Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

To all our readers and followers we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Autumn update

Peter N writes: No doubt Mick will give us an end of year summary soon, but it has been noted that the blog has been looking a little sparse, so here is an update. It has been a fabulous year at Stanford with some fabulous birds. In September we ringed our first ever Wryneck (see earlier posts), and last month we ringed the first ever Common Snipe (ringed by Kate, our new trainee). So that is two absolute stonkers.

Common Snipe by P Norrie
Adam had been running a sweepstake for the next new species to be ringed, and Snipe was on the list, so that ended it, congratulations to Lesley. This raised £135 for the group, well done Mr H for organising it.
I won’t steal Mick’s thunder by doing a preview of the years statistics, except to mention our Redwing totals. Redwings are migratory thrushes, about the same size as a Song thrush, but with a nice red under-wing and flank, plus a pale eye stripe. They come to us to over-winter from Scandinavia and points north when the weather gets colder. We never chase totals (cough, cough) but this year we have been able to ring throughout December, because the weather has been dominated by high pressure. By contrast last year December was largely a washout as front after front came in from the Atlantic. We have been out three times a week before dawn with the Latvian love song playing on the Mp3 players and the nets set high! This has paid off and we have now ringed over 900+ To celebrate this, here is a commemorative picture of ‘Mr 900taken on a cold grey morning.

2016's 900th Redwing by P Norrie
Will we get to crack the 1000? We start scrub bashing in January in preparation for the return of the breeding birds and December is moving on; if the weather holds we might be able to get another five sessions in, so it is possible but far from certain… for all of this and much, much more, keep watching this blog!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Iceland Ringing Trip

Peter N visited Iceland between 19 and 29 September. Here is a brief report of his birding and ringing activities:

Iceland is very very beautiful and very very expensive! Autumn is actually quite a quiet time bird-wise to visit. The dominant species are Redwing (Icelandic- dark and large) and Meadow pipit, both preparing to migrate. My contact at the South East Iceland Ringing Observatory was Brynj├║lfur Brynj├│lfsson, known to everyone as Binni. He very kindly drove me from Reykjavik to Hofn where the observatory is based, stopping at some birding hot spots on the way down. The town can also be accessed by plane (Eagle Air) and bus. The Observatory has been established for more than 10 years and is the result of a lot of hard work by Binni and his friend Bjussi. Each year they ring c.30-35 species. It is based about half a mile outside of Hofn, and is thus easily accessed:
Bird Observatory - by P Norrie
I had three mornings of ringing. The weather was… well let’s say challenging, but we got some nets open each day. My ringing list reflected the general birding, as follows: Redwing, Meadow pipit, Wren (Icelandic subspecies- big!) Blackcap and Snipe (new ringing species for me). On day two the boys kindly let me ring two Merlin, first year birds, male and female:
Merlin 1stW male - by P Norrie

Merlin 1stW female - by P Norrie
Fantastic! The obs usually gets a handful of Merlin every year, but this was the first time they had had two on the same day; it must be the SRG vibe working its magic. In the afternoons Binni invariably took me birding, and we chalked up stonking views of Gyrfalcon and Harlequin duck. He is a birding legend in Iceland and, while we were out, spotted Iceland’s first confirmed Black Scoter. Many thanks to Binni for his kindness and hospitality, and we hope he will visit us in the near future. If you are passing his way he is always keen to hear from birders (and ringers in particular), and can be contacted on binni@bbprentum.com. I plan to return in Spring 18, to see Iceland in the breeding season. PETER

Monday, 26 September 2016

Cyprus 2016

This is in Memory of Alan Crabtree who sadly died recently.
Alan had been the ringer in charge on Cyprus for many years.

Now I know that this entry is slightly out of date as Mick, Denise and myself went to Cyprus in April and May. But it has taken this long for our techni-phobe Group Leader Mick to get me the photographs.
Anyway, Mick and Denise went to Cyprus for approx 6 weeks and met up with Mel Preston and his wife Janet in Polis.  I joined them mid way into their holiday for only a week but what a week I had. I managed to ring everyday. I was there either with Mel and Mick, Bill Jones or a group of ringers from Sorby Breck,  Paul, Steve, Mark, and Geoff.

The star of the trip was a Lesser Grey Shrike which I believe was only the second ringed on the island.

Below are just a few of the birds caught by us during this period.

