Saturday, 17 December 2011

Nest boxes at Bedford and County Golf Club

No time for any ringing today, as the plan was to put up 6 large nest boxes at Bedford & County Golf Club, Clapham. The club is celebrating its centenary next year and to commemorate the occasion decided they want to put up some nest boxes.

It was cold work today and took nearly 4 hours to put up the 6 boxes. There was still some ice and even small amounts of snow on the ground left from yesterday's snowfall; the chill wind really didn't help.

Malcolm Smith of Cople made 2 large boxes, designed for Barn Owls, 2 for Kestrels and 2 for Stock Doves. It is hoped to put up 20 small boxes in the New Year, which are due to be made by a local Upper School. Malcolm makes garden furniture (see price list and bird table photo) and these were the first large nest boxes he had made - designs were chosen from the BTO Nestbox guide. If you want to order any nest boxes or garden furniture from Malcolm, please call him on 07866 788810. Cople is between Bedford and Sandy, 10 mins drive from the A1.

Thank you to Malcolm Smith for making the boxes, to the Bedford & County Golf Club for providing the finance, to John Sinclair for getting agreement within the club for the project, to Head Greenkeeper Geoff Fenn for transporting the boxes and other equipment today and for his help, last but not least thanks to Tom Sinclair for his sterling work in the trees.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

November round-up

November has been interesting, but also challenging. Strong winds have either prevented ringing on some occasions, or restricted what had been planned. With the leaves fast coming off the trees, some sites are becoming more exposed to the wind and less attractive to birds. The numbers of birds ringed and the variety of species handled hides several sessions that resulted in no birds processed or just a few.

During this month, I've ringed at Bromham Mill, Bedfordshire Golf Club at Stagsden, Harrold-Odell Country Park and Marston Vale Millennium Country Park. The total numbers of birds ringed during these sessions are listed below, with retraps shown in brackets.

  • Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

  • Wren 8 (+2)

  • Dunnock (+1)

  • Robin 1 (+1)

  • Blackbird 1

  • Cetti's Warbler 4 (+1)

  • Blackcap 1

  • Bearded Tit 1

  • Long-tailed Tit 7

  • Coal Tit (+2)

  • Blue Tit 47 (+7)

  • Great Tit 14 (+3)

  • Nuthatch 2

  • Chaffinch 1

  • Goldfinch 3

  • Reed Bunting 10

  • Total 101 (+17), Grand Total of 118 birds of 16 species
Most of the retraps were birds ringed this summer or autumn; the two exceptions to this were:

  • A Great Tit ringed at Bromham Mill on 7/12/10 and retrapped for the first time since then on 12/11/11.

  • A Great Tit ringed at Bedfordshire Golf Club, Stagsden, on 26/10/10 and retrapped there on 20/11/11.

Thank you to the other ringers and helpers for their assistance during November. Let's hope the weather allows us to get out and about during December.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Blackbird Recovery

News came through yesterday of a Blackbird ringed at Priory Country Park on 9th December 2009 as a juvenile male. Unfortunately, it had met a sad end - this is a common way for ringers to find out what happens to some of our birds. The fortune this time was on our side as it had made its way to FINLAND!

It was found on 23rd September 2011, at Vistanvagen, Soderudden, Vaasa, Finland - 653 days after it was ringed in Bedford - a distance of 1775km in a North Easterly direction.

Details of the ringing session this bird was caught on can be found here (it was the first bird caught that day).

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Strong winds curtail ringing activities

Having planned ahead for this weekend, the strong winds had a major impact on the ringing this weekend.

On Friday 25th November, a ringing session at Harrold-Odell Country Park resulted in no birds being ringed. Now that most of the leaves in the bushes have fallen, the area that in summer was home to a wide variety of birds, was very quiet. Redwings were eating the berries in the bushes along the edge of the lake. A group of Fieldfares was in the tops of the taller trees. Out on the lake a large group of Wigeon was very active; it was nice to watch a Goldeneye also. But our ringing area was deserted.

By Saturday 26th, the wind had really picked up in strength. Santa was in his grotto upstairs at Bromham Mill, but outside the wind made mist-netting difficult. A group of children sang Christmas carols, much to the delight of an appreciative crowd. Just two birds were caught - with one Blue Tit ringed and one retrapped (originally ringed on 25/6/11).

