Saturday, 31 December 2011

A day at Lound Lakes to round the year off

After having narrowly missed out on catching a Woodcock last time when setting up in the woodland ride at Lound Lakes I decided to try and get there a little bit earlier which obviously meant that none came in but at least the nets were ready this time.

The morning wasn't overly cool so I wasn't expecting a busy first round as birds wouldn't be rushing to the feeders and as it turned out the morning was at a nice and steady pace with a few birds each round making for a relaxed session. A higher number of thrushes caught than usual but the predominant customers still remain Blue Tits and Great Tits. Finches seem to have cleared off; onto nearby farmland perhaps.


Immature (5) Blackbird showing a few brown unmoulted greater coverts

In the afternoon a short attempt made in the Wildlife Garden to catch some retrap Blue Tits and Great Tits that had been ringed this year as nestbox pulli was thwarted by the sudden arrival of a Long-tailed Tit flock. 

Woodland Totals - 29 new, (16) retrap
Robin - 4
Blackbird - 4
Redwing - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1, (1)
Blue Tit - 14, (10)
Great Tit - 4, (5)

Wildlife Garden Totals - 24 new, (3) retrap including a control
Dunnock - 2
Robin - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 13 new
Coal Tit - (2) including a control 
Blue Tit - 4, (1)
Great Tit - 4

Female Blackbird at Lound Lakes

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Final garden session of 2011

A brief break in the weather was there to be taken advantage of and with my 30' net up in the back garden I was determined to salvage something from the recent spell of high winds. A spot of garden ringing also kept me occupied whilst waiting for the emergency boiler service engineer to arrive and rectify a problem with a fuse blowing.

Quantity is never going to be a feature in a garden that can only comfortably accommodate a 30' mist net diagonally but for such a small patch the variety isn't bad and the location ensures that the seen from the garden list includes Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Barn Owl and bizzarely enough Wryneck. 

The highlight of the festive season session was definitely catching a second Starling taking advantage of the ample supply of fat balls and not too mention the boiler being successfully repaired.

More sparkly than the Christmas Tree

Totals - 12 new, (1) retrap
Robin - 2
Blackbird - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 2, (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Starling - 1
House Sparrow - 3

Garden Totals for 2011 (from July onwards) - 111 new, (11) retrap
Wren - 2
Dunnock - 5
Robin - 9, (2)
Blackbird - 8
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 19, (1)
Great Tit - 4, (1)
Starling - 2
House Sparrow 58, (7)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Jackdaw Rescue

After spending a day felling scrub at Upton Fen on the way home I received a call alerting me to the presence of a couple of birds seen flying around the lounge of a house belonging to an acquaintance in nearby Belton. The house is sometimes empty as the owner's primary residence is near Bristol. A neighbour had called him that day to report the net curtains in the front room being ripped by what she suspected to be a pair of Crows or Magpies. After collecting the key I nipped home to grab my ringing box and a small net with which I hoped to catch the villains.

Upon arrival there was no obvious sign besides papers everywhere, wall lights hanging at odd angles and a trail of bird excrement leading upstairs. All the downstairs rooms were duly checked - soot by the lounge fireplace hinting at means of entry - and doors closed to prevent re-entry; I climbed the stairs with trepidation. The bathroom was clear but the first bedroom looked as though it had been completely ransacked by the pair of Jackdaws who were clearly startled by my sudden appearance in the room. With the door closed the birds were quickly caught, bagged up and brought downstairs into the kitchen for ringing and processing. Two handsome and none the worse for wear Jackdaws were then released into the evening sky and a recommendation made for a chimney guard!

Adult Jackdaw

Yes, those curtains are as old as me!

A Hampshire weekend

Sat 17 - Mon 19 December 2011

The weekend before Christmas was spent visiting my parents in Hampshire. The weather forecast wasn't great but my 30' mist net was soon erected in their small semi-rural back garden. Despite their location on the edge of the newly designated South Downs National Park the birdlife visiting their garden is limited to a small range of garden species taking advantage of their feeding station; Collared Doves and Blackbirds being regular garden visitors.

