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

Saturday 18 December 2021

Wild Ken Hill Fresh Marsh - 18th December 2021

 Another day of very low wind and an attempt to catch Water Pipit. We could see them over the field next to where we had erected nets but they would not be attracted to our catching area and a couple of Meadow Pipits were the only marshland birds to find our nets.

Meadow Pipit

We had also put up a couple of single nets along the line of the old railway line and most of the catch came from these nets. We had a nice mix of thrushes showing some interesting features.

Heavily marked 1st winter Redwing

1st winter Fieldfare male 
(note large amount of dark colouration in centre of crown feathers denoting male)

6 retained greater coverts 
indicating this bird has not yet been through a complete moult and 
was therefore hatched this year.

Ist winter male Blackbird.     
Unmoulted feathers (brown contrasting to moulted black) include all primaries & secondaries, primary coverts, alula and some tertials. All retrices and contour feathers have been changed.

Total: 18

Meadow Pipit - 2
Blackbird - 13
Fieldfare - 1
Redwing - 2

Friday 17 December 2021

Ken Hill, Bell Mount (Farm) - 17th December 2021

 Another visit to Ken Hill, this time to explore part of the working farm arable fields complex. We were hoping to catch some of the winter finch flocks that make good use of the field margins, seeded to provide food for wild birds. This was a first effort and we were also at a distinct disadvantage being unable to observe what was happening much further than a few metres away in the dense fog.

All considered we didn't do too badly, and now having an improved plan for future sessions.

Brambling - 3 male

Brambling 3 female

Totals: 24

Wren -1
Robin - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 5
Chaffinch -10
Brambling - 4

Thursday 16 December 2021

Wild Ken Hill Fresh Marsh - 16th December 2021

 As soon as the opportunity arose (a forecast for sufficiently low wind) and we were back at Ken Hill trying to mark more birds for the Water Pipit project. The site was considerably wetter than last time, but we were still able to find two suitable areas for combinations of two panel nets. We only caught one bird but it was the target species, bringing the total number of marked birds here to three.

Adult Water Pipit

We were on site to meet LP shortly after 7am. There are some distinct benefits to getting out on the fresh marsh early on a winter's morning.

Pink-footed Geese leaving their roost

Misty morning on the marsh

There were at least up to nine Water Pipits present, with regular pass overs by a pair of Marsh Harriers, which at one stage did some displaying to each other, couple of Ravens over croaking and a day time flying Barn Owl.

Total: 1

Water Pipit - 1

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Cley and Salthouse - 7th December 2021

With Storm Barra approaching from the west, we took the opportunity to get out before the wind and rain set in.

Our first stop was Cley beach where there was very little on the sea and just a few Turnstone and gulls milling along the tideline. There was also a Grey Plover. The Grey seals were close in shore, one even hauled out briefly.

Next stop Arnold's marsh. It was striking how few birds were there, plenty of ducks including Pintail but a lot of the wading birds had moved off. Walking east along the beach, we located the Iceland gull feeding on a seal pup carcass that was down to bare bones.

1st winter Iceland gull

Before setting back home ahead of the rain, a visit to Salthouse duck pond confirmed juvenile Mute swan 4ERJ still present with parents. The gulls were all extremely hungry and amongst the melee competing for a few scraps that we'd brought was a colour ringed gull. The code J925 was on a white plastic ring showing signs of wear with a section missing from the lower edge. The metal ring was also observed in entirety, 6205267, Stavanger, Norway. This is the first time it has been recorded here this winter and it is a regular at the duck pond with records dating back to 2014.

The darvic was applied in 2013 so a little wear is not surprising.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Barred Warbler, Wiveton - 5th December 2021

 A quick run out, hoping to view the Barred Warbler through the rain showers, actually worked out. It hadn't been seen for a while when we arrived, but Chris checked a little further up the lane and having seen what we thought was the bird flit across the lane, we eventually managed to get on to it in one of the magnificent Spindle berry,  Euonymus europaeus   bushes along that stretch of road. The plant looks quite exotic with its vibrant colour and four-lobed fruits, so unlike our other native shrubs. It was the perfect perch for the stunning, stocky warbler on a dull winter’s day.