Lesser Grey Shrike

Bonnelli's Warbler

Zitting Cisticola


Bee- Eater

Night Heron

Wood Sandpiper

Little Egret

Squacco Heron

Different variations of Yellow Wagtails

Collared Flycatchers

 Wood Warbler

Barred Warbler

Red Backed Shrike

Golden Oriole

When we were not ringing we either relaxed by the pool or watched other wildlife on the island.

Denise posing

Nice pinny Mel

Hummingbird Hawk Moth


Spur- Winged Lapwing

A great time was had by all, and thanks guys for your help and patience.

Looking forward to next years trip.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A New Site Record

Again Saturday this week was too windy for ringing, so it was agreed that we should ring on Sunday morning. Mick and Adam valiantly elected to get to the reservoir in the middle of the night and erected nets at 10 rides.So all the rest of us had a lie-in and didn't get to the site until 6am. So myself, Dawn and Stuart trundled down the track to practice our 'fieldcraft ' as Adam calls it. In other-words to try not to wake Mick and Adam.ha ha.  Not really its to be quiet on our arrival with no slamming of car doors etc thus scaring any birds in the area.
On checking 8 of the 10 rides on the first round it appeared to be very quiet with only a small number of birds caught. So Mick went and did the last two on his own while the rest of us started to process the birds. After emptying the ninth net Mick returned to base with both arms full of bags containing the birds. He then went off loaded with more bags to empty the last net. After a while Mick returned ladened with full bags, I had started a second round of nets and found my first net full of chiffchaffs, by the time I had emptied it with Dawns help, Mick had caught up with us and told us to return to the base as they were inundated with birds.So we returned and started processing the birds. That is where we stayed for the rest of the morning, with Mick constantly emptying the nets.
Normally after the first 2 or 3 rounds the number of birds vastly reduces. However today there was large number of hirudines present (2000+), so mp3 bird callers were changed to hirundine.
By midday fingers were sore from removing the rings from the plastic strings and still Mick was returning with large numbers of birds.
But by 1pm all the nets were down and the pub was calling!!!
Todays ringing was absolutely incredible we processed a staggering 380 birds.   of which 370 were new birds.we had 131 Chiffchaff, which is just unheard of. 2 of the Chiffs were controls one of which was ringed in Jersey, Channel Islands. We also had 110 Blackcap ,64 House Martins , 33 Swallows, 9 Reed Warbler, 6 Willow Warbler, 4 Sand Martin, 4 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and a single GardenWarbler. Plus other odds.
This is a new record for the site, thanks to everyone involve for any absolute fantastic days ringing.

Below is a link to an aerial view of part of our ringing site and the reservoir. by kind permission of        Simon Watts Wild Presentations

For anyone who is interested in starting to ring and wishes to join, below is an idea of what ringing is about.           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP-HWntgJjM

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Blackcaps are definitely here.

Well because of the bad weather yesterday the team decided to go ringing today. Adam and Mick got to the reserve early about 3am and erected the nets. That meant that the rest of us Peter, Stuart, Kate and myself could arrive later and didn't have to be there until 6am..
The first two rounds were crazy catching over 100 Blackcaps including 2 controls and 30 odd Chiffchaffs.
We continue to catch a few Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers as they pass through the area.  It was also good to catch one of our previously ringed Cetti's Warbler, and a new Coal Tit which I believe is only our second for the year. After the first two rounds the number of bird caught reduced and it gave Adam, Stuart and Kate the opportunity to check one of the pole boxes containing Barn Owl pulli. We had previously ringed 5 of the 6 pulli about 2 weeks ago. The youngest at that time had been too small to ring.. However today it was large enough and Stuart was fortunate enough to ring his first Barn Owl.
By midday we had taken the nets down and were having some refreshment at our local hq The White Hart.
During the week there had been sightings of Common Sandpipers in the area of the dam..After some discussion  Adam, Stuart, Peter and myself decided to see if they were still around..
On arrival we spotted 2 on the overflow wall. So we erected two nets in the overflow gully and a couple of Spring traps on the overflow wall.
After about 3 hours we had had great success catching 3 new and 1 retrap Grey Wagtails and one of the two Common Sandpiper. Lucky Adam.
At this time of the year we get several stop off during their migration south but we very rarely catch and ring them. The last Common Sandpiper caught and ringed at Stanford was in 1984.

