WELCOME TO THE SORBY BRECK RINGING GROUP BLOG FOR 2013
Our group blog includes interesting anecdotes and photos to illustrate the group's ringing activities throughout 2013. Blogs for previous years can be accessed via the links below or if you are interested in a particular species, use the links on the 'Index' page.
Yesterday morning just after 4.00 a.m. I succeeded in catching a Cuckoo. It flew into the bottom shelf of the mist net approximately 3ft from ground, more or less in line with my 'dummy' female cuckoo and the CD lure which was repeating the female laughing sound. There were probably three males and a female in the area up to about 6.00 a.m, but not all at the same time. I heard the first male cuckooing by 4.00 a.m.
Derbyshire Dippers (13/05/2013)
Dean and I met at 05.00 hrs on Sunday to set up 7 nets, but the strong gusty wind at Bondhay defeated us and we took down a couple of hours later after catching just two birds: a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler. We headed straight off with Steve to ring a brood of four Dippers. Dean and Steve got the chance to experience ringing a new species whilst witnessing me getting wet. It's a trainee's life!
Tough year for Tawnies? (09/05/2013)
We've ringed just one brood of two Tawny Owl chicks in the wood this spring. This is the worst year for them since 2009. There was no food in the box when we checked on two visits a week apart. We also ringed a single chick on a local farm which, when checked the previous week had occupied the nest box with a sibling. This week there was no sign of the second chick and no prey items in the box either.
Dean rings Tawny Owl chicks on a local farm (top) and in the wood (bottom)
'Late' spring (26/04/2013)
With reports of spring being 'late' this year by as much as 2-3 weeks, I hadn't expected much activity in the nestboxes in the wood. However, when checking half of the 120+ boxes this week, I wasn't expecting to find just one solitary part-built nest. In comparison, by the first week in May last year, all Blue Tit nests had been built, incubation was well underway and two broods were already hatching out. The record-breaking wet summer of 2012 followed by another record-beating cold March this spring, have certainly combined to test to the limit the scope of my two-year MSc fieldwork into breeding Blue Tits. The next two weeks will be crucial in determining box occupancy and whether I need a drastic re-think! On a more positive note, I ringed my first pulli of the year today. The rather fetching plastic liner of the nest was brought in by the male bird in the presence of the female back in early March.
Blackbird nest with brood of three chicks
Eight day old Blackbird chick with development status code 'FS' for Nest Record Card
Sorby Breck Ringing Group in Cyprus (22/04/2013)
Six group members are on a ringing trip to Cyprus for up to two weeks in April catching both resident species and passage migrants which use the island to refuel on their journey. During regular ringing activities, members also have the chance to participate in a study being carried out on the resident breeding Reed Warblers (potentially subspecies fuscus) which are caught alongside longer-winged, fat-carrying Reed Warblers which are clearly moving through on migration. The study entails various biometric checks including detailed primary wing measurements and fat scores. Warblers caught in the first week included Cetti's, Savi's, Bonelli's, Great Reed, Reed, Sedge, Olivaceous and Sardinian Warbler; along with Ortolan Bunting, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Spanish Sparrow, Woodchat Shrike, Serin, Wryneck, Collared Flycatcher, Wood Sandpiper and Little Crake. The second week of the trip is now underway and a full report will be posted on the website in due course.
(Left to right) Steve Samworth, Bryn Roberts, Bill Jones (visiting ringer), Mark Jeffery, Geoff Mawson, Chris Lilley and Eleanor Wilkins at Polis reedbed
Ringing demonstration in the Shire Brook Valley (19/04/2013)
When I was asked by the local Sheffield RSPB group to hold a ringing demo around the beginning of April, I thought it would be a good chance to show people some early summer migrants. However, Mother Nature had different plans. With three weeks of continual strong easterly winds and temperatures dipping well below zero at night, there was a chance of me having to call the demo off. With fingers crossed, feeders were filled daily from three weeks leading up to the demo to ensure good numbers of birds.