As for the Barred Warbler, it just goes to show, even in what's been somewhat less than a classic autumn, you can never tell what's about. This is a really late date for Barred Warbler.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Wells-next-the-sea - 30th November 2021

 We only stopped for a latte, but as I scurried through the rain with disposable cups in hand, I just happened to notice the glint of a metal ring on a Black-headed gull perched on the guard rail. Swiftly I left Chris with the beverages, and camera in hand set about capturing the entire number sequence.



      Black-headed Gull
       (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)    


Ring no:


Ringing details
Age: 3 Sex: U Sex meth: U P.ringed: 0 P.alive: 0 Condition: U
Colour marks added: - Metal marks added: N Act1: U Act2: U
Ringing date: 23-Nov-2013 12:30:00
Reg code: - Place code: WES Site name: Westport LakeStaffordshire, UK
County code: GBSTA Grid ref: SJ8550 Accuracy 0 - Co-ords: 53deg 2min N -2deg -13min W 

Biometrics: Wing: 302.0 mm. Weight: - g. Time: 12:30:00hrs

Finding details
Ring not Verified Age: 8 Sex: U Sex meth: U
Colour marks added: - Metal marks added: - Act1: U Act2: U
Finding date: 30-Nov-2021 12:00:00
Reg code: - Place code: - Site name: HolkhamNorfolk, UK
County code: GBNOR Grid ref: TF9143 Accuracy - - Co-ords: 52deg 57min N 0deg 51min E Accuracy -
Hab1: H3 Hab2: H1
Biometrics: Wing: - mm. Weight: - g. Time: -hrs
Finding condition: 89:28 Movement: 9
Sight record by a ringer Metal Ring Read In Field
Remarks: -
Duration: 2929 days Distance: 206 km Direction: 94deg (E)

It's nice to get a bird ringed in 2013 that has no other observations.

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Finch House garden - November 2021

 As we began to learn how birds use the garden we moved one of the 6m nets to a location next to the pergola where birds often travelled from the Bancroft garden into the feeding site. There was a clear influx of migratory Blackbirds at the start of the month and this new location caught well. Brambling and Siskin were heard over at that time, however none were seen to feed in the garden. November has been quite windy and wet in parts, limiting the ringing opportunities, with the last weekend of the month adversely affected by Storm Arwen and completely lost for ringing. Much foliage cover has now turned and dropped, however birds continue to visit the garden.

There were some new species added as more birds discovered the feeders and our first ringed bird that wasn't one of our own. It was, of course, one of the numerous Blue Tits.

Total: 84 (22)

Woodpigeon - 1
Great-spotted Woodpecker - 1
Wren - 1
Robin - 3 (6)
Dunnock - 3 (1)
Blackbird - 7 (4)
Goldcrest - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 6 (1)
Blue Tit - 35 (4 + 1 control)
Great Tit - 9 (3)
Coal Tit - 4 (2)
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Goldfinch - 5
Starling - 2
House Sparrow - 2

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Wild Ken Hill Fresh Marsh - 24th November 2021

 Having had news of 3 Water Pipits on the fresh marsh, Chris and I decided to give it a go in advance of the cold and windy weather due to affect us by the weekend. This was a first attempt at this location and there were cows still there grazing so we were very happy when they decided to move out of the area where we wanted to set nets, knowing how curious cows can be. Along with a combination of three double panels, we also put a double full height net between a ditch and small reedbed with a single, close to our base where a ditch passes under the track. 

It turned out to be a small but rather varied catch. Two Water Pipits trapped and colour marked from 6 present, was more than we could have hoped for. Added to that , there was also a Kestrel from the two panel net, a Cetti's Warbler from the single, a hand captured Mute Swan (also colour ringed) and a solitary Lesser Redpoll.

Water Pipit adult

Juvenile Water Pipit

Adult Kestrel female

Total: 10

Mute Swan - 1 
Kestrel - 1
Water Pipit - 2
Wren - 2
Robin - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 1

Sunday 21 November 2021

Wild Ken Hill - 20 November 2021

We were on site before 7am but suffered a slight delay when we became bogged down while parking up. We continued to put up the six 18m nets at that immediate location, then Chris turned his attention to freeing the 4x4 while I checked the nets. We made 23 captures in all.

