Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Calm before the Storm

Mick sums up Saturday mornings ringing session:

With indifferent weather and not a lot of birds about and despite having a feeding station we have persevered all month with not great numbers per session but we continue in the hope of having a decent catch during the month. So with a bit of calmish weather forecast for Saturday morning we assembled to take advantage of it. The team arrived at 6:00. Dave, Dawn and Matt were in one team to erect nets down one side of the bay while Mel and myself dealt with the other. Nets up and a combination of our new Latvian Redwing love song together with our old winter thrush sounds echoing out pre dawn (time of day not our trainee) we all sat down drinking coffee hoping for the best. It has to be said at this time of year if we don't have a good thrush catch we tend not to have a very good catch at all. Anyway, as we sat their in the gloom we could here the odd Redwing coming out of roost so my expectations were high but they always are, eventually it was time for the net round so we split into our respective teams and headed off with thrushes moving about everywhere. As Mel and I approached the first pair of nets several thrushes could be seen, these were quickly extracted so we could carry on to the rest. We were not disappointed as the other nets caught in a similar fashion. So with the first round complete we managed to catch 58 new birds together with a handful of retraps, a great result !!! The rest of the morning continued with more thrushes being caught but unfortunately the wind increased to the point where the nets wouldn't be out of place being used as sails on a Galleon. At the end of play we ended up with 77 new birds of which 62 were Redwing (our second best catch ever), 8 Blackbird, 2 Song Thrush and a single Fieldfare. Not a bad thrush morning and as an added bonus we also caught a Chiffchaff. With the kit packed up it was off to our headquarters at The White Horse in South Kilworth for a well earned pint of Real Ale!!!!!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Saturday 23rd November 2013

A cold morning greeted us as we met at the gate. The wind direction had changed over the last couple of days from westerlies to north-easterlies which we hoped would bring in some winter thrushes.
The first net round was promising with 70+ birds bagged up. Redwing, Song Thrush, Fieldfare and Blackbird made up the quartet of thrushes although numbers are still very low. A good mix of tits, Treecreeper, Wrens, Dunnocks, Finches and Buntings throughout the morning resulted in 67 new birds and 41 retraps. The highlight was a retrap female Blackcap.
Three Woodcock flew around the ringing base whilst we waited for first light. A Raven called and was seen later heading over the wood and a Brambling was also heard calling on the railtrack.
An albino Squirrel has been reported in the vicinity over the last two weeks and this morning it was briefly seen exiting the wood onto the railtrack grass verge. We will try our best to get a picture of it.
However, if any other photographers get a picture of it I will gladly upload it to the website if they wish.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

September review

Mick sums up the latest month....

''WOW, what a month! With some 1155 birds ringed this month of 37 species I think you could say its been a busy month and the second highest monthly total we have ever had. It started well with the 3rd producing
165 new birds the highlights being 57 Whitethroat, 35 Blackcap and 15 Chiffchaff and ended with a fall on the 27th producing a good mix of birds including 30 Reed Bunting, 29 Chiffchaff, 25 Blackcap, our first Grey Wagtail for the year and yet another Spotted Flycatcher, the third of the year, when they can be described as intermittent at best is a great result. We also controlled a Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler on that day, an addition to the Blackcaps we controlled on the 20th and 24th. It would be great if they both came from the same part of the country as it would possibly give us an indication of where the migrants came from that day. The rest of the month produced a lot of highs and lows with an unexpected catch of Swallows and Martins between the 12th- 21st , this was a period of time when the weather was dank and overcast together with a persistent westerly wind. Each morning we went just after first light and Swallows and Martins would turn up flying up and down the hedge line in search of food so we erected nets to catch some and were fairly successful managing to catch some 126 over the 10 day period. A great result as we are usually not very successful at catching them. Meadow Pipits have been about 10 days late in arriving this year possibly due to a late breeding season due to the cold spring so the catching of the species did not start till the 21st and since then we have caught 72. A little disappointing but not bad as very few have moved through up till now. It has to be said the real stars of the month have been Chiffchaff and Blackcap with 245 and 236 birds being caught, these birds respond to sound lures very well especially for the first hour or so after dawn, try it and join in the fun !!!!
Finally on the 28th we caught a Redwing, the first we have ever caught in September and the earliest by about two weeks. We are hoping now for October to continue in a similar way.''


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hirundines galore!

After seeing the weather forecast for Saturday, Mick and I decided that we would be better ringing on Sunday. I awoke at 07:30 on Saturday to a mizzley morning that soon cleared. It looked like we had missed an opportunity as Sundays forecast had changed to windy at 10:00 and rain at 13:00.
I arrived at 05:30 this morning to meet Mick, Dave and Dawn. We were greeted by an 8-10 mph SW breeze which was fine as the boundary hedge gave us some protection for most of the morning.
Early rounds produced the usual Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps but after a clear sky lastnight it looked like most migrants had passed through with very few warblers.
At 09:00 the wind picked up and those nets affected were taken down. At 10:00 it started the rain and so the remaining nets were taken down. However, Mick had noticed that whilst taking his nets down a large movement of 200+ Hirundines were being forced to feed close to the ground.
After the rain had quickly passed a few sheltered spots from the increasing wind were located on the NE side of a boundary hedge and three 30' nets were set up. After 2 hours we had accumulated 15 House Martins and 9 Swallows which gave us a total of 49 new birds for the day.
Whilst taking the last nets down Dawn stumbled across this Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar looking for somewhere to spend the winter.
Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Friday 13th Sept

Mick and I arrived at the reservoir at 05:00 yesterday morning to be met by low cloud and fine drizzle. The rain was forecast to clear throughout the morning so until then a cup of tea was in order until it passed.
After 30 minutes the cloud started to break up so we took to the task of erecting the nets.
A good movement of warblers was soon noted and Chaffinches are now starting to make their presence in good numbers with double figures regularly seen on the disused railtrack all day.
Most warblers ringed were Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps with the Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler making up a full cast of the resident breeding warblers.
Ageing Chiffchaffs in autumn is fairly straight forward. The freshness of tail feathers is one criteria used to determine their age. Adults replace their whole tail during a complete moult whilst juveniles usually retain theirs which by autumn become abraided and chipped at the tips. However, it is not uncommon to find juveniles with replaced central feathers which then show a contrast with dull old ones and darker new ones. The picture below shows a tail of a juvenile Chiffchaff with a fault bar across the tail. The central tail feathers have been replaced with much darker and greener edged adult type feathers along with the outer two on the right side of the tail, R5 & R6.
If only they were all this easy!