The forecast for Sunday 27th was for strong winds in the morning, then becoming calmer during the afternoon. As a result a planned morning ringing session at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park was postponed to the afternoon. The wind was still fairly strong at 2pm, but by 3pm it was a really pleasant, sunny, afternoon. Once again there were some dragonflies taking advantage of the warm weather; several kept on landing on both Mike and me.

Several Cetti's Warblers were heard, a Chinese Water Deer was seen and a Water Rail was flushed from the grass near the Pillinge. The Geese are still absent. The aim had been to ring Reed Buntings before they went to roost, but only one was ringed and there was no obvious gathering of others in the area. Totals for the day were as follows (with retraps shown in brackets):

  • Reed Bunting 1

  • Cetti's Warbler 0 (+1 retrap - first ringed on 13/11/11)

  • Robin 1

  • Wren 1 (+1 retrap - first ringed on 29/8/11)

  • Total: 3 (+2 retraps)
This is the fourth week running that we have ringed/caught Cetti's Warblers at Marston.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

5 weeks to Christmas - no-one's told the Dragonflies

Another ringing trip to Marston Vale Millennium Country Park on Saturday afternoon, 19th November. First thing I saw were a couple of Dragonflies. Don't they know Christmas is just one month away? It was a beautiful, calm, afternoon, with the temperature dropping and fog appearing at dusk.

A very successful ringing session:

  • Wren 2 (+ 1 retrap, ringed in October 2011)

  • Long-tailed Tit 7

  • Blue Tit 11

  • Great Tit 2

  • Cetti's Warbler 1

  • Reed Bunting 9

  • Blackbird 1

  • Total 33 (+ 1 retrap)

The black head covering of male Reed Buntings is beginning to emerge, as the brown tips to the feathers wear away. Thank to Neil Wright for the photos below, with a male (top and centre) and a female (below).

A Sparrowhawk flew over and about 20 Lapwings. Yet again no Geese at all. Thank you to Neil for helping.

On Sunday 20th November, David and I ringed at Bedfordshire Golf Club, Stagsden. It was a foggy, damp, morning and the sun didn't break through into about midday. A bacon bap from the Halfway House was very welcome! Totals ringed were:

  • Robin (+1 retrap, ringed in December 2010)

  • Goldfinch 1

  • Nuthatch 1 (pictured right with David and also below)

  • Great Tit 1 (+ retrap, ringed in October 2010)

  • Total 3 (+ 2 retraps)

We saw one or more Great Spotted Woodpeckers and several Treecreeepers. A flock of at least 10 Long-tailed Tits came through the wood.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Cetti's at Marston and a new bird for Ivel Ringing Group

A session at Bromham Mill on Saturday 12th November resulted in 19 birds caught. Totals ringed are shown below, with those retrapped (birds that have been ringed previously and caught again) shown in brackets:

  • Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

  • Blue Tit 4 (+ 4 retraps)

  • Great Tit 4 (+ 1 retrap)

  • Coal Tit (1 retrap)

  • Dunnock (1 retrap)

  • Goldfinch 2

  • Wren 1

  • Total 12 (+ 7 retraps)

The Great Spotted Woodpecker, a female, was the first that I've ringed at Bromham Mill. The retrap Great Tit was ringed on 7/12/2010 - this was the first time she had been caught again since then; where has she been in the mean time? All the other retraps were ringed earlier this year.

Then on Sunday 13th November, I went to Marston Vale Millennium Country Park. The numbers of birds caught were low, but the quality was really high! Totals ringed were:

  • Wren 3

  • Cetti's Warbler 2

  • Bearded Tit 1

  • Total 6

Though there have been Bearded Tits present in the Country Park, we have not previously seen any in the area while we've been ringing. At least two were present, but just one caught and ringed. It was a definitely a male, possibly a young bird but we were not certain. This was the first Bearded Tit ringed by Ivel Ringing Group. See photo to the left and below to the right.

Other birds seen at Marston included: Teal, Little Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrels, large flock of Lapwing, Yellowhammer, Reed Buntings, Redwings, good numbers of Skylarks overhead. A Red-breasted Merganser was also on the pool. A Dragonfly (spot the dragonfly on the reed stalk below; sorry - not sure of the species) was an unexpected sighting. Thank you Neil, David and Phil for your help today.

