WELCOME TO THE SORBY BRECK RINGING GROUP BLOG FOR 2016
Our group blog includes interesting anecdotes and photos to illustrate the group's ringing activities throughout 2016. 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 at Bondhay we had an early start, setting nets in the dark whilst listening to Redwings overhead and the ringing calls of the territorial Tawny Owls. We had a good mix of 15 species including probably the site's last two Chiffchaffs and Blackcap of the year. At the feeding station we saw the usual visitors and the nets through the high hedgerows caught Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a couple of continental Blackbirds. We commented on how exceptional the year had been here for Bullfinches, with another 7 caught including a very young juvenile and two adult females in primary wing moult. Whilst sound-luring for Yellow-browed Warbler (we live in hope they'll make it 70 miles inland to us one day!), I approached the net to extract a bird in a shelf directly over the top of the speaker. From a distance at first glance I thought it was a Reed Bunting or then again a Chaffinch, but anyway definitely not a Yellow-browed, and it wasn't until I saw the white rump that I realised we'd caught only our second ever Brambling in 9 years. With that, we couldn't be disappointed, but were left wondering whether the sound lure had really worked or was just a coincidence?
Brambling (top and bottom)
I've been out all week trying for Meadow Pipits, catching over 170. Somedays the weather has been unkind but eventually we were rewarded with a special bird and on Tuesday one turned up: a Greenland Wheatear.
The early start paid off yesterday morning (on site by 0217 hrs) with a EURING age code 4, male Nightjar in the net by 0325 hrs. Another one came round and over the net a few minutes later but didn't oblige.This was followed over the next 2 hrs by 6 Grasshopper Warblers, one being a re-trap.
Things have been very quiet this year with only 31 birds caught so far which includes 16 very early visits. Then an improvement on the 4th of this month by catching a Nightjar, a Snipe and a Skylark. Then two days later at 0400 hrs, I caught this!
Dippers and Common Sandpipers (26/06/16)
On Thursday evening I spotted two Common Sandpipers at the top of the overflow behind my house. On Friday morning I checked and they were still about so I decided to try and catch them. I have an old 40 foot, 3 shelf net which I put across the bottom of the overflow and a tape lure (pictured below).
The first bird caught was a retrapped Dipper which I had ringed earlier in the year with Kate and Gareth in a nest about a mile down the river. It wasn't a surprise as I had seen a Dipper there a few times.
After a couple of hours I had still not caught the sandpipers so I went and disturbed them from the edge of the reservoir. What luck! One flew straight down the overflow into the net.
What happened next was a bit of a surprise. I caught three more Dippers, all 3Js, two unringed birds and one ringed. I later found out it was ringed by Steve at a nest in the Loxley Valley about four miles away on the 5th of May 2016. I tried for a Grey Wagtail that was present but it could see the net. Perhaps that would have been a little greedy.
Barn owls and Kestrels (20/06/16)
This year we have five active Kestrel nests, all in boxes, around the Anston area. The sixth pair at a traditional site were present but no eggs were laid and the birds soon left the proximity of the nest box. All the occupied nests contained five eggs. We ringed 5/5 from the first nest (pictured below) on 23rd May, all of which were doing well. The adult birds at this site always nest early.
Brood of five Kestrels
We started re-examining the remaining four nest boxes for pulli on 2nd June, finding them too small to ring. On 7th June we again re-visited the remaining four nests. We ringed 4/4; 5/5; 4/5 & 2/3. The last two clutches each had a chick from the brood which was too small to ring. So, in 2016 we have ringed 20 Kestrel chicks, an average of 4 per nest box. A Kestrel ringed as a chick at one of these sites in June 2015 was found dead in late August, apparently from starvation, some 81 km away in East Yorkshire.
Brood of three Kestrels
We also looked in a Little Owl box near to one of the Kestrel nest boxes, finding a female Barn Owl (pictured below) with 3 small owlets. The adult bird almost filled the floor area of the box. She wouldn't move and allowed us to remove her to ring without protest.
Adult Barn Owl
The following week we checked the active Little Owl and Barn Owls nests. Sadly the Little Owl nest had failed with the loss of four young, most likely due to predation. Happily the Barn Owls were faring well and we ringed three broods (4/4, 3/3 and 2/2), pictured below, with another brood still too small to ring.
Chris Lilley and Eleanor Wilkins
A few years ago I made a Kestrel nestbox. With help from Bryn, we erected it in an ideal location In the winter of 2013. After two years of not being used at all, this year I hit the jackpot.
Mistle Thrush (29/05/16)
In my eleven years of ringing I have only caught Mistle Thrush on three occasions. This morning on a net round at Woodhouse Tip, Ian came across two in the same net. On a cool May morning they certainly brought a bit of brightness as they were new species for both himself and Jes. Aged as 5s, the female had a BP3 while the male a CP: clearly a breeding pair. Other birds included a retrap Jay and a 3JP Robin.
A team of trainees, including students from Sheffield University, led by Steve and Dan went across to the island heronry at Renishaw lake on Saturday hoping to ring any chicks. The first tree chosen contained 3 nests and after an arduous climb by Gareth (pictured below) the nests were found to contain only eggs; 3 in one nest and 2 in each of the others.