Over three short morning sessions seven birds were caught. I was interested in the number of Blackbirds visiting the garden and in the end four were caught with another two bouncing. Two Dunnocks were caught flying away from the seed feeders but the highlight of the weekend was a Magpie trapped after it hurtled towards two Starlings feeding on fat balls. I had observed the Magpie sitting on the garden fence and thought that there would be little chance of it finding the net so my attention was diverted by a couple of starlings that had landed on the fat ball feeder, hoping that perhaps they would leave the feeders and fly into the net. I was startled therefore when the Magpie launched itself in what was clearly the direction of the Starlings. I have not previously encountered aggression by Magpies towards Starlings, although I'm sure it occurs, and the Magpie had not previously been noted visiting the feeders during the weekend of my visit.

Magpie caught whilst attacking Starlings

Monday, 12 December 2011

Decmember farmland session

On a very chilly Friday evening the nets were erected around the seed strip on Eastfield Farm in Lound, in readiness for an early start on Saturday morning. By the time Paul and Rob arrived I had already walked up the track and started unfurling the line of 60's between the seed strip and hedgerow and once all nets were open we decided to try and walk up some Skylarks which had been roosting in the adjacent field left to stubble. A few birds got up but were nowhere near to finding the single shelf that Paul and I had valiantly struggled with the previous evening.

A cool crisp start was hoped to have got birds using the seed strip early but with a slightly stronger south westerly than predicted together with a quickly rising sun the session got off to a slow start with many birds clearly being aware of the well lit 'wall' of nets. A few walks through the strip saw a good number of birds fly out but many rose above the nets and sat in the top of the hedgerow behind.

On a positive side the relaxed pace allowed Paul's trainees, Rob and Richard, to get to grips with ageing and sexing winter Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers as well as gaining some valuable extraction practice.

Male Reed Bunting 

Male Yellowhammer

The number of birds caught was clearly disappointing when considering the extra nets deployed in comparison to my preliminary visit. There were, however, quite a lot of birds using the strip and other strips and stubble in the neighbouring fields. The highly mobile Yellowhammer flock was numbering 30-40 although tending to favour another seed strip nearby. A number of goldfinches were feeding in a thin strip featuring an abundance of chicory and may be targeted in future visits.

Sadly the results of the second visit to the seed strip were hampered by the weather conditions with a steadily building breeze and bright sunshine rendering the nets highly visible. All, however, was not lost with two out of four target species being trapped for the project as well as an unexpected bonus in the form of a smart male Blackcap.

Totals - 18 new, (6) retraps with 2 controls
Wren - 1
Robin - (3) including control X547854
Blackbird - (1) control originally ringed in Paul's Burgh Castle garden
Song Thrush - 1
Blackcap - 1
Blue Tit - (1)
Chaffinch - 3
Yellowhammer - 3
Reed Bunting - 9, (1)

Controlled Robin

House Sparrow TS82001

After briefly putting my 30' up in the back garden a sum total of two birds were caught, both being House Sparrows. One was a new bird but the the other was a retrap and upon reading the ring number I was pleased to discover that I was holding the very first bird that I ringed after receiving my C permit - House Sparrow TS82001. He was originally ringed as an adult Male in the evening of 19 July 2011 and had yet to start his moult.

House Sparrow TS82001

Unfortunately I have yet to submit my application to set up a RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival), project for the House Sparrows that visit my garden which would include colour ringing to remove the need for retrapping; so I hope to catch TS82001 at least one more time.

For more information about RAS which aims to study the survival of adults in bird populations please visit the BTO RAS page.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Wash Wader Ringing Group November Weekend

Fri 25 - Sun 27 November was the final WWRG weekend for 2011 and it was a cold and windy Snettisham beach that greeted us on Friday evening as we set the nets with the aim of catching on the Saturday morning tide. The One Show had expressed an interest in filming the catch as part of a feature on the Wash Spectacular and were recording the set with infrared cameras.