4 assorted views of a Cetti's Warbler.

Unknown 'Dragonfly'

Wren (back view)

Photos of Wren and Cetti's Warbler by Phil Candlish

Monday, 7 November 2011

Heavenly singing, flashing lights - what was going on?

On Saturday 5th November, I went ringing at Bromham Mill again. There was a misty and cold start to the day, then conditions gradually improved. After a slow start, the numbers of birds caught increased. Most of the Blue Tits (see right) caught were looking really smart and seem to be in good shape.

Part way through the morning, I could hear singing coming from nearby. It was unusual, but not unpleasant. Not much later two police 'panda' cars parked at the entrance to the mill. Two others also turned up as well as an ambulance, all with their lights flashing. It turns out that an African religious group have been meeting for evening services by the river bank, combined with baptising (or maybe washing away sins/spiritual cleansing) in the River Ouse. Now the clocks have gone back, they had decided to meet on the Saturday morning instead. Someone saw this and misinterpreted what was going on. Hence the arrival of the emergency services!

Totals ringed for the day were (with retraps in brackets):

  • Blue Tit 30 (2)

  • Great Tit 7 (1)

  • Chaffinch 1

  • Nuthatch 1

  • Blackcap 1

  • Coal Tit (1)

  • Total 40 (4)
3 of the retraps were ringed on Apple Day, 16th October; 1 Blue Tit had been ringed on 28th August. The Nuthatch (above left)was the 2nd I've ringed at the Mill this year. The female Blackcap (2nd from top, on the right) was the first I've ever ringed at Bromham Mill.

Other photos: Coal Tit (3rd from top, on the right), Chaffinch (lower right).

Thank you to Adrian Fett for the photos of the Chaffinch and Blackcap.

On Sunday 6th November I went back to Marston Vale Millennium Country Park, to see (in particular) what might be coming in to roost. With a northerly breeze, the temperate was low. The numbers of birds ringed was much less than on Saturday, but the ringing of the Cetti's Warbler, one of the 'star birds' of the site, more than made up for this. Totals ringed were as shown below (no birds were retrapped):

  • Blue Tit 1

  • Cetti's Warbler 1

  • Wren 1

  • Total: 3

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

October round-up

October has been a really interesting month, hampered by strong winds that made mist-netting difficult on several occasions. During this month, I've ringed at Bromham Mill, Cardington, Harrold-Odell Country Park and Marston Vale Millennium Country Park.

Total numbers of birds ringed during these sessions are listed below, with retraps shown in brackets.

  • Tawny Owl 1

  • Meadow Pipit 1 (photo below - ringed at Marston C.P. on 29/10/11)

  • Wren 5

  • Dunnock 3 (4)

  • Robin 4

  • Blackbird 2

  • Song Thrush 1

  • Redwing 1

  • Blackcap 1

  • Goldcrest 2

  • Long-tailed Tit 11

  • Marsh Tit 1

  • Coal Tit 1

  • Blue Tit 43 (15)

  • Great Tit 15 (9)

  • Chaffinch 3

  • Greenfinch 1

  • Goldfinch 4

  • Bullfinch 2 (1)

  • Reed Bunting 9

  • TOTAL: 113 of 20 species (plus 29 retraps of 4 species)
Totals ringed for the year are 839 birds of 41 species (plus 88 retraps of 15 species). Swallow is still the top species with 278 ringed, but now being chased by Blue Tit with 162 ringed - will Blue Tit be top by end of the year?

Most of the retraps were birds ringed in the summer or early autumn. The sole retrap ringed before this year was the Bullfinch retrapped at Cardington, originally ringed there on 27/12/2010.

Thank you to the other ringers and helpers for your assistance during the month. Here's hoping for a great November!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bedfordshire Clangers, Blue Tits and more at Apple Day

Sunday 16th October was the annual Apple Day event at Bromham Mill. The sky was blue and the weather mild, so not surprisingly the crowds turned out in big numbers.

The East of England Apple and Orchards Project had a great display of many of the varities of apples to be found in Bedfordshire and many people brought along apples to find out what varieties they were. Apples, apple juice and cider was on sale, with the Harrold Calvados society demonstrating the art of cider making.

