Thursday, 31 December 2009

Duck day.

Went along to help ring the catch at the Blunham trap from last night. Two days ago, we (Arnold and I) had inspected the south lake and the trap. Three-quarters of the lake was frozen over with an open channel from the boat right the way across to the trap. The trap was full of Tufted, there was a decent number of Gadwall, perhaps 150, about 70 Pochard and a handful of odds and sods. The water level was rising.

Ringer (Chris), winger (Paul) & flinger (Joe)

This catch was the first of the winter, mainly due to the lousy weather we've been having, but ringing had also been put off because of the low number of migrant duck on the local lakes.

"Am I the first?"

"Yes. Just shut up; there's a queue building up"

The total catch was 160 - 127 new & 33 recaptures; of these, 86 (60 + 26) were Tufted. Second highest were Gadwall with 48 birds (43 + 5).

Gadwall - soft as tripe?

"That's what you think. I'll be off in a trice"

Compared to the Tufted, the Gadwall were a 'wilder' proposition, prepared to wriggle given the slightest chance. You may have twigged that we ring on the left leg. It's safer for us "amateurs", as you can cradle the bird better. Boss man, Arnold, rings on the right - and much quicker, so much so, you have to keep alert if you're scribing!

"Errol did me today"

There were just 7 Teal, 4 Pochard including 1 retrap, five Wigeon, a lone female Goldeneye and a couple of handfuls of Mallard that had most likely been released at a 'farm' about 3 miles south of here. These last were a bit of a farmyard mixture (but looking to all intents and purposes like the real thing), and most preferred to walk back "to the digs" .

"... and me!"

The noticeable thing was the large number of male birds throughout compared to females, especially with the Tufteds. There were also very few 1CY birds. Sexing is generally easy. Ageing is done on the tail first and foremost, with median coverts, primary tips, eye colour, leg colour, moult limits all playing a part. In the last resort, we age and sex the ones we're not quite sure of after a cloacal examination.

My next job is to put IPMR on trainee Chris's computer and get him inputting these data and working backwards through umpteen years worth. I then might give him a hand putting the recoveries in!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Chalton STW 28/12/2009

Well, Mike, Roy, Sue and myself had the last bash for 2009 here, Very successful with 66 birds caught (36 ringed and 30 retraps ). These are as follows:
Dunno 1/3, Chaff 3/2, Greti 7/16, Robin 2/5, Bluti 5/4, Lotti 9/0, Grefi 1/0, Blabi 3/0 and Redwi 5/0.

A number of plans have been made for 2010 in the form of improving the site. Hopefully these will materialise during the coming months. If there are any volunteers that may wish to lend a hand, please get in touch. A report is being composed for Anglian Water regarding these proposals.

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Having abandoned Bedfordshire birds for Christmas & new year, I thought I'd show you a Gloucestershire bird. The Coal Tit (below) was one of 3 caught today.

There were 27 birds of 7 species. Nets were up from about 8.30am to 4pm (less 2 hours for lunch & presents). A further 6 birds were caught on Chritmas eve.

More info & pictures can be seen at

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

No Holly, just the Ivy

Woke up to a minus 9C this morning. The nets are down for Christmas and the birds are being fed instead. My garden at home doesn't get the sun in mid-winter, partly because I have a 14 foot leylandii hedge at the top (south) end. Gave the feeders a good scrub, one at a time, and dried out the untouched seed and discarded the damp and powdery stuff in the bin.

Visited the Park and refilled the feeders there too. It remained quite sunny until 11 o'clock when the fog made an appearance. The temperature was still minus 2, but the sun had warmed the snow that wasn't in shadow and the resulting moisture rose and blotted out the sun.

A couple of pictures of the ringing racks covered in our measly 2 inches of crisp snow. [Graham, in the south of the county, has had a lot more than us up here].

The ivy remains "snow free" along the south side of the 'Long Hedge', meanwhile. This is where I had "the late migrant" while ringing on my own that day.

