)
Treecreeper (1)
Tree Sparrow 8 (4)
Chaffinch (1)
Goldfinch 2
Lesser Redpoll 11 (1 +1 control)
Reed Bunting 2

The nets started to come down just before midday and at 1205 hrs the rain started right on cue - for once the five day weather forecast had been spot on.

Thanks to the SRG members and the attentiveness and clear interest of the Burbage Bird Club members a highly successful demonstration had been achieved.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Red October

Red October - no not the submarine from the film but a description of the month's ringing at Stanford with several records broken and two controlled Lesser Redpolls.

The adverse weather conditions conspired such that two of the regular Saturday morning group ringing sessions were cancelled and the red dawns became a thing of the past.

However the dank, dreary and dismal days did not put Masai Mick off who made a sterling effort as he undertook several midweek sessions - some with another ringer to accompany him but also half a dozen solo efforts.  He was richly rewarded adding some eight new species to the annual list and thereby achieving a record annual total of 54 species.

The first Jay ringed since 2007
Kestrel - a new species for Webmaster Mike

Green Woodpecker

Despite ringing at Stanford since 1976, this is only the third Firecrest ringed - the other two were in 1984 and 2001.

Towards the end of the month the first Fieldfare (7)  and Redwing (3) were trapped

and an overdue species:
female Cetti's Warbler   26/10/2012
We ringed our first Cetti's on 29/10/2005 and this was followed by others on 28/10/2006, 13/10/2007, 28/9/2009, 25/10/2009, 6/11/2010.  We also controlled one on 31/10/2009.  Late October would seem to be the time for this species at Stanford and note all except the bird on 28/9/2009 were female.

Despite the inauspicious start, a total of 667 new birds were ringed during the month (click here for details) and 168 retraps and two controls (Lesser Redpoll) processed. It was the second best October total ever, but way behind last October's 933.  With all this activity a couple of other records almost slipped through unnoticed - the month's total of 46 Goldcrest resulted in a record year total of 57 and 224 Lesser Redpoll gave us a year record of 226 handsomely knocking into second place last year's total of 144

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Busy Week At Stanford

Masai Mick sums up one week's ringing at Stanford:

High winds and rain during the first few days of October put paid to any mid-week ringing so that the first session of the month at Stanford was on Saturday 6th,  We arrived at 0600hrs to erect the nets and start the sound systems going before dawn.  The resulting catch for the morning was a creditable 58 new birds and 12 retraps.  The most interesting bird was an adult Grasshopper Warbler in moult which none of us had seen before - it had moulted its head, back and rump together with a pair of tail feathers.  On its wings it had moulted the scapulars and tertials together with the greater and lesser coverts.  Other birds of note were 16 Chiffchaff and 5 Lesser Redpoll (adding to the two ringed last month which were the first of the autumn).

Sunday 7th:
Suspecting that the autumn's Redpoll movement might now have begun, Adam, Jacana and I decided to return for another session on Sunday.  It is extremely unusual for us to ring on a Sunday but we were not disappointed with a catch of 40 new birds (plus 14 retraps) which included 6 new Goldcrest. A further 19 new Lesser Redpoll and a Belgian control Lesser Redpoll made the effort all worthwhile.

Tuesday 9th:
Jacana and I ventured out and had a great morning with 80 new birds and 12 retraps.  The first Coal Tit of the year, 5 new Goldcrest and 34 new Lesser Redpoll being the highlights of the session.

Wednesday 10th:
With the good weather continuing, Webmaster Mike and I were back at Stanford - 60 new birds ringed included 6 Chiffchaff, 8 Goldcrest and a further 26 Lesser Redpoll.  A Kestrel caught at the edge of a 30 foot net on the Railtrack was a new species for Mike.

Thursday 11th:
The weather conditions changed as I tried a solo effort for the last session of the week - overcast and windy meant that there were very few birds moving and only 20 new birds were added to the week's total - another Coal Tit and three Lesser Redpoll were the birds of note.

In summary the week's effort was well rewarded with the Belgian Lesser Redpoll control and totals of 259 new birds ringed and 63 retraps processed.  New birds included 5 Blackcap, 3 Reed Warbler, 27 Goldcrest, 28 Chiffchaff, 29 Tree Sparrow, 14 Greenfinch, 87 Lesser Redpoll and 11 Reed Bunting.
The current number of 89 Lesser Redpoll ringed is encouraging as it is already our second best annual total for this species and that last year we had only managed 6 at this time although we did go on to a record breaking 144 for the site.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

This Week At Stanford

Two ringing sessions at Stanford this week resulted in a total of 80 new birds, 34 retraps and a control.

Masai Mick managed a solo effort on Thursday and, with an eye on the weather, erected a few nets from the feeding station to the "Berries" net ride.  He managed to ring 38 new birds which included 11 Blackcaps and 2 Lesser Whitethroats and controlled an adult female Sedge Warbler.