Amongst the many other attractions on offer was some great food, including one of Bedfordshire's contributions to British cuisine: the Bedfordshire Clanger. Demand was so great that Gunn's Bakery had to rush additional supplies of Clangers to Bromham Mill.

The RSPB and Friends of Marston Vale had stalls.

Ivel Ringing Group gave a demonstration of bird ringing, giving passers-by both young and old the chance to see some birds very close up. Totals ringed were as follows (plus retraps in brackets):

  • Blackbird 2

  • Blue Tit 29 (7)

  • Chaffinch 3

  • Coal Tit 3

  • Dunnock 2 (2)

  • Goldcrest 2

  • Goldfinch 3

  • Greenfinch 1

  • Great Tit 8 (4)

  • Long-tailed Tit 9

  • Marsh Tit 1

  • Robin 1

  • Total 64 (13)

Photos below are: Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit, 'Scoreboard' of birds ringed and seen, Ringing base (ringers may have been busy eating Bedfordshire Clangers), Goldcrest.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Cardington & Marston - Tawny Owl, Redwing & Reed Buntings

A short session on Friday evening at Cardington resulted in a Tawny Owl ringed and 2 Bullfinches caught (one new bird and one retrap).

There was a slight ground frost in some places on Saturday 15th October. A Redwing was an unexpected catch - the first I've ever ringed at Cardington. Other birds ringed were 2 Long-tailed Tits and 2 Wrens. 2 Buzzard flew over mewing, 1 Yellowhammer was back in the winter roosting area, a few Skylarks flew over, while a small group of Linnets were in the fields.

On Saturday afternoon, a session at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park was both successful and really pleasant - initially warm, as the evening wore on it became cold but the rising moon looked fantastic. Birds caught were:

  • 1 Blue Tit

  • 2 Wren

  • 8 Reed Buntings

  • 1 Blackcap

The Reed Buntings are roosting in the reed beds. Numbers of them seem to be building up slowly.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The end of a great summer

The warm weather at the beginning of October seemed to put a final 'full stop' to a really interesting summer. All the local Swallows have left and now the focus is on the arrival of autumn and winter visitors.

A big 'thank you' to all the farmers and other land-owners who let me ring Swallow pulli on their properties. A total of 133 chicks were ringed this year.

In addition 145 fledged birds were ringed at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park. Thanks to the other ringers who have taken part in this. The total Swallows I've been involved with ringing this year in Bedfordshire is therefore 278.

[The above photo shows the sun setting over Bedford after a beautiful warm evening on 7th October, with the airship hangers at Cardington visible in the distance.]

Friday, 9 September 2011

March of the ....Swallows

The film 'March of the Penguins' showed the amazing journey undertaken by Emperor Penguins as they walk to their breeding grounds in the Antarctic. I admit that Swallows are quite different from Penguins - not least the fact that they can fly, but they are black(ish) and white(ish) and they both face many dangers as they try to find a way of surviving in a harsh world. The halcyon days of summer are over, our summer visitors are faced with tough choices about how long to remain in the UK before setting of on the long route south to Africa. If they leave it too late before beginning their migration, there is increased risk of bad weather while food supplies may become more limited.

At Marston Vale Millennium Country Park there are still good numbers of Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins feeding over the lakes and reed beds. The reed beds also still hold some Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers.

Last night Mike and I had another session attempting to ring Swallows as they went in to roost. The weather forecast wasn't promising but it was a really pleasant evening (though a touch cool) with a great sunset.

Totals ringed were:

  • 2 Reed Warbler

  • 2 Sedge Warbler

  • 5 Sand Martin (including 2 adults)

  • 11 Swallow(all juveniles)
    Total 20

A group of 10-12 Yellow Wagtails also roosted in the reed beds overnight.

The Sedge and Reed Warblers seem to have a different migration strategy. The Sedge Warblers are getting very heavy, as they are building up fat reserves to give them the energy for lengthy flights. The Reed Warblers haven't put on much extra weight, so the assumption is that they will make shorter 'hops' in their southward migration.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sandy Smith NR Latest

A days ringing at Sandy Smith Nature Reserve (03/09/11) turned out a lot better than expected, adding 4 new species for the site. 2 of them ringing ticks for me and 3 of them I had never caught myself before.

