WELCOME TO THE SORBY BRECK RINGING GROUP BLOG FOR 2014
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.
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 including 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.
'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!
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.
Examining contrasts between two Jack Snipes
Jack Snipe head (top and bottom)
Jack Snipe wing (top and bottom)
Jack Snipe tail (top and bottom)
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."
Sorby Breck RG Annual Report 2013 (11/01/14)
Our report is currently being compiled and will be available soon - watch this space.