The main lake was frozen over completely today, except for two very small 'puddles' which had been kept open by 2 family parties of swans.

A rough count gave 40 Pochard, 30 Shoveler, half a dozen Tufted, 50+ swans and over 100 small gulls.
Best passerine - a Mistle Thrush, a scarce visitor on site.

A certain amount of 'hard weather movement' has been noticed over the house this week. Sky Larks (always seen in twos), Lapwings im small groups of 6-16, a Buzzard, twos and threes of Fieldfare, a Mipit and a Little Egbert leaving roost, heading for Mark Thomas's patch at Willington, 15 minutes before sunrise.

I will be back on Monday to try and squeeze in some ringing over the last four days of 2009. Then it's down to collating last years ringing figures in preparation for finalising the 10th bi-annual group report. Ho, ****, ho!

Seasons greetings to all our readers. May you keep coming back.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Saturday, Norse Road.

Too cold to handle a metal ladder, putting up and checking nest boxes down at Priory.
Instead, stayed at home - with a modicum of success.

See here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Another swan down

Jonny Bishop picked up another swan on 14th down on Riverside Meadows. It was 'Orange 405' [BTO ring Z95705]. She was originally ringed on the Embankment on 9th September 2001 as a two year old. The following spring, she was still there and was identified as a female. She remained there until after her moult in late summer 2003.

Her next appearance was at the Finger Lakes at Priory in early November of that year. By the end of the winter, she had moved to 'Tescos Pond' on Riverside and was being courted by 'Orange 449' [Z95749]. That summer she hatched off six cygnets from their nest on the island. The habit of the local kids terrorising the swans at this location, fortunately, seemed to have ceased after many years of us wardens pleading with them to leave the swans in peace.

She and 449 nested there every year and produced over 40 cygnets. The possible reason for her death might have been a collision with the overhead electricity cables in the fog. Often the fog lingers here in deep banks between the housing and the river meadows, blown across or up the valley by a gentle breeze.

Who will take her place? Will 449 move away as other lone males have done before? Are we going to have a new pair take over?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Stockgrove CP 12/12/2009

I was joined by Roy and Toni for the session here. Unfortuneatly, Toni had to leave early. The weather was kindish to us but, we did have a spattering of rain. A total of 36 birds were caught of 7 species. This included 31 new and 5 retraps.

Chaff 4/1, Marti 0/1, Nuthatch 1/1, Coati 0/1, Greti 14/1, Wren 1/0, Robin 1/0, Bluti 8/0, Blabi 1/0.

We look forward to more visits at thia venue over the next couple of months.

At Chalton we filled the feeders but, there didn't seem too much about apart from 25 gadwall, 1 lone tufted duck and buzzard.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The rain has stopped ...

Ringing this morning! Whoopee!! It was a walk-in job as the meadow is rather wet (understatement). Davy had 58 Magpies leaving the roost (close to our feeders) before I got there. We managed to get 4 nets up by half-eight.

First out was a 1CY 'continental' Blackbird; this one was easy since it had 1 ogc. Then a run of residents, Robin, Gt. Tit, Dunnock & Blue Tit. A repetitive racket by the feeding station heralded the above noisy male.

With 3 ogc, it had to be an adolescent Gt. Spotted Woodpecker hollering; but when it came to extraction, it was one of the most timid I have had to deal with. The same net round delivered up this rather grey (continental) female Robin.

Then came the prize of the day! It was in the feeder net, a little way away from where the Dendrocopus was; top shelf near the pole - so it was only just!

The female Blackcap had a wing of 77, weighed 20.7 gm and had fat of 3 and muscle 2. Obviously in good nick! Then it was a dumpy Bullfinch with 5 ogc (not seen that before) but a weight of 25 gm.
Then more tits at the feeders, a Wren, another 'continental' Blackbird - and two more, both visitors, managed to get out before we could grab them - before we caught two of the 70 or so Redwings knocking about around the site.

