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 friendships (08/07/14)
One of the joys of ringing is the friendships you make from a common interest and sharing ringing experiences. Steve and I have just returned from a week ringing Ospreys in Scotland with two friends from the Highland RG. We received a master class in Osprey breeding behaviour and renewed friendships that have spanned many years. Sharing expertise is a powerful learning opportunity and we would like to thank our friends in Scotland for their friendship.
Geoff and Osprey
Steve and Osprey
I am a cider drinker (24/06/14)
Mark sent some interesting news from Woodthorpe Hall this year, where one nestbox contained one Blue Tit and nine Great Tit chicks, all at the same stage of development. The photograph below shows a cider jar, which is situated just outside one of the entrance doors to the Hall, which contained a brood of Blue Tits. The caption opportunities for this one seemed endless, but 'Cider with Bluti' was just a bit too cringeworthy, as was Graham Taylor's 'Do I not like that?' from the topical Bulmers vs Aldi advertisement, or then again, you might be old enough to remember 'Woodpecker for the wildlife', perhaps?
Eric sent this photo of a brood of Kestrels ringed last week. Just a field length away (870m) was another brood of Kestrels which were also ringed.
Norbriggs Flash (08/06/14)
It was an early start yesterday, but with rain forecast we expected our
ringing session to be cut short. The thunder heralded what was to come
so by 9.00am we had cleared our net runs.
With more recently fledged birds, we can only look forward to birds to come. It was good to ring with Steve and Phil. I noticed that the chocolate rice crispies didnt last long. Thanks to Issie and Katy for the photographs.
Barn Owls (04/06/14)
Here is a photo of some golden gems (or Barn Owls) that we ringed on Sunday morning. With 7 voles stashed inside the box, these 4 birds were well fed. I will be returning to the site to check that they have fledged before completing the Nest Record Card for these Schedule 1 birds.
The old and the new (01/06/14)
Today was one of those days which said more about the quality than the quantity. Unusually, we only put up 4 nets and started off with a newly fledged Garden Warbler, which in itself is a plus for Bondhay, because we catch fewer than a handful of this species every year at the site. In the past 15 years our highest annual number was five birds and that was back in 2000. The first remarkable thing to say about this morning is that 40% of the catch was 3JJs. This indicates the favourable breeding conditions during this spring which has resulted in not only the resident birds 'getting their first broods off' successfully, but the migrant warblers too; a marked contrast to the disappointment which last year's 'late' spring brought.
We were more than surprised when, on the second net round, we caught another 3JJ Garden Warbler, most probably from the same brood, but we weren't finished on two. The early morning continued to delight with male and female adult Lesser Whitethroat (another seldom-caught species at the site), Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Very newly-fledged Whitethroats were also caught, with 10 new Whitethroats caught in total, but the 'quality' part of the morning was enhanced by the retraps: one Chiffchaff had been ringed as a 4M in August 2009 and has been caught only twice since in 2010 and 2011 and an adult male Garden Warbler was first ringed at the site as a 4M on June 5th 2011. We also caught a female Blackbird which was ringed in 2011 too. We finished on 28 birds of 10 species, all bar three of which were caught by 0900 hrs, thereafter temperatures becoming very pleasantly warm but seeming to stop all bird movement in its tracks. Buzzard, Skylark, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Kestrel, Swallow and Sparrowhawk were all present during the morning.
Sweet smell of success (26/05/14)
It has to be said that we particularly enjoy our visits to our local water treatment works. The conditions were perfect at the weekend and our catch included 28 House Martins and 10 Swallows, one of each species having been ringed there previously in June 2013. The Swifts remained too high all morning but we did also catch Pied Wagtail and the bird of the morning, a Grey Wagtail, which was a new species for Dean. A Sparrowhawk was seen more than once, scattering the hirundines spectacularly on each visit.
That time of year again (22/05/14)
We've been ringing lots of chicks in the last week.
Great Tits. This is one of three broods of 10, and we've also ringed a brood of 11, which are some of the biggest broods we've ringed for a while. 69 pulli ringed already.
Blue Tits. These are typically a week or so later than Great Tits and we have three quarters of our active boxes of these still to go. 77 pulli ringed to date.
Coal Tits. We rarely ring these as pulli in the wood as they seldom use our nest boxes. This is a brood of 9. The last brood recorded in a nestbox was in 2009.
Nuthatch. We ring at least one brood every year in the wood. This is a brood of 8. We've also ringed a brood of 7.
Marsh Tits. These are not only uncommon birds locally, they are infrequent users of nestboxes and when they do, recent breeding attempts have been unsuccessful or broods have been small in size. This year we ringed 8 chicks; chicks were last ringed in the wood in 2008.
Tawny Owls. We've ringed 6 owlets locally this year.
Lapwing. We have lost two of our reliable breeding sites in recent years due to development, so it was great to see a very healthy number breeding on a farm with fallow land set aside by the farmer especially to accommodate this species.