Above: First up, 3 Meadow Pipits.

Above: Next, 2 Green Woodpeckers. Here David is holding one of them.

Above: A Spotted Flycatcher.

Above: Last but not least, a Wheatear.

For more info on the session, visit my blog here.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Priory Country Park - CES & other

The Constant Effort season is over at Priory Country Park. All 12 visits were completed (including the odd extra visit). I haven't posted CES totals for a while and on this occasion, for my ease, I'm going to lump visits 8-12 all into one (including non-CES birds/sessions).

238 new birds, 57 retraps (in brackets) of 23 species:

Wren 8 (1)
Dunnock 6 (6)
Robin 6 (7)
Blackbird 10 (8)
Song Thrush 8 (1)
Sedge Warbler 1 (0)
Reed Warbler 24 (1)
Whitethroat 25 (6)
Lesser Whitethroat 2 (0)
Garden Warbler 19 (2)
Blackcap 91 (8)
Chiff Chaff 2 (3)
Willow Warbler 2 (1)
Blue Tit 8 (5)
Great Tit 6 (3)
Long Tailed Tit 0 (1)
Chaffinch 3 (0)
Goldfinch 10 (0)
Greenfinch 1 (0)
Bullfinch 4 (3)
Treecreeper 0 (1)
Sparrowhawk 1 (0)
Wood Pigeon 1 (0)

We'll start with the standout total for Blackcap. This site has always been good for Blackcaps - more Blackcaps have been ringed than just about all other species in the park. The total above includes birds caught outside the CES. On Saturday 27th August I caught 26 Blackcaps (the majority new and the majority male). These birds must have moved on and another lot moved in as by the following Wednesday (31st August) I caught 30 Blackcaps (only one retrap from the weekend and only because it's from a late brood & not ready to go yet).

I call on all ringers north of Bedfordshire to get a move on and ring some Blackcaps! Out of all the Blackcaps I've ringed here in the last week or two, none have been ringed other than on site. You can increase my chances of catching one of your birds!

Above: Female Blackcap

Above: Male Blackcap

Above: This bag contains a big living ball of feathers (see below)!

Above: A Wood Pigeon (the big ball of feathers).

Above: A Lesser Whitethroat. This bird represents one of two ringed on 27th August. This species used to be more regular in the park but there have been very few records this year. I assume therefore that these two birds (juveniles) were migrating through the park (we would likely have caught the adults & juveniles earlier if they had bred).

Above: Normally seen in the skys above & normally too good at airobatics to be caught. This juvenile Sparrowhawk is obviously still learning then!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Grey Wagtails at Bromham Mill

Grey Wagtails have a clear preference for fast running water. As Bedfordshire is a relatively flat county there aren't many places that meet their requirements. In the north of the county, the only two breeding sites I know of are at water mills. A pair has bred at Bromham Mill this year. On Friday we ringed the second brood of two pulli.

An interesting find were pieces of Signal Crayfish in the river - a likely sign of a recent visit by an Otter.

Thank you to Roger and Adrian for your help.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ringing at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park

Today we ringed at the Marston Vale Millennium Country Park, Marston Moretaine, for the first time. The Country Park has been created on the site of former clay workings and has an area of approximately 250 hectares (617 acres) and is run by the Marston Vale Trust. The Park consists of areas of water (Stewartby Lake,The Pillinge and some smaller pools as well as a network of ditches and Elstow Brook which runs through the site), reedbeds and areas of established and more recently planted woodland. The Forest Centre includes the Lakeside Bar and Cafe, a gift shop, displays of information, a play area, cycle hire and toilets.

The aim of our work at the Country Park will be to find out more about the bird life of the area. This will be achieved by the recording what is ringed plus details of any wildlife and plants seen.

The weather was better that the forecast, but was not very favourable for ringing today - blustery wind with occasional showers, but the total of 3 Reed Warblers (see photo top left) and 2 Sedge Warblers (see photo lower rights) was a good start. Other sightings included a Sparrowhawk overhead carrying food, a family party of Long-tailed Tits, 2 Little Egrets, 3 Lapwings, Reed Buntings still singing, along with Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood butterflies. We had packed up just before the heavy rain shower came through!

Thank you to Roger and Sue for your help today.