Our group blog includes interesting anecdotes and photos to illustrate the group's ringing activities throughout 2014. 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.


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APRIL 2014

Grasshopper Warbler (13/04/14)

This morning at Bondhay we caught our first Grasshopper Warbler of the year. This is a ringing record for the site, according to electronic records, at least. The earliest bird caught previously was on 17 April in 2011, followed closely by one on 20 April back in 2002.

Today's Grasshopper Warbler

Other interesting birds of the morning included 19 Yellowhammers (including retraps from March 2011 and Nov and Dec 2012), retrapped Chaffinches from March 2010 and March 2011, a retrapped Greenfinch ringed at Bondhay in Oct 2010, a Great Tit ringed as a nestling in the adjacent Whitwell Wood in a nest box on 22 May 2010 and since caught in 2011 and 2013 at Bondhay and, lastly, a retrapped Blue Tit which was ringed when a breeding adult in a nest box in the wood in June 2013. Our total for new Yellowhammers ringed at the site this year now stands at 62 birds. The oldest known bird of the morning was a male Chaffinch ringed in March 2010. We also caught a male Greenfinch, which had been ringed on 14 Feb this year by Sorby Breck ringer Chris Lilley at his Hodthorpe site, a few kilometers away. We finished on 52 birds of 14 species, including Goldfinch and Chiffchaff. We also heard a lone Common Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, and saw five Swallows, more firsts for the year at the site. Thanks to Jack Baddams for the photo.



MARCH 2014

Ringing Demo (24/03/14)

Recently we held a ringing demo for members of Worksop Natural History Group. Participants were pleased to see birds up close and in the hand, especially species such as Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. Our thanks go the staff at Creswell Crags, to Gilly Callaby, to the ringing team including Geoff and Chris for helping out and to Keith Snowden for his great photos.

Ringing a Goldcrest

Ageing a Chiffchaff

A pair of Goldcrests

Ringing a Great Tit



They're back! (14/03/14)

Thursday was another calm, cloudless day; a stark contrast to the recent strong winds and rain. Early morning at Renishaw Park is not an unpleasant place to be. Almost from the start all three woodpeckers were making their presence known. Chiffchaffs too were calling and it was no surprise to ring one. A recent arrival, this bird had a fat score of 3 and could well be heading further north. Later we ringed a Blackcap. No fat recorded this time, but it’s good to see our summer migrants back!

Male Blackcap

Geoff and Chris


Ringing demo at Hardwick Lakes (11/03/14)

A ringing demonstration was organised on Sunday at Hardwick Hall for their Wildlife Watch Group. This has always been a big success in previous years and Sunday was no different.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Over twenty children aged from 4-11 attended plus their parents and some of the teenage volunteers. Geoff, Evie and Abby (pictured below) were helping to ring and explain to the enthusiastic children the various stages of ringing.

This is a site that is fed throughout the winter months and we caught 25 birds with a good range of species including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper (pictured below), Nuthatch and Willow Tit.

Geoff (pictured below with Evie) also received some strange looks when he made a grab for a Mute Swan and Canada Goose that were feeding near the lakes.

Hopefully another demonstration for the children will be held towards the end of the year.

Dave Atkinson


Yellowhammer-ed (09/03/14)

Well, perhaps it's an exaggeration to say we were 'hammered', but catching 23 Yellowhammers in one morning is a first at Bondhay. In fact, the total of Yellowhammers today exceeds any entire year total for the site since computerised records began in 2002. We caught 44 birds altogether, so Yellowhammers made up over 50% of the catch. The birds were nearly all caught at the feeding station and came in a steady trickle during the morning, averaging three Yellowhammers per net round. Only one was a re-trap, first ringed in November 2012. The total number of species caught was ten, including Meadow Pipit, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch and Goldcrest. A pair of displaying Buzzards gave us great views all morning and butterflies seen were Comma and Brimstone. We found Speedwell in flower near the feeding station and with Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Robins and Dunnocks all in song, the morning was a real blast of spring.