Both of these birds were adults. Perhaps the older birds linger longer, seeking out the few bushes that still have plenty of haws on which tend to be secretted away and not readily spotted, even by us.
That wasn't the end of a much photographed ringing session; the last but one bird was this very "dirty looking" specimen of a Gt. Tit that looked as if it had spent its whole life "down pit".

After 4 hours, the final tally was 10 species and 30 birds as follows (retraps in brackets).
Gt. Spot 1, Wren (1), Dunnock 1 (2), Robin 1 (1), Blackbird 2, Redwing 2, Blackcap 1, Blue Tit 3 (6), Gt. Tit 1 (7), Bullfinch 1.
A Siskin or two whizzing about from alder tree to alder tree. DK had a couple of Goldeneye on the main lake, too. Both Kestrel & Sparrowhawk mobbed by the Crows.
So the Gt. Tits win again? Not quite!Beaten by one! The final pic is of a six-and-a-half year old female Blue Tit! This is the first time she has been recaught since she was a 3JF.

If the weather sets fair for the next week or ten days, fingers crossed, we'll be back out again with some nets.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Chalton STW 5th Dec

A session there this weekend proved quite fruitful. I was joined by Roy and Sabrina and managed to cover the feeding station and the office area, which are a good way apart.
50 birds were taken of 7 species (ringed/retrapped). Bluti 9/7, Greti 16/3, Chaff 7/1 ( this being first ringed on 2/7/2006), Wren 2/0, Bullfinch 1/0, Robin 3/0 and Grefi 1/0. We did try for the piewa and grewa but no luck on that front this time.

The shed (aka Ringing Hut) is still standing and so is the old shed that we moved, surprisingly enough. I am waiting to hear about the panelling and, once obtained, we will be able to get that fixed and then be able to reconnect the electricity.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


The outside temperature this morning started at minus 3.5C. Because it was so cold, I didn't open the nets until 09:30. However, these weren't the nets down the park but the ones in my garden. Trouble was, I didn't surface until 08:30 - SAD.

However, we made up for it during daylight and finished up catching 21 birds of 7 species.
Collared Dove 1, Dunnock (1), LTT (2), Goldcrest 1, Starling 1, Greenfinch 4, Goldfinch 8 (3).

The COLDO was the second this autumn and the third one caught this year, all here. When they do hit the net, they usually manage to wiggle their way out again. The real turn up was the adult male Goldcrest; I've not had one in the garden for 4 years - and that was also an adult. The ones caught at the park or in the wood are, more often than not, 1CY birds (or 2's). Do the adults know there's better pickings in garden shrubberies, I wonder?

The numbers of new Goldfinches caught during autumn in the garden is unpredictable. For instance, here are the last three years 'new birds' by month ('07, '08, '09)
September - 44, 30, nil,
October - 53, 55, 25,
November - 29, 55, 29,
December - 34, 10, ??
At the park, we caught steadily in August and September mainly juveniles. I think that they had a spectacular breeding season but not one visited the garden. November has been a wash-out for ringing (or blow-out), but very large numbers of Goldfinches have been seen exiting the country, especially in Dorset, very recently.

Well, no more ringing for me for at least a week, what with the weather forecast and Swanwick coming up. I expect the others will manage to get out to the sewage works and relieve their withdrawal symptoms over the weekend.

Sunday, 29 November 2009


We had a shufti at 'the rough' on the way round on the guided walk this morning. There seemed to be less Redwings and Blackbirds about - but that may just have been a blip. However, the Hawthorn berries are disappearing at a rate, so the thrushes may be about to vacate the area and move onto better pickings elsewhere. We'll see come Tuesday. (Frost forecast and possible fog early; cold and damp!)

Friday, 27 November 2009

Blues away

Withdrawal symptoms now departed. Six days is a long time in a ringer's life if he/she has not handled a bird!

The wind had dropped a little overnight, so I was up in the dark, dressed and had the garden nets unfurled before 7am. I was determined to 'fondle' a few Goldfinches today! Quick! Shovel down some breakfast (and a catalogue of pills) - it's parky outside today.

