Friday 31 March 2023

Little Snoring Garden - March 2023

 All captures occurred before 20th March and netting days had been severely limited due to many days when the weather was much too windy to drop the nets or snowing and/or raining.

The house name of 'Finch House' came into its own this month with Greenfinch, Siskin and Goldfinch all showing quite solidly in the figures. There are signs that a pair of Goldfinch are making an attempt at nesting in the large variegated Holly. Blackbirds have also increased their presence after apples were hung on the Beech tree to provide extra food during the cold snap experienced a week or so into the month.

Female Siskin

Most Chaffinch cannot be ringed due to mite infestations on the legs, 
but this male showed no sign of disease.

Totals: 37 (19) Check totals

Robin - 0 (2)
Dunnock - 1 (7)
Blackbird - 5 (1)
Blue Tit - 5 (7)
Great Tit - 0 (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 14
Goldfinch - 4 (1)
Siskin - 6
House Sparrow - 1

Sunday 12 March 2023

Wintering Blackcap project - 12th March 2023


This was the third attempt by us to capture wintering Blackcaps in conjunction with the Norfolk Ornithological Association. This collaboration came about when SG a member of the Cley Bird Club messaged the group that he had at least three Blackcap feeding in his garden over winter. CL replied, advising of a national project, run by Greg Conway of the British Trust for Ornithology, to colour ring and track Blackcaps wintering in the UK. ERB of the NOA agreed to arrange with GC to take part in the project, however there was a delay in getting the new authorisation on her permit, hence our involvement as we have been authorised agents on the project a few years now.

After two unsuccessful attempts we made out final try on March 12th, nearing the March 15th deadline for the project, after which there is a risk that captured birds may have just arrived for the summer. We were fortunate to capture and mark two females. Both were first winter birds.

                                 Photo by ERB

                                  Photo by ERB

These birds have spent the winter at a well fed garden in sight of the North Norfolk coast.

Before the 1960s all Blackcaps seen in the UK appeared to be summer migrants, but since that time the numbers seen during the winter months have been steadily increasing. Global warming and garden feeding is believed to have created the necessary conditions to permit this to be a viable winter strategy for the birds. For some time it has been known, from ringing, that Blackcap that winter in the UK tend to have been bred in Southern Germany. However studies at the University of Freiburg have shown that Blackcaps that spend the winter in Spain have genetic differences to the Blackcaps that summer and breed in Germany then winter in the UK.

The academic community believe this could mean the two populations are on their way to becoming  separate species providing a wonderful opportunity to study this process. This project aims to gather data on the movements of these birds while in the UK and contribute to our knowledge of Blackcap migration.


Saturday 11 March 2023

Sculthorpe Moor - 11th March 2023

 Low wind gave us a chance to monitor the birds in the beaver enclosure. We could hear Siskins in the Alders across the scrape but despite audio-lures these could not be enticed into our nets. In fact there were few birds in evidence in the enclosure although Marsh Tit was heard, there were few other passerines around and we only managed 6 birds.

Female Nuthatch.

Total: 3 (3)

Wren - 1
Robin - 0 (1)
Blue Tit - 0 (2)
Treecreeper - 1
Nuthatch - 1

As the birds were a bit thin on the ground, I took the opportunity to photograph some of the areas where the beavers have been at work.

Finally we checked to see if any Lapwing on the scrape carried darvics, but there were none.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Norfolk run around - 8th March 2023

 We started at Sheringham just before 7am. This is necessary to beat the people that regularly feed, and also to make a start before too many dog walkers are out and about. The Turnstone were very suspicious of both us and the walk-in trap, hardly surprising when we observed them identify and follow a woman, that comes to feed most days, along the seafront. The birds also went to wait at a spot along the sea wall where someone frequently tips out a bucket of seed at about 8am. They gave it a good 20 minutes but the bucket of seed didn't arrive. By 8:40am the birds were brave enough to take our bait from the edges of the trap and one bird eventually walked in. JAJ was processed and marked. JAC, ringed at Sheringham on 7th February was present. The other three birds marked on that date have since been recorded at Cromer just along the coast.

