Sunday, 31 January 2010

Duck ... no, DUCK!!

By invitation, Errol and I made a trip over to Blunham this morning to help with ringing a catch of ducks (well, there was no point watching Murray lose the tennis!).

As Errol was scribing, it was he who counted the total catch - 92 retraps and 71 new birds of 6 species . New = Tufted 56, Gadwall 9, Mallard 2, Pochard 2, Wigeon 1 and Teal 1. About one third of the retraps were Tufteds, getting on for half were Gadwall (they just stay feeding in or near the trap when it's cold) and the rest evenly split between Mallard and Wigeon.

Above: Three quarters of the team: Errol (scribing left), Chris (ringing middle) and Joe (dishing out the ducks, right) who - it turns out - I taught hedgelaying and coppicing to last winter at Shuttleworth College. I was behind the camera, briefly here and there, but I spent most of my time processing most of the retraps (and ringing one or two of each species. 6 ringing ticks in all - Thanks Chris!).

Above: A smart bird - Teal.

Above: A male Pochard

Above: A male Gadwall. A large percentage of these were already ringed. Does that make them quite site faithfull? It either means they are suckers for food in a trap or they know when they're on to a good thing!

Above: A male Tufted Duck.

As there are quite a few Pochard on the lake at present, we will be taking another catch quite soon.

For some other pictures of the ducks visit

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Boxing day

'Boil in a bag' Pecker - now available at Tescos

Above - The cause of our current troubles!

The first decent Saturday for a long while saw us out and attending to our 20 or so nest boxes. Over half the boxes have been "assaulted" by the ever-increasing population of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We've now put up 11 new 'Woodcrete' type for both Blue & Great Tits. Our aim is to replace the remaining with 10 more.

John, Dave, Ed - plus 'retired' nest boxes

Meanwhile, yours truly, had a net up near the feeding station. The Dunnocks arrived quickly to take advantage of the food on the ground. It was not long before 3 (or possibly 4) Eastern Grey Squirrels came a-visiting, ever eager for a free lunch. Throughout this winter, Great Tits have exceeded Blue Tits and, comparing figures from several years ago, the population of Great Tits appears to have "doubled" in proportion to the Blue Tit population [3:5 then, cf 6:5 now]. We fear that the absolute numbers of Blue Tits within the park boundaries is actually falling.

Today's catch consisted of:
Great Spot - 1 (a 5F), see photo
Dunnock - (3), oldest ringed as 4F Apr 2006.
Lotti - (2), 1 from Aug 2007.
Bluti - 6 (6), oldest ringed as 3F Sept 2007.
Greti - 3 (7), all ringed last year.

Moving birds:
5 Fieldfare W
3 Song Thrush blogging
40+ Common Gull E

Friday, 29 January 2010

Wildfowl returns

WWT have sent through a few recovery records for the Blunham trap.

Pochard - 6M on 13 Jan 08, shot at Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu (Loire-Atlantique) France on 17 Dec 08; a case of wintering 577 km further south 11 months later.

Tufted - 3 males shot in the Russian Federation:
3M on 31 Dec 01, shot in Pecherskiy district, Komi Assr, RR, 2694 days later on 17 May 09, 3583 km ENE.
6M on 7 Jan 05, shot in Khanty-Mansi, Tyumen, RR, 1594 days later on 20 May 09, 3865 km ENE.
4M on 30 Nov 05, shot in Yamal-Nenets, Tyumen, RR, 1274 days later on 27 May 09, 4002 km ENE.

Recovery of Tufted FP93907

Wigeon - 6M on 20 Feb 06, shot near Berezovskiy, Sverdlovsk, RF, 3970 km E on 15 Apr 09.

Recovery of Wigeon FH00889

Thursday, 28 January 2010


A late post. We decided to attempt the House Sparrows at the visitor centre on Sat 25th, with a net in the wardens garden. The sparrows have grown accustomed to sitting in the tall (trimmed) hedge from which they sally forth to various feeding areas.

The resulting catch amounted to 7 "sparras" - 3 of the Hedge variety (or Dunnock) and 4 of the common or garden (House) Sparrow, split evenly between the sexes.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Royal Visit

LGRE, head of UK400, paid a fleeting visit to the Barnacle flock, currently in the sheep field at Willington. He click counted the flock and also kindly counted the red Darvics, noting the inscriptions of 20 of them.

"I decided to check the non-naturalised* flock of BARNACLE GEESE at
Willington, of which there were 337 of them and 2 Greylag Geese feeding on
beet in the sheep field. Some 33 individuals bore red plastic rings with white
letters, including inscriptions BA, LC, IP, BS, DP, IC, FS, CI, II, LS, AC, AL,
FA, JH, CA, BD, NU, DU, IZ and EV." [2 errors corrected. EN]

A set of 18 blank colour rings for UK Barnacle Geese

The Darvic inscriptions are actually seperated by a vertical white bar and are correctly signified as 'Red B bar A', for instance, read from the bottom up.