My dreams were answered - 30 "Stillits" (wonderful Norwegian name) including 5 retraps. The average weight of the 17 males was 15.73 grams and the 13 females 14.17 g. The age classes were split 50:50. Half a dozen birds were still wanting to come in while I furled the nets as the wind speed was picking up and I wanted the captured birds to get back on the feeders asap.

I don't bother to check them for fat/muscle as they stay down at their "fight or flight" weights; if the weight is >0.20 of the wing length then they are likely to be >F1 and probably on the move at this time of year. [At >0.22 they certainly are]. The "residents" know where the food supplies are and tend to keep on the 'lean side'. In midwinter, however, all those that are likely to survive a cold spell fulfil the criteria of 'wt(g) => 0.2 wl(mm)"

Also in the bag - 3F Blue Tit r/t, 3F Greenfinch and a 4M Collared Dove, the first for the year. Often there are 9 COLDOs hogging the feeders later in the day.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Chalton 15/11/2009

This one's for you Errol. The new ringing hut with nameplate.

An exciting morning with Mike, Roy, Sue, Paul and myself in attendance. Some more work to the ringing hut was carried out as well as ringing. 25 birds of 7 species were caught. Ringed/processed. Greti 7/8, Dunno 0/1, Wren 1/0, Bluti 4/0, Robin 2/0, Blabi 1/0, Redwi 1/0.

2 Buzzards seen over the lagoons with plenty of Gadwall and wigeon on the lagoons.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Chalton STW Sat 7th November

Well, while you lucky people in the North of the county were out ringing and enjoying yourselves, A band of volunteers joined me at Chalton for the long awaited erection. Yes, the new ringing hut is up. It took most of the day and a lot of hard graft.

First the old hut had to be emptied and moved so that we could use the sleepers it was resting on.

The electric cable had to be redirectd to the new hut.

And the new hut erected

My Thanks go to Mike Reed, Roy Ingram, Brendon Toms, Kieran Ray for their hard work and Maureen Buss for keeping all stocked with bacon and sausage rolls, pastries, tea and coffee.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


This is the culprit. "All the Sparras is up the other end of the park, mate! Leave our tits alone!"

Three degrees when we arrived - (not those singing gals!) - bloody parky and fingers numb by the time we got the four nets up. First bird out was a Redwing. Then a lull until a Gt. Tit flew towards the feeders, intent on some breakfast and, in the other direction, that young hoody of a Sparrowhawk above. He was nabbed and ringed in the evening twilight nearly four weeks ago; he's obviously trying to claim this area for himself.

Overhead migration was weaker than it has been recently. A few incoming, continental Blackbirds (like the female above) and Redwings but not as many as last week. We did have a site rarity, Linnet, and a male at that, singing away as it flew south. Shortly after, a Brambling went the other way, settling in the top of the one and only Alder - until we tried to get a better view!. Both Green & Gt. Spots trogged back and forth, the former at low level (but not low enough) and the skewbald one at some height. The local Kestrel arrived, hovered, and was then seen off by 7 Sky Larks that appeared from nowhere.

Today's tally for a 6 hour stint was 16 new & 11 r/t: Sparr (1), Wren 1 (1), Dunno(1), Blabi 4, Redwi 4, Chiff 1, Lotti (1), Bluti 2 (2), Greti 3 (4), Bullf 1 (1).

In the last three and a half weeks, we have ringed 9 new Bullies, which is 50% of all the newbies this year. Of these nine, just 2 have been female. With recaptures from previous years, that's 32 different individuals in all, a decent haul at this site which is ideally suited to their continued presence for years to come.

This little fellow was singing away happily as soon as the sun rose above the trees. A few wheezy calls followed before he graced us with his presence. A big lad at 64.5mm in the wing; sorry, should have addressed him as 'Sir' since he was an adult. He looked as though he had been in the wars with his abraded tail and spent a few weeks down the boozer with the belly on him (a good fat4 for those who haven't twigged). This is the second 'northern' bird of many to come, perhaps.

