Thursday 28 April 2022

Deepdale Farm - 28th April 2022

 A rather slow morning that brought 13 birds' data to the record sheet. Joined by ERB, we were pleased to catch the first Whitethroat of the year and spent much of the morning talking about how good this little copse should be in the autumn, at an elevated position, there is plenty of  cover just a short flight from the coastal margins. Added to that a wealth of flying insects and surrounding arable fields with set aside with birds in mind.

Male Whitethroat

Total: 12 (1)

Robin - 2
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 4
Chaffinch - 2

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Wild Ken Hill - 27th April 2022

 After a few days of warm spring sunshine, today's cloudy conditions and chill wind was a bit of a shock to the system for both ringers and birds alike. There was visibly less bird activity, and bird song was also reduced.

The female Marsh Harriers were seldom seen with only the males hunting. Presumably, brooding duties (whether eggs or chicks) were a priority in the chilly conditions. A male Cuckoo was heard from time to time, but there was no sound to indicate the presence of any females. Three Swallows flew through from the direction of the sea bank.

With little obvious activity, a total of 34 wasn't at all bad for a spring catch (always lowish, due to birds being more 'experienced' than the rather naive youngsters of autumn and with many of the paired birds sitting).

The session brought our first Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler of the year. More than a third of the catch were retraps, again showing how site faithful resident and migrant birds are, often returning the exact same portion of the field, reeds or hedgerow year after year.

Grasshopper Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat

Reed Warbler

Total: 22 (12)

Wren - 1 (3)
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Song Thrush - 0 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 4 (2)
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 2
Chiffchaff - 8 (2)
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (2)
Reed Bunting - 1

Thursday 21 April 2022

Iceni Bird Monitoring Group, a new beginning - 21th April 2022

 Since we left Buckinghamshire in September 2021, MRB has taken over Colne Valley Ringing Group and, our ringing has mainly been on our own personal rings. Approaches to existing organisations here have not resulted in opportunities for collaboration. 

So, having now secured a few places with ringing possible all year round, we have decided that it's appropriate to form a group to identify the work that we and our associates do. Permissions for the group, and some specific projects have already been approved and others are in the process of finalisation. We will be running standard ringing sessions, and also focus on the use of darvic markers to learn more about species behaviours, and encourage participation from the general public.

We will be continuing with the Water Pipits and Black-headed Gulls. In addition we have secured permission and colour rings to monitor Lapwing and Turnstone. Further projects are in the process of organisation.

Our work will be conducted under the name of the Iceni Bird Monitoring Group.


Tuesday 19 April 2022

Wild Ken Hill - 19th April 2022

 Migrants continue to drift into the country prompting another session at Wild Ken Hill. The first observation made was the total lack of Willow Warbler song in stark comparison to the 14th. The birds, in full song, heard on that morning clearly have moved on.

We erected the same nets as on the 14th with the addition of an extra 18m close next to the junction of two hedgerows with reedbed and running water within a couple of metres of the end. This proved a good move with three Cetti's Warbler captured on the first round, one of which appears not be from the site, and may possibly be from Holme NOA, but until the data is in from the BTO we cannot be sure.

The Marsh Harrier's were noticeably spending less time perched up in trees and the male was seen to bring in three food items. The catching appeared to be going well for them.

Our catching efforts of the morning were accompanied by the virtually constant calls of a male Cuckoo that showed much interest in the reedbed. He seemed to be currently single and despite seeing him fly over a couple of nets, he was not captured.

The Blackcaps continue to arrive. Today the ratio was 5 males to 8 females with an increased number of females arriving now, after the initial rush of males heading to the breeding areas to set up and hold territories ahead of the hens.

Female Blackcap

We also heard several Lesser Whitethroat.

Lesser Whitethroat, aged 5

With birds sitting now, there are fewer resident birds flying about so 29 new and 9 retrapped wasn't a bad result.

5F Bullfinch, BP1

Other birds seen included Cuckoo, 4 Marsh Harrier, Jack Snipe, Green Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel and Whitethroat. 

Totals: 29 (9)

Wren - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (2) 
Sedge Warbler - 2 (1)
Blackcap - 13
Chiffchaff - 1 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Great Tit - 3
Bullfinch - 1

Sunday 17 April 2022

Deepdale Farm - 16th April 2022

 A second site on the farm where the habitat looks promising. We set up 5 nets and wondered whether we would have been better to go back to the first area where we've ringed twice before, since the wind here was chill and there wasn't a great deal of birdsong and even less visible activity.

The first round gave us birds into double figures. Perhaps this wasn't a bad idea after all. Despite the bitingly cold wind whipping over the prow of the hill and rushing along the track towards the sea, the areas where nets were set were sheltered with birds mostly travelling inland. At present we are still learning how the birds tend to use this site.

We managed a good spread of 15 species including summer migrants and resident birds.

