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.
Kingfisher, Rail and Snipe (09/12/2013)
On Saturday I decided to hold a ringing session at Blackburn Meadows Nature Reserve. I arrived on site at 5.45. The weather forecast said that the rain would stop by 5.00, but it looked like they were wrong again. By the time I had parked up the rain had stopped and the sky was clear. Ian soon joined me and we started putting up the nets. My target birds were Snipe and Reed Buntings with the hope of a Water Rail in my potter trap I have been feeding up for a few weeks. Before we had finished putting up the nets the rain had started again, so with 5 nets up and potter trap set, we left it at that.
It turned out to be a good morning, not for the numbers of birds ringed but for their quality. The first walk around produced the morning's only Snipe. It was already ringed, and when the ring number was checked it proved to be one of my own. It was first ringed on 25/2/12 at the same site, and aged as EURING code 4. This time we were able to age it accurately by using the table in Ringing and Migration (2007 vol 23). The contrast in the humeral coverts and the pattern of the tail feathers were clear. The next walk around produced a deserved Water Rail, a slate grey throat and the lack of a buff stripe from the lower mandible to the eye, proving it to be an adult male (EURING age code 4) with a wing measuring 124 mm.
Adult male Water Rail
After that some Redwings, Reed Buntings and a lovely female Kingfisher (EURING age code 3) were ringed before the morning was ended by more rain.
First year female Kingfisher
Lessons of the day:
Bird Ringing in Derbyshire (25/11/2013)
I was recently lucky enough to get to ring with Geoff and some fellow bird ringers in Derbyshire. I met Geoff at the Isle of Wight ringing course in September. On the Isle of Wight, we rarely get Nuthatches so it was a real pleasure to ring my first Nuthatch, at the site of the wonderful Renishaw Park.
It was also interesting to ring the Bullfinch, which has declined over recent years in the south but still found in good numbers in Derbyshire.
It was an inspiration to see the dedication of the bird ringers that came along and I would like to thank Geoff and Phil for sharing their passion for bird ringing with me and letting me ring many of the birds that we caught. Hope to be back soon.
Geoff (left) and Phil (right) from Sorby Breck RG
On Saturday my sister Abby and I went ringing with Geoff, Phil, Steve, Clement and some students from Sheffield Uni at Renishaw Hall. We ringed 238 birds of 13 species, including beautiful birds such as Bullfinch, Redwing and Treecreeper. Phil, Steve and Clement did a great job extracting the birds and bringing them to the ringing station. It was non stop and I felt my confidence in holding and ringing the birds had improved massively. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I ringed my first Goldcrest, which was tiny and so delicate, in contrast to a cygnet Mute Swan ringed by Clement, but which I did get to hold and set free. It was very strong and sturdy, especially compared to the smallest bird in Britain, the Goldcrest, which posed very nicely before flying off.
A Treecreeper checks out how he looks in Svensson
Evie and the swan
Mealy Redpoll (12/11/2013)
With the weather turning cold and the winter visitors already having arrived, a visit to 70 Acre Hill Nature Reserve in Sheffield was on the cards. Throughout the winter the site has constant influxes of finches especially Lesser Redpoll. The Lesser Redpoll flocks vary in number each year and every year since 2009 there has been a Common or Mealy Redpoll accompanying them. This year is no exception with the first one recorded over the weekend.
Marsh Tit (10/11/2013)
BTO records for 2012 show only one Marsh Tit was ringed in South Yorkshire - by myself at one of my sites a mile east of my home at Anston. In February this year I caught and ringed two Marsh Tits at a site, two miles east of my home. These birds were re-trapped at this site during March and October. Earlier this week I caught and ringed a further two Marsh Tits at the site one mile east of my home. This site never sees a lot of birds caught. I mainly visit October to April and only use two nets targeting Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Both sites are on the edge of mature deciduous woodland. Since early October two Marsh Tits have started visiting my home feeding table on a daily basis (not ringed!). My home is on the eastern edge of Anston. The birds repeatedly fly in, take one seed and fly off to feed in a nearby tree. They remain on the feeder for only a few seconds. Strangely, I only catch and ring Marsh Tit to the east of my village and Willow Tit only on the western side.