The second tree climbed also contained 3 nests and Gareth again climbed this, (don't know where he found the energy after the first!) One nest contained one very small chick, too young to ring, another also contained 3 small chicks, but we did manage to successfully ring the one chick from the third nest that had grown sufficiently.
Thanks to Dan (pictured above) for bringing his rig along to make this
possible and for being the ferryman to the team of eager trainees.
DOS Talk (18/03/16)
Two young group members Evie and Abby Miller, as recipients of a grant from the Pimm Fund held by Derbyshire Ornithology Society (a fund to help young ornithologists/naturalists living in Derbyshire), were invited to present to the DOS AGM on March 18th how they had used their funding. Last breeding season Evie and Abby put up 20 nest boxes in their school grounds in Etwall, South Derbyshire to monitor the nests and ring any chicks. The money they received paid for the nest boxes and some ringing equipment. The girls presented a summary of results, talked about what they had learned and what changes they had made prior to this breeding season. Box statistics can be found here Evie's Blog The girls also talked about their enthusiasm for birding and their ringing training with Sorby Breck RG. Their talk was very well received and the DOS is very keen to encourage and support likeminded young people. Please contact Bryan Barnacle for more information at DOS
Abby (left) and Evie (right) presenting at the Derbyshire Ornithological Society AGM
Ringing Demo (14/03/2016)
Yesterday there was a ringing demonstration at Hardwick Hall for the young wildlife group. There was a good turnout of some young, but very keen children, who in between making their bird feeders were able to see close up some of the birds we caught.
Although it was a lovely day weather wise we were not blessed with good numbers of birds in the net. Fortunately, Dan came along to catch some Canada Geese and a Mute Swan.
The children also saw Nuthatches, Willow Tit, Wren and Great Tits ringed. Thanks to all the ringers who came out to help.
Ringing Demos (26/02/2016)
We've held a couple of demos in the last month, one for the general public at Creswell Crags and another at Whitwell Wood for members of Worksop U3A Natural History Group At the Crags our catch included eleven Siskins (below), a species in the hand which went down especially well with the visitors. Another highlight of the morning was a Grey Wagtail caught by netting across the narrow waterway near the visitor centre.
Following our most recent demo in the wood, one of the attendees, Keith Snowden, emailed to say,
"I would like to express my thanks to you and the rest of your members who made us feel so welcome. I have never seen a Treecreeper and to see one up close was fantastic. Seeing the birds up close like that is great and we are learning so much by asking our questions and getting the answers from your members."
Here are a selection of Keith's photos he took during the morning. We are grateful to the support Gilly Callaby and the group's members give to our ringing activities.
Dean (left), Mary (middle) and Jack (right)
Jack Snipe (01/02/2016)
Conditions recently were at last good enough to get some nets up on the marsh at Blackburn Meadows, for an attempt to catch some Snipe. My hopes were high as the day before I counted 21 Common and 7 Jack Snipe in the same area. We only managed to get 1 Common but 3 Jack Snipe (pictured below) were nice.
Ringing Waterfowl (26/01/2016)
With the recent weather hindering many a mist netting attempt, and now with the cooler temperatures finally arriving, I have turned my efforts to the waterfowl on local lakes and ponds again. Many of the birds in these suburban environments readily welcome food handouts from the public during winter months, allowing easy capture for ringing.
Within the first two weeks of the new year, 129 Mute Swans, 36 Coots, 33 Canada Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, 2 Tufted Ducks, 2 Moorhens, a Mallard and Black-headed Gull (a total of 208 birds) have been processed and/or ringed. Of particular interest have been both Mute Swans - which Sorby Breck has been colour ringing extensively over the last ten years - and Coot which we are now colour ringing too (see picture below). Both these colour ringing projects have seen some fantastic movement of birds throughout the country, and now even into Europe.
I was particularly pleased to catch two Moorhens at Thrybergh Country Park, with the use of a three metre mist net and some wholemeal bread. Both were sexed as males and the pictures here clearly illustrate the difference in age. The EURING age code 5 bird (pictured below) possesses white under parts and speckled white chin, with the 9th primary feather pointed and narrow.
Up until the year end, there is a colour difference in the iris of the eye to also assist with the ageing of these birds, but worth noting that from January onwards, the crimson colour is as the same as an adult bird (pictured above).
Two male Tufted Ducks (one pictured below) were also caught at Rother Valley Country Park. As these birds dive for food, it's a good idea to take along some wheat or mixed corn which can be fed in to the shallows of the water, which then allow for birds to caught by hand when they rise to the surface once more.
I have begun a blog for my own ringing activites, which can be found here
Amy, Helen and I joined Phil at his Broomhead Reservoir feed site on Saturday morning. This is a mixed broadleaf and coniferous plantation with running fresh water creating small pools.
Over 140 birds were processed in total including Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, but the star bird was this first winter male Crossbill. A good start to my year being a new ringing species for me. Thanks Phil!
Our report is currently being compiled and will be available soon - watch this space.