Sadly on the following morning circumstances were against us as most of the birds gathered on the beach were disturbed by the headlights of a vehicle belonging to the Environment Agency who were checking the sea defences given the expected tide height. With the tide falling nets were fired on a diminishing group of grey waders most of which seemed to avoid capture. Five Grey Plovers and a Dunlin was never going to be the best catch with a film crew present but one of the Grey Plovers was a retrap which turned out to have been caught on the very same beach by the WWRG in February 1991 and having been ringed as a 6, this makes it at least 22 years old. That winter was particularly harsh with many Grey Plover being found dead so this bird is lucky to have survived to provide an interesting tale for the One Show cameramen. Along with the other Grey Plovers it received a white leg flag so that it may hopefully be seen by WWRG members and other birders, thus building a more complete picture of its movements.

 Grey Plover showing black 'armpit'

 Grey Plover with unmoulted primary

Plans for mist netting on Saturday evening were scuppered by the high winds buffdeting the East coast so it was decided that we should attempt to cannon net Oystercatchers on the afternoon tide at Snettisham. Two large mesh nets were set and the team retreated to wait for the rising tide to encourage the birds to march up the beach. As thousands of knot drifted lazily south the tide stopped short leaving the Oystercatchers a long way from the catching area. The sunset was amazing and the sight and sound of tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese spanning the entire horizon was breathtaking and still we waited and waited... Finally the birds were on the move and as they entered the catching area the nets were switched in and the command to fire was issued.

By the time the birds had been extracted, put in keeping cages and the nets lifted from the beach it was darkness that surrounded the team gathered in in the lea of the sea wall. The 'jenny' was fired up and ringing and processing commenced. 106 new Oystercatchers were ringed and 43 retraps processed. It was interesting to note that several birds were still in active moult but considering the time of year it would be likely that this would be suspended. Supper was very well received by all that evening!

Sunday morning saw teams arrive at a number of locations to recce and search for colour ringed birds. The fierce weather that had lashed the East overnight was witnessed by some extremely high tides.

Sunset over Snettisham beach

Friday, 25 November 2011

Farmland Ringing

On Tuesday morning I carried out the first visit to Eastfield Farm in Lound as part of a study being carried out by Waveney Bird Club on the effectiveness of different wild bird seed strips. Given my mist net restriction as a C ringer this visit was carried out with the aim of determining which bird species are present along with those that may be captured when using the plot visited. If sufficient numbers of birds were seen then further visits will be made with a team in order to increase the amount of mists nets used to facilitate the capture of a more representative sample.

The particular plot visited is in the region of 0.25 ha and deciding where to erect two mist nets in the dark was always going to be a blind decision and after the first light of dawn had broken and birds were starting to use the seed strip it very quickly became clear that one net was clearly in a less than optimal position. Walking the plot saw a large mixed flock of finches and thrushes rise from the adjacent hedgerow and fly over the plot and disperse in more distant hedgerows. Moving the net was however, rewarded with the capture of two fantastic Yellowhammers which are one of the four target species for the project; the other three being Reed Bunting, Linnet and Tree Sparrow.

The session was a success with two target species - Reed Bunting as well as Yellowhammer - being caught along with a mixed catch of common woodland and garden species. Many birds were using the seed strip throughout the morning and were still active when I left the study site at midday. Further interest was aroused by a large flock of 40 - 50 Skylarks flying around and alighting in stubble that has been left standing.

    Adult (4), male Yellowhammer                     First winter (3), male Reed Bunting

The project requires one visit every month to each study plot between November 2011 and March 2012 and considering the success of this pilot visit I will be looking forward to returning with a team in December.

Totals - 28 new, (1) retrap
Dunnock - 3
Robin - 2, (1) control X547854
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Blue Tit - 8
Great Tit - 2
Chaffinch - 6
Yellowhammer - 2
Reed Bunting - 2

Another quiet morning ...

Despite an early start last Saturday morning it was clear that Paul's garden was not holding much in the way of winter migrants. Very few thrushes were present with the one or two Redwings flying over clearly not being attracted by the tape lure. The first net round provided the bulk of the birds with Blackbirds being the most numerous. Subsequent rounds were undoubtedly hindered, firstly by the heavy mist hanging on the net, then secondly by the rising sun further increasing their visibility.