The morning was fairly quiet, once the car was out of the mire and the sound of the revving engine ceased.

We met two of the free ranging residents and can now add pigs to the list of animals that are about and need to be looked out for and kept out of the nets.

Our session was heavily dominated by tits with our highlight being a Marsh Tit, a species that was not present on any of our ringing sites under Colne Valley RG and in notable decline in several areas across the UK.

Marsh Tit, age 3

Totals: 17 (6)

Blackbird - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Coal Tit - 3
Marsh Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 7 (2)
Great Tit - 4 (4) 

One of two Tamworth (I think) sows that range freely on the Wild Ken Hill estate. These omnivorous animals are an excellent indicator of soil health. They forage quite discernibly on the margins of fields and currently avoid the areas that have been cultivated over many years, as there is much less food there for them to find. With time, those areas too, should hold increasing invertebrate numbers, fungi, roots and grass for them to eat in addition to fruits and seeds.

These two ladies are very well behaved, but I fully suspect that they are responsible for the state of the ground and our becoming stuck while manoeuvring the vehicle.

Friday 19 November 2021

Salthouse Duck Pond - 18 November 2021


Black-headed Gull 6J 4976 from Denmark

Ringed obtained whilst assessing the potential for a small scale Gull colour ringing project this winter and ringing the Swans, with the focus on the known age cygnet initially.

The Gull was originally ringed 23/5/2013 as a pullus at Holm Sø, Brøndby, Sjælland, Denmark (55 37N, 12 26E), and seen previously at Salthouse on 24/12/14-21/3/15, 3/11/15-12/3/16, 5/11/16-25/1/17, 2/12/17-8/2/18, 16/10/18-4/3/19,12/11/19-29/1/20 and 4/11/20-29/12/20. Details c/o Cley Bird Club.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Wild Ken Hill - 15 November 2021

 After a couple of visits to reconnoiter the expansive site, today was the first independent session. We are so pleased to have found a project with so much potential to support. 

The nets, two runs of three 18ms, were set along the site of the old railway line on a private area of the wild side of Ken Hill. Lining where the tracks used to run, are hedgerows of a variety of plants including Hawthorn, Wild rose, Blackberry and Blackthorn. On arrival, there didn't seem to be a great deal of activity as seen on our last non-ringing visit, when mist had forced migrant thrushes down and they were feeding up on hawthorn berries and rosehips.

Redwing, age 3

Cetti's Warbler, age 3

We only managed a couple of Blackbirds and two Redwings, but the Long-tailed tits helped push the total to just over 30. Other birds seen included Barn Owl, Curlew, Pink-footed Geese, Marsh Harrier.

The total ended up as follows.

Totals: 29 (3)

Wren - 2 (1)
Robin - 2
Dunnock - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 2
Redwing - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 10 (1)
Blue Tit - 7
Great Tit - 1

Thursday 4 November 2021

Finch House garden - October 2021

 Our first birds were caught on 17th October, some three weeks after our move to North Norfolk. The garden is very close to open farmland and the garden has been planted with a variety of plants good for providing natural food. We have seen quite a few species in and over the garden so hope catching will prove interesting.

One of two Hazels that have been tempting Jays in to feed.

A variety of shrubs and fruit trees provide some thick areas of cover.
 A water feature could also provide water at drier times of year.

Several plants provide berries for winter thrushes

We expected a few tits as there is an established feeding station next door. 

Our small feeding station had been running for a few days before the three 6m nets were put up. First results from 2 weeks when rain and wind prevented netting on several days are as follows:

Total: 28 (5)

Woodpigeon - 1
Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 2
Blackbird - 4 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 12 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Goldfinch - 4

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Long-toed Stint (St Aidan's Nature Reserve) & White-tailed Plover (Blacktoft Sands) - 12th October 2021

 There haven't been any blogs for a while due to  our relocating to Nelson's county. It's two weeks since we finally moved to Norfolk so today, since both these rare birds are still present, we travelled up to get both in one trip.

The Long-toed Stint is a first for us both. There was a chance that we could have seen this species in Mongolia but we did not, so, this became our first new bird in the UK  for quite a long time.