So all in all we all had a great days ringing, processing 210 birds of which 132 were Blackcaps, including 2 controls, 39 Chiffchaffs, 5 Reed Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Whitethroat 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Sedge Warblers a Coal Tit, the Barn Owl Pulli and of course the Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper, showing distinctive wing bar.

Common Sandpiper

Grey Wagtail

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Early September

As i am sat here watching the rain rather than birds raining down on the nets i thought i would give you a bit of an update on our early September efforts. We have been out on 5 occasions ringing a total of 807 birds of 24 species,73 retraps and 2 control Sedge Warbler, not a bad effort at all. As you would expect at this time of year the warbler species have been our main quarry and they have not disappointed with Blackcap (443) and Chiffchaff (126) being the bulk of the catch. Generally speaking September sees the other Warblers tail off sharply, so after the exceptional Whitethroat catch of last month we are not surprised with only 60 being ringed so far. Both Sedge and Reed Warbler are doing quite well with 40 and 37 respectively, Willow Warbler (15) and Garden Warbler (2) have both had disappointing years and September is certainly not helping. Lesser Whitethroat (14) however are making a late season surge and finally Grasshopper Warbler have continued to make a showing with 2 being caught so far. After last years exceptional passage of Redstart again we have managed to catch 2 so far. We have not caught anything else of note so far but here's hoping for the rest of the month. Mick.

Friday, 2 September 2016

 August Summary

Well August has been and gone in a blur here at Stanford Res with some 1531 birds ringed during the month we had highlights a plenty. To start with I have to say this is the highest August total we have ever had and bettered last year by about 300 birds with a visit less. So unlike the rest of the year to date we can not moan about their being no birds about. The warblers seem to have recovered a little from their early season disaster when most first broods just did not make it through the June monsoon's. Cetti's Warbler are continuing to colonise Stanford with some juvenile birds present at long last from at least 8 females caught showing signs of attempting to breed, what a brilliant result as they only started to breed at Stanford last year. Grasshopper Warblers have returned to Stanford with a vengeance this year with at least 4 pairs present so the 11 new birds caught this month were not to be unexpected. Reed and Sedge Warblers both did well this month with 85 and 173 birds ringed respectively. All the other Warblers species have shown a downward trend except Whitethroat, which have surpassed all previous records. We have ringed more Whitethroat this month than we have ever done in a year before with some 577 being ringed bringing the total for the year to 799. Quite unbelievable. Numbers wise apart from the Warblers everything else apart from Robin with 49 being ringed this month have been a spectacular flop with smaller numbers than usual being ringed. However we have had some nice birds caught for the month with Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher being two of them. But the most unexpected was the Wryneck that we caught on the 26th. This is the first to be ringed at Stanford and I can report that Peter the Trainee who was with me and therefore ringed it is still buzzing a week later .There's nothing quite like a good bird on your own patch and someone to share it with !!!!!!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

It’s Amazing What Turns up in Your Nets at 0500

A trainee writes: It’s been busy at Stanford reservoir in the last few weeks. We are now truly up to our ears in juvenile birds (‘3Js’ in ringing parlance; the ‘3’ means it is this year’s bird and the ‘J’ that it is still in juvenile plumage). 
On Monday 1st August Mick and Peter went out ringing along the poplars at Stanford and logged up 115 new birds, with 40 Whitethroat and 26 Blackcap. However, the main surprise was found at 0500 by Peter who came across a strange large brown bird in a net. But hang on, are birds meant to be hairy? Expertise was clearly called for and Mick duly attended our first bat of the year. But not any bat, this was a Noctule, the largest bat in Britain. Mick extracted it with some robust language ringing around the reservoir. As can be seen this is a very handsome animal with some alarming teeth which it is not reluctant to use. We then had the opportunity to take some pictures. When we were finished, the bat had clearly taken a bit of a liking to Mick, and in fact would not fly, so we draped it on a tree, from where it eventually flew off.

Saturday 6 August was our regular CES day. Mick was out early putting up nets in the pitch dark (not sure how he manages this). We had a good turn out; Dave, Stuart, Dawn and Peter arrived at a marginally more civilised 0430, joined by Viv who was with us to be assessed for her ‘A’ permit (success, well done Viv!). Jo also turned up to make a guest appearance and hog any glamorous birds which we might have. We had a stonking morning, with 156 new birds and 52 re-traps, of which 85 were Whitethroats, mainly 3Js. Considering that this has been a rather wet and cool Spring/ Summer, this is a great result! 