It was a pleasant surprise, however, to discover variety in the form of a first winter female Bullfinch. The first individual of this species that I have ringed this year.

First winter (3) female Bullfinch

Totals - to follow

Monday, 14 November 2011

Thrush slow down

Recent easterly winds had brought a large influx of Blackbirds to the east coast and it was hoped that a few thrushes would be still coming through on Wednesday morning. Sadly numbers attracted to Paul's garden in Burgh Castle were somewhat reduced with the number of Redwing caught not even reaching double figures.

The day was brightened when the first Common Redpolls of the Autumn were trapped along with a few Lesser Redpolls that were trapped above the tape lure.

Common Redpoll                                              Lesser Redpoll

Further excitement was experienced when a very grey looking Chiffchaff was caught giving the impression of the Siberian race tristis.

Siberian Chiffchaff ?

Totals - 37 new, (16) retraps
Wren - 1
Robin - 1, (4)
Blackbird - 13, (4)
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 9
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - (4)
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 2, (1)
Great Tit - (3)
Goldfinch - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 3
Common Redpoll - 2

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Last Sunday the weather was pretty dire with strong easterlies and intermittent drizzle. Given that these are less than ideal mist netting conditions I decided to wait for a drop in the wind to put my 30' net up in the garden and try and sort out the tethering which has worked its way loose. 

The net was only up for about 30 minutes and I had caught a new species for the garden - Goldcrest! A few have been heard calling recently. The only other bird caught was a retrap House Sparrow ringed as a 3 female in July.

1st Winter (3) Male Goldcrest

More C ringing at Lound

Last Monday, 31 October, I carried out another solo ringing session in the woodland ride at Lound Lakes. The wind remained in the south west so winter migrants weren't to be expected and given that the temperatures were milder than the previous visit the feeders should've been less busy. Whilst, however, Fieldfares and Redwings were conspicuous by their absence the feeders were visited by a constant trickle of hungry tits and finches. Interestingly along with the usual Blue Tits and Great Tits six Coal Tits were trapped; unusual for a single session.

Coal Tit

An MP3 tape lure was played for Goldcrest resulting in a further seven being caught, pleasingly bringing the total to 18 ringed over the last three visits. Most birds are first winter (3) but both an adult male and female have been trapped in wing moult along with a 3 in juvenile plumage (3J) indicating that breeding is likely to be taking place in what is suitable habitat.

Totals - 43 new, (4) retraps
Robin - 2
Goldcrest - 7
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Coal Tit - 6
Blue Tit - 13, (2)
Great Tit - 4, (2)
Chaffinch - 7
Lesser Redpoll - 1

Monday, 31 October 2011

Back to Kessingland

On Saturday I decided to visit Colin Carter and his team who were ringing at their regular haunt, Kessingland sewage works. Given that the clocks had yet to go back starting at 06:30 meant starting in the dark although this gave us the opportunity to try for a Tawny Owl but the bird wasn't giving our nets a first glance let alone a second.

Unbeknown to those convening at 06:30, Colin and Derek had already been onsite for an hour as Derek had felt it prudent to set a net next to the reedbed with a view to catching incoming Water Rails. A Blackbird and Wren were extracted before the net was moved to a prime Redpoll catching area.

Once the sun had come up the catch was a mixed bag including a few late summer migrants in the form of a Chiffchaff and a few Blackcaps. The highlight was definitely Lesser Redpoll with another 24 being caught adding to good catches from previous weeks. the birds were almost exclusively caught immediately over my iPod amplification system.

An interesting control was caught in the shape of a Great-spotted Woodpecker. The bird was age code 3 meaning that it had hatched and therefore been ringed this year but it was not carrying one of Colin's rings so where it came from is currently a mystery. LC29543 - any takers. It did however give Sophie, a new trainee the opportunity to handle a bird capable of inflicting pain!

Sophie gets to grip with her first Great-spotted Woodpecker.