It's a Gannet, off course...(13/10/2013)
The strong gale force winds that have played havoc with this weekends ringing provided an unexpected reward: an immature Gannet! It was grounded at Rivelin and thanks to Andy Deighton (SBSG) and Phil Lawson, the bird was caught and soon on its way back to the coast to be released. Our thanks go to Sheffield Bird Study Group for their joint action and to Martin for taking the Gannet to the coast.
Young ringers (11/10/2013)
On Saturday my sister Abby and I went bird ringing for the first time to see if it's something we definitely want to do. We both loved it! In just a few hours we learned so much. We were shown how to age and sex different birds. They were ringed, weighed and their wings were measured. You get to hold the bird up close so you can study them, which is wonderful! On the day we were there the nets were set to catch Meadow Pipits with another net for woodland birds. Geoff Mawson was the person in charge and he has very kindly invited us to come again so we can decide if we want to train for a bird ringing licence. Thank you Geoff, it was a great experience!
Abby (left) and Evie (right)
Willow Warbler (09/10/2013)
On a recent visit to one of the Agden sites with a view to target pipits on migration, an unusual yellowish warbler turned up. Checking the wing formula and the usual key ID characteristics, I discovered a surprisingly coloured Willow Warbler. The bird had yellow crown feathers and the odd white wing and covert feather.
No ring fit for a king (20/09/2013)
I imagine this is a lesson to all of us to carry a good range of rings when out ringing. I was surprised to catch this Kingfisher this morning at Woodsetts and disappointed I didn't have the correct ring size with me. There is a spring from which flows a stream within dense woodland about 10m from the net.
Male Kingfisher EURING age code 3
Grey Partridges (13/09/2013)
On Tuesday, I went with Geoff and Phil to Ramsley Moor with the hope of catching a few Meadow Pipits on migration. A breezy morning had been forecast but we arrived to find surprisingly calm conditions. Three nets were set for pipits and one set by the feeders and we started catching birds immediately. What turned out to be a busy morning produced 141 birds, 116 of which were Meadow Pipits, suggesting that peak migration for this species might be a week earlier than in previous years. The star birds however were four Grey Partridges, which Phil did well to extract before they could escape.
How I became a teenage ringer (08/09/2013)
Sorby Breck RG member Jack Baddams, who is starting his third year studying Zoology at Leeds Uni, has written an article about ringing which appears in the autumn edition of Birdwatching magazine. Congratulations Jack!
Nightjar has been an occasional species on Sorby Brecks annual totals, but thanks to George and Steve adults have been ringed recently on the moorland fringe to the west of our area. I cant remember a brood being ringed before, so all the greater was the pleasure to ring two chicks on the 7th August. Our thanks go to the Forestry Commission for giving permission to ring on their land.
Brood of two Nightjars
A bird to brighten up the morning (05/08/2013)
I carried out session 9 of my CES on the moorland fringe at the end of July. Weather forecasts were mixed but rain was not predicted until between 9 and 10am, the wind was favourable and I decided to give it a go.
The first net round was steady with a nice haul of Blackcaps, the second a little busier and with the more usual Willow Warbler predominating. One bird however, caught my eye as I was extracting it, appearing brighter than the average Willow Warbler and having a snow white lower breast and belly. A quick glance at the emargination on the primaries strengthened my suspicions a Wood Warbler.
Juvenile Wood Warbler
As I mentioned, a Wood Warbler is a rather brighter bird than the average Willow Warbler; the green is greener, the yellow more vivid and the under parts are a crisp, fresh white. Nevertheless, Willow Warblers vary and the birds identification needed to be confirmed. Typically, on a Wood Warbler, the emargination of the primaries is clear to the 4th but there may be a hint of emargination on the 5th primary (see below).
Wing of the Wood Warbler showing clear emargination to the 4th primary with a hint of emargination on the 5th
Emargination to the 5th primary, even slightly, does not completely rule out a Willow Warbler. But taking a simple wing formula, good practice on all Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers will separate the species.
On this bird the longest primary was the 3rd and the second primary was equal in length to the 4th primary. In a Willow Warbler the second primary is usually equal to the 6th (and for a Chiffchaff the second is equal to the 7th or 8th).
The wing length of 71mm (approaching 72mm) also helps to rule out all except the very longest of Willow Warblers.
Finally, what first alerted me to the fact that this might be something unusual was the under part colouring. The two photographs below show the difference between the Wood Warbler and a juvenile Willow Warbler, the Wood Warbler being almost totally lacking in yellow on the belly and under tail coverts, in contrast to the Willow Warbler.