With the weather forecast for Saturday of heavy rain from 0700 hrs the outlook was depressingly poor but it miraculously altered overnight pushing the heavy rain now due back to 1300 hrs. Time enough for a ringing session!  Mick, Ed, Dawn and I arrived at 0500 hrs to an overcast sky and a light breeze.  Nets were erected from "The Church" ride to "The Berries" with a single 30 foot on the Railtrack.  The first round of the nets brought in 26 birds and the first Kingfisher (a juvenile female) of the year.  As expected the next net rounds produced fewer birds but included the first juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers of the year.  A group of four birders from Burbage Bird Club arrived as we were packing up and were treated to an impromptu ringing demonstration as we processed the last birds of the day with the very last being another juvenile female Kingfisher!

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

Juvenile female Kingfisher

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Warbler Full Set

A cool, overcast morning greeted Mick, JC and myself when we arrived at Stanford today.  Ringing from the Bench to the Point in anticipation of a reasonable catch we were quickly disappointed. Another slow morning so typical of the year thus far, resulted in just 24 new birds ringed. There are simply very few birds about at present.

However, we did manage to ring at least one of each of the nine breeding warbler species at Stanford Reservoir (Chiffchaff, Willow, Sedge, Reed, Blackcap, Garden, Grasshopper, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat). That got us wondering - when did we last manage a 'full set' of warblers?

The answer is we did it once in 2011 (23rd July), three times in 2010, and five times in 2009. In fact today's achievement was the 26th time we’ve ringed all our breeding warbler species in one day... but it has never been done with so few birds around!

Adult Female Grasshopper Warbler
Juvenile Lesser Whitethroat
Blowin' in the Wind - Empty nets!

A Marbled White butterfly, only the third record at Stanford, was the morning's highlight (we don't have a picture of this as JC does not move as fast as he used to...)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Spotty Youngsters

Yesterday Masai Mick and I arrived at Stanford at 0445 hrs and quickly erected several nets in the 40 foot rides from the reservoir dam towards the location of the Wildlife Trust's birdwatching hide. Previously known as "The New Hide" it was recently demolished on health and safety grounds and the location will be known for evermore as "The Old Hide".

We were treated to a fabulous sunrise as these images attempt to show:

Sunrise over the Poplars

With not a breath of wind, the reservoir was flat calm and, dare I say it, the weather was just too hot and the sky too clear for a productive ringing session.

Draw-off Tower

We managed 26 new birds (plus 10 retraps) which included the second juvenile Lesser Whitethroat of the year, a couple of juvenile Reed Warblers with prominent tongue spots and a juvenile Robin.

Spotty Robin

We also ringed two juvenile Sedge Warblers which were sporting very well marked "necklaces".  Most juvenile Sedges have a line of small dark spots starting at the sides of the breast which vary both in intensity and the number of spots - usually one or two spots at each side of the chest is the norm but these two birds had as well defined necklaces as we have seen for a long time.

Spotty Sedge Warbler

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Here Comes The Sun

With the incessant poor weather since April there has been very little to blog.  Most planned ringing sessions at Stanford have been either cancelled, curtailed or produced very few birds. June 2011 resulted in 846 new birds being ringed whilst this June we managed just 307 - a total that was boosted with 46 Swallows from an adjacent stables to which we were given access for the first time (thanks Helen).
The weather forecast for yesterday was excellant and so the prospect of a good catch was very real - if only there were birds about.

Nets were erected in the early morning mist:


which cleared within twenty minutes:

Mick came back from the first round of the nets and triumphantly thrust a bird bag into my hand - inside an adult male Redstart! We have ringed only 16 at Stanford since we started in 1976 so this was a very good bird and surprisingly the second this year as we ringed an adult female in June.
Adult male Redstart 21st July 
Adult female Redstart 20th June

The total catch for day was 65 new birds with 20 retraps - our best day so far but well short of what we would normally expect at this time of year.

Warblers predominated with:
Sedge Warbler 2 new (+ 2 retraps)
Reed Warbler 2
Whitethroat 15
Garden Warbler 2 (+1)
Blackcap 3 (+2)
Chiffchaff 4
Willow Warbler 9 (+5)

With good weather predicted for next week, a mid week session is planned.                                                                                                    

Friday, 15 June 2012

Tyto Alba Cannabilism

Last night Webmaster Mike, trainee Ed and myself travelled north of Leicester to a site where the Stanford RG has been ringing Barn Owl chicks for the last five years.  Four eggs laid way back in April had hatched in May and produced four healthy chicks. We arrived at 1900 hrs to discover that one chick had completely vanished - almost certainly the recent long spell of frequent rain showers had prevented the adults from providing sufficient food and the oldest chick's survival instincts had kicked in and it had turned on its smaller sibling and devoured it - a practice that was brought to the attention of a shocked nation some years ago in BBC's Springwatch programme.

Mike did the honours of collecting the chicks from the nest whilst a happy Ed ringed his first owlets and they were soon back in the safety of their nest box just as the rain started again. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

We Have Been Busy - Honest!

