Tuesday 30 March 2021

Stanwell Moor - 30th March 2021

 It was great to do a regular ringing session at one of our core sites today. The warm weather felt extremely spring like and it was wonderful to see our first Swallow of the season also an Oystercatcher was another fly over.

We put up 6 nets to the sound of Chiffchaff singing all around. We also heard two Willow Warbler.

The morning was quite cold with a light frost so started early with a Blackbird and Song Thrush. Some migrants made their way into the nets, but the most frequently caught birds were Blackcap.

An early Willow Warbler

One of six male Blackcap captured 

We also observed that the Mute Swan 4ERB that had been on Staines Moor was on the River Colne that runs along the boundary of this site today.

Total: 16 (2)

Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Wren - 1 (1)
Robin - 1
Dunnock- 0 (1)
Blackcap - 6
Chiffchaff - 4
Willow Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1

Water Pipit sightings - late March 2021

We were disappointed that none of the darvic marked birds from previous winters on Staines Moor do not appear to have returned, but there have been some other interesting reports of our birds.

The first resighting of any of this year's birds was on Staines Moor on the 8th of the month when 6A was seen on the same flash where we had caught and marked it on the 3rd.

Another ringed bird was reported from Staines Reservoir on the 27th. A partial ring number '132' was visible from the photo taken by Dave Carlssen. Chris and I ringed two Water Pipits in November 2016 that had these three digits at the centre of the ring number. We are unable to identify which bird, if indeed it is one of the two so no firm resighting can be recorded.

Then another image was taken on March 29th by Paul Lewis. This time the bird has a darvic and it is easily identifiable as 4A ringed 6th December 2020.

It's no surprise that the Water Pipits are leaving the moor to feed at the reservoir. It is usual for millions of flies to hatch out in the spring where ducks and gulls can be seen gorging on the insects as they emerge. Those that manage to take to the air will provide food for Swifts, Swallows and Martins later in the month.

Clouds of insects congregate along the causeway at Staines Reservoir

Fortunately these insects do not bite

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Staines Moor - 6th & 8th March 2021

Good weather conditions tempted us out twice in the space of three days. On the evening of the 6th we met up with the Diversity Officer of the site who is a trainee ringer (IS) who had come to observe. It was forecast to be cold too so we intended to put a few nets to a) potentially catch Water Pipits coming to roost, b) catch Snipe and Jack Snipe and c) catch Ducks and limit the session to 3 or 4 hours.

As usual the 'dark' was actually quite light illuminated by the close by airport lights. We confirmed that the Water Pipits were roosting in the area that we'd identified as probable but caught none. We had a little more luck with the Snipe taking three on the first round. The ducks came in from too high and apart from a Lapwing that came in at the wrong end of the flash it then became extremely quiet. Still, we hadn't tried this before and knew that we might have drawn a complete blank.

On the morning of the 8th we set for Water Pipits in a similar area. The Water Pipits seemed to have formed up into small groups and came into our target pool on four or five separate occasions. We managed to catch one new WATPI and a Reed Bunting. For the first time one of our previously marked birds was resighted, 6A was feeding around the drying edge of the pool expertly evading the nets as we so often see these birds do.

6A ring read in the field


06/03/21 Totals: 3
Snipe - 3

08/03/21 Totals: 2
Water Pipit - 1 (+ 1 resighting)
Reed Bunting - 1

Thursday 4 March 2021

Staines Moor - 3rd March 2021

Our first outing of the year here with a forecast of beautifully low wind. We know not to expect too much from this high effort, low yield site. We have to carry all equipment on to the moor and after flooding it is often very difficult going under foot. For all this effort there is little to disguise or shelter nets and catching is not easy.

On arrival today we could see that the Stonechats had moved off. There were however a few Meadow Pipits and at least 6 Water Pipits. We were using three panel nets and put up two doubles and a single. Chris went off to check for swans and I gave it 20 minutes then walked the site in the hope of flushing a pipit into a net. This is necessary as the birds are clearly aware of the nets and rarely fly into them without help. I was pleased to flush a bird into one of the doubles, surprised that it stayed there until I could get there to extract it and doubly surprised to see that it was a Water Pipit.

The swans were nowhere to be seen.

A couple of Meadow Pipits provided an added bonus as the morning progressed although a flock of some 30 Pied Wagtails deftly evaded the nets. The addition of the Wagtails foraging around the flash seemed to affect the usually extremely cautious behaviour of two of the pipits and although the chasing birds both hit the single, only one was caught and another Water Pipit was marked under the scheme.

Total: 4

Meadow Pipit - 2
Water Pipit - 2

Tuesday 2 March 2021

Chobham Common - 26th and 27th February 2021

A chance finally to get out and do some ringing, but where to go? Staines Moor might have been a good option but the water levels are extremely variable so not a good choice without reconnaissance in advance,  and the Water Pipits are not being attracted to the river flowing through the site, but rather range across the entire area popping up on any of the sodden areas and relocating frequently.

Better perhaps then to try Chobham Common. This had been a disappointment at the end of 2020 without large flocks of Redpoll and the few Redwing present being difficult to catch. But, the catching season here is limited to the winter months and this is also our only regular site for Dartford Warbler.

We decided this was the best place to spend the two almost windless mornings.

We targeted two areas where Dartford Warblers have been ringed in the past and on our last chance to monitor we captured five birds over the weekend.

5M captured on the 26th

6M captured 27th

We had been hoping for recaptures. However large areas of the common went up in flames last year so we expect that some birds were forced to relocate into the areas that remained untouched, perhaps increasing the chances of catching new birds.

