Sunday, 23 January 2022

Stanhoe Orchard - 23rd January 2022

 We have found an excellent orchard for winter ringing of thrushes and finches and having gained permission from the owner tried an initial session to work out how birds are using the site. We set four double nets and managed to catch some birds while observing the way it is used. A key point is that the feeding is so good that birds are not pushed out of the orchard by people moving around the 16 acre site. Further to that the plants are perfectly aligned with wide spaces between and trees are uniformly pruned and approximately as tall as the 5 panel nets.

Over 2000 trees, many with windfalls still present

Male Brambling

Fieldfare male

Pulp is returned to nourish the soil once juice has been extracted

Some trees still hold some fruit. The orchard should continue
attracting birds throughout the winter.

Next time we will know the favoured areas and which direction to set all the nets. 

Total: 22

Blackbird - 2
Fieldfare - 7
Blue Tit - 3
Starling - 5
Brambling - 3
Goldfinch - 2

Kelling Heath - 22nd January 2022

 Today we went to look around Kelling Heath. It's been years since we last were there. First impression was surprising -  not only were there paths leading through much of the heath making so much of it completely accessible to walkers and less favourable for wildlife, also we couldn't understand why so much of the heath had been cut so short all at the same time.  We understand that Silver Studded Blues occur here, and hope this practise of cutting the heather is tried and tested and does not adversely affect them.

There seemed to have been large scale cutting of heather covered areas.

There was a great deal of gorse, but the majority of heather was extremely short with taller clumps of the kind where Dartford Warbler will nest, very scare and mainly around the heath perimeter.

View towards Weybourne

Gorse plants are already flowering.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Ken Hill Fresh Marsh - 18th January 2022

 After a very cold night the fresh marsh was partially frozen, including the mud, and that actually made it a little easier getting over to the area where the nets for Water Pipits were set. Much of the fresh marsh is now under water so areas suitable for placing nets are limited. In addition, the Water Pipits are  ranging further from where we ring now as so much grass and earth is flooded.

As expected the catch was rather low, but happily there was a single Water Pipit amongst the Reed Buntings and the first winter bird began the fourth colour-ringed bird at Ken Hill this season and the 40th bird added to the project since it went national in 2020.

1st winter Water Pipit 

Some Reed Buntings had been roosting in the reeds and all five captured birds were males, attracted to the audio-lure as they left the roost.

5 Male Reed Bunting.

Ken Hill is currently hosting Winter Watch and we hope the Water Pipit project might get some coverage. There is certainly plenty of kit and cabling in the vicinity of where the Water Pipits have been and filming may be possible. These chaps found the unfamiliar objects extremely interesting and thoroughly investigated the cables, cases and drive over cable covers in the frosty morning.

Total: 6

Water Pipit - 1
Reed Bunting - 5

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Coot ringing - 15th January 2022

Today came an opportunity to be involved with colour marking Coot at Pensthorpe Natural Park, Norfolk. The white rings are each inscribed with three alpha numeric characters to form a unique code.

These interesting birds are present in the UK all year round. However, the UK is also used as a wintering ground for birds, that thanks to ringing studies, are known to have travelled to or from Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Morocco and Russia. This list is by no means exhaustive and ringed birds can result in interesting and sometimes surprising recoveries.

For each bird data recorded comprised of age, sex, wing length, tarsus length and weight.

Seven birds received darvic leg rings to allow birds to be identified in the field. This can easily be read in the field and reported by anyone through

Photograph by ER Buck

Leg colouration has been described as a method for ageing these birds, however recent captures of known age birds appear to question the reliability of this method.

Three Mallard were also captured and processed.

Totals: 12

Mallard - 3
Coot - 9 (7 marked using darvics)

Thanks are extended to GE for organising the session, Kane Brides for coordinating the Coot project and Pensthorpe Natural Park for granting access to undertake the study.

Friday, 7 January 2022

Whitlingham Country Park - 4th January 2022

Today we stopped in at Whitlingham CP. We are not usually in the area, but were visiting a couple of furniture stores for conservatory seating and made the most of the journey.

We were expecting to see some Black-headed gulls with Blue darvics as SV regularly catches and marks gulls at this location. Two such birds were seen.

Age 5 2K74

Adult 2K96

J96 has been around for a while, with no other Barnacle geese, and appreciates the free feed.

Two metal rings were also read. Both birds are well known at the site, but that doesn't limit the satisfaction of getting whole metal ring sequences on foreign ringed birds.

One of four images that provided the entire number of 
Lithuanian ringed Black-headed gull HA50.955 ringed
on the 15th June 2019.

6241523 ringed under the Danish scheme has a foot injury, ringed
on 26th November 2010.

We also recorded several Mute Swans darvics, all also ringed at the CP, and even managed to get two ring numbers on the Mallards.

GY33914 the last digit is not completely visible on this image.

We were also able to read the ring of the Mandarin duck ringed last year.

FJ35935, ringed recently at the CP.

To top it all off, the Shag that had already been there a few days was viewable on the pontoon.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Finch House garden - December 2021

 Much of the month was windy or wet, or both. We still managed 67 birds. Most were Blue tit, but 11 Greenfinch was a decent result. Hopefully the weather will be less mild over January and February and more birds will come for food. 

The Jay was particularly good since it was marked with a darvic for the project underway at the University of East Anglia.

Totals: 52 (15)

Dunnock - 5 (4)
Robin - 3 (2)
Blackbird - 2 (1)
Blue Tit - 21 (5)
Great Tit - 6 (2)
Coal Tit - 0 (1)
Goldfinch - 1 (0)
Greenfinch - 11 (0)
House Sparrow - 2
Jay - 1

Garden observations included Bullfinch, Pheasant (to be avoided), Moorhen, Buzzard and Red Kite.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Ken Hill, Bell Mount (Farm) - 19th December 2021

Our last four days of December winter ringing at Ken Hill and it was back to the winter finch flock, in the fog, to try again to capture birds feeding up on the crop margins sown specifically to provide food for wild birds.

This time we adjusted the position of the nets. However, despite a sizable flock the behaviour had changed and most finches managed to evade us. The two nets placed near the farm feeder bucket did much better and we finished on 38 birds processed.

Juvenile Brambling female

Juvenile Brambling male

Jay colour-marked as part of the University of East Anglia study

Totals: 35 (3)

Blackbird - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 13
Great Tit - 0 (4)
Blue Tit - 4 (1)
Coal Tit - 1
Treecreeper - 1
Jay - 1
Chaffinch - 6
Brambling - 6