Peter Norrie

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Day of Juveniles

Our ringing sessions are normally on a Saturday morning, but this weekend Saturday was far too windy to be ringing so the decision was made to ring on Sunday. Well we met at 4.30 at the rail track gate. Mick was back from yet another holiday, this time in Scotland and the Orkneys, and together with Adam, Max, Peter and myself we went and erected the nets between the feeders and the Northants reedbed. We made our base at the bench midway between the reedbed and the feeders. After all the nets were up Adam, Max and Peter went one way and myself and Mick went the other. As soon as we started extracting the birds from the reedbed and the point nets, it was obvious we were going to have a large number of birds to process. We actually ran out of bird bags so I took the birds back to Adam and the others, for them to process while I returned to Mick with more bags to carry on extracting. Moments later I returned to the ringing base with  another arm full of birds. Mick had given me one bird that he won't ID  saying you'll have to ID it back at the ringing base.
At the base I took the bird out of the bag and I have to admit was baffled, as were the other trainees. So with Adams assistance we ID'd the bird as a juvenile Yellow Wagtail. We do not catch many Yellow Wags and normally in the Autumn migration, the last being in 2014.

The session continued with 4 of us ringing while Mick continued extracting the birds from the nets. Max who has only just started ringing had a baptism of fire with numerous new species for him to ring, including a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.
As the day progressed and the number of bird caught reduced, Adam and Peter checked some nest boxes and in total ringed 16 Tree Sparrow pulli.
We had an extremely good days ringing having processed 194 birds, many of which were juveniles, including a young Cetti's Warbler. 133 were new and 61 retraps including 2 controls.

Cetti's Warbler 1 -0   Grasshopper Warbler 2 - 1  Reed warb  17 - 8,  Sedge  warb 10 - 6 , Whitethroat 
39 - 6 ,  Blackcap  8 - 1 ,  Garden Warb 0 - 3 ,Chiff   5 - 3 , Willow warb 5 - 2 ,  Wren 1 - 0 , Great Spotted Woodpecker  1 - 0 , Dunnock  4 - 2 , Tree Sparrow 26 - 4 , Yellow Wagtail 1 - 0 ,  Reed Bunt 4 - 1 , Great Tit 3-  16 , Blue Tit 1 - 6 ,  Bullfinch 1 - 1,  Robin 2 - 0 , Chaffinch 2-0, Goldfinch 0-1.  

By the end of the day we all needed to retire to the pub for a well earned drink..

Sunday, 26 June 2016

What a difference a week makes

At Stanford Reservoir, Northants our CES 5 on 18th June produced just three juveniles out of a miserable total of 30 birds which was more than likely due to heavy losses after an almost entire week of torrential rain leading up to the weekend.
CES 6 yesterday was a completely different story with a total of 105 birds processed throughout the day. However, only 58 contributed towards CES.
Of those 58 CES birds, 41 were juveniles and 17 were adults. Highlights of the day were this years first juvenile Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Goldcrest.
Unfortunately we were rained off an hour early and with everything soaking wet and all packed up decided to visit the dam for a look around. A family of Grey Wagtails were feeding on the pond weed in the outflow so we decided to set up a 20' across the channel and see if we could catch some.
Two juveniles of both Pied and Grey Wagtails were caught although the adults proved far too net-wary. A Mute Swan caught by hand on the dam ended a rather damp but productive morning.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Renewing the Constant Effort at Stanford

A trainee writes: The ringing year is now well into its swing at Stanford. We have a portion of our ringing site which is used for the Constant Effort Sites (CES) Scheme. This is a national survey which is organised by the BTO (amongst others). In the CES, ringers operate the same nets in the same locations over the same time period at roughly 10 day intervals throughout the breeding season. The Scheme provides valuable information on the abundance of birds, their survival and breeding success. The CES is an important source of scientific information which influences conservation nationally. The fact that we then retire to the White Hart at the end of each session is because we have exhausted ourselves in the interest of science. It is a hard life being a ringer. Anyway, we have thus far completed four CES sessions and, as usual, for this part of the season it has been a little slow because the adults are too busy sitting on eggs or foraging for youngsters to wander into our nets too often. However, we keep ourselves busy. On Saturday 4th June we met up at 0430. Adam decamped with Stuart and Max to continue his ongoing pulli (nestling) ringing marathon. The boys duly ringed 50 Great Tits, six Blue Tits, five Tree Sparrows and five Wrens. The saga continues… This left Mick, Dawn, Dave, Peter N and Pete B to conduct the CES. It was one of the better early summer efforts, with all 10 of our resident warbler species making an appearance. Numbers for the session were 22 new birds and 33 re-traps, including a new pair of linnets. Of special note were three Grasshopper Warbler re-traps; this makes us think they are definitely here for the season, which is the first for quite a few years. Finally we ringed a family of three newly fledged Robins plus their dad! Definitely a sign of things to come. Below is a picture of a juvenile Robin, he looks a bit miffed but we look forward to seeing him again later in the year.
Peter N
Juvenile Robin by P Norrie