White under parts of Wood Warbler (top) and more yellow under parts typical of a Willow Warbler (bottom)
Although I have ringed a Wood Warbler before, they are not common at many sites and this bird certainly brightened up the grey of the morning.
Trying it out for size (02/08/2013)
I have a new mobile phone, a Sony Experia, purchased particularly to take photos of birds in one hand whilst holding the phone in the other. I also plan to use it to take close up shots of plants. I tried it out on birds in the hand for the first time last Wednesday at one of my sites at Anston. I am fortunate to catch both Marsh and Willow Tit in the locality. I caught two Willow Tits undergoing post-juvenile moult, indicative of local breeding success this year.
Willow Tit, EURING age code 3JP
Ringing demonstration at Linacre (02/08/2013)
On Saturday 6th July we presented a ringing demonstration at Linacre,
organised by the ranger service. Six people attended and were enthusiastic
about the birds that we were able to show them. In total we caught 34
birds, notable amongst them was a re-trap Garden Warbler that we caught
at the site last year, one of only two caught there. We also re-trapped
a Jay that we had previously ringed and then caught two more that were
feeding around the feeding area we have set up. A number of young Blue
and Great Tits were caught which is good news after the breeding season
in 2012, along with several juvenile Chiffchaffs and Blackcap. We are
grateful to the ranger service for organising the event and for their
continued support of our ringing activities on the site. Linacre is not
only a good all year round mist netting area, but is also producing excellent
numbers of pulli from the nest box programme. Thanks to Alan, Dave and
Bryn for their assistance on the day and to Peter who helped organise
the event and then realised he was away that weekend! But he did keep
keep the feeders full so we could catch some birds!
Three legged lark (23/07/2013)
Eric sends a picture he took recently of a Skylark in Cornwall. It wasn't until he examined the picture closely later on, that he realised the bird has an extra leg, a dilemma which poses the question, "Which leg would you ring?" It perhaps uses the third leg for balance after it imbibes a drop too much Cornish ale? Well, it is the holiday season... All serious comments welcome.
Skylark, with inbuilt tripod
RSPB 'BIG' Wildlife Weekender (07/07/2013)
Geoff had been asked by Roseanna Burton of the RSPB to run a ringing demo at the two-day wildlife weekend event at Creswell Crags. Little did Roseanna realise that also booked at the same time, was wall-to-wall sunshine, a Lions match and a significant Wimbledon men's final. Nonetheless we had a really terrific time at Creswell Crags, helped by the fantastic Crags team headed up by Hannah.
Although we didn't catch too many birds as the event was held in searing heat on both days from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, we had over 100 visitors to the stand who saw first hand the kind of work we do including ringing and nest monitoring. Many were keen to know when they could repeat the experience and the children were impressive with their knowledge and keeness to participate. The staff at Creswell Crags were absolutely fantastic both in their preparation for the event and for their hospitality over the weekend in ensuring we didn't dehydrate in temperatures topping 30 degrees. It was great to catch up with other local conservation organisations all show-casing their valuable work. Well done to all involved, especially Roseanna of the RSPB and Hannah of Creswell Crags.
A very big thank you is reserved for our team who couldn't have worked any harder if they were being paid for it: hats off to Dean and Mel, Jack, Steve, Stuart and Mary. Thank you to Geoff for all his assistance too.
Dean, about to pull a bird out of the bag, whilst visitors look on
Dean shows our nest recording work to young onlookers
Mary's 'feather challenge' was a huge success with younger visitors
Fancy a go at Mary's feather challenge? Guaranteed to test even the most seasoned bird ringer...
Or how about our 'Guess whose nest?' competition? What every bird ringing demo stand needs, when there's a lull in the number of birds to ring. Well done to Sam of Clipstone who won our prize of a bird feeder.
I thought I would brave the midges and try for Nightjar again this year after a few unsuccessful attempts last year. I know of a few areas where they frequent, so I put up a couple of nets about 9.30pm and then waited for the light to fade. I put the tape on about 10.30pm and we had a bird flying around almost straight away but unfortunately not in the net. I gave it about 20 mins and nothing happened and because it was also very windy I decided to take down. I went back to the car for the net bags having left new trainee Gareth hiding in the bushes near the net. Well, on my return I found a very happy Gareth clutching the net and holding a Nightjar. I extracted the bird and we went back to the car to ring and process a beautiful male Nightjar. A cracking end to an almost midge-free evening with Gareth ringing a bird which a lot of ringers never get to see in the hand. Apologies for the photo quality - I only had my phone and a torch.