Ringing demo at Creswell Crags (07/03/14)

Recently we held a ringing demo at Creswell Crags in conjunction with the RSPB. Approximately twenty members of the public joined us, some of whom had travelled a considerable distance. Unfortunately the weather was not kind and although the forecasted rain held off, the wind picked up during the morning and the number of birds we caught dropped off accordingly. We had two short nets up at the feeders and caught 30 birds including Treecreeper and Goldcrest. We also had good views of a male Sparrowhawk perched near the feeders. The most interesting bird of the morning turned out to be a first winter female Great Tit which had been previously ringed in early November 2013 at Renishaw Hall, a distance of some 12km. My thanks go to Hannah and the team at Creswell Crags, to Roseanna of the RSPB and to the ringing team of Stuart, Steve, Jack and Mary, in addition to Geoff and Chris who came to help. We received great feedback from visitors on the day and look forward to our next demo there.

Roseanna Burton, RSPB (top) and Chris Lilley, Sorby Breck RG (bottom)



Finch feast continues (03/03/14)

My feast of finches continues. I visited my Woodsetts site last week and on checking one net found five Bullfinches (three males and two females) caught together. All were aged EURING code 5 and clearly showed two or three old greater coverts.

Male Bullfinch

Female Bullfinch




'Siberian' Lesser Whitethroat (26/02/14)

On 14th January a Lesser Whitethroat was found visiting feeders in a garden in suburban Sheffield, and only visible from the homeowners' kitchen. After contacting a birdwatcher friend it was suspected that the bird might be a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (subsp blythi). Following discussions with Sheffield Bird Study Group and the householders, permission was received from BTO to attempt to ring the bird, and its liking for mealworms meant the first attempt on 2nd Feb was successful. A couple of body feathers dislodged during processing, and these were collected and sent to Dr Martin Collinson for DNA analysis.

The results have recently become available, and confirm the bird to be of the blythi subspecies, aka ‘Siberian' Lesser Whitethroat, details as follows: "Genetically it falls into the blythi clade, only 3 bp (base pairs) different from sequences of birds assigned to blythi from Kazakhstan, and 3-11 bp different from other blythi from across SE Russia."

Many thanks to the householders for flagging the bird up and allowing it to be ringed, Prof Martin Collinson for the DNA analysis, and Martin Garner for his insight into the Lesser Whitethroat complex.

Photo by Andy Deighton



New site for a finch feast (01/02/14)

I have been catching Marsh and Willow Tits at three of my sites around the Anston and Woodsetts area during this month. All birds have been previously ringed so far and vary in age from EURING age code 5 to 6.

Willow Tit first ringed in July 2013 as EURING age code 3J and retrapped on 21/01/14

I have found a new site near the county boundary of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, near Hodthorpe, teaming with finches. Since 14/12/13 I have visited this site on three occasions, using a single short net amongst a small group of tightly planted old fruit trees adjoining arable fields. Feeders are in place and regularly topped up by the property owner. So far over 100 Goldfinches and Greenfinches have been ringed and on my last visit Siskin and Brambling (see photo) were also present and ringed. The only drawback, albeit a frustrating one, is that the site is very open, so a calm day is necessary in order to ring.

Female Brambling, EURING age code 5

On the last day of January, I made a visit to another new site I've gained at Harry Crofts, the site of a long disused mine south east of Anston. I've ringed Marsh and Willow Tit at different sites around Anston, however, never at the same sites. At this new site at Harry Crofts, I ringed both Willow and Marsh Tit. Altogether I ringed more than 40 new birds using two nets. I hadn't time to erect anymore.




Ringing demo at Shillito Wood (28/01/14)

I was asked by Peak Parks Eastern Moors Partnership to hold a ringing demonstration at Shillito Wood's car park as part of an activity day for volunteers on the 19th January. It was well attended with over fifty children and parents turning up to watch us ring birds at this upland car park on the edge of Ramsley Moor. The site is popular with dog walkers and photographers who have over many years hung up feeders and put down seed for the birds. I added to the food available prior to the demonstration and spent time at the feeders observing a wide variety of bird species coming in to feed. It was surprising to see the large number of Yellowhammers, with a maximum count of 150.

Measuring the wing length of a Nuthatch

Ageing a Blue Tit

Our visitors were excited by the good variety of species ringed. For me it was the eight birds already ringed and not at this site. It indicated a pattern of birds either ringed as chicks or on their post-juvenile dispersal feeding on the moors in late summer and hanging on at this site because of the food available to them. Birds ringed included Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Nuthatch and Dunnock.