We have Swallows sitting on eggs, breeding Pied Wagtails and Grasshopper Warblers and plenty more, so there is much to keep us busy. We are only four weeks away from the longest day, after all...
More from Cyprus (14/05/14)
Daphne Watson sends this useful montage about Olivaceous Warblers following her visit to Cyprus with Sorby Breck RG members in April.
More Tawny Owls (11/05/14)
Yesterday I ringed a brood of five Tawny Owls in the Longdendale Valley on the moorland/farmland fringe. Not only does this size of brood not seem to happen very often, the nearest neighbour is only 900 metres away and also has a brood of four.
Well, not here, but in Cyprus. Sorby Breck RG members have been visiting Cyprus for many years, but on their latest ringing trip this April they had a first with a Corncrake. Fittingly, Steve Samworth ringed the bird, as he'd spotted where it would be a 'good place' for a net and he was certainly proved correct. Thanks to Daphne Watson for the picture montage below.
Sorby Breck RG members Steve Samworth (left) and Phil Lawson (right)
It's not always black and white (03/05/14)
I've previously caught and ringed Lesser Whitethroat during the summer at my Woodsetts site. When I visited this site on Tuesday I was surprised to hear at least five calling over a wide area. I managed to catch four birds in two nets about 100m apart. The first Lesser Whitethroat I aged as a 4M, with feeding horns. The tail feathers were ragged and broad. I made this assessment after looking up this species in Svensson. My second Lesser Whitethroat was already ringed, which I quickly established was a bird I initially ringed at this site on 1st July 2013 when I aged it as a 4M. I noted the tail feathers were again ragged and broad, so this helped me confirm my assessment of the first Lesser Whitethroat that I'd caught. I aged the ringed bird as a 6M (pictured below).
The next two Lesser Whitethroats had ragged and pointed tail feathers. Both were male and one again had feeding horns. I aged these two birds as EURING age code 5. However, I decided to contact my trainer, Geoff, when I returned home. These two birds are now both aged as 4M. One of my nets is placed in the corner of a field in a gap about 2m wide between mature hawthorn and blackthorn. I was surprised to find a Pied Wagtail in the bottom pocket. This is the first Pied Wagtail I have caught at any of my sites. I again consulted Svensson which mentioned caution when ageing. I noted the grey back, so I knew this was a female. The forehead, crown and nape was grey with black splodges (pictured below). I decided this was a 5F. However, I also spoke to Geoff about this bird and sent him a photo. His assessment was the same as mine.
I caught 19 birds in total on this visit, comprising of 12 species. An enjoyable morning!
Further to Geoff's posting below, Mike writes on the 28th April, "Food certainly doesn't appear to be a problem for Tawny Owls in the north. I counted 20 voles in this barrel. It's interesting though that we are finding the young to be a little bit too small to ring just yet. I will try again in a week."
A morning ringing at Woodhouse Tip for just a 4 hour session produced a nice mix of birds on Sunday. This site is comprised of two habitats. The most ringed one of the two is a short scrub area and the other is a large grazed area managed for Skylarks. Over the past week Wheatear have been seen feeding on the barest parts of these fields. Our plan for the morning was to ring in the scrub but also have some spring traps set in the fields for Wheatear. Plans like this often don't work out, but on Sunday morning they did. After getting the nets up, Sean and I made our way to the fields and set up 3 spring traps. I then returned to Ian and Ibraheem to carry on with the mist netting. With 6 nets used in quite a small area of the scrub and our first session without using MP3 players, a catch of 16 birds wasn't that bad, but Sean struck gold with the bird of the day. Within minutes a Wheatear had literally taken the early worm. I'll certainly be returning to this site over the next month to try my chance for more Wheatear and hopefully its bigger Greenland cousin.
The name Wheatear is derived from 16th-century text meaning "white" and "arse", referring to the prominent white rump (above) found on all Wheatear.
Tawny Owls (27/04/14)
Nest recording always seems to produce its surprises. These two Tawny Owl chicks were two of four ringed from the same nest today. Add to this an unhatched egg!! Food may not be a problem for these chicks as there was a partly eaten rabbit in the nest too. Im back next week to check on their progress and ring the younger chicks. Thanks go to Eric for the photos.
Brooding adult Tawny Owl
Is you is or is you ain't? (20/04/14)
We had a ringing session at Carr Vale Nature Reserve on Saturday and caught a female Reed Bunting. It had a brood patch but was exhibiting part of the head pattern of a male, with black sides to the face, whilst the rest of the bird was obviously female in markings. I know that there have been cases where very old females can display male-type heads, but this bird was unusual as it was aged EURING code 5 (hatched last year).
Female Reed Bunting EURING age code 5
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.
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 its good to see our summer migrants back!
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.
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.
'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.