Chris records biometrics of a Chiffchaff.

Male Blue Tit, hatched last year.

Adult male Blackbird

Male Nuthatch


View from the farm across Deepdale to Scolt Head. The farmland feeders have 
done their job and seen birds through the hungry gap
with little needing to use then now.

Our first Willow Warbler of the year.

Total: 34 (3)

Wren - 2
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 2
Blackbird - 1
Blackcap - 3
Chiffchaff - 6
Willow Warbler - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 4
Coal Tit - 1
Great Tit - 3 (2)
Nuthatch - 1
Tree-creeper - 2
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 2

One of the Chiffchaffs was controlled at Sandwich Bay observatory 160 days later. Details below.

Species:Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)Scheme:GBTRing no:DPH925
Ringing details
Age: 6 Sex: U Sex meth: U P.ringed: 0 P.alive: 0 Condition: N
Colour marks added: - Metal marks added: N Act1: U Act2: U
Ringing date: 16-Apr-2022 07:40:00
Reg code: - Place code: - Site name: Deepdale FarmNorfolk, UK
County code: GBNOR Grid ref: TF7943 Accuracy - - Co-ords: 52deg 57min N 0deg 40min E Accuracy -
Hab1: A3 Hab2: C1
Biometrics: Wing: 61.0 mm. Weight: 7.5 g. Time: 07:40:00hrs
Remarks: -
Ringer: Iceni Bird Monitoring Group, 9253

Finding details
Ring not Verified Age: 3 Sex: U Sex meth: U
Colour marks added: - Metal marks added: - Act1: U Act2: U
Finding date: 23-Sep-2022 (0) 08:05:00
Reg code: SBE Place code: SBE Site name: Sandwich Bay EstateKent, UK
County code: GBKEN Grid ref: TR3557 Accuracy 0 - Co-ords: 51deg 16min N 1deg 22min E Accuracy 0
Hab1: B7 Hab2: G8
Biometrics: Wing: 64.0 mm. Weight: 7.6 g. Time: 08:05:00hrs
Finding condition: 8:20 Movement: 9
Subsequent Capture by Ringer Intentionally Taken
Remarks: Age discrepancy
Duration: 160 days Distance: 194 km Direction: 166deg (SSE)
Finder: Sandwich Bay Bo, 9075

Friday 15 April 2022

Wild Ken Hill - 14th April 2022

 The recent fair weather with winds from the south east has brought a flurry of migrant activity as birds make the crossing from mainland Europe to the south and east coast. We worked an area around the old railway line where there are differing habitats, holding species that will reflect the current movements of migrants. Many will be fresh in and most will not have completed their journey to the summer breeding grounds.

One of four Sedge warblers captured. All will need to feed up before moving on. 
Three had completely exhausted their fat reserves and need to feed up before 
travelling any further.

The air was filled with Willow warbler song, but it was only the rather similar Chiffchaff that managed to find our nets. All of these birds showed no preparedness for breeding yet as they have only just arrived.


Blackcaps are also starting to filter into the country. At present the majority of arrivals are male. They fly in advance of most females in order to set up and hold territories ready for the arrival of females.

One of 5 male Blackcaps captured.

The resident birds are a little more advanced with their breeding season. Some females have well developed brood patches (feathers drop from the bird's belly that engorges with blood in order to transfer heat from the body of the sitting adult to the eggs). Breeding males have cloacal protuberances or CPs for breeding.

Male Cetti's warbler (with CP). 

Male Reed Bunting (with CP).

This female bird has remained on site all year, although some Marsh harriers leave for the winter and return by April more are remaining now (probably a direct result of global warming). She came and looked at us but accepted our presence away from where they have chosen to nest and continued with the business of hunting and getting on with their breeding season.

One of two pairs of Marsh harriers.

We put 5 nets up, using hedgerows and reedbed margins where birds travel through cover and access water.

It's amazing that birds are recaptured on the exact spot year on year. The catch included 4 birds ringed by LP in previous years.

Total: 37 (4)

Wren - 5
Robin - 3
Dunnock - 2
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 5 (1)
Chiffchaff - 6 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 5 (1)
Chaffinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 1

Thursday 14 April 2022

Andelusia, Spain - 28th March to 5th April 2022.

 We actually made it out of the UK. First time in two years, hoping for some warmth but most days were as windy as we've experience at home of late with added rain most nights with heavy showers on several days. This led to a stall in migration some days but we were out every day and even on our cultural days managed to get new birds for the trip.

We were reading darvics throughout the break and will devote a separate blog to those.

Strong winds at Laguna de Medina concentrated all birds down one end of the lake. Disappointingly, there were no White-headed ducks, Marbled ducks or Red-knobbed coot to be found.

Arriving at Huerta Grande where we would stay for 5 nights, we saw migrants and resident birds readily using the feeders.