Measuring the wing length of a Treecreeper

Young ringers at work

It is clearly an important winter feed site and one worthy of comparative study. Ringing at Shillito will be possible because of the permissions granted and my involvement will ensure food being available to the birds. With my thanks to the ringers helping on the day, to the children providing us with their enthusiasm, to Katherine Clarke, visitor services manager for the Eastern Moors Partnership and to Mark Jeffery for helping with the feeding prior to the event.



Ringing demo at Longshaw Estate (25/01/14)

Nearly two years ago now, I approached one of the National Trust head wardens at the Longshaw Estate in the Peak District. Mark Bull is a friend of mine, who I met on my work experience, when I spent two weeks working on the estate back in the summer of 2010. I know a lot of the staff and volunteers there and get on with them very well, which is one of the reasons that Mark had no hesitation in granting us the opportunity to ring on the site, which we now do on a regular basis.

Bryn and I discovered on the very first ringing visit that this was definitely a site deserving regular attention, catching a number of species including Nuthatch, Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling and Great Spotted Woodpecker. On the first visit alone we caught over 30 birds during a short session, sighting and catching a wide variety due to the contrast in habitats of moorland, mixed woodland and marsh. The wardens became very pleased with our mist netting work and they wished to raise awareness by doing a ringing demonstration for the public, which Bryn organised and carried out very well!

The day was a success, with over ten ringers attending in total, several of whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time including Ray Knock, the chairman of the group. Many exciting and colourful species were caught during the session, which was fantastic for the public to see. Some of them included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Brambling, which Pete had the pleasure of ringing for the first time. The Nuthatch which were caught as a male and female pair, were caught together in the net which seems to happen on a regular basis at the site.

Six nets were erected in total and 34 birds were caught on the day which is a surprisingly low number for this time of year at Longshaw. This was possibly due to having to furl the nets due to drizzly showers which persisted throughout the morning. The staff at the estate have kindly placed a large number of boxes up of various sizes all around the area with the possibility of a wide variety of species occupying them this breeding season. Having recently gained my C pullus endorsement from my trainer Sean, I am very excited and eager to attend to the boxes in the area this coming spring.

Since our first ringing trip to Longshaw we have now caught and ringed over 500 birds and I am sure there will be many more to come!

Male Brambling EURING age code 6, the first bird caught in low light

5F and 4M Nuthatch caught together late morning

Will Warhurst

Forthcoming ringing demo (22/01/14)


Nothing to snipe about (13/01/14)

Another 5.30 start at Blackburn Meadows proved fruitful again last Sunday morning. With up to 33 Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe recorded here within the past week and a drop in the wind, it was obvious what my target birds were. Three 18 metre nets were put up on the marsh well before light, then it was a matter of waiting for the birds to return to the area. With much delight for the trainees with me, 7 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe were ringed in the morning.
Common Snipe can be difficult to age and Jack Snipe even more so. The Guide to the Identification & Ageing of Holarctic Waders states that studies on Jack Snipe are incomplete making positive ageing uncertain. Here are photos of our 2 birds showing distinct differences in the colour of the median coverts and head patterns. Maybe this is a criteria to help in ageing or sexing? Hopefully one day someone will catch enough retrap birds to complete a full study of these secretive birds.

Examining contrasts between two Jack Snipes

Jack Snipe head (top and bottom)

Jack Snipe wing (top and bottom)

Jack Snipe tail (top and bottom)

Common Snipe



Evie and the Sparrowhawk (11/01/14)

Apologies that this entry is late. Evie sent this blog post at the end of the year, "On Sunday 29th of December, we went ringing with Geoff at Bakewell sewage works. We only caught a few bird such as Pied Wagtails and Robins due to a shortage of people therefore there were not many nets put up. However we were lucky enough to catch a male Sparrowhawk, my first bird of prey, and I had the privilege of ringing and letting it free! I was nervous to hold it, but I thought this was an amazing experience, that I won't forget."

Male Sparrowhawk


Sorby Breck RG Annual Report 2013 (11/01/14)

Our report is currently being compiled and will be available soon - watch this space.