Juvenile tail with some replaced adult type feathers 


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tuesday 4th Sept 2013

Ed and I returned from Gibraltar Point BO after a ringing opportunity weekend. We had a great time and a chance to meet new people and see some old faces. A special thanks to George Gregory, Mick Briggs, Mike Archer and Nigel Judson for all their efforts to make our time there an enjoyable one.
Unfortunately just before we arrived, the wind had changed from a north-easterly to a south-westerly which meant that we were denied the opportunity to see European mainland breeders such as Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike which were both trapped a week before.
However, we had the chance to see common migrants such as Yellow Wagtail, Common Redstart, Swallow and House Martins in the hand. The bird of the weekend for us was a juvenile Greenland Wheatear, I have trapped and ringed a few of these myself on a field opposite my house but a large supermarket has now put a stop to that.
Mick and Dawn had been out ringing on Saturday whilst we were away and managed to ring 64 birds including 19 Whitethroats, 11 Blackcaps, 4 Garden Warblers, 5 Sedge Warblers and the 2nd Spotted Flycatcher for the year.
Having an extra days holiday I took advantage of the good weather forecast for Tuesday and met Mick at the railtrack at 04:30. A low mist was hanging around on arrival and we quickly got our nets up. We experienced one of the best days for autumn migation ever at Stanford. The low mist had downed the birds overnight and there were hundreds. Once the mist had lifted the birds had started moving and during the first net round birds were going into the nets whilst I was extracting them from the nets.
It was a rare opportunity to see migration on our local patch on a scale like this!
By the end of the day we had processed 238 birds with good numbers of Whitethroat and Blackcap.

New / Retrap
Wren 3/1
Dunnock 2/3
Robin 5/2
Song Thrush 1/0
Sedge Warbler 2/1
Reed Warbler 10/3
Lesser Whitethroat 2/2
Whitethroat 57/14
Garden Warbler 1/3
Blackcap 35/16
Chiffchaff 15/3
Willow Warbler 3/0
Long-tailed Tit 1/6
Blue Tit 10/14
Great Tit 2/2
Treecreeper 1/0
Tree Sparrow 1/0
Chaffinch 3/2
Greenfinch 1/0
Goldfinch 3/0
Bullfinch 1/0
Reed Bunting 6/2

So birds are finally on the move as migrants start heading south through Stanford.
At the other end of the scale tits are in very low numbers and Tree Sparrows have virtually disappeared.
Treecreepers look like they are having a success this year with 24 ringed already.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Wednesday 14th August - Draycote Water

Ed spent a morning at Draycote Water on Wednesday...his story.

Today I managed to squeeze in a trip to Draycote water just to the south of Rugby.

Birding usually presents it’s own challenges but today I had the added extra of the schools being closed for the summer holidays. Lots of young ones now being exercised by their parents.

After setting out from the café, heading in a counter clockwise direction and trying to maintain a healthdistance from the family behind me I did manage to see Great Crested Grebe, both adult and juvenile, Pied Wagtail, Crow, Swallow, Coot, Black Headed Gull, Cormorant, Wood Pigeon, Tufted Duck and was over flown by about 25 Greylag Geese.

After the first ½ mile the families started to turn back making the road a little quieter. After leaving the dam wall is wasn’t too long before I found the bird hide and spent quite some time sat in there watching the world go by.

Just after taking my seat in the hide I was quite pleased to see a Kingfisher go by, one of the few that I have seen so far this year. In front of the hide there were mainly Tufted Ducks, GC Grebe, Coot and the occasional Moorhen passing by. The feeders there were pretty much dormant, only the occasional Blue or Great Tit visiting. However a juvenile Chaffinch did make a brief appearance and it could clearly be seen to be moulting though the pink male chest. Other than a Dunnock in the undergrowth nothing else was to visit the feeders. Just prior to leaving the hide a small group of Teal came along,  feeding by the reed bed.

Continuing my journey, I spotted Common Sandpiper along the northern shore line but saw several others dotted around as I walked on. Another surprise for me was the appearance of a Red Admiral butterfly, probably the first I have seen this year.

Crossing the dam wall on the western side a bird flew up showing a clear white rump, “Wheatear” sprang to mind but was quickly dismissed. A few more yards down the dam wall another one flew up, this time definitely Wheatear. A quick scan of the rocks through my bins revealed a well spread group of three. I managed to get a quick photo, not very good,but I think you can see what it is. The Wheatears were the highlight of the walk.

On the southern shoreline there were mainly Tufties and Coot with young. Getting back closer the café I came more into contact with families again and not much else could seen.

Finally getting back to the starting point I put my feet up in the café for half and hour whilst tucking into a pork and brie baguette.