Blackcap couple

Lots of Siskin

Crested tit

Heavy rain on the first day led to an immediate change of plan and we went a little further afield, where thankfully there was none of the rain, stubbornly remaining on the hills and only wind. La Janda had a lot of White storks and egrets as we passed through causing a second change of plan as this site was pencilled in for later in the week, but it looked good now and the weather was uncertain.

Cattle egret

So many windmills

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza came to mind (as we were in Spain)

Red Clover

Willow Warbler

Clouded Yellow

So many Stonechats

Marsh Harrier

White stork with degraded darvic

A network of drainage ditches interconnect through the complex of fields

Signs that this route used to be rather more important

Several birds already on the nest

We had a look at the colony of Northern Bald ibis, a successful reintroduction programme at La Baraca de Vejer. Chris had seen these birds Turkey, but these were a life tick for me.

We got some ring codes here and were surprised to find that the organisers of the project
rarely visit to take ring sightings and don't get many reported from visitors either.

Male KN3

Two of four coded rings read.

In the evening a walk at La Brena y Marismas de Barbate proved worthwhile with the expected Flamingoes, Spoonbill, 3 Audouin's gulls, Slender-billed gull, 27 Northern Bald ibis, and 120 Collared Pratincole.

Collared Pratincole

One of two distant Osprey, seen with a large fish

Some of the 120 Collared Pratincole

A morning walk at Huerta Grande

Female Hawfinch


Spanish bells

There are several raptor watch points between Huerta Grande and Tarifa where the straits are narrow and birds can cross from Morocco most quickly. We headed to one and waited. There were a few migrants in the surrounding bushes. Most activity overhead were Griffon vulture, Short-toed and Booted eagles.

Spanish Festoon

Griffon vulture

Short-toed eagle

Black Kites

Two Moorish gecko

Provencal Orange Tip

Another morning spend viewing across Tarifa. A haze around the coast appeared to be deterring birds, until a flock of  Black Kite drifted through.

Black Kite moving through

One individual in the process of moulting out its secondaries stood out and 
could be tracked from the coast inland.

As the rain set in we visited the Roman ruin of Baelo Claudia. Even here we added another species to the list. We thought this was Thekla Lark, being that the vocalisations were so different to what we had heard from the similar looking Crested Lark in Cyprus. Comparing the two songs led to a bird coming to within 5ft of Chris.

Definitely Thekla Lark.

Then on to the vulture nesting cliffs above the ruins.

Griffon Vulture

View down to Baelo Claudia


Spanish Iris

 A return visit to La Janda was less productive than previously, fewer storks and egrets, but several Montagu's harrier.

Male Montagu's Harrier.

Western Swamphen

Most Bee-eaters passed through, often high and more likely heard than seen.

Red-legged partridge


Storks on the move

A habitat that looked good for migrants. 
Groups of Bee eater were flying through the valley all the time.

Tawny Pipit

Black Redstart

Wild Lavender

Subalpine Warbler

Then a trip back towards Jerez, via Laguna de Medina. Less windy and the birds were spread all across the water.

Male Black-winged stilt

The following day we tried some small ponds in an agricultural area. This was in an effort to find some water birds that had proved challenging. We had seen Marbled duck at Medina at a distance, but White-headed duck and Red-knobbed coot continued to elude us.

Red-crest pochard

White-headed duck, finally

No sign of Red-knobbed coot at one of our best chances of seeing one

A Roller flew through, unfortunately missed by Chris

Then we happened across 5 or 6 Western Bonelli's warblers working through the trees by one of the ponds.

Western Bonelli's warbler

Then another pond behind a wire fence with a mixed breeding colony.

Glossy ibis

Night heron

Cattle egrets

and an unexpected and rather lonely Black-headed Weaver

On to Donana and its fantastic long trunked, round crowned pines. We tried this site a couple of times.


Storks nest near the picnic site, but we were unlucky in our hunt for Azure-winged magpie.

The salt pans were our last chance for Red-knobbed coot. We finally found Marbled duck (seven in fact) and more White-headed Duck, but only Eurasian coot.


Glossy ibis

We've come across this before in Spain. Why build hides then
put them behind a locked gate?

Eurasian Coot

Marbled Duck

Purple Gallinule

Flamingos, some with coded darvic rings

Female Black-winged stilt

Great white egret

Cattle egrets

We took some time out for culture on a rainy day when the tracks would have been too slippery. We took in the Alcazar and cathedral. Sat out the showers drinking coffee in one of the town squares before walking around a lake nestled amongst the housing estates.

There were quite a few migrant warblers, the Western Orphean Warbler being the most interesting. We've only seen Eastern Orphean warbler before.

Western Orphean Warbler

As we returned to the hotel on the evening of our last day, it was only proper that there were Montagu's Harriers flying across the fields, around the building. We'd seen so many of these in the last few days.

Montagu's Harrier