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Saturday 30th April

Another ringing session at Stanford Reservoir on Saturday to get into the swing of things before the CES season is upon us. David & Angus, Dawn, Peter, Pete and myself met at a not too unreasonable time of 06:00 and erected 13 nets to the sound of at least three reeling Grasshopper Warblers. This species hasn't bred at Stanford for three years and along with Cetti's Warbler, their reintroduction has been the main focus of our winter habitat management program since. It's too early to say but perhaps all our hard work has finally paid off. The first net round produced just thirteen birds including a retrap Grasshopper Warbler and a male Cetti's with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat also in attendance. The second net round included a retrap female Cetti's and a Lesser Whitethroat followed by another retrap Grasshopper Warbler. Before the day was finished we managed yet another Grasshopper Warbler, this time a new one and the fourth this spring! As luck would have it, Jo turned up just in time to ring this one, she had never seen this species in the two years she has been with us so it shows how uncommon they really have become in recent years. A total of 17 new and 21 retraps was a fair result for late April and left us time to erect some Treecreeper nestboxes that Pete kindly made. We checked some large boxes too which resulted in an adult and a single pulli Stock Dove being ringed. Another box included an adult Stock Dove carcass under a squirrels drey. We have suspected that squirrels have been killing adult Stock Doves whilst on their nests for many years and this was proof of that. Consequently, we evict Grey Squirrels wherever and whenever we can. Two female Tawny Owls were still incubating and a Jackdaw had laid three eggs in another. We also checked a few tit boxes on our way around and found one Blue Tit sitting with many others still eggs covered. One Tree Sparrow nest checked last week had advanced from nest-lined to two eggs. Not a bad start but there's still a long way to go.
Robin with white primary and secondary feathers. Photo by D Sheffield

Monday, 25 April 2016

Annual Report

Hi All

Well I'm back from sunny Cyprus, with a few tales to tell (but that's for a later post).

Just a reminder that the groups annual report is out so just click on the link below.


Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Boys (and Girls) are Back in Town!

A trainee writes: After three months hard labour scrub bashing, it has been great to get back out ringing. Following some intriguing sightings on the reservoir it can now be confirmed, the warblers are back! Mick and Dave are still lounging around the pool in Cyprus, so Adam, Dawn, Peter, Stuart, Max and Pete met up on Saturday 23rd at 0600. Although rather fresh (i.e cold and windy), it was a beautiful sunny morning. We split into two groups, Team Dawn went down the track and started from Safari ride, Team Adam started from Berry ride and we met up at the feeders. As we were putting up the nets, both teams heard singing grasshopper warblers, a scarce species, and one which had not been heard on the res last year. If you don’t know this song, it is an unmistakeable insect like reeling, which is just as well, as they do skulk in the scrub for most of the time. The first round actually yielded up one of these beauties, and in fact we ended up with a total of three new birds! Stonking! Although totals for the day were modest, 20 new and 27 retraps, it was really exciting to see some old friends: Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were ringed, all new for this year. Across the res we could hear a male Cuckoo calling, so we are hoping to ring at least one this year! Next week we are starting the CES, so we are back to some serious ringing over a glorious (weather permitting) summer! Peter N.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Near but not near enough

Recently we were informed of a Kingfisher recovery. The bird had travelled a magnificent 68km north into Nottinghamshire. This is the furthest any of our Kingfishers have moved so you can imagine my suprise when I read of a Kingfisher on the BTO Demog blog site that had been ringed in Germany, 12km from the Polish border, then flew into a window in Market Harborough just 15km short of our site at Stanford !!! Oh well, better luck next time!