A round up of our bird ringing activities (all birds ringed under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology with schedule one authority where appropriate), birding trips and other wildlife sorties within the UK and whenever we get chance, elsewhere.
The weather forecast looked favourable for targetting thrushes on the rosehips at Wraybury, on the 24th, and a total of seven nets were put up. Audiolures proved effective for Redwing and Goldcrest although the species were only captured in small numbers. Perhaps there weren't many crests about, but Redwings were certainly moving about above shrub height in the main, therefore usually flying over with just a few birds ending up in the nets. There were also some Robins, three Greenfinch, a Cetti's Warbler and a small group of Long-tailed Tits. Best capture was a young male Fieldfare.
Redwing age 5
A very confiding Robin - ringed early on but hung around all morning
waiting for crumbs and approached to within a metre and a half or so.
Started the day with a run out to try for the Yellow Browed Warbler at Molesey. It took a while to connect with the bird that was not heard at any point during the morning. We also had at least three Chiffchaffs and a Water Rail.
We finally caught up with it feeding on the mats of vegetation on the River Mole.
On then to Truss's Island where we are no longer able to mark the Mute Swans with darvics. There were fewer marked swans than we have seen there for some time and there seemed to be quite a few without metal rings. We only recorded a couple of metal rings and a handful of colour-ringed birds.
After a long pause without ringing due to personal circumstances, we arranged to go with WA & LON to our friends' garden in Bletchingley. The garden has feeders everywhere. Since our last visit a couple of years ago, Ralph has diversified into desres provision in addition to fine dining for birds. The majority of captures were bound to be tits, but in terms of allowing our two to experience high volume extracting and ringing in the winter, there is nowhere locally that can equal the opportunity that this garden allows.
The morning gave us over 100 new birds and some good recaptures.
Robins bear testament to the food provided in the garden.
K052372 ringed at age 5, 15/03/2015 currently weighing 23.8g.
K052398 ringed at age 5, 08/01/2017currently weighing 24.4g.
Y823587 ringed age 3, 30/11/2013 and processed again as a 6 08/01/2017.
Z548444 ringed age 5 on 08/01/2018.
Great Tit Z548489 ringed as 5F on 08/01/2017.
Dunnock VB90906 ringed as a 5 on 08/01/2017.
The first session of the year could have gone better! After three hours in cold conditions we had only ringed 6 birds, so it was time to pack up and go home to pick over what was left of the Christmas goodies.
Lesser Redpoll aged 5
Robin - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 1
But in spite of this morning being so poor, here is a reminder of why we monitor birds. Here's news of one we did earlier.
Redwing RZ01278 was ringed on 2/11/2017 at Black Park when a juvenile. The bird was found dead on 17/10/2018 at Mikkola, Sodankylä, Lappi, Finland SF83 67 28N; 26 8E. It had flown into wires a few days short of 349 days since it was not freshly dead when found. The eventual location is 2303 km NE of where we ringed it. Sodankylä is well north of the Arctic Circle in north-central Finland, some 300km north of Oulu on the Gulf of Bothnia.
On the last day of the year we decided to give the Water Pipits on Staines Moor another try. The weather was good, but we were amazed just how much the flooded pools had shrunk over so few days. Added to that the large flocks of Redwing noticed on the 26th were nowhere to be seen.
We set a full height double by some brambles and two two panel doubles along what remained of the pool that the Water Pipits had favoured when we last visited. There were certainly fewer Water Pipits about, perhaps five in total and most of these were only flying over. We had one decent chance, but once that bird had walked under the net and away from the pool, we knew we weren't likely to catch it.
A flock of 20 or so Redwings came in but all managed to evade the nets. We had to be thankful for the two resident Song Thrushes that were caught and a surprise bonus bird in the form of a Dartford Warbler. The bird was caught in the bottom panel of the nets set for, and with the audio-lure playing Redwing and becomes the first Dartford Warbler captured by the Colne Valley Ringing Group.
A last chance to monitor this site before the new year, so we skirted the mound of rubbish that has been illegally dumped in the car park, set five nets on C6 and waited to see what was happeneing on site.
We could see that a large number of corvids were coming into the horsefield periodically, also good numbers of gulls again in the area where the horse graze. Perhaps opportunities for another time.
We got a few Goldcrest and just three of the Redwing that were flying overhead from time to time. A Chiffchaff was unexpected, although we do know that they regularly over winter at our Broadwater and Stanwell Moor sites. Wraysbury C6 seemed a bit too open and exposed although C4 would definitely be a more attractive prospect having better cover and feeding for small birds. Perhaps the hot summer and mild winter have encouraged more summer migrants to spend the winter.
1st winter Chiffchaff
Age 3 Redwing
The third of the Redwings caught was particularly dark and had a wing of 122mm compared to the other two with 114 & 116mm. The weight was also higher at 71.4g versus 66.2g and 61.4g. The undertail covert feathers had some extensively dark centres, but not all, leading us to ask ourselves whether this might have been coburni rather than the usual iliacus. We decided that being well within the range of iliacus and these birds being so variable we would not record it as anything else.
A late start and plans to visit Wraysbury were changed to cover Stanwell instead, as fewer nets would be needed. It did mean that we managed to avoid the eyesore in the form of a huge amount of fly-tipped rubbish inside the main Wraysbury gate. An unfortunate reminder of the importance of not leaving the gate unlocked. I would add that noone from our group has been to the site for quite some time.
So, Stanwell it was and we put up a couple of doubles and a 12m 2 panel. We didn't get many birds, but we managed to connect with a small Long-tailed Tit flock, a couple of Redwing and a controlled Cetti's Warbler making the morning most worthwhile.
Control 4M Cetti's Warbler Z371107
Age 3 Redwing
Totals: 16 (2)
Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Redwing - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Goldcrest - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 1
The sad sight that is the car park (behind gates that should be locked) at Wraysbury since a really large lorry dumped its load there.
Wraysbury fly tipping. The gate in the background provides a
Following a walk on the moor on Christmas eve, to walk a dog that actually is in this case just for Christmas as it will be returning to its own home in the new year, we returned (minus dog) to try for one of the 12 Water Pipits that we had seen while hoping to see one of the colour ringed birds that we'd done at the start of the year. We only managed three then, but they are the only UK colour ringed Water Pipits, so despite the low success rate we've had, worth trying to get more observations and individuals marked for the project.
We erected a total of four two panel nets in a flooded area, where dog walkers are currently avoiding walking their animals, and used audio lures. The birds were not especially responsive and there appeared to be fewer than a couple of days before.
3A, age 3 Water Pipit
It was looking as though the session was another failure when a Meadow Pipit was captured, and while we had that bird in the hand, a Water Pipit flew into the net closest to where we had based. 3A, a first year bird, became the fourth bird captured and marked with a colour ring this year.