1st winter (3) male Great-spotted Woodpecker

Totals - 55 new, (22) retraps including 1 control
Great-spotted Woodpecker - (1)
Wren - 1, (1)
Dunnock - (4)
Robin - 4, (1)
Blackbird - 8, (5)
Song Thrush - 3
Redwing - 1
Blackcap - 3
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 4
Long-tailed Tit - (2)
Blue Tit - 3, (5)
Great Tit - (2)
Chaffinch - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 24
Bullfinch - 1, (1)


Despite the seemingly incessant south westerlies an early start in Paul's Burgh Castle garden produced a few more migrant thrushes with Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbirds being caught. Winter was also represented by three Siskins caught together in the same net.

1st Winter (3) Siskin

The highlight however, was finding the first Firecrest of the autumn in a net which had not caught a single other bird and was the last net to be opened. Interestingly the bird had not been heard calling so it came as a complete and very welcome surprise.

1st winter (3) Firecrest

Totals -  29 new, (27) retraps
Wren - (2)
Dunnock - (1)
Robin - 1, (2)
Blackbird - 7, (13)
Fieldfare - 2
Redwing - 6, (1)
Goldcrest - 2, (1)
Firecrest - 1
Blue Tit - 1, (6)
Chaffinch - 3, (1)
Goldfinch - 3
Siskin - 3

Monday, 24 October 2011


With the wind back in the south-west we all knew that it would be a quiet Saturday morning in Paul's Burgh Castle garden. It was however, with great surprise that Paul found himself extracting a Water Rail. It was probably an even greater surprise for Richard to find himself ringing his first Water Rail. Paul has previously ringed Water Rail in his garden but they have always been caught in traps.

Water Rail

Totals -  27 new, (13) retraps
Water Rail - 1
Wren - 1
Dunnock - (2)
Blackbird - 8, (6)
Song Thrush - 3
Redwing - 2
Blackcap - 2, (1)
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - (2)
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 1, (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Goldfinch - 1, (1)
Siskin - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 2


Thursday morning was much colder than expected and the feeders that I had placed in the woodland ringing ride at Lound Lakes were soon attracting good numbers of tits and finches. Most birds were caught in the first couple of net rounds but later in the morning saw a greater variety caught with Goldcrests responding readily to the MP3 lures.  Sadly Redpolls didn't with only one Lesser Redpoll being caught and despite playing MP3 lures of winter thrushes only a single Redwing was trapped; several small flocks of Fieldfare responded well to the lure but remained well above net height chuckling as they flew over.

1st Winter (3) Lesser Redpoll

Not long before packing up it was a pleasant surprise to find a Jay that had somehow manage to become caught in the bottom shelf. Jays are a common feature in the woodlands surrounding Lound Lakes and screech loudly as they give chase or find a roosting Tawny Owl.

Ouch! This Jay is clearly unimpressed

One female chaffinch displayed a particularly interesting colour aberration with two primaries and a primary covert having been replaced with leucistic white feathers.

Female chaffinch with colour aberration

Totals - 41 new, (3) retraps
Robin  - 1
Blackbird - 1
Redwing - 1
Goldcrest - 6, (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 12
Great Tit - 12, (2)
Treecreeper - 1
Jay - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 1

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What's the chance ...

... of catching a second Yellow-browed Warbler in a Burgh Castle Garden? Well it happened!

Last Saturday morning we met before daylight to open up Paul's nets with a view to targeting more thrushes. Redwing and Fieldfare were playing through one MP3 player and given that Paul had heard a Yellow-browed calling on Friday another MP3 was set to play the call of this tiny eastern gem. It was with much surprise that a Yellow-browed Warbler was extracted on the second or third net round. Given that I had ringed the previous bird caught on Thursday, Richard, Paul's younger trainee was given the honour. Not bad in his first year of ringing.

As expected a good number of thrushes were caught and whilst the emphasis on Saturday was Blackbirds a few Redwing and Song Thrushes were also ringed. Hopefully more easterly winds will see another good wave of Redwing and Fieldfare move across the North Sea into Norfolk and Suffolk.

