Tuesday 28 November 2023

A farm in North-west Norfolk - 28th November 2023

 The first ringing session of the winter provided data on 47 birds. We were unable to place nets in the same places as last year as the vegetation has not died back as much as it did last year, also the winter bird crop has done much better and whereas we could put nets up on the very short plants, this year the vegetation is almost a metre high. Thankfully we were not constrained by winter CES and could site nets in alternative positions.

A double placed in the orchard by the farmhouse did not provide the expected Blackbirds, instead trapping rather too many tits for our liking. There were 10 Blackbirds from field side nets but only 4 Chaffinch. 

Male Chaffinch, 4 ringed and one released unringed due to foot infection.

Juvenile Redwing

Juvenile Marsh Tit - we should soon receive the coded 
darvics and start the new Marsh tit project.

Total: 46 (1)

Wren - 1
Robin - 2
Dunnock - 8 (1)
Blackbird - 10
Redwing - 1
Blue Tit - 15
Great Tit - 4
Marsh Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 4

Sunday 26 November 2023

A farm in North Norfolk - 26th November 2023

 The change back to chilly UK winter temperatures was a bit of a shock to the system after last week's stay in Gibraltar when afternoon temperatures reached 26degrees. It was a little breezy but not too chill until after mid-day when the wind began to get up across the farmland.

We had planned for a larger team that didn't materialise but still erected the planned 10 nets.

There were a lot of birds on site, making the most of the areas planted specifically for wild birds. Reed Bunting was well represented in the birds observed with lower numbers of Yellowhammer,  Chaffinch and Blackbird and we were quite pleased with a catch nearing 70 birds.

3M Reed Bunting

4M Yellowhammer

Juvenile Dunnock

We are hopeful that this site is attractive to birds migrating south to avoid the worst of the winter weather in mainland Europe and will turn up some foreign controls in the fullness of time.

Total: 67 (2)

Robin - 4 (2)
Wren - 2
Dunnock - 11
Blue Tit - 14
Chaffinch - 3
Reed Bunting - 32
Yellowhammer - 1

Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society - 12th November -23rd November 2023

 Our first time at the rock, we were rather surprised by how urbanised the land around the rock is with several areas expanded via reclamation. We were staying at the observatory building at Jews Gate, a building that was used as a jail during WWII, hence the bars across the windows.

 The building is in a busy location with groups of tourists arriving throughout the day to view the strait and Mount Hacho across the water in Morocco. Together with the Rock pf Gibraltar these are the pillars of Hercules. In Greek mythology the pillars represented the limit of the known world.

MAC, the ringer in charge and who we've ringed with before, in Kenya, showed us around the site's upper and lower 'gardens'. The rides of some nets were quite difficult being on slopes, with trip hazards and some loose debris.

Over our time there, we had an average of 80 birds or so each day. The 21st was entirely lost due to strong westerlies that made opening up impossible. A full list of captures is available on the following link.


Being rather late in the season we had quite a narrow range of species, but we did get in hand experience of a new species as Crag Martins often flew close to the nets in the early evening.

Ageing principle similar to Sand Martin although most juveniles
were not as well marked as the individual on the right. Bird on left is an adult.

There were waves of Black Redstart arriving with some seen around the building on most days.

We caught a few Serin.

There were even fewer Greenfinch.

Record numbers of Siskin were passing through the site as unusually high numbers 
of the small finches headed south via Gibraltar

Blackcaps were a regular capture. The only control during our time there was of a female Blackcap with a ring from Gdansk, Poland.

Adult female Sardinian Warbler

There was a single Long-tailed Tit and a few Blue Tits, quite different to the UK birds as the dull green panel on juveniles looks extremely dark green on the few examples seen.

The numbers were boosted by the use of playback. In addition to the three players belonging to GONHS we had taken another three and MAC had taken some of his own too. 

Birds tend to get caught moving up or down the rock. Here are some examples of the net rides.
Net 17 on two levels with the bottom line between pipes 
and next step up at shoulder height.

Net 18 (high net) sloped ride with ropes to hopefully prevent slips and falls

Net 20 

It is possible to stay and ring with accommodation cost of £10 per night. The room we had was quite basic. You need to supply your own food and it's quite a walk to reach supermarkets in the town. We were surprised by the low catch numbers in September and October - but the odd interesting surprise is always possible.

Barbary Partridges 

Macaques spend a lot of time grooming and generally 
keep to themselves if people respect their space.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

A farm in North Norfolk - 7th November 2023

 The winters of 2021 and 2022 demonstrated how difficult it can be to ring farmland sites in the very windy conditions that prevail for much of the time here in Norfolk, making any structured approach such as winter CES near impossible. We already have a couple of farms where we may ring, however the fields are large and ringing days are often ruled out as the wind makes use of mist nets impracticable. Having made an approach to a local farmer, sympathetic to the needs of conservation, with good numbers of buntings on his fields we were recently taken for an on site reconnaissance and were granted permission to ring on the site.

The conditions were not ideal and the wind gusts increased beyond the speed forecast, but today we went on site to assess how the birds use the site, see what lines they take and generally consider where nets might work well. There were fewer birds about than when we had driven round before but we still identified three key areas where nets could be placed between hedgerows and the head height wild bird crop. We put up singles in the three locations where doubles or triples could be fitted in on a calmer day.

The nets were wind affected but that didn't prevent a catch of 29 birds. Looking very promising for the 2023/4 winter season. Many thanks to the land owner for agreeing to work with us.

Reed Bunting, leading species 13 of 29

Male Yellowhammer

Total: 29

Robin - 2
Dunnock - 5
Blue Tit - 3
Greenfinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 13
Yellowhammer - 5

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Deepdale Farm - 1st November 2023

 An unexpected return to the farm. The wind was rather too strong for general mist netting, but the mass arrival on the coast was of Blackbirds, and these being fairly heavy birds we thought there could be some scope to catch a few at Hilly Piece.

The wind was rather strong and many birds saw the nets, however we still managed to catch 16 over the course of a couple of hours in the early afternoon. despite a few breaks for rain as the squalls passed through and nets were closed.

3M Blackbird

It was great to catch what were clearly the continental race of Blackbird. Notable were a female  with tail appearing black rather than the expected brown, and a male with 142mm wing, checked by CL to confirm and definitely a Blackbird.

Total: 17

Blackbird - 16
Song Thrush - 1 

Observation of Crossbill, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and a flock of Pink feet over the farm.