We've now had 18 Redwings in the bag, a record for any one year. Usually they pass through very quickly before we've have a chance to get our act together (the weather usually stops us). The other thing which might be helping is the 'much reduced number' of Grey Squirrels that have devoured the Hawthorns berries in the past before the thrushes even arrived.

Next week - it'll be cleaning out, repairing and swapping nest boxes plus a few extras that a kind birder has donated (cost him a £ton). Thanks, pal.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Weekend blues

Doesn't look that good for the next couple of days, the weather, that is. We made the best of a bad job and went out this morning instead. By God, was it slow, at least for the first three hours. Once the sun was obscured by cloud, things began to happen.

A fair bit of vis-mig noticeable today; 2 flocks of Wood Pigs totalling 400+, 4 sorties of Redwing making c.70 & 29 Fieldfare at very low altitude. Fewer Sky Larks today and just the one Mipit.

The Blackbird invaders were very noticeable today, too, but not that inclined to move at net height.

A mixed bunch processed, 22 (7) of 10 spp.: Wren 2, Robin (1), Blackbird 3 (2), Redwing 2, LTT 4 (1), Blue Tit 4, Gt. Tit 3 (2), Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 1, Bullfinch 2 (1).

This young male Bullfinch is the heaviest I've seen at 25.4 gm. I think it must have been on passage ... or porridge!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Red Letter Day

Yesterday, young Kane sent us a string of e-mails in his c-r coordinator capacity. 13 new records of our Barnacles. They weren't that far from home, just 7 km WSW at their main winter grazing fields at Willington. Here they associate with other feral(?) Barnacles not just from our patch but probably from further afield.

It was very kind of a visiting birder from Essex to take the trouble to go through the flock and read 13 different combinations for us, something I've not been able to do. This action turned up one of the first birds we colour-ringed some 6 years and 3 months ago. A couple of the birds had a roving history but nothing like the two far ranging birds we highlighted in earlier blogs.

Are we going to get more records this winter from enthusiastic ring readers located elsewhere? We hope so!
PS. our rings are: - 32 mm RED, white (alpha,bar,alpha); please read from bottom up.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

After the Redwings

With no wind to speak of, it was a dawn start. A few more thrushes today, perhaps?
We put the full run up, which divides the site in two. We have missed out recently by not putting the northern pair of nets up from the start but we console ourselves by realising that the yellow-browed and blue-legged "thingys" would have gone over the top or round the net run anyway! Just like today's Chiff did.

Back to business; today's tally. Dunnock 2 (1), Blackbird 2, Redwing 3, Goldcrest 1, Lotti (2), Blue Tit 1 (5), Gt. Tit 9 (7), Chaffinch 1, Bullfinch 1. The tits were caught 'all over the shop' making their way to the feeders. Because it was so mild today (it started at 11C and reached 17C) they weren't that interested in 'our food'. We are still catching new individuals of "the Ringer's friend" in small numbers so there must be some 'redistribution' going on. Our furthest "Prune" has gone a mere 4 km.

We noticed a little bit of migration going on above our heads today as we were ringing.

26+ Sky Larks west from 9am for about an hour; largest group =5. Redwings in small groups coming low, largest 9, and about 50-60 in total. The 3 birds we caught were all "out of fat" and needing a "square meal". One group of 16 Fieldfare dove into the willows at the end of the Fingers Lake. Some 6 'continental type' Blackbirds around us during the morning, with many more scattered through the park. However, with just the two caught, one of which was a definite "continental", again needing a good breakfast. There were also two high-flying Song Thrushes.

