Thursday, 21 July 2011

Garden ringing

Having received my 'C' permit, ordered rings, nets and equipment I was at last ready to start some independent ringing.

Arriving home from the morning session with Colin at Kessingland I was greeted with a Sparrowhawk surveying our small garden domain; intimidating the population of House Sparrows that inhabit the sprawling Honeysuckle clinging to the fence on each side. The small raptor sat patiently for several minutes before launching itself into the woody climber and departing with a sparrow in its talons. Then it rained!

Missed this one - Male Sparrowhawk

Rain finally stopped early evening and the time had come to test out the new 6m mist net purchased with the garden in mind. One, two and then a third were removed from the net and at the next look a further five House Sparrows were patiently awaiting extraction. Before dinner was ready a grand total of ten House Sparrows and a Dunnock had been ringed. A pleasing start to solo ringing!

Male House Sparrow

Over the course of the next week or so a few more garden sessions have produced a pleasing number and variety of birds for a garden no more than 30' long.

July Garden Totals - 33 New
Dunnock - 3
Blackbird - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 2
House Sparrow - 24

'Baldy' the Dunnock

A rush on Whitethroats

Whitethroats have clearly had a successful breeding season this year for seventeen 3Js were caught during the Tuesday morning session with Colin Carter's group at Kessingland Sewage Works. The weather was ideal for catching and considering the number of juvenile Whitethroats that have already been caught in the scrub neighbouring the sewage works to trap this many new juveniles must indicate the suitability of the habitat for this scrub favouring species.

Most of the new birds caught were juveniles which would be expected at this time of year and it was nice to see breeding evidence for the local Cetti's Warblers. A juvenile Goldfinch was a nice addition to the catch.

                            3J Cetti's Warbler                                             3J Goldfinch

Totals - 48 new, (19) retraps
Wren - 1
Dunnock - 4, (1)
Robin - 3, (1)
Blackbird - 3, (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2, (2)
Sedge Warbler - 2, (1)
Reed Warbler - 4, (5)
Blackcap - 2, (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 4
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 17, (4) All new and 2 retraps 3J
Blue Tit - (1)
Great Tit - 1, (1)
Goldfinch - 2, (1)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cuckoo at Kessingland

It was a small team of just Colin Carter, Mike Swindells and myself that arrived at Kessingland Sewage Works on Tuesday morning. Nets were quickly erected in the scrub and whilst doing this Colin was sure that he saw a probable Sparrowhawk flying low over the scrub.

On the first or second round, again Colin thought he'd seen a Sparrowhawk flying across the scrub. He and I checked separate nets before returning, with our bagged up birds, to the ringing hut for processing.

Mike and I worked our way through the modest catch whilst Colin scribed for us. It came to the point where there were just two birds left and it was quite clear that Colin was saving the last bird particularly for Mike so it was a real surprise when he took the bag from Colin and carefully took out a splendid rufous juvenile Cuckoo. Colin knew that I'd ringed Cuckoo as I'd recently taken part in the BTO project to fit satellite tags to five Cuckoos caught in east Anglia with the aim to track their migration back to Africa. So it was a real pleasure to see Mike ring his first Cuckoo as well as having the opportunity to handle a juvenile bird as the Cuckoos fitted with the satellite tags were obviously all adults. More details can be found about the BTO Cuckoo project including the opportunity to sponsor a Cuckoo at

3J Cuckoo

It's good to know that Cuckoos have in all likelihood successfully bred near the sewage works as a male had been 'singing' during many of the ringing sessions throughout May with a pair being seen chasing on several occasions.

Besides the Cuckoo the catch was dominated by juvenile passerines although all but two re-traps were adults. 

Totals - 23 New, (11) re-traps
Cuckoo - 1 3J
Dunnock - 2, (4)
Blackbird - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1, (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1, (2)
Reed Warbler - (3)
Whitethroat - 8, (1)
Chiffchaff - 5, (1)
Great Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 1

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Wind stops play

Saturday's weather really wasn't in our favour with early sunshine followed by gusty breezes bringing the ringing session in Paul's garden to an early close.

The short duration of the session clearly had an effect on the number of birds and diversity of species caught with two Blackcaps being the lowest for number caught over the last few sessions. It was interesting to note another 3J Cetti's Warbler being trapped as well as an errant Reed Warbler that must have strayed from the nearby dykes.

As can be seen from this weeks totals the majority of new birds caught are juveniles of the year with many of the re-traps being adult birds.