Female Tufted Duck and ducklings

Juvenile Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe with young

Pied Wagtail
Adult Black-headed Gull

Common Tern

Friday, 16 August 2013

Leicestershire 68 v Northants 84

Over the last few years we have set up our moth traps along the old rail track or within the reservoir perimeters to see what species are around. These areas have the usual flora expected such as Ash, Oak, Hawthorn and Blackthorn but no phragmites. So with this in mind I decided that I would try the moth trap on the Leicestershire side of the reservoir where there is a large reedbed.
On Friday 9th August I arrived and donned my waders then made my way to the reedbed to set up some nets to attempt to catch some Swallows coming in to roost. I set five nets in the reedbed and on returning to the car Mick arrived to join me. With two more nets erected we got to the task of setting the moth trap and an additional light and white sheet. The main trap was set as near as possible to the reedbed to see if we could attract some reedbed species. The sheet was set near the base to give us something to do between visits to the trap.

Base camp
On checking the mist-nets before dusk we found that we had managed to catch a single juvenile Swallow along with six Reed Warblers, 1 Sedge Warbler and 4 Reed Buntings....... not exactly the roost were we hoping for! These were all bagged up and kept overnight in a safe place for ringing in the morning as by now the light had faded.
The sheet was already starting to attract large numbers of small insects but not many moths but the trap was now bringing in good numbers of Lesser Broad-bordered and Lesser Yellow Underwings.
30 species of micro and macro were recorded including 3 species of Footman, double figures of Flame Shoulder and Double Square-spot. Pebble Prominent, Dusky Thorn, Scalloped Oak and Ruby Tiger were nice examples. One reedbed specialist trapped was micro Chilo phragmitella, although a common species it was nice to see something other than the usual woodland species.
Dave arrived just after 04:00 to replace Mick who was travelling around to the Northants side to ring with Ed, Dawn and Simon where they set their nets on the opposite bank. I think they enjoyed themselves over there as we heard chuckles of laughter from across the water all morning!
Altogether, there were 152 birds processed with 84 on the Northants side and 68 on the Leicestershire side, an excellent day for both teams.


Woodpigeon 1/0
Swallow 1/0
Wren 2/0
Dunnock 1/0
Robin 0/1
Sedge Warbler 12/3
Reed Warbler 30/17
Lesser Whitethroat 2/0
Whitethroat 12/1
Garden Warbler 4/1
Blackcap 7/2
Chiffchaff 1/1
Willow Warbler 15/3
Long-tailed Tit 3/2
Blue Tit 6/3
Treecreeper 4/0
Goldfinch 2/0
Linnet 3/0
Reed Bunting 9/3

Bird days and moth nights

The first two weeks of August have seen warm and calm days which have been great for ringing. The number of warblers are steadily increasing as Whitethroat's in particular look like they have had a decent breeding season with 250 ringed up to date. Mick and Dave got the ball rolling on the first day of the month with their nets covering a corner of the bay including the feeding station. Surprisingly, 32 birds from a total of 41 were warblers in an area that would expect good numbers of tits and Trees Sparrows.
The following night was a planned moth trapping session so Ed, Dave and I met on the Friday night and set up camp on the rail track. All nets were erected and furled ready for the early morning start. The moth night was another success with 51 species of micro and macro recorded.
We were up bright and early at 04:00 to open the nets which then gave us a few minutes to check the moth trap and pot-up any worth photographing. A selection of these are shown below.

The bird total was not great with just 45 birds processed as our reward.

New / retraps
Wren 3/0
Dunnock 1/1
Robin 1/0
Blackbird 1/1
Sedge Warbler 3/2
Lesser Whitethroat 1/0
Whitethroat 6/4
Blackcap 2/0
Chiffchaff 1/0
Willow Warbler 4/1
Marsh Tit 0/1
Willow Tit 1/0
Blue Tit 1/3
Treecreeper 2/0
Chaffinch 2/0
Linnet 1/0
Reed Bunting 2/0

An inspection of the Swallows at nearby stables and farm resulted in a further 12 pulli being ringed with more still on eggs.