Yellow-browed Warbler - ringed 15 Oct 2011

Totals - 56 new, (6) retraps
Wren - 1
Robin - 5, (4)
Blackbird - 26
Song Thrush - 2
Redwing - 8
Blackcap - 1
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Great Tit - 2, (1)
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 2, (1)
Siskin - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 3

Friday, 14 October 2011

Eastern Gold

Apologies are due for not providing regular updates but events today must surely warrant immediate coverage meanwhile I shall endeavour to catch up with reports on previous ringing sessions as soon as I can.

This morning was the morning that we had all been waiting for with baited breath. Conditions were ideal for Autumn migration with cloudy skies and light easterlies following a night of prolonged drizzle. At Paul's the nets were up and with players set all we had to do was wait while thrushes poured through, calling loudly as they flew over. Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were all moving throughout the day.

Early rounds consisted almost entirely of Redwing and Fieldfare but with Fieldfare proving notoriously difficult to catch Redwing made up the bulk of the birds caught. As the morning progressed a few Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were also caught. Each time the nets were approached a small flock of Redwing and Fieldfare could be seen rising from the Hawthorn bushes surrounding the rides and inevitably some of these birds were caught. 

                                 Redwing                                                          Fieldfare

Today definitely felt as though winter may be on its way with Redwing flying overhead screaming and Fieldfare chuckling from nearby tree tops. Redpolls and a Brambling were also heard.

A real surprise was in store when a Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling nearby after a lure had been set playing. When it stopped calling we thought that we had lost it but upon checking the nets it was with much surprise that I found myself extracting and ringing my first 'rarity' - a real privilege.

                                                           Yellow-browed Warbler

After checking Twitter it seems as though other local hotspots were holding their own gems with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Corton old railway track, five Great Grey Shrikes between Corton and Kessingland, Isabelline Wheatear at Lowestoft North Denes and a Red-flanked Bluetail at Minsmere. Further down the coast a Red-flanked Bluetail and Little Bunting were trapped and ringed at Orfordness - brilliant!

Totals - 64 new, (8) retraps
Robin - 1, (1)
Blackbird - 5
Fieldfare - 6
Song Thrush - 5
Redwing - 41
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - (4)
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - (2)
Chaffinch - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 1

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Turtle Dove

Yesterday I met Paul for another session in his garden ringing site with a view to catching more juvenile warblers. This goal was achieved with a good degree of success with all Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs proving to be young of this year.

In addition to the summer migrants and regular garden fayre of Blackbirds, Wrens, Robins, tits and finches this morning had some surprises in store. First came a new bird for Paul's garden in the form of Marsh Tit. Given his proximity to acres of grazing marsh and several stands of alder carr I was surprised to learn that he'd never previously seen a Marsh Tit in the garden. Needless to say I persuaded him to ring this 'first'.

Marsh Tit

To those reading this blog post the next unexpected species will be all too obvious but Paul and I were very excited to a hear a male Turtle Dove calling in his garden. It was even more exciting to discover a well grown Turtle Dove pullus sitting in what resembled a hurried construction of flimsy twigs built in a hawthorn tree next to a net ride. Then on a routine net round the unimaginable had happened; an adult Turtle Dove had flown from the nest straight into the net that had already been there for several hours. Paul immediately rushed over to extract it as whilst he has ringed Turtle Dove in his garden on several occasions he knew that it would be a new species for me. After ringing the bird a quick check with Baker confirmed it as a 6 female.

Adult female Turtle Dove

The final surprise of the day loudly announced its presence and both Paul and I looked up to see a juvenile Green Woodpecker trapped and calling incessantly. We quickly noticed another bird in the net beside it but before either of us had a chance to get moving an adult woodpecker had managed to escape. Needless to say I was quick to extract the juv before it too managed to beat a hasty retreat.

Juv. Green Woodpecker

Along with a good quantity of warblers and garden birds these three 'treats' made for a good morning ringing session.