Kevin shows a Blue Tit to a young visitor
A visitor helping to release a Robin
Blue Tit 7 (9) 16
Outgoing winter migrants (16/04/2013)
Apologies for posting this belatedly from George, who wrote it earlier in April. The harsh weather had finally decided to abate by April 7th, but here is a a memento of what conditions had been like on the moors.
A 60ft net with the left pole standing in at least a foot of snow leading to the drift up to the wall.
I caught five Fieldfares and four Redwings on 6th and 7th April. The field to the left of the wintery scene above was virtually cleared of snow and is now quite heavily populated with 'parachuting' male Meadow Pipits, the odd one of which I've managed to catch. Some passage was recorded within half a mile of my netting site: Wheatear and Chiffchaff, two Goshawks and one Ring Ouzel and a Golden Plover over 6th and 7th April. Curlews have been very active with as many as 15 in a flock. Snipe have been evident most mornings before dawn and I was lucky enough to catch one. Lapwings have returned and there were nearly 2000 Starlings on the fields in the first week in April.
Male Fieldfare EURING age code 6
So you might well ask why did I only catch 33 birds in March? Here's an example of the extreme weather conditions: it snowed on the way to the ringing site one morning, stopped, then the mist rolled in and froze the mist net up. The very cold easterly wind has meant some low temperature over a long period. It looks like spring is finally arriving but could roll straight into summer which hopefully will be better than last year. Here's to plenty of netting opportunities.
The first warbler (20/03/2013)
I visited Palterton yesterday morning with Geoff and Mark. We hoped to ring a Chiffchaff. The morning was frosty; however, the sun shone and mid morning we caught our first Chiffchaff with distinctive feeding 'horns'. This is thought to indicate a very recent migrant arrival which has fed on pollen accessible in warmer climes on its migration route northwards. A fat score of 2 was noted, so maybe this bird was still in transit.
Whitwell Wood (17/03/2013)
We have ringed on consecutive weekends in the wood at two different feeding sites, both of which are well stocked constantly thanks to the efforts of members of Whitwell Wood Natural History Group. The feeding regime is scheduled to wind down over the next two weeks, so we were looking forward to a good end to our winter ringing sessions there. This morning we caught 86 birds at the feeding station on the circular ride. Included amongst them were 5 Nuthatches (4 new birds and 1 retrap, which is probably a record for a single session there), a new Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Treecreepers (1 new, 1 retrap) and 14 Long-tailed Tits (10 new, 4 retraps). We were hopeful for Marsh Tit but despite not catching any, we did see a couple of ringed birds. For the first time in many years we haven't caught any new birds this winter in the wood, so we are optimistic they will have a better breeding season. Last weekend at the hide we were rained off early and very nearly called the session off when it snowed during the night, but we were glad we turned out when a male Sparrowhawk flew into the net.
At the hide we caught a retrapped Nuthatch too. It is encouraging that Nuthatches are present in good numbers in the wood since two nestboxes with breeding Nuthatches were vandalised last year, another two boxes failed and only one nestbox of six Nuthatches were known to fledge. We haven't retrapped any of this successful brood during our winter ringing sessions, but have caught 6 new birds this winter along with retrapped adult Nuthatches from 2010 and 2007. It was good to see Jack back from Leeds Uni today and thanks go to Stuart, Dean and Steve too.
February in Geoff's garden has seen many Siskins caught and ringed. These birds moved away in early March but have since reappeared again. When Geoff invited me to ring with him in his garden at the weekend, he had previously mentioned seeing Bramblings in the tree tops with Siskins. At last, on Sunday we caught some. Two males EURING age code 5 were ringed. These were a new species for me and also for Geoff's garden this year.