Mipits were indifferent at just 4 birds noticed going south. Best movement was a strong, tight group of Wood Pigeons, 125 in all, heading due south at a steady pace against a clear sky. Also a couple of Siskin heard plus a group of 3 Redpoll. There was also the usual small groups of Goldfinch chanting from the tops of the trees. A late Chiffchaff passed through non-stop at lunch-time. Our inverts were not to its taste, it seems. The Great Spot 'flounced' from one side to the other of the patch and back again; "just wait for the frosts and we'll have you, my boy".

Visiting raptors as usual (male Sparr & Kes). A lone Gadwall was spooked off Fingers, probably by an angler; it shot off high and fast! The passing Herons 'swore' at us, as usual.

We are still catching new Gt. Tits; today it was 9 new and 7 retraps; 7 of the 16 were 'adult' birds, i.e. post-breeders. They obviously had a great season, both survival and production wise.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Feed the Birds

Oct 25th. We of the north journeyed to keep company with they of the south at Stockgrove Country Park. The weather brightened up after a showery start - and the people ventured out. The local RSPB, ourselves, the BTO rep and the Greensand Trust guys all joined together to encourage the visitors to think more about our birdlife. 'Twas a fairly busy day with a steady stream of grown-ups and children, many with their dogs, to our table "down in the woods".

We played our part well with over 50 birds to show the public. With three ringers, three nets and three helpers we managed to put on quite a display with lots of good humour. Lots of kids really enjoying the experience of see common birds close up. Plenty of laughter when the tits retaliated by pecking the ringers! These must be the most photographed birds of the weekend - apart from a Brown Shrike and that Eastern thingy.

The area we utilise is very boggy as there are loads of seepages along the valley just before the stream enters the bigger of two lakes. The trees here are also 60-80 feet high so we rely on birds coming to drink or to bait. Fortunately there are one or two small willows which we can align the nets against. Today it was mainly tits, a few different finches and a lone thrush. A Green Woodie graced us with its presence - but before the third net went up, admittedly.

Checklist = 48 (4) 7 spp. : Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 21 (2), Gt. Tit 18 (2), Chaffinch, Siskin 4, Lesser Redpoll 1.

The Marsh Tits and Nuthatches stayed on the other side (away from the nets), lured by little heaps of seed placed on the fench posts at the junction of the paths. This practice has been going on for as long as I can remember and the birds are habituated to it. Even the Mallard and Moorhen enjoy the spoils. Apparently the Mandarin venture out only under cover of darkness. Our problem is that the other side of the fence is SSSI and we have to get specific permesso from the N.E. Peterboro' office to ring in there.

We shall probably ring here again in another three weeks, and so on throughout the winter.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Eyes front

Friday - lovely day. Sunny, light winds, few birds.
An all-day session with just a couple of nets; should have put up more. Tally 34. of which 8 were thrushes. This should have been at least 2 more but for known escapees.

Scoreboard 23 (11): Houdini 1 (Wrigglearse 4), Robin 1, Blabi 3 foreigners, Sonth 2 non-locals, Redwi 3 inc 2 adults, one with a 127 wing, Lotti (1), Bluti 4 (1), Greti 3 (4), Chaff 1, Grefi 2, Goldf 3, Bullf (1 - bad case of leg mange).

Quite a few Sky Lark on the move today, throughout the day. Also invaded by hoardes of Harlequins mid afternoon. Painted Lady & Red Admiral in finest apparel, taking the sun together; also a Comma. Several Southern & Migrant Hawker dragons whizzing about over the patch.

While supping a coffee, had an interesting 'warbler' clamber through the ivy just 12 feet in front of me. Pity it was so fleeting.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The riddle of the sands

Just had the above Common Tern back via the BTO.

It was ringed at Roxton on 3rd June 2003 as a pullus and found at Eemshavn, which is the port serving Groningen via the Eemskanal. The bird was found freshly dead on 7th September, how or why is not known, nor exactly where. It is a busy area with petro-chemical storage facilities.

Distance 500 km ENE (official) - 6years 3 months & 4 days.