Ruby Tiger
Scalloped Oak

Purple Thorn

Pale Prominent

Sunday, 4 August 2013

July updated

We are now into August so apologies for the lack of posts on the blog recently. July has been our busiest month so far with fifteen ringing sessions including seven since the last update.
The groups first attempt at the CES project is going well with 417 captures since it started in May. The majority of these are made up of juveniles from what looks like a fairly good breeding season although numbers are still lower than previous years as many of our warbler species are recovering from failed attempts in 2012.
Nearly 500 more birds have been processed since our last blog on the 12th July so here's a summary of our latest outings.
15th July was CES session No'8 with Mick and I processing 84 birds of 20 species including 34 Whitethroats and 7 Garden Warblers.
Mick was ringing solo on the 18th from the dam to the orchard and managed 74 birds of 14 species. Whitethroats again made up the majority of these with Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting and Linnet also in noteable numbers.
Once again my night shift got in the way of ringing on the 20th so I arrived four hours later to meet Mick, Ed, Dawn and Dave half way between the feeders and the point. On arrival, Ed and I wandered off into the wood to check the large nest boxes for Stock Doves. One new adult and chick were ringed and a re-trapped adult ringed in July 2011 is now our oldest individual of this species at 2 years and 4 days! The days total was 83 birds of 18 species with Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Long-tailed Tits being the most abundant.
Whilst the group took the nets down, Ed and I drove to a local farm to check the Swallow nests. None of the Swallows were at a ringing stage but we did find that the Collared Doves were a nice size and a new species for Ed too. A phone call from a local landowner to say that they have heard hissing from one of their many nest boxes saw us ring this years first Barn Owl chicks. Although we had a great day, by this time I had been awake for over 24 hours and I was looking forward to getting home!
Barn Owl chick
Mick and Dave were available on the 24th for a session in the reedbed on the Leicestershire side. Reed Warblers were the target of the day with 65 birds processed, 33 of those were Reed Warblers.
On the 26th we carried out our nineth CES session as well as playing host to 'The University of The Third Age' (U3A). Lots of warblers including Sedge and Reed Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were the order of the day with juvenile Robins, Treecreeper, Tree Sparrow and Linnet making up a total of 73 birds processed. A great day was experienced by everyone with lots of photo opportunities and a chance to see birds up at close quarters.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the U3A for their generous donation to the group funds and trust that they went away having learned something about ringing and migration.
Blower's Lodge Bay by Ed Tyler
The following day Mick brought along Jed Andrews (ex Holme NOA warden) where they met Ed, Dawn, Dave, Simon and I at the rail track gate to be greeted by perfect conditions. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled as the first nets were erected and subsequently caught in the first net round. Dave and Simon joined me as I check the Pole nest boxes. One Stock Dove fledged as I leaned the ladder against the pole but two chicks were ringed in the second box. 100 birds were processed including 14 Sedge Warblers, 20 Reed Warblers, 18 Whitethroats, 5 Garden Warblers, 10 Willow Warblers, 7 Reed Buntings and singles of Marsh and Willow Tits. After everything was packed away I decided to pay a visit to the dam to check the nest boxes for Stock Doves but there were none to be ringed. Whilst driving past the house I noticed a juvenile corvid sitting on a wooden railed fence. When I stopped the car it promptly hopped into a paddock of tall grass...... I quickly followed and before long I had a 1J Carrion Crow for the year list!
Juvenile Carrion Crow
It has been a productive month with just over 1200 birds processed.
July's new and retrap totals combined.....
Mallard 1, Stock Dove 5, Collared Dove 2, Barn Owl 2, Kingfisher 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 3, Swallow 2, Wren 23, Dunnock 26, Robin 24, Blackbird 13, Song Thrush 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 112, Reed Warbler 133, Lesser Whitethroat 10, Whitethroat 233, Garden Warbler 53, Blackcap 37, Chiffchaff 40, Willow Warbler 98, Goldcrest 1, Spotted Flycatcher 1, Long-tailed Tit 13, Marsh Tit 1, Willow Tit 3, Coal Tit 1, Blue Tit 106, Great Tit 121, Treecreeper 12, Carrion Crow 1,
House Sparrow 2, Tree Sparrow 39, Chaffinch 13, Goldfinch 7, Linnet 9, Bullfinch 6, Yellowhammer 1, Reed Bunting 44.   


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Moths galore and a lot of birds too!

When someone mentions a moth night, the topic usually ends with a few 'perhaps' and 'maybe's'. Our past experience of moth nights have fallen well short of the groups expectations with cold nights taking a hit on the size of the moth catch and dampening the enthusiasm of everyone involved.
The forecast for July this year has been perfect for both moth trapping and bird ringing, so what could possibly go wrong?
Well as it happens, everything went brilliantly and possibly the best weekend that I have ever experienced at Stanford Reservoir in my 10 years as a member. I finished work at 3pm on Friday and arranged to meet Ed and Dave at around 4-5pm. I arrived first and quickly erected my tent on the hardest and lumpiest ground imaginable.

After several bent pegs and numerous swallowed flies, Dave arrived. With both tents erected we got to the task of erecting and furling the nets ready for the following morning. We decided to keep the feeder nets open to give us something to occupy ourselves untill it was time to set up the moth trapping equipment.
Ed arrived and erected his bird hide which he had decided to double up as his sleeping quarters which he shared with numerous ground beetles, nice!

A juvenile Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Lesser Whitethroat were the only birds of note before we closed the nets up. Whilst I wandered off down the railtrack to get the generator started, Ed and Dave got their portable barbecue's lit ready for an evening feast. We sat in wait for about an hour before the first moths started to arrive at two lights set up. The numbers and species quickly amounted and we were soon tallying up a long list of species, some I have never seen before. Good numbers of Beautiful Hook-tip and Peppered Moth were notable. We were so engrossed in the spectacular event that it was 1am before anyone realised the time, we had agreed to rise at 4am to open the nets!

I topped up the generator with more fuel and retired to my tent at 1.30am. It felt that I had no longer shut my eyes when I heard Ed's alarm go off. It was 3.50am, warm and clammy. On checking the moth trap, I could see that there were Elephant and Poplar Hawkmoths, Buff Arches, Burnished Brass and many more species. I turned the generator off and covered the trap for checking later. The three of us had the nets unfurled in 30 minutes and Mick, still smiling after his day at Trent bridge, arrived just as we were returning to the railtrack.
This gave us time to check the moth trap before the first round of nets.
Buff Arches

Eyed Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

Peach Blossom
Peppered Moth

Poplar Grey

Leopard Moth

Poplar Hawkmoth

Over 170 macro moths of 58 species were recorded plus 13 species of micro moth.

Our first round of the nets resulted in 71 birds with the highlight of the day being an adult Spotted Flycatcher in the feeder nets. Warblers were in decent numbers with 13 new Sedge Warbler and 17 new Whitethroat.
Spotted Flycatcher
By 11am we had processed 134 birds and we were all dead on our feet. Ex-member Brian joined us as we were taking the nets down and it was then that I found our 58th moth species for the day. A Lunar Hornet Moth was clinging to the last line of nets to come down!

Catch of the day - Lunar Hornet Moth

If I ran back to the car to get a pot it would no doubt have disappeared so I gently put it in a bird bag and transferred it to a pot when I got back. Hornets and wasps sometimes get entangled in the nets and it was lucky that I looked twice before shaking it off. There are a long line of Poplar trees at Stanford and Hornet Moths have been on my list for a long time. A perfect end to a perfect weekend!

Birds New/retrap (Friday and Saturday)
Great spotted Woodpecker 1/1
Wren 1/1
Dunnock 1/4
Robin 1/0
Blackbird 2/2
Sedge Warbler 13/17
Reed Warbler 4/2
Lesser Whitehroat 3/0
Whitethroat 18/10
Garden Warbler 5/7
Blackcap 3/0
Chiffchaff 1/0
Willow Warbler 2/9
Spotted Flycatcher 1/0
Long-tailed Tit 3/0
Blue Tit 8/6
Great Tit 4/11
Treecreeper 1/0
Tree Sparrow 2/0
Chaffinch 2/0
Linnet 1/0
Bullfinch 0/2
Reed Bunting 0/2

Friday, 12 July 2013

and out came the birds...