Male Brambling EURING age code 5
Stock Doves (11/03/2013)
Ringing has its surprises. Most Stock Doves ringed by group members are nestlings with very few adults ringed through normal ringing sessions. I hadnt ringed an adult until recently when one was caught at the Butterfly Farm, North Anston. Imagine my disappointment at releasing the bird without a photograph for the blog. However, this event was capped the very next day by incredibility when I ringed a second Stock Dove in my own garden. Like Sheffield buses, none are there until one turns up to be joined by a second.
Ringing demonstration at Fox Hagg Nature Reserve (08/03/2013)
On Saturday 23rd February, we held a ringing demonstration in response to a request by Sarah Sidgwick on behalf of The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham at their Fox Hagg Nature Reserve on Lodge Lane. Helping me that morning were the following ringers: Steve, Millie, Ashley and Ruby. We met at 7.00 oclock on a very cold morning to put up nets ready for the visitors we hoped would arrive between 8.30 & 11.00 oclock. I had been feeding the site during the week hoping for plenty of birds and we were rewarded by a steady stream of birds all morning resulting in over 100 caught with only 15 retraps. We were pleased the catch included a controlled Siskin as only the previous week at the same site we had caught a controlled Lesser Redpoll. We were able to show 14 species including four tit species, six finches including Redpoll and Siskin along with Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird and always a favourite at a ringing demo: the Robin.
The visitors totalled around 25 in number with both adults and children
attending. Judging by some of the comments such as, "I have not seen
one of those before", "Arent they small?" and "Look
at the bright colours", I think it was enjoyed by all who attended.
It was a very successful morning all round; hard work but well worth the
effort and a generous bonus came in the form of a £100 contribution
from The Wildlife Trust towards our rings. I would like to thank all who
helped to make this event such a success and particularly Sarah Sidgwick
for organising the event, for the generous donation to our group and supplying
the photos. I hope everybody managed to warm up afterwards. It even tried
to snow as we took down the nets.
The ringing team with onlookers high on the hillside overlooking the Rivelin Valley, west of Sheffield
A Robin in the spotlight
We met Geoff, Chris and Mark on Sunday at Over Haddon car park on a bright
spring like morning, with the intention of monitoring Dippers in Lathkill
Dale. The aim of the visit was to find out how many birds were holding
territories along this section of river. This will give us an indication
of how many pairs of birds will breed here later this season.
Before the net was fully set, a pair of Grey Wagtails flew towards the net, the female flew straight in but the male swerved at the last moment and evaded capture. Following some patience on our part by walking up the river bank from where the Dipper was last seen, a Dipper was soon in the net too: an unringed young female.
Tara and Martin with Dippers
Whilst processing this bird a second Dipper flew into the net (no patience
needed this time!) This turned out to be a male colour ringed bird from
Geoffs monitoring project. The net was set again, further up the
river, near a previous breeding site. A Dipper was seen to fly over the
net three times, but we were outsmarted by the bird this time and it remained
Tara and Martin
Older birds go grey (26/02/13)
On one of our recent visits to Bondhay this month, we retrapped male Blackbird LB71032. It was first caught at the site on 17th October 2010 when it was aged as EURING age code 4 meaning it would've been at least a year old already. We have caught it on six separate occasions since 2010, but this time it was sporting a single white feather in its nape. This has not been observed on previous occasions, reminding us of the recent BTO findings linking age to 'greying' in older birds. The results of this research have been widely reported by the press recently. See the link here to one such media article.
White feather on male Blackbird LB71032
Ringing demonstration at 70 Acre Hill (17/02/13)
On Saturday morning, some members of Sorby Breck RG carried out a ringing demonstration at 70 Acre Hill Nature Reserve, part of High Hazels Park in Sheffield. It was a shared event for the Sheffield Countryside Rangers and the Sheffield Bird Study Group. Being a feed site adjoining a mature woodland, we opted to err on the side of caution so only two nets were put up. Ringing got off to a good start when the first bird to be taken from a bag was a retrapped Great Spotted Woodpecker, first ringed in September 2009.
Female Great Spotted Woodpecker EURING age code 6
This was followed by Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, one Coal Tit and another Great Spotted Woodpecker, making a total of 26 birds for the morning.