With the obvious lack of recent activity on this Blog you could be forgiven for assuming that the Stanford Ringing Group has also been inactive. Well the truth is far from that because for the last four and a half months a dedicated faction of the group has been hard at work every Saturday undertaking scrub bashing and site maintenance. With the water level at the reservoir being unbelievably low it has been easier to access the scrub and overhanging branches from the foreshore, which is normally under several feet of water and, as a result, a great deal has been achieved. It has been a hard slog however so a big ‘thank you’ to those who turned out in all weathers. The water is now slowly returning as these images show:

The bay, normally under six foot of water, 1st October 2011

The same area 7th April 2012

Looking into the corner of the Bay towards our main ringing area

Access to the foreshore made the burning of the scrub much easier

A small amount of mid-week ringing has been carried out since the start of the year but the catches have been small with just 134 new birds ringed during the first quarter:

Saturday 7th April marked the start of the Group’s ringing proper but it was not a great day with intermittent drizzle for most of the morning. The result was a catch of 23 birds of which only seven were new birds but the first Blackcap of the year was a bonus. (Last year’s record breaking Blackcap total is detailed in our annual report for 2011 - follow this link Year Of The Blackcap)

We have processed 11 individual Chiffchaffs so far and the first Willow Warbler has been seen so hopefully over the next few weeks the warblers will return in good numbers to what is arguably one of the best, if not the best, inland ringing site for warblers.

Adam has made a start on this year’s nest recording and reports several boxes with Blue Tit or Great Tit clutches which are the earliest ever records for Stanford. The young could well be fledged by the first week of May which is when these birds used to start their nest building back in the 1960’s - a demonstration of the effects of global warming since then. We also have two boxes with Tawny Owls present so hopefully they will have a good breeding season.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Scrappin' Robins

Ed has been unable to get to Stanford recently and so tells us what he has been up to:

Over the past few months it’s been quite difficult for me to get along to Stanford so I’ve had to find alternative ways to get my birding fix. One such way is via a photographic project that I started working on in October last year. Nothing special really - I just wanted to photograph a particular Robin that turned up at the stables where my wife keeps her horses.

I noticed on a few consecutive mornings a Robin sitting quite nicely on the old wooden fence posts. I decided it would make a nice photo. The problem was getting close enough. Even with my 400mm lens fitted to the camera, and being particularly cautious in my approach he still proved to be very timid.

Over a period of months I have been feeding the Robin in an attempt to gain its trust so I can get closer.

At first the Robin was very wary, remaining in the trees and hedges until I was out of sight. Whilst I stood in the stables the Robin was content to approach the food and I could watch his behaviour without disturbing him. Over a number of weeks I continued to feeding him twice a day. I eventually got to the stage whereby I could stand outside the stables and he was still content to visit my feeding posts.

Not too much to my surprise in December a second Robin appeared at the feeding posts and was quite rapidly followed by a third. Sticking to my routine of feeding them twice a day and then carrying on with the jobs that needed to be done the birds have now become far more comfortable with my presence.  By January I was now able to put the food out and the Robins would now come within about six feet.  Even if I stopped and stood still to watch them, they didn’t seem too bothered and were quite happy to continue feeding. In February I decided the time had come introduce the camera again and to see how they would react.

All went well; they didn’t seem bothered by its presence in the slightest. On a bright, sunny and snowy day I decide to give it a go at getting some photo’s of the birds. I was hoping to get some action shots of the birds landing on the feeding posts. I was later than anticipated in getting to the stables. I quickly set up the camera on a tripod and placed seed on the post about ten feet in front of the camera.  It only took a couple minutes for them to appear and I was able to get some initial images of them.
Some of the better images can be seen below:


Monday, 30 January 2012

2011 - year of the Blackcap

We've now written our 2011 Annual Review and it can be found, along with all the data from 2011, on our Ringing Statistics page

2011 Summary
  • An excellent, record-breaking year with 5727 birds ringed at Stanford Reservoir from a total 8672 birds processed.

  • Most warbler species were ringed in record numbers, as were Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Greenfinch. An unprecedented warbler and finch autumn movement was observed. However, our success in ringing thrushes during the winter of 2010/11 was not repeated in 2011/12 as the birds were virtually absent due to the mild conditions.

  • The breeding season was good with 161 nests recorded. No obvious impact was observed from the previous hard winter (with the possible exception of Barn Owls).

  • Higher than average controls were recorded (19), but the recovery rate was poor (only 11 recoveries in total for the whole year and only 4 birds of the 5727 ringed in 2011 have been recovered to date) .

  • Environmental work effort has been higher and more successful than ever before.

  • Website and Blog features were expanded during 2011.

  • Stanford Ringing Group has taken on more new trainees and helpers during 2011 than in previous years.

And finally, for Stanford Ringing Group, 2011 was definitely the year of the Blackcap, with 710 ringed at Stanford Reservoir. Never before have we ringed so many birds of one species in a single year.