Well we've certainly had a decent few days at Stanford. As the sun came out, so too did the birds in good numbers.

First of all Adam and I met at 4:30 on Friday morning to do CES visit number 7. Our hopes were high for a decent catch and expectations were definitely exceeded .

The first round of the nets produced 65 birds and by the time we had finished we had processed 135 birds, 87 of which were new. The main species was Common Whitethroat with 29 new and 6 retraps.

The following day we were up early again for another session at a different area netting from the feeders up to the point and on around to the reed bed. This time we had Dawn, Dave and Paul with us, 3 of our 4 trainees. We had another good morning with 117 birds processed. Again Common Whitethroat being
the main species caught with 11 new and 7 retraps.  Sedge Warbler came a close 2nd with 10 new and 6 retraps.

Sunday was a welcome day of rest.

Monday dawned bright and early with yet another early start, this time meeting Mike at the Dam end, to erect nets from just past the Tower to the Orchard. This is one of my favourite areas around the Reservoir as you can sit and look over the water. Today we managed 76 birds processed, 46 new and 30 retraps with the main species yet again Common Whitethroat. We had a very pleasant morning ringing if not a little tiring in the sun.

Then finally, I was out on my own on Tuesday down the rail track and yes, you guessed it, another 4:30 start yet. (But tomorrow I'm watching the cricket on the telly then Friday going to Trent Bridge for the third days play HEAVEN).  Anyway back to Stanford, and Tuesdays efforts. It has to be said, although I caught 68 birds, it was not a great days ringing with very little moving around.

Over the 4 ringing sessions we ended up with 396 birds processed, of which 248 were new. Not too bad for an inland site on the borders or Leicestershire and Northants .


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Summer at last

With the first real day of summer the reservoir burst into life with tits calling everywhere and the first real flush of juveniles in evidence. Dave and I met at the gate at 04:15 with no wind at all (the first time this year) so off we trotted down the old rail track to the res to get the nets erected at the CES site, better to get it done early than struggle for decent weather later on. With the nets erected we settled down for a good mornings ringing (we hoped). The morning progressed at a decent rate with 119 birds processed, this being the first 100+ day of the year.

What a great morning we had with the best bird being a Jay. We do not catch many of this species as we are mainly a scrub habitat and Jays are mainly Woodland species. We also had a great morning for Willow Warblers with 15 new birds and a retrap from a nest of young we ringed earlier in the month. Whitethroats reaching double figures, were not far behind.

With this start hopefully this breeding season will be a lot better than the last. Here's hoping!!!!


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Early start and a late finish

On Saturday the group members welcomed Micks safe return from his annual ringing trip to Longpoint Bird Observatory in Canada. Joining Dave, Ed, Paul and myself, we all arrived at the gate at 04:30. Well nearly all of us! I was held up due to a car accident that had closed the main route through to Stanford which meant taking an unplanned diversion through unknown territory. This wouldn't normally be a problem but I was carrying all the groups nets and ringing kit! As it turned out, I was only a few minutes late and soon caught them up just as Mick was heading off down the railtrack to open the gate to the reservoir.
On Sunday 26th May, Dave and I experienced near perfect conditions for mist-netting. This weekend we were greeted by a chilly north-westerly which made ringing difficult at the north end of the reservoir. We were hoping that we would get some shelter from a tall tree line near the point but as it turned out some nets were still prone to the breeze coming from across the water. At the opposite end of the reservoir, the feeding station nets and a few others were looking good but once again there were hardly any birds around this area.
A Sedge Warbler extracted from the nets on the first round was found to be a BTO control. This species seems to be all around the reservoir this year and is already one of our most numerous warblers along with Common Whitethroat.
Whilst the trainees were busily ringing, Mick was eyeing up a Reed Bunting carrying food for its young. When it disappeared into the undergrowth he was out of his seat and located it easily when it
re-emerged. Three small young were promptly ringed by one of the trainees. Three hours later Mick had found another Reed Bunting with five young and these were also ringed. We never had the opportunity last year to ring Reed Bunting Pulli due to the adverse weather conditions so two broods ringed already this year is a bonus.
The Willow Warbler chicks in front of the bench were still on the small side for ringing so they were left for another few days along with a second brood, again found by Mick!
As the day went on the sun came out and the breeze calmed down but by then it was time to take the nets down and check the nest boxes in the nearby wood.

Wren - 0/2
Dunnock - 1/0
Blackbird - 1/6
Song Thrush - 1/0
Sedge Warbler - 4/8
Reed Warbler - 2/0
Lesser Whitethroat - 1/0
Whitethroat - 3/3
Garden Warbler - 0/8
Blackcap - 1/0
Chiffchaff - 2/1
Willow Warbler - 1/3
Blue Tit - 0/2
Tree Sparrow - 1/0
Chaffinch - 0/3
Bullfinch - 1/1
Reed Bunting - 0/2

Some interesting retraps were a 7yr old Blackbird, 3 yr old Whitethroat, 4 yr old Garden Warbler and 6 yr old Chaffinch.

Nestboxes are experiencing a mixed success. So far, Blue Tits are averaging 8.5 chicks ringed per box whilst Great Tits are only averaging 6.25 per box. Some broods, although alive, were found to be cold to the touch. Whilst ringing nestbox pulli, we would expect to see some adults waiting to gain access to the box to feed their young. This year we stood at many boxes where there were no adults around which would indicate that they are travelling further distances to find food.
Tawny Owls have failed to breed again this year. Perhaps the result of Grey Squirrels or food availability or both. Jackdaws have occupied three boxes. One of these attempts failed due to predation but the other two had young at FS (feathers short) stage and all  five young were ringed. Stock Doves are still incubating in one box.