From the above record, 2 birds were ringed 6 years & 6 months ago as an adult and a youngster in July 2003. 3 adults were ringed in July 2004 and recaptured again in July 2007. 12 birds were ringed in July 2005, comprising 5 adults and 7 juveniles, 2 of the youngsters being recaught in July 2007. 3 birds were ringed in July 2007, all as adults. Just two of these 20 birds were recorded by another ring-reader here in October 2009.

The Barnacle Goose July 2007 catch - birds corralled for ringing

He, however, managed to 'scope just 13 colour rings; these were 'KS, KT, JH, AT, AC, BN, DH, DS, FZ, HX, HF, LL, LT'. These were made up of 1 adult (JH) from 2003, obviously something important in the hierarchy, a known female from the 2004 round-up, 7 birds first caught in 2005, 5 as adults and 2 as 'babies', with 1 adult (AC) picked out again by LGRE, and 5 birds from July 2007 that were full grown adults at the time.

Post-script: What is a "non-naturalised" flock? This flock's origins go back to the Solway (& Spitzbergen) in the late 'sixties and the ever increasing numbers have been living and breeding in north-east Bedfordshire since an inadvertent escape in the the 'seventies.
*BOU category C2 - naturalised established species, as evidenced here.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Chalton STW 17/01/2010

A good turnout today with 6 members present in the form of Mike, Roy, Sue, Toni, Paul and myself. With the nets up at 8am we ringed through until 13:30.

A Green Sandpiper put in a brief appearance though not in the net and also a kingfisher was seen over the lagoons. Ducks present were Mallard 126, Little Grebe 4, Coot 4, Tufted Duck 24, Gadwall 23, ingfisher 1, Moorhen 4, Teal 2 and wigeon 3. Seemed strange that there was a shortage of coot and moorhen.

A total of 35 were caught consisting of 20 new/15 retraps as follows:
Greti 3/6, Robin 2/2, Bluti 7/2, Lotti 3/4, Dunno 0/1, Chaff 4/0 and Redwi 1/0 .
The electricity isn't connected yet, hopefully for next time.

Monday, 4 January 2010


Had to fill the Priory feeding station anyway, so stayed and put a net up. Overnight, temperatures had dropped to minus 7C. It was still minus 3C when I arrived just before 10:30. Eventually it warmed to plus 1C but had dropped to minus 1C when I packed in at 14:00. There was a lovely hoar frost today, our first since the fog (and minus 9C) on 23rd Dec. even though we, too, have suffered the low temperatures - but thankfully, without any significant snowfall.

Three hours produced 28 birds: Dunnock (6), Robin (3), Lotti (2), Blue Tit 3 (2), Gt. Tit 4 (8).
The oldest Blue was caught last January as a 5F; the oldest Great was caught in March '08 as a 6F; both Lottis (a pair) were ringed 108 days before and this was their 4th recapture since.

The Robins were all caught and ringed as 3s; two males in August '08, having been recaught here 7 times and 6 times, and the female just twice more since last September.

The Dunnocks provided the most interest. The oldest was ringed as a 3J In August '04 and has been recaught 12 times in 5 years & 150 days. A second was ringed as a 4F in April '06 and has been retrapped 6 times in 3 years 267 days. A third was ringed as a 3J in July the same year; it turned out to be a male and has been retrapped 7 more times in 3 years 170 days. The forth and fifth birds were both ringed on the same day in July '07; these are both females, one being recaught 7 times and the other just 4. The last bird was a 3M in November '08 and has been retrapped 4 more times since it was ringed just 1 year 53 days ago.

There's going to be a bumper crop of Ivy berries; they're swelling nicely, too.

The only set-back today was a young dog chasing madly through the area (it is fenced off) and running through the only net! Fortunately it didn't tear it but I spent quite a while picking it off the vegetation!

Addendum: As we are suffering a 'cold snap', the average weight for Dunnock was 23.9g (lowest 22.5g), the 2 fem Robins were 17.2g & 20.0g and the male 22.4g, the 2 fem Bluti were ~10.4g whereas the males were ~12.4g, and the 6 fem Greti averaged 18.1g with the 6 males at 19.8g. These weights (apart from 1 fem Robin) do not currently give rise to any unease. The feeders and ground are topped up every other day.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

10th day of Xmas

Quite a gathering of the clans at Chalton today. Repositioned feeding station attracted quite a few birds; a pity the majority were retraps but the new trainee, Roy, was pleased to get his eye in with them. Up near the offices, three nets fared a little better.

Graham set about finishing off the lining of the hut, ready for site staff to fix up the electrics (= light, heat and hot water). Mike was sent off to undo some (disused) gratings that we want to string across a ditch to allow the mower across.

Total catch for the session was 56 of which just 26 were new birds. Altogether, we handled 11 species.

Redwing - showing hut lining in the background!

Grey Wag 1, Pied Wag 3, Wren (1), Dunnock (2), Robin 5 (8), Blackie 5, Redwing 4, Blue Tit 3 (5), Gt Tit 4 (18), Chaffinch (1) & Greenfinch 1.

Just the one 2CY Redwing, an all too familiar trait this winter. The Robins were very variable, both in size (allowing for sex differences) and weights. Perhaps a few (long-winged) migrants mixed in with the locals.