Adult male Nightjar (top and bottom)
We had a great morning at Clowne water treatment works on Sunday. The low cloud and threatening drizzly conditions were absolutely ideal, but the wind was a bit blustery. If that had died down, we'd have done even better, but the birds obligingly continued to fly low all morning and we finished on 61 birds from four nets. These included 2 Starlings, 11 Pied Wagtails, 15 Swallows, 18 House Martins, 9 Swifts and a Sand Martin. We re-caught a Swallow and 2 House Martins which were ringed at the same site last June. The Sand Martin was our first one ever for the site and we had a control adult Swallow L967088, if anyone out there recognises it?
Top and bottom: Sand Martin
Left to right: Swift, Swallow and House Martin
We ringed the chicks from three Buzzard nests yesterday. The first contained two chicks and prey items were a couple of rabbits, the second nest contained one chick and an egg but no prey and the third nest contained another singleton chick and again no prey. My thanks go especially to our fabulous climber who had the job done in under three hours, leaving us time to go off and ring another brood of seven Blue Tits (pushing our total nearer to 200 for the year) and three more broods of Swallows.
Buzzards from the first nest
Buzzard from nest number two
Nest number three's occupant
No rest when you nest (13/06/2013)
Bird ringers up and down the country know that there is a frenzy of activity going on at this time of year, especially for those of us who are nest recorders. There simply seems to be not enough hours in the day to get round and monitor all the nests. We can only imagine how the adult birds withstand the furiously busy pace of provisioning their young, having already expended energy both laying and incubating eggs and then diligently brooding their progeny. It usually is an avian team effort and this goes for nest recorders too. We have been busy in recent weeks monitoring nests all over our area.
We have ringed 25 Great Tit chicks and 188 Blue Tit chicks in boxes in the wood alone. The majority of Blue Tits are almost ready to fledge now but two late broods only hatched out yesterday. Even without checking the numbers yet, box occupancy is clearly down and the brooding adult females are typically EURING age code 6 with a noticeable absence of EURING age code 5 breeding birds following last year's disastrous breeding season.
We have already ringed a brood of eight Nuthatches
A brood of four Song Thrushes
Song Thrush chicks in mud lined nest
Two broods of five Swallows apiece
and we are watching a clutch of six Blackbird eggs. Thanks go to Mary, for this one.
There are many more nests we are monitoring but we have managed to fit in some mist netting at Creswell Crags. We were pleased to catch a breeding pair of Marsh Tits, evidence of another population of this species retaining a foothold in the farthest north east corner of Derbyshire.
Great Tit overlooked by a Woolly Mammoth in the background at Creswell Crags
CES Session 3 at Blackburn Meadows (29/05/2013)
When my phone woke me up at 3.45 on Saturday morning after having less than 3 hours sleep, the words ''You're mad'' were going through my head. As we know taking on a CES is a commitment, but a commitment worth taking. Saturday morning was session 3. Sessions 1 and 2 were about on par with previous years, but with such a bad breeding season last year I expect numbers this year to be down in general. I was on site at Blackburn Meadows for 5.00 am, and with waders on I immediately started putting up my 5 standard nets and one extra. With 3 birds on the first net round and another 5 on the second, my hopes were looking good for an OK morning. It was then almost two hours until I extracted another bird. With 5 more birds around my neck including a couple of re-traps I was now almost on a quarter of a page on my ringing sheet! It was while processing these birds that my morning suddenly improved. A Sedge Warbler. My second one of the day and the fifth one this season, but this one was a control and a foreign one at that. On the ring were the words ARAN ZADI SAN SABASTIAN. Spanish, I think?
After this, my morning continued on a high when I caught a Sand Martin. Only my second one ever at this site.
Some people might think I am mad, my wife certainly does, but it's days like this that make it worth while. A foreign control and a site second, not bad!
Juvenile Siskins (21/05/2013)
Like most other ringers I am worried about the continuing poor weather and the state of our birds. One encouraging occasion was at Fairholmes last week when I ringed five juvenile Siskins. They, at least, have raised some young which are now following their parents and learning where food is to be found.
Siskin EURING age code 3JJ
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