Pulli ringed:
Blue Tit - 103
Great Tit - 50
Reed Bunting - 8
Jackdaw - 5

It was an early start and a late finish so well done to everyone involved!

PS......We have to do it all again next week!


Monday, 27 May 2013

CES session No' 3

Saturday was out of the question for our 3rd CES session due to a family wedding which left us without a trainer. With that in mind, our plan was to go for Bank holiday Monday. However, after checking the weather forecast on Saturday afternoon it was swiftly changed to Sunday which promised 7-8mph winds.
Dave and I were the only ringers available so we met at 04:30 and erected our CES nets in the usual places. The conditions were the best I've witnessed this year with absolute calm and birds singing everywhere. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeeling whilst the nearby net was erected and duely extracted on the second net round.
A variety of warblers were expected but numbers are still low for this time of year. Our first two CES sessions have resulted in 20 birds. We finished our day with 39 birds although only 13 of these contribute towards our CES survey.
With the nets down there was a spare hour to check some nestboxes before going home.
Adult tits are still sitting in most boxes and a few have small young or eggs hatching. I still think we are way behind last year. A brood of 10 Blue Tits were the only pulli ringed and Robins seem to have bred successfully with a 3J trapped and ringed.
Blackcap 2/1
Chaffinch 1/0
Chiffchaff 1/1
Dunnock 0/2
Garden Warbler 0/1
Grasshopper Warbler 1/0
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0/1
Great Tit 0/1
Linnet 1/0
Reed Warbler 3/0
Robin 1/0
Sedge Warbler 3/5
Song Thrush 0/1
Tree Sparrow 2/4
Whitethroat 2/4
Willow Warbler 0/1


Sunday, 19 May 2013


Our 2nd CES visit was held on a typically dismal, cold, and breezy mid May morning. With little bird movement, the catch was predictably low. Our birds preferring to sit on their nests, remain on territory, or just leave for somewhere warmer.

However, ringing spirits were somewhat uplifted when we caught a Kestrel in the bottom shelf of a mist net. The bird was a retrap, ringed as a juvenile by us last year.

Dawn with Kestrel number 1

But... if only we could catch one without a ring... Dawn tells the story -

"When Paul and Mike returned from their side of the CES, they had a retrap female Kestrel. This is the first raptor I have ever handled so I was very excited, to the point where I really didn’t mind the war-wound I received when it sunk it’s talons into my index finger! Imagine our happy surprise when the next net round produced a male Kestrel from another ride. This was a brand new bird and so now, Kestrel has been added to my ringing species list."

It's a miracle. Dawn with Kestrel number 2

These birds are only the 12th & 13th full grown Kestrels caught at Stanford Reservoir in 35 years, and it's the first time we've caught 2 in one day. We expect a hat-trick on CES visit 3...

Adult Male Kestrel

Friday, 10 May 2013

Top nesters

I just received the latest newsletter from Nest Record Scheme through the post this afternoon. As always, I turn straight to the list of Top Nesters to see how we compared with other recorders and groups in 2012.
Stanford RG has contributed records to the scheme for several years and each year we try to surpass our previous years total.
44,350 records have so far been submitted to the BTO for 2012, the highest since the scheme began in 1939.
129 recorders contributed 100 or more nest records and as usual the Farne Islands finished way out in front with a whopping 2,141 records....very impressive!
So how did we compare?
273 records and finishing a credible 40th!
Well done to all our nest finders and here's hoping for a successful breeding season in 2013.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nest box Mayday!

Bank holiday Monday provided a chance to get out to the reservoir to inspect our nestboxes so Ed and I agreed to meet at 08:00 to take on the task of checking over 150 boxes of varying sizes and shapes.
It was a bright and calm morning and under normal circumstances, mist-netting would have been on the agenda. However, the breeding season has well and truely got underway and we don't have many days to dedicate to checking them.
Ladders at the ready, pliers, rings and notebook in the pocket, it was off into the nearby wood where we have over 50 Tit boxes. This time last year we witnessed hatching in numerous boxes but this year is looking far different. Twenty-four boxes were occupied which is a fairly good percentage but all were still in the early egg stage with 90% of these still having eggs covered, this would indicate that egg laying is still in process for most birds.
Larger boxes are having a mixed success with Tawny Owls looking like failing again for the second consecutive year, Jackdaws have taken up residence in three boxes and Stock Doves have got off to a good start with two pulli already ringed in one box and three further boxes hosting pairs.
Like the Tits, our new Tree Sparrow colony has been slow to get started with just one adult incubating five eggs.
Open nests included Long-tailed Tit although this has already been predated. Lined nests for both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Woodpigeon and Coot were also seen sitting on eggs.
It looks like I'll be making a few more inspections but I don't think I will be needing rings for at least another week or two.