Totals - 83 New, (11) retraps
Turtle Dove - 1
Green Woodpecker - 1
Wren - 2, (1)
Dunnock - 1, (1)
Robin - 5
Blackbird - 3, (3)
Cetti's Warbler - (2)
Reed Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 15
Chiffchaff - 9
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Marsh Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 8, (2)
Great Tit - 11, (2)
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 6
Goldfinch - 8
Siskin - 1  first of this autumn

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Haddiscoe Island with East Norfolk RG

Once again I was able to borrow a brush-cutter to cut the ringing rides in the reed bed ringing site that East Norfolk RG operate on Haddiscoe Island. Dave had also brought a slasher and was already hard at work when I arrived. The brush-cutter made short work of the cutting and with the rides cleared nets were soon erected. A few birds were caught and processed before we furled up and left the growing cloud of mosquitos and midges to find an alternative food source.

We both arrived early on Sunday morning to open up and set tape lures playing. We also knew that we would have a short catching window as gusting winds were forecast for mid-morning. Juvenile Acrocephalus warblers were soon on the move and Bearded Tits responded to our tapes a little later.

Juvenile Reed Warbler

On one net round I came across two juvenile Starlings which must have got trapped when a small flock flew over the top of the reeds. I managed to extract and bag them up before Dave came along ensuring that he had a surprise to look forward to when processing the catch. They were smart birds just starting to gain their characteristic iridescent spotted plumage.

Juvenile Starlings

Totals - 62 New, (1) retrap
Sedge Warbler - 17
Reed Warbler - 26, (1) originally ringed at the site in 2007.
Bearded Tit - 15
Starling - 2
Reed Bunting - 2

Monday, 8 August 2011

Rained off at Lound

Friday evening I decided to have a go in the reed bed at Lound Lakes as I'd been working in another area of the site cutting some rush pasture. I suspect that I was a bit late as all that I caught for my effort was two retrap Whitethroats that I'd ringed during the ringing demonstration given by East Norfolk RG in May. It was good to see that they could both still be aged as 5 which is the age code I'd assigned upon first capture.

Saturday should have been a good morning and looked promising when shortly after putting up the 30' and 40' nets in one of the woodland compartments at Lound they'd caught 4 Blackcaps and a Coal Tit. Almost immediately upon releasing the Coal Tit, however, the heavens opened and I rushed to close the nets hoping that it would soon pass. After quarter of an hour I decided that I had little option but to give up, pack up and go home. The ringing gear was almost dry the next day!

The heavy shower wasn't forecast and I wasn't the only one to get caught out.

Mini Wash Week

Saturday 30th July to Wednesday 03 August was the Wash Wader Ring Group's (WWRG) Mini Wash Week. Two teams were assembled, one for the Lincolnshire side and another covering the Norfolk side of the Wash. Having been assigned to the Norfolk team catching attempts were made at Terrington Marshes, Heacham Beach and Ken Hill near Heacham. Additionally on Sunday afternoon I and several others from the Norfolk team went round to help the Lincolnshire team lug gear out for a cannon net catch of Knot on Wainfleet Island. Having been on a couple of Wash weekends based in Norfolk this gave me the opportunity to experience the Lincolnshire side.

This trip was another great Wash Wader Ringing experience with successful cannon net catches made on several occasions. 

Sunday morning two cannon nets were set on Terrington Marsh with a view to catching Curlew. The tide, however, was insufficiently high to push birds onto the saltmarsh. Sunday afternoon saw myself and a few others from the Norfolk team drive round to meet up with the Lincolnshire team to set four nets on Wainfleet Island. All but the hide team remained out of sight under a large piece of covering material waiting for the tide to rise with gulls and terns wheeling overhead. All those assigned a particular task ran to the nets as soon as the 'bang' was heard. The catch was dealt with quickly and birds were soon extracted and waiting in keeping cages while the ringing and processing teams were assembled. In total 108 Knot, 46 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling were caught and processed.

