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.