Monday, 6 May 2013

First CES for Stanford RG

CES is a subject that the group has discussed on numerous occasions and probably goes back many years. There was talk of it every year but it never materialised. This year we finally decided we would give it our best shot and join the scheme.
CES or Constant Effort Site is the study of the birds in a certain area. We erect the same nets, in the same area, each summer, 12 times between May and August. This allows us to monitor the common species of passerines.......in Stanford Reservoirs case, Warblers, finches and Buntings.
So, Saturday 4th May was the big day. The net rides had all been prepared weeks before and the trainees were chomping at the bit!
A 5am start saw Ed, Dawn, David, Paul and myself meeting at the railtrack gate. A breeze was always on the cards after the previous nights forecast, however it was fairly sheltered in the main CES netting area.
Splitting into two teams, we erected nets from the Apple tree ride, through the Orchard and around to the feeding station. Only five net rides are standard for the CES area but the additional nets gave the trainees more species to handle and valuable practice at ageing and sexing.
Birds were segregated according to the net ride where they were caught which was fairly straight forward if you can remember which net ride you extracted the bird from! As it happens, things went very well with 51 birds being processed. Scattered showers came and went during the latter part of the session and the usual resident birds and common migrants were the order of the day.
Wren 1/1
Dunnock 2/0
Robin 1/1
Blackbird 0/3
Song Thrush 1/3
Sedge Warbler 2/3
Lesser Whitethroat 1/0
Common Whitethroat 3/5
Blackcap 1/0
Chiffchaff 1/0
Willow Warbler 0/6
Blue Tit 0/2
Great Tit 0/3
Tree Sparrow 0/1
Chaffinch 0/2
Linnet 2/0
Bullfinch 1/2
Reed Bunting 1/2

More warblers and a Wood Pig

The weather forecast for Thursday 2nd May was perfect......5mph winds and a day of sun. Well, the wind speed was ideal but a bit more cloud would have been better than sunshine as the nets become more visible when it's brighter. Anyway, as I was working in the afternoon and I had a morning free, I couldn't miss the opportunity of spending a few hours catching a few more passage migrants.
I was aware of the groups first ever CES session which was planned for Saturday so I stayed away from the CES area and concentrated on erecting my nets from the feeding station to the point. This long straight margin of grassland and Hawthorn scrub has always produced good numbers of warblers during past years and today proved to be no different.
Common & Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Sedge & Willow Warbler and this years first Reed Warbler. However, no Chiffchaffs or Reed Buntings were caught, unlike Linnets, which seemed to everywhere with pairs flying back and forth all morning
A Woodpigeon was a nice surprise in the first round although it was a pity there wasn't a trainee present to ring it as it isn't often they get the practice to apply large rings.
Whilst I sat on a bench between net rounds a Willow Warbler appeared within a few yards in front of me with a beak full of nesting material. It quickly dropped into the vegetation and popped up again a few seconds later and flew away. I waited a couple of minutes for it's return, this time after it descended into the long grass I got my chance to pinpoint it's exit point. I found the nest easily, about three quarters complete! I will be keeping my eye on it's progress!
It was an all round enjoyable morning with 65 birds of 17 species processed.
Woodpigeon 1/0
Wren 2/2
Dunnock 2/6
Blackbird 0/1
Song Thrush 0/2
Sedge Warbler 2/3
Reed Warbler 1/0
Lesser Whitethroat 3/0
Common Whitethroat 5/5
Blackcap 2/0
Willow Warbler 2/7
Blue Tit 2/5
Great Tit 0/4
Tree Sparrow 1/1
Chaffinch 1/0
Linnet 4/0
Bullfinch 1/0

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Warblers or Wheatears ?

My plan was to go to Stanford and ring more warblers on Monday morning.
Seems fairly straight forward. That was until I received an e-mail late on Sunday saying that there were at least four Wheatears on a patch of waste ground not far from my house. Past experience has taught me that catching Wheatears can be quite rewarding as they are easy to catch with spring traps baited with mealworms.
However, I'm not familiar with the terrain where they are and I find that a pre-trap reccie is best to see the area and note the favourite perches. Compare that to the easy task of erecting mist nets and guaranteed warblers as an end result.
So, Stanford it was!
I arrived at the reservoir to be greeted by another mild morning, that's two morning in succession........
I could get used to this sort of weather! 14 nets from the feeding station to the point were erected before first light. The first net round proved best with this years first Sedge Warbler and seven Willow Warblers, although the latter were all retraps. A few more retrap Willow Warblers and a new Chiffchaff were the only migrants in the next two rounds. By 09:00 a breeze started to pick up and I was mindfull of the windspeed forecast to reach 12-14mph by 10:00. This years first Lesser Whitethroat in the feeder nets was a nice surprise and as if right on cue, the wind increased and stopped the days session.
I think I made the right choice!
However, I may be visiting that small patch of waste ground to see if I can tempt a few Wheatears with a  juicy mealworm.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

First Whitethroat

I was working solo today and therefore decided that I would have to leave my house earlier than I had planned to allow myself plenty of time to get the nets up before first light. I could see a frost on my shed roof as I walked to the garage, the skies were cloudless, there was a chill in the air but I had a feeling that today could be the start of summer!
Last Saturday we caught our first summer migrants of the year, three Chiffchaffs (including a British control) and a female Blackcap. Today I was hoping to ring some more of the same and with the favourable weather conditions last week, migrants should have been, slowly but surely pouring in!
I arrived at the reservoir at 05:00 to the songs of Song Thrush and Robin (don't they ever sleep?) and quickly counted and sorted my nets. With all nets erected by first light it was time for the first net round. Four Bullfinches, three Willow Warblers and this years first Common Whitethroat. Things were looking promising. These were processed along with singles of Reed Bunting, Wren and Tree Sparrow.
The second net round only found a pair of Song Thrushes in 'The Safari' ride and a single Wren and Chiffchaff in 'The Oak'.
Throughout the morning, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings were singing, a male Blackcap perched in a Hawthorn at the feeding station, sang a few phrases and prompty flew over the gully and down the railtrack. A new Chiffchaff was the only real excitement from the remaining net rounds although a burst of activity at the feeding station finished the morning with a handfull of Tree Sparrows.
A total of 28 birds was less than I was hoping for but most birds are staying on territory and singing. When I did manage to catch a break, I sat back to soak up the sun and watch the Buzzards displaying over the wood.
After last years washout, a sunny day seemed like a distant memory but today reminded me that things are going to get busy.
Watch this space.........