[With apologies to Erskine Childers]

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Red sky at night

Friday: a cold front went through early leaving behind a chill east wind. A trip to the Priory feeders indicated a fair number of Redwings in and passing through. So later in the day I set a couple of nets in the more sheltered ride. A kingfisher sat on a bush in the other ride as I walked in and a Siskin flew over S.

Later, as it got darker, 100 Starlings W ( a rare sight here nowadays), a Kestrel & a Sparrowhawk hunting, & then 200 gulls W. At 17:40, all the resident Dunnocks started up, calling from their respective roost. 11 Redwing, a flock of LTT & a 20+ mix of Goldfinch/Chaffinch dropped into the 'long hedge' with the Blackbirds declining to roost with them, preferring a site facing the low grass of the 'new meadow'.

The following morning (today, Sat), Ed and I arrived in the dark to add to the previous days tally. Birds caught 32 (16) : Wren 1 (2), Robin (1) [ the 'grey' one], Blabi 3 (2) [ the new ones were 'continentals'], Redwing 4 [only one carried any fat, an adult ?female?], Lotti (4), Bluti 4 (3), Greti 4 (1), Treec (1), Goldf 12 [mainly lean with some fat retained], & Bullf 4 (2).

Above: A 'continental' blackbird.

Above: A retrapped Treecreeper (first caught earlier on this year).

Above: A young Goldfinch. The majority of these were caught yesterday (friday 16th).

Above & below: Over the last week or so this country has seen an invasion of these winter visitors (Redwing). Birders recording visible migration (vismig) in Bedfordshire have seen some remarkable movements (30,000 + in one day alone!).

Most of these birds will be moving on to other counties, carrying on their migration, but as they move through, we took our opportunity to sell them some jewellry (put a ring on them) whilst they stop at the restaurant (berries on the trees) and stop for a nap (at their roost site)!

Vis-mig: altogether we counted 650-700 Redwings N or NW in 7 main groups, 2 Linnets NW, 12 Sky Lark N, 1 Fieldfare W, 1 Twite S, 2 Lesser Redpoll S, 3 Meadow Pipits NE, 30 Wood Pigeon S (2 clusters), but we didn't count the blogging Chaffinches, Goldfinches (over 20) and the few Greenfinch that passed over our heads whilst dealing with the trapped birds.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Trying hard

13th and 14th: ringing at Priory late afternoon and the following morning. The afternoon was bright and sunny and pleasantly warm. The morning session took place after rain and under a high overcast.

Combined totals: Sparr 1 [a 3F], Wren 1 (2), Dunno 1 (4), Robin 1, Blabi 1, Lotti 1 (4), Bluti 4 (5), Greti 9 (10), Treec (1), Grefi 7, Goldf 4, Bullf 1 (1).

Vis mig - not much going on prior to dusk, just the 'local' (used advisedly) Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch coming in high to roost. I did manage to nab a few of the latter two. In the morning, the first sightings were of 7 Fieldfare W and 7 Siskin from roost. Later 5 Redwing S, 4 Mipits SE & 2 W, 8 high-flying Blackbirds, 6 Sky Lark SW, & 15 Goldfinch in from the N.

The newly captured Greenfinch were all carrying a reasonable amount of fat (F15/20) and one could see that it had been utilised recently. The Goldfinch were carrying less fat (as they always seem to do), generally around F10 but with a good muscle score (2). The female Blackbird looked a bit suspicious with some faint grey edgings to the body feathers.

The Gt. Tit stats were interesting, even if just for their "equality"; 4M-3, 4F-3, 3M-7, 3F-6. I would expect even sexing and about 1:2 adults:1CY birds over a decent run in early/mid-winter. We know that in winter the ratio of Gt. Tits to Blue Tits has increased here over the last three/four years (from our counts/trapping figures). A decade ago, we would have caught twice as many Blue Tits as Great.

However, we did retrap Bluti A761442 again; he has had his ring on for 7 years 107 days now. We also recaptured a regular 2005 male Dunnock today.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Swans up!