Total: 5

Dartford Warbler - 5

For added value we also spoke to 11 members of the public about the work that we're doing and the birds of the common.

Monday 1 March 2021

January and February 2021 - Windsor

During the entirety of January and the majority February ringing has been off the cards so on some days we took our exercise by the Thames, recording rings of swans and hoping to see the occasional Black-headed Gull carrying darvics.

Over the two months we have collected a lot of data, but also provided some much needed food for the birds. At Windsor there is an artificially high population of Swans, due to constant feeding by visitors and tourists. They are quite an attraction, but we have noticed that birds have little natural food around that stretch of the Thames, many not even recognising green leaves such as spinach or lettuce as food. They tend not to move far from the river to graze on the Brocas and many birds do not even leave the source of an easy meal to breed during the breeding season.

So the prospect of birds starving during the winter months was a real worry with tourism not currently possible at Windsor. We would feed the birds a couple of times a week and as time went on it became more and more frequent that we would see families feeding bread or grain. Some Windsor residents were clubbing together to buy 15kg bags of sea duck food pellets to see the Swans through the worst of the weather.

During a period of high water, coming over the river bank, some swans finally took to feeding themselves and a number were seen out on the grass which they took to consuming for themselves. It also gave an opportunity to read more metal rings than usual and produced some birds that either had not been reported for a few years and in some cases since they were first ringed. 

We did come across a couple of interesting data queries.

Mute Swan with EGI (Edward Grey Institute Oxford University) Y3T (colour ring) with metal ring ZY6622 upon being entered into the BTO national database came up as having been reported dead. Contacting Prof Chris Perrins at EGI who made checks, the bird's history was traced, having been originally ringed as W28320 when a juvenile back in summer 2011. The bird lost its metal ring and was re-ringed with ZY6622 in summer 2014 during the annual Swan Upping. Enquires with the BTO regarding the report of the bird being found dead revealed in fact only the metal ring had been found by a diver metal detecting on the bottom of the River Thames. It was obvious the bird had lost its ring, which happens occasionally if they strike anything, the banks in some parts of the Thames are concrete or metal, so if they haul themselves out they can catch the ring on the bank side, or sometimes due to striking an object in the river they open up and eventually fall off. The bird was clearly alive, and the report of the bird being found dead was deleted.

X3Y, another EGI bird, whilst checking the above birds history we noticed that X3Y was recorded as being on W42526, a male, but appeared to be in fact a female in real life. Checking the Profs 2018 & 2019 Swan Upping records, they showed W42526 having darvic Y3A and X3Y was shown with metal ring ZZ2694, being a breeding pair in 2018 & 2019 at Clewer. Again checking the BTO data base showed that in error W42526 had been shown with X3Y and ZZ2694 as Y3A. Whilst we were all pretty sure that the Swan Upping entries were correct, before changing the national BTO database we needed to be sure, and eventually we managed check, as shown below X3Y clearly fitted with ZZ2694. The BTO database was changed to reflect the right darvic code v metal ring, and the sightings, and the process of getting all sightings changed from W42526 to ZZ2694 followed, though some other observations still have not been changed over.

We also found out that W42526 had also lost it metal ring and in Swan Upping 2019 had been re-ringed with ZY6681, still with colour ring Y3A, but despite being a local breeding male, was last seen in August 2019 and has been absent for the last 18 months, possibly dead.

ZZ 2694 - X3Y

The oldest Swans recorded was almost 17 years old, W07039 having been ringed originally in July 2004 at Henley during Swan Upping. After this the oldest birds were ringed in 2010.


During the period when the rain had pushed up the Thames water level above the river banks in some areas birds came out to feed on the grass, and a number of metal rings read related to birds that had not been seen since their first ringing, such as W42610 not seen since being ringed in November 2016.


Very few Canada Geese are ringed in the area but one bird ringed as part of a DEFRA study back in July 2004, 5233569 was present, though it had long lost its orange colour ring YLD, now being nearly 17 years old. 


Windsor is not always a good location for picking up colour ringed Gulls, but one 6HF has been a regular since February 2017 having been ringed in March 2015 in Kobenhavn, Denmark as an adult.

But, the 5th January turned out to be a bit of a bumper day with six new colour ringed Gulls present:

2BDC  - ringed Rutland Water June 2019 as a juvenile in breeding colony.
2J59    - ringed Pitsea rubbish tip March 2017 as an adult.
2V00   - ringed Kensington Gardens March 2020 as an adult.
2TTR  - ringed Pitsea rubbish tip March 2017 as an adult, on the same day as 2J59.
EE7E  - ringed Griend, Netherlands July 2015 as a juvenile in breeding colony.
EE9W - ringed Griend, Netherlands June 2016 as second year bird in breeding colony.






Most Mute Swans on the Thames only carry metal rings, but EGI also add white colour rings to Swans during Swan Upping only, but historically far more were given white rings, but these days only a few will be found with them. To report these contact Prof Chris Perrins at Edward Grey Institute, Oxford University. His interest mainly relates to breed birds or if found dead.

EGI white darvic Y3T

Other Swans may carry an orange colour ring, part of Mike Reed's South & East Anglia Swan project, some of which were ringed by Mike and us locally, and occasional ones appear on the river after rehabilitation at local Swan rescue centres, being released back onto the Thames after being picked up in other areas locally. To report these email mike.reed2017(at)outlook.com

Orange darvic 4DYH