New / Retrap
Wren 1/2
Song Thrush 0/2
Common Whitethroat 0/1
Chiffchaff 1/1
Willow Warbler 0/3
Blue Tit 1/0
Great Tit 0/1
Tree Sparrow 3/6
Bullfinch 2/2
Reed Bunting 0/2

Thursday, 11 April 2013


With the weather forecast looking good I decided to go to Stanford for a ringing session on Wednesday morning. On arrival at 6:30 the conditions seemed perfect with no wind and overcast sky so I erected 6 nets to see what was about. This was my first ringing session since returning from holiday in Mexico two weeks ago, and may be my last for a while as next week I'm going to Canada to ring for 6 weeks.

I was hoping for some long awaited migrant warblers at Stanford but, alas, there are none yet about. This year will probably go down as our latest spring ever, as by now we have usually a range of warbler species present.

To say todays ringing was 'a bit slow with a limited range of species' is putting it mildly. I managed a total catch of 42 with just 11 of these being new birds. This was over a 6 hour period and 3 of the nets were at the feeding station - not great!!

On returning home I decided to have a look at last years efforts, and, as it happens, we were out ringing on the 11th April 2012 in much warmer conditions. Then we caught fewer birds (only 31) but we did catch 3 species of  warbler - singles of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, and 7 Willow Warbler.

With the weather forecast for the weekend promising warmer conditions lets hope I can get to grips with some warblers before I leave for Canada (and the wonderfully colourful birds over there).


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Not quite spring!

I was up bright and early this morning and arrived at the reservoir at 06:35.
A hard frost greeted me, as did a small flock of vocal Fieldfare which were roosting in the Blackthorn hedgerow.
Just five nets were erected as there hasn't been much bird activity over the last few days. This quickly proved to be true as the first round produced just three birds. Numbers didn't improve for later net rounds and when the wind increased at 10am, it was time to take the nets down.

New (retraps)
Blue Tit - 2 (5)
Great Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Song Thrush - (1)
Chaffinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 2
A visit to the dam produced sightings of a Red Kite and a Kestrel which was feeding on worms near the carpark.. 70+ Wigeon flew in from the fields behind the dam. A pair of Long-tailed Tits were busy building their nest with half of it completed,
I never thought of taking a photograph of it until I was closing the gate at the top road. It should be complete by Saturday so hopefully I'll get one then and upload it to the website. They really are a work of art!
There were singing Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammer and Song Thrush but no singing Chiffs yet....... so spring will just have to wait.

Merlin v Skylark

Saturday saw the last session of this years habitat management program.
We had only just arrived and about to get to work when we were alerted to a Skylark singing overhead. Hot on it's tail was a Merlin! The Skylark sang as it spiralled higher and higher with the Merlin also trying to gain a height advantage. The Skylark was the first to break away, still singing loudly and heading over the wood. The Merlin folded it's wings back and followed the Skylark in a steep dive till both were lost from view.
A fantastic start to the day and a first for me.
This winter, the scrub clearance has been concentrated mainly on an area parallel with the railtrack which will create more grassland that will hopefully prove irresistible to Grasshopper Warblers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Reed Buntings. A small area cleared of Blackthorn has revealed a hidden pond that has been created by water drainage from nearby fields. We have seen Redpolls and Siskins feeding on the Silver Birches here so this may provide a drinking area for these small finches.
There will be some pictures of our work uploaded to the website soon.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


After spending a Saturday morning over at Stanford scrub bashing I returned home and collapsed in my chair so the recovery process could begin. Looking out of the patio doors I caught movement of a larger bird towards the back of the garden. Eventually it showed itself on our garden furniture, it was a Jay. I sprang out of my chair and grabbed my camera but as usual it had gone.

Sitting back down again with the camera in reach I waited to see if it would return. After a little while I was quite surprised when it appeared on a log that I use to feed the smaller birds on. It was quite alert and the slightest movement from me sent it away again. Sitting in the chair holding my camera so that I was ready to shoot eventually the Jay showed again and I managed to grab these shots through the patio doors. A second did show but I wasn’t able to get any images of the two together.

The following morning was somewhat of a record as I had four all sat around the feeding log. Unfortunately again they were gone by the time I had my camera. It’s only in the past couple of years that the Jays have become semi regular visitors to my garden. It’s nice to see more than one visiting and fingers crossed they continue to remain a regular sight in my garden.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Mud 'n' Muntjac

A cold bright day with little or no wind was the forecast. So a morning's ringing was on the agenda.
I arrived at the reservoir at 07:15 and there were around 30 birds at the feeders, mainly Tits and Tree Sparrows with one or two finches and buntings mixed in.
Five nets erected and the following 37 birds processed:
New / Retraps

Wren - 0/1
Robin - 0/4
Blackbird - 1/0
Coal Tit - 1/0
Blue Tit - 1/4
Great Tit - 3/5
Tree Sparrow - 5/9
Chaffinch - 0/1
Reed Bunting - 0/2

A Sparrowhawk was in one net and out again quicker than I could get to it. Fieldfares were in good voice with 60 going over and a Green Woodpecker was also vocal.
A Muntjac came close to the car on two occassions and wandered through the reservoir gates at one point. I thought it would be better left to walk quietly through rather than spook it and have a very large hole in my net. As luck would have it, there were no Muntjac size holes in the nets on the next net round.
Apart from the very muddy conditions it was an enjoyable morning.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Annual Report 2012

The Stanford Ringing Group 2012 Annual Report is now available here

SRG Annual Report 2012 (PDF - 267kb)

During 2012, 3786 birds were ringed at Stanford Reservoir (5531 birds processed) of 57 species.

Unsurprisingly the weather (rain) had a major impact on the breeding season, with numbers of most warblers, finches and buntings reduced in comparison to previous years. The odd exception to this observation was noted e.g. Willow Warblers and Lesser Redpolls were caught in record numbers.

Lesser Redpoll - 2012 was a good year!