A rather distant record shot

Moving on to Blacktoft (the last time we were here was to work on Bearded Tits with the aid of a Dulux paint chart - the study concluded that eye colour is not a reliable means of ageing) to see the White-tailed Plover. This was a first in Britain and the third we've ever seen. The journey to see it was much less arduous than the drive on deeply rutted tracks in Azerbaijan for two thirds of the party to to find our own as the remainder of the party lost their bottle. The second time we'd seen one was on our first day at Eilat, when an American competitor of the bird race loaded his scope into our boot, not realising that all assembled hire cars were white and he had not picked the correct vehicle. Our trip today had no amusing anecdote to accompany the viewing yet the view was still a good one.

White-tailed Plover

Saturday 25 September 2021

Broadwater GP - 24th September 2021

 A productive session totalling 71 birds! That was a bit of a surprise but was managed by playing for Blue Tit, since the warbler calls didn't seem to be very successful. The Blue Tits responded, bringing other birds with them. It was a tussle between Blue Tit and Chiffchaff for leading species, and eventually it was Chiffchaff that won out.

Age 3 Chiffchaff showing 4 OGCs

3M Goldcrest

The evidence of outside interest and rumours concerning the site continues. Some trees close to the lake and marked with crosses are apparently due to be removed and a bird watching screen put in, meanwhile the boxes and tiles, presumably for monitoring wildlife are still on site, and this morning we also spotted a bat detector for recording calls.

There are also rumours that HS2 has bought the entire lake. We've also noticed that surrounding footpaths have been closed for access with security guards posted on many of them.

Not one but two pile drivers operating today. The first of these started just after 8am. The people that live near here must be so fed up with the disturbance.

Totals:  65 (6)

Robin - 1
Blackbird - 1
Blackcap - 10
Chiffchaff - 27 (1)
Goldcrest - 2 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 22 (2)
Great Tit - 1 (1)

Friday 24 September 2021

Stanwell GP - 22nd September 2021

We departed from the usual arrangement of nets to use, instead, a V formation in the field for Meadow Pipits. We didn't cover the cut through between the hedgerow that tracks across the site and just kept a single on the bank, and two doubles down between the river and lake. There was limited success with the Meadow Pipits and as at our other locations, Chiffchaff numbers were peaking. There were also singles of Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler.

The pre-ringed Chiffchaff NRC627 was almost a lost record as the number was checked twice before the R was correctly recognised since it was originally taken as a P. We look forward to finding out where it's from although it probably hasn't travelled far. Not yet in DEMON, but the ring string has been input up to 20 or so before at the end of August. 

Totals: 40 (1)

Meadow Pipit - 8
Dunnock - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 3
Chiffchaff - 18 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 4
Blue Tit - 1

Broadwater GP - 19th September 2021

We spent the morning at Broadwater with five nets up and rain due late morning. The audio-lures for Blackcap and Chiffchaff were not very successful so Chris took the bold step to play Blue Tit. A flock was attracted and some phylloscs came in with the tits.

There were singles of Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

We were all packed up before the rain, but had car trouble on the way home, meaning that the next couple of days when we intended to ring would be spent with the car at the garage.

Willow Warbler - only one captured today, 
so possibly the last of the year.

Total: 26 (6)

Dunnock - 0 (1)
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 13 (2)
Willow Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1 
Blue Tit - 6 (3)
Great Tit - 4

Wraysbury GP - 17th September 2021

We went along to Wraysbury without any great expectation as we knew that Whitethroats, Garden Warbler and Blackcap would be dropping in numbers or gone all together. There were no Whitethroats or Garden Warbler and only 6 Blackcaps in total. Other than increased numbers of Chiffchaffs being on site, the only birds caught were a couple of Goldcrest, a Magpie and the usual residents species.

Our last Chiff-chaff

Flights are increasing as travelling is possible to more locations
 (although testing and entry to the country are still onerous)

Totals: 40 (6)

Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 2 (2)
Song Thrush - 1
Blackcap - 5 (1)
Chiffchaff - 15 (1)
Goldcrest - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 6
Blue Tit - 6
Great Tit - 1 (1)