Totals - 35 new, (9) re-traps
Wren - 3 all 3J
Robin - 3, (1)
Blackbird - 4, (1) all 3J
Song Thrush - 1 3J
Cetti's warbler - 1 3J
Reed Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 2 with one being 3J
Lesser Whitethroat - 2, (1) one new and one re-trap 3J
Whitethroat - 1 3J
Chiffchaff - 5 all 3J
Great Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 3
Goldfinch - 8, (6) all new 3Js, re-traps mostly adult

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

New Swifts!

Sunday morning saw us up bright and early for a morning mist netting session in Paul's garden. It was pleasing to see good numbers of juvenile Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs on the wing along with a 3J Lesser Whitethroat and Cetti's Warbler being caught.

3J Lesser Whitethroat

The highlight of the morning, however, arrived when Paul got the ladders out to check his Swift boxes. Several broods were of an age suitable for ringing. It was interesting to note that the young weigh more than the adults which is testament to the hard work that the parents put in to catching thousands of flying insects for their broods. Fitting their SO rings however is a challenge as the have short legs and are particularly wriggly.

 Two broods of Swift pulli

Totals - 63 new, (21) re-traps
Wren - 1
Dunnock - 1, (1)
Robin - 1
Blackbird - 2, (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 8 all juvs. 3J
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff - 8, (1) all 3J
Long-tailed Tit - 3, (2)
Blue Tit - 4
Great Tit - 9, (2)
Treecreeper - 1
Chaffinch - 6, (3)
Greenfinch - 1
Goldfinch - 13, (11) mostly 3Js with all but one of the re-traps being adult

Monday, 4 July 2011

Little Terns

Yesterday, I and other members of East Norfolk Ringing Group met with the RSPB voluntary wardens of the Little Tern colony at Caister Beach. The colony, originally located on the shingle at the Great Yarmouth North Denes SSSI/SPA, has a long association with one of the founders of ENRG with Arthur Bowles having been ringing Little Terns there for at least fifteen years.

2010, however, was a desperate year for the terns and all those involved with managing them as the colony deserted the North Denes and failed to settle at alternative locations such as the beach at Winterton which has often had a few pairs attempting to nest there. The reasons for this are still not really known but may be related to a problem with food availability or the long term predation by local kestrels, an issue which has long dogged the Little Terns at Great Yarmouth and one which the RSPB have attempted to resolve through supplementary feeding the kestrel broods.

This year the colony has again moved from the North Denes although a nesting attempt was made there and has fragmented into a number of smaller colonies along the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline ranging from Kessingland to Winterton. The largest of these is the colony on Caister Beach and the RSPB have already done a good job of fencing the colony off, setting up an electrified perimeter and implementing round the clock watches to ward off predators such as foxes, hedgehogs and birds of prey.

Accompanied by the RSPB wardens and volunteers we walked slowly through the colony being constantly mindful of each footstep to avoid the extremely well camouflaged eggs and chicks of the Little Terns as well as Ringed Plover which also nest on the beach. Little Tern chicks are highly mobile from a very young age and many were found hiding away from the nest scrape in clumps of Marram Grass.

Little Tern pullus

Saturday's visit was the first of two with 23 chicks being ringed on the first visit and 9 on the second with 14 retraps. The second visit also saw Arthur locate a Ringed Plover chick which I had the pleasure of ringing.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Gulls and Owls

On Wednesday evening I met Dave Parsons from East Norfolk Ringing Group to climb on to the roof of Yarmouth Steel Services where Dave has been observing the growth of two Herring Gull chicks; conveniently visible from his office window at neighbouring Fugro Survey Ltd.

Upon reaching the top of the roof inspection ladder we were greeted with the sight of not two but three gull chicks. The third one was very small and given that it's long term future didn't look too promising it was decided not to ring it - a wise decision as it was found dead during a roof inspection several weeks later. The two healthy chicks were quickly caught up and ringed with a fantastic view of the Gapton Hall Industrial Estate. Thanks are due to Yarmouth Steel Services for allowing us access to their roof.

Herring Gull pulli

Safely back on Terra Firma, Dave and I met Sharon Yardy, another member of ENRG, and headed out to check a Barn Owl box located in an old stock shed near Candle Dyke. Three healthy chicks were ringed and replaced in the box which has another compartment below; checking this revealed a Stock Dove's nest containing the usual array of warm and cold eggs.

Sharon with Barn Owl pulli from Candle Dyke

The team then drove to Billocky to check a Barn Owl box. The box, actually a disused cold water tank in the corner of an old barn, is reached by a route resembling a serious obstacle course. Dave did the ladder work and discovered four chicks - each in a separate corner of the tank. Passing them down to Sharon and I they were ringed, weighed and measured. Sadly ENRG have not ringed as many Barn Owl chicks as usual this year with many boxes empty. It will be interesting to discover the breeding success of this species for the whole of the region once the BTO have collated Nest Record data for this year.