Next stop was Salthouse pond. Here the regular darvic marked bird 9JZ5 from Finland and metal ringed bird 6J4976 from Denmark were still present. We also saw a rather sickly Black-headed gull and noted that the resident Mute swan pen was unusually unsteady on her legs while out of the water.

Stopping off at Selbrigg pond we found that Scarface the long standing resident male Mute swan had started to drive off last year's cygnets in preparation for the next breeding season. Three cygnets have disappeared and only 4EPO, 4EPQ, 4EPS and  4EPU remain.

Looking in at the River Wensum, Fakenham we managed to get the metal ring numbers of two Black-headed gulls, both ringed locally in 2010 and 2022. Not very exciting, although the 2010 bird was also recorded in Sweden in June of 2015. A single darvic ringed bird was from Holland and details are awaited.

Sunday 5 March 2023

A farm in north west Norfolk - 5th March 2023

 Another attempt at catching Tree Sparrows for the colour ringing project. 

The nets caught well as birds visited the feeders, but despite having seen Tree Sparrow, they swiftly disappeared until the nets were taken down.

Total: 66

Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Robin - 2
Blackbird - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 36
Great Tit - 14
Brambling - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Goldfinch - 8

Friday 3 March 2023

Sculthorpe Moor - 3rd March 2023

 Today we covered one of the feeder sites at Sculthorpe Moor. Activity has dropped at the feeders as we advance into early spring and birds of some resident species are getting ready for the breeding season. Robin ANZ9512 has already developed a brood patch in preparation for warming eggs throughout the incubation period. Several retrapped tits that had been ringed in the beaver enclosure last year were at the feeders, including Marsh Tit ACX6613, a young bird experiencing its first winter. The feeders are particularly important during February and March as natural food becomes more difficult to find and birds need to get into condition for  migration back to the summering grounds and/or the breeding season.

We also spoke to some visitors that had seen a wing tagged Buzzard on an earlier visit and have been able to secure a resighting of ZB, ringed and tagged as a nestling on the boundary of Sculthorpe and Hempton last summer.

Adult male Siskin

Total: 18 (10)

Robin - 0 (2)
Dunnock - 2 (2)
Blue Tit - 7 (3)
Great Tit - 1 (2)
Marsh Tit - 0 (1)
Coal Tit - 1
Siskin - 1
Greenfinch - 6

Thursday 2 March 2023

A farm in west Norfolk - 2nd March 2023

 Blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground lately, mainly because it's not worth writing about attempts to catch Turnstone to be thwarted by regular feeders that draw the birds from the place where we have the best chance of capturing some before dog walkers flush them, or worse their canine friends gobble up the bait. That has at least allowed some time for a bit of public relations talk. There were also two failed attempts to capture and colour ring Blackcaps visiting a coastal garden at Cley-next-the-sea. On both attempts the weather wasn't ideal, but we are racing against the final date of the project on winter visiting Blackcaps this season so we tried anyway.

But, this morning looked as though the wind would be low enough to try a few mist nets. We went to a location on the farm that we haven't tried before. Siting nets was difficult as there were few opportunities to site through the hedgerows and the few nets we did get up were wind affected before long. We caught 29 birds, but better than that found a better place to base with more opportunities to erect nets further along the track. We also spoke to one of the farm workers that gets Tree Sparrows in his garden. An opportunity for later in the year perhaps. We didn't see any Tree Sparrows during this session.

Our main problem was that most of the finches tended to fly to the tops of the hedges rather than into them. Our nets were frequently flown over and the numbers of tits and Blackbirds caught reflected the different way that those birds flew to the hedgerow. 

5M Yellowhammer

5F Brambling

6M Chaffinch

Total: 28 (1)

Blackbird - 5
Robin - 1 (1)
Dunnock - 3
Blue Tit - 7
Great Tit - 8
Brambling - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Yellowhammer - 1

Little Snoring Garden - February 2023

A difficult month with windy conditions again. On the few days when it was possible to open nets we ringed 49 new birds and retrapped 33. The majority of birds were Blue Tits with a few finches for added interest.

Total: 49 (33)

Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Blackbird - 6 (3)
Robin - 0 (3)
Dunnock - 4 (5)
Blue Tit - 22 (16)
Great Tit - 3 (3)
Goldfinch - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 8 (1)
House Sparrow - 2 (1)