Approximately 18 members of the public joined us. BTO ringing leaflets were handed out and as usual everyone left with smiles on their faces. A big thank you to Dave, Brian, Alan, Millie, Sean and Bryn for their help.
(Back left to right) David, Brian and Alan helping to run the ringing demonstration
When Geoff, Mark and I arrived at Renishaw on Sunday morning we were unsure if we could mist net with the wind blowing. We decided to have a go and as we walked round the lake to erect our nets a hungry visiting family of Mute Swans came to greet us. One adult had a colour ring which we noted and we were able to catch and ring one of the 3 juveniles, still with their parents. We could hear two male Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in opposition with each other in the proximity of the nets. We also heard a Green Woodpecker. The Coots had paired up and were fighting one another. By the end of the morning 14 species of birds were caught, the last being a female Sparrowhawk.
The species were Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Mute Swan, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Robin and Sparrowhawk. Geoff reminded us that the same net run has now caught three Sparrowhawks in recent months. We finished the morning on just under 60 birds. A retrap Treecreeper proved to be ringed 7 years earlier and bore a worn and thin but still very legible ring.
Extended wing of female Sparrowhawk EURING age code 5
Ringing Tick for David (03/02/13)
Saturday mornings ringing trip to Linacre Reservoirs seemed like it was going to be a quiet affair with full feeders and quiet skies on arrival. The usual nets were put up and fingers were crossed. I stayed to talk to a visitor about ringing whilst the four other members of the group went to check the nets for the first time. As they walked away I heard a familiar sound and looked up to see four Crossbills sitting in a tree just 20m away! I pointed them out to our visitor and remarked on how it would be nice to ring one of those.
Seconds later the others reappeared with a few bird bags and a very big smile on their faces. Daves got a ringing tick, were Rays first words. Is it a Crossbill? I asked. Yes, was the reply! Amazing!!
Male Crossbill, EURING age code 5 or born last year
The bird was extracted, Svennson was consulted, a B+ ring was found and David ringed his first Crossbill! Well done David.
Ringing in Spain (25/01/13)
I hope that this short blog entry will persuade readers to look out our "hot off the press" 2012 Annual Report, in which Ray has written an excellent article about ringing further afield. He recommends in his article ringing in Spain under the guidance of Richard Banham. Phil, Steve and myself have just returned from ringing there. It was our fourth visit and despite poor weather we were not disappointed. We laughed a lot and came away with an even better understanding of local migration and the use of southern Spain as a passage and wintering region. We ringed a variety of species including Blackcap, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Dartford Warbler, Stonechat and Serin. The dense upland scrub holds a large number of migrants and resident species alike. We processed amongst others Robin, Dunnock and Greenfinch with fat scores. Thank you, Richard, for sharing your expertise.
Male Dartford Warbler
Geoff (left) and Phil (right) ringing in Spain under moody skies
Sorby Breck RG Annual Report 2012 (20/01/13)
It's here! Our brand new report is available for you to download here.
Sorby Breck RG Training Day (14/01/13)
The weekend has been a busy few days ringing starting with 5 Snipe and a Water Rail from Williamthorpe on Saturday, thanks to Phils help. Sunday was highlighted in the group's diary on the members' login section of the website as a training day to be held at Renishaw. This was a day for trainees within the group to ring at one of our sites with different trainers available to provide ringing instruction. Lauren, Ashley, Dean and Tara seemed to enjoy the occasion with over a hundred birds to process. The Siskins featured below provided ageing and sexing contrasts. Blue Tit, V317586, was first ringed on 25/11/06 and retrapped on 11/12/09, 11/12/09, 30/11/10 and 11/01/13. This bird showed the value of ringing a site regularly. It was also good to see Chris out of hospital and recovering from his back injury. Thank you to Steve, Phil and Martin for their help.
Two of the male (left) and female (right) Siskins caught at Renishaw