Click here

Friday, 9 October 2009

Two degrees

Friday: That was the temperature when I arrived to set the nets. Not a bad day considering I had to pack up at noon, long before any signs of rain (a few spots at 3pm). 27 birds caught, 8 of which were r/ts, using just the main dog-leg of 4.

A brightly marked immature Wren (5 ogc)

Wren 2 (1), Dunno 1, Robin 1 (1), Blabi (1), Chiff 1 [adult female abientinus type on call and wing], Lotti 1 (1), Bluti 3 (2), Greti 5 (2), Chaff 4, Grefi 1.

A first year Robin (5 ogc) with grey feathers on its nape & back.

A pleasant day, if cold. There was a definite increase in finches overnight, especially Chaffinch. I also had 4 Redwing over, 5 Song Thrushes all "high-fliers", 2 Blackcap, a Gt. Spot atop the lone Alder in the 'rough', 4 Mipits SE, 4 Sky Larks S, 3 Golden Plover SE, a Kestrel hunting, a Buzzard over W then returned E, just one Siskin, and a slow flying flock of 40-50 Wood Pigeons going S. DK also had a Fieldfare. He had also noticed some "migratory restlessness" among the Dunnocks, so they're obviously "shuffling" their territories around for the winter.

Our warbler catches this year are, in most cases, up on 2008 (in brackets). We've put in slightly more effort this year. New birds only.
Cetti's 0 (3), Sedge 26 (23), Reed 75 (76), Lesser 23 (13), W/throat 112 (35), Garden 27 (24), Blackcap 170 (111), Chiff 143 (88), Willow 30 (23). Garden Warbler is still suffering and Willow is not making much of a so-called 'improvement' in the south of England.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


Bedford, Tuesday 6th, 07:45 to 08:00, 1mm.
First measurable rainfall since 2nd September.
More to come later today?

Saturday, 3 October 2009


Took a walk along the Embankment and across Mill Meadows looking for c-r swans. I also found at least 11 cygnets looking for a bit of bread ... and a colour ring perhaps?

I came across 7 birds that I could identify from their orange colour rings. There were a few others with just the BTO ring; whether a c-r had ever been fitted or was simply lost was impossible to tell.

502, a resident male often recorded, was first ringed in September 2002 as f.g..

549, another younger male, was ringed as a 5 in March 2004.

578, an 8 male & 579 a 7 male were both ringed this summer.

590 (a male) was first ringed back in August 1993. It has not been re-caught since then, until a c-r was added in July this year.

454 was ringed as a 5 in January 2002 and subsequently identified as a male.

426 is a female. She was colour ringed as an adult in October 2001 but her metal ring was from October 1992, making her the second oldest bird "on the books". She is obviously quite a bit older than the 17 years since first handled and steadfastly remains on the Embankment.

Meanwhile, at Priory, female 500 again has 3 cygnets that need "catching up". Mum was first ringed in July 2003 as a 5 (2CY). She has had several 'boy friends' but now seems to be settled with this one (unringed).

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

September finale

After a warm night (14C) we (DTH & I) erected the nets under an overcast sky. As hopes did not run high, we stuck a net across the feeding station, too.

Just as well as we caught 14 tits in this net (8 Greti, 6 Bluti). All told, we had 38 birds, 14 of which were retraps. We caught our 60th Chiff of the year at this site today, even if we had to 'tape lure' it. (see below)

Totals: Wren 1 (1), Dunno (5) [= the ringers' friend!!], Robin 1, Blabi 0 (1) [this one a 5M from 1st May 2005], Sonth 1, Blaca 3 [all 3's, 1M, 2 F], Chiff 1 [4M], Bluti 6 (3), Greti 7 (3), Treec 1 (1), Chaff 2, Goldf 1.

Border control?

Hope springs eternal and we shall be back here again soon. October has always been good to us - when the weather holds!

A newly emerged Grasshopper spp.

PS. I always reckon that September and October are like chalk and cheese; if one is brill, the other is shi*e for ringing. I'm keeping my legs crossed.