Knot - still in breeding plumage

Adult Dunlin
Monday morning saw us assemble behind the dunes of Heacham South Beach with a view to catching Sanderling using nets set by the rest of the Norfolk team on Sunday night. The catch was successful and once the nets had been lifted, birds extracted and put in keeping cages; ringing and processing teams dealt with 228 Sanderling, 2 Dunlin and singles of Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Having never ringed adult Ringed Plover I was lucky enough to get this opportunity.

                                       Adult Sanderling                    Adult Ringed Plover

After a tasty lunch provided by Barbara, our amazing cook for the trip, we headed off to Ken Hill where Nigel had seen 200 Curlew on Sundays recce. Four nets were set in a clap net pair and decoys strategically placed in the catching area. Watching from the hide a few birds settled in with the decoys but further birds landed in an adjacent field. Twinkling saw 25 in the catching area and it was decided to make a small catch in order to familiarise the team in dealing with a Curlew catch and reset for Tuesday morning. Twenty birds were caught of which four were retraps. After the catch was processed the fired nets were reset for the next morning.

Long shadows as the ringing and processing teams
deal with Monday evenings small Curlew catch

Tuesday morning saw the hide teams up and leaving for Ken Hill at 05:00. Once in position and all circuit testing complete the Curlew started to arrive steadily but were soon put off by a juvenile Marsh Harrier which took a liking to one of the decoys; the Curlew once again settling in a neighbouring field. Twinkling was performed admirably by John and Jo and a large flock of Curlew and Godwits were soon airborne and drifting over our field with Curlew settling in nicely; the Godwits, however, were destined for another day. Two nets were fired and the resultant catch dealt with very smoothly indeed with 63 Curlew and 2 Bar-tailed Godwit being caught.

Ringing and processing teams were assembled and dealt with the Curlew first. Having never ringed Bar-tailed Godwit I snapped up the opportunity. Both Godwits were also leg-flagged with my bird being given a white flag bearing the letters TJ. The leg flags should make them more easily resighted in the field, removing the need to recapture birds to identify individuals.

The Wash Wader Ringing Group are currently running colour marking projects on Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Sanderling.

TJ the Bar-tailed Godwit

After lunch it was decided to explore the options of setting canon nets on the rocks at the back of the bund and a team headed out to construct a crude dry stone wall from which a cannon net could be fired.  After an hour or so of hard toil the wall was built and we returned to base for well earned showers.

On Wednesday morning we headed out to the bund with all the equipment shared out between the team before treading the Samphire pickers path out across the salt marsh. A single net was set and base camp members relaxed beneath camouflage netting waiting beneath a beautiful blue sky for the tide to come in. The tide and weather were not in our favour; the sea didn't come in far enough and without any wind to lap waves on to the rocks the few birds that arrived were well out of reach. The net was fired to give the team practice at performing a lift over rocks.

Once everything was packed up the wall was extended to allow two nets to be set and a group photo taken as sadly another Wash trip had come to an end.

WWRG Mini Week 2011

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pre Wash

Last Saturday I was heading up to the Wash to join the Wash Wader Ringing Group for their mini week. Not needing to leave until late afternoon gave me the opportunity to get up early and try out my 30' and 40' mist nets at Lound Lakes found between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth - a local nature reserve owned by Essex & Suffolk Water and managed in partnership with the Broads Authority, The Environment Agency and Natural England. I started volunteering at the site in 2008 and have also held the warden post for a year whilst the incumbent was on secondment.

Lound Lakes - view from bird hide

The only hitch with this plan was my alarm which didn't go off (set to weekdays), so I was on site an hour later than planned which could be partly to blame for the poor catch as I missed the best of the mornings weather. The two nets were erected in rides created for use by East Norfolk RG who provide a ringing demonstration as part of a dawn chorus event held each May. With the rides being located in reed bed and mixed fen target species for the morning were Reed Warblers (Sedge are seldom present), and Whitethroats which inhabit the scrub bordering the mixed fen.

Despite the late start thirteen new birds were caught with one retrap. Interestingly all of the warblers besides the Whitethroats were adult birds.

Garden Warbler                               Robin                                   Reed Warbler

Totals - 13 new, (1) retrap
Dunnock - 2
Robin - 2
Reed Warbler - 5, (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 3