Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bullfinch Bonanza!

My niece and nephew stayed the night and when I got up this morning, Kye was sat down stairs watching television. He asked me where I was going & when I told him I was going catching birdies, his eyes lit up and he asked if he could come! So I got him ready & loaded him, the ringing gear and myself into the car for a trip to Shakerley.

It seemed pretty quiet at Shakerley with the odd Goldfinch & Siskin here and there, in fact there were around 10 Siskin near the feeding station – but none were captured. Movement over head of Pink-footed Geese was nice to watch & show Kye, whilst we waited to do the first net round.


On the first net round it appeared that we were in for a good Bullfinch day, with 10 Bullfinch sitting in the net awaiting extraction – along with a Blackbird. Although only four years old, Kye isn’t up to scribing just yet, but he made a perfect holder of the bird bags as I did the extracting!


Anyway to cut a short story short we ended up catching 24 Bullfinch, which consisted of 6 new birds & 18 recaps from previous visits, including catching a bird that I’d ringed in my garden in 2010 (1km distance). Also caught were 2 new Blackbird, 1 new Blue Tit + 1 recap and 1 recap Great Tit.


Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rindle Road & Recent Recoveries.

The alarm was set for 7am this morning, but I did the fatal thing in turning back over for 5 more minutes! Which turned into 30 minutes & I was late for meeting Steve and Jenny at the Rindle Road feeding station. I arrived to find that Steve & Jenny had the nets up & were about to undertake the first net round.

P1090122I’ll keep this short as I’ve got some recoveries to post - Throughout the morning we captured 35 birds including 33 new & 2 recaps.


SpeciesNew Recap
Tree Sparrow6
Reed bunting1
Blue Tit7
Great Tit2
Dunnock 1
9 species.332

Recent Recoveries

Rook – EP59784 – 31/06/07 – Balleyhealy, Wexford, found dead next to electric fence at Tohaggard, Wexford (3km) on 15/02/09.

Tufted Duck – FP32059 – 13/01/10 – Sefton Park, Liverpool, caught & released by anglers at Eccleston Mere, St Helens (14km) on 25/03/10

Reed Bunting – X922999 – 07/04/10 – Shakerley, Atherton Manchester, caught by ringers at Grimley, Worcester (144km) on 15/10/10.

Mute Swan – ZY1806 – 08/11/09 – Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria, ring read in field at Fairhaven Lake, Fylde (69km) on 26/09/10.

Mute Swan – ZY1364 – 10/09/09 – Sambrook Mill, Telford, controlled at Southport Marine Lake (101km) on 10/10/10.

Coot – GR25240 – 07/10/10 – Westport Lake, Stoke – on – Trent. Ring read in field at Stanley Park, Blackpool – 100km

Coot – GR25246 – 07/10/10 – Westport Lake, Stoke – on – Trent, Ring read in field at Watermead County Park, Leics – 85km

Coot – GR05475 – 12/01/10 – Southport Marine Lake, Lancs. Ring read in field at Cinderbarrow Tarn, Yealand, Lancs – 58km

Coot – GR25226 – 28/09/10 – Crompton Lodges, Bolton, Manchester. Ring read in field at Stanley Park, Blackpool – 51km

Coot – GR25181 – 24/11/10 – Pennington Flash, Leigh, Manchester. Ring read in field at Stanley Park, Blackpool - 48km

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Slimbridge Bewick's Catch.

A planned swan pipe catch at WWT Slimbridge on Tuesday ended up being cancelled due to an unusual reason! Although there were plenty of ducks, geese & swans up the pipe, our Wildlife Health Research Officer – Julia Newth, was keeping a close eye on the age & sex of each Bewick’s Swans that entered the swan pipe. The reason the catch was cancelled was due to the lack of adult male Bewick’s Swan going up the pipe. So a decision was made to try and attempt a catch today, again depending on the number of adult males entering the pipe.

So why did we want adult males? The reason being is that we had four GPS neck collars to fit and it is thought that the males would ‘‘carry’’ the collars better, with them being bigger than the females. The purpose for these GPS collars is to provide detailed information on the swans’ flight-paths when moving between Britain and the Netherlands. This information will be used to inform the location of wind turbines within the large Round 3 offshore wind farm sites scheduled for development off the coast of East Anglia.


So we met at 07:30 this morning & the swan feed went ahead as normal at 8am, with Julia in place, hidden at the pipe – ready to count the swans in! Julia got to 30 birds, which included a good selection of adult males & decided to pull the door on the pipe, safely capturing the birds. It’s at this point the rest of the team enter the pipe in order to form a line in the water, to drive the birds up into pens, where they patiently wait to be processed!

P1080977Along with the Bewick’s a good selection of other wildfowl including Pochard, Pintail, Gadwall and Mallard were also captured – along with tons of Greylag & Canada geese!


It was nice to see and catch up with our friends Wim & Otto from the Netherlands – who are currently in the UK to read Bewick & Whooper Swan rings over at our Welney centre. Both Wim & Otto were invited to the catch at Slimbridge & were especially made up when we controlled two of their Dutch ringed Bewick’s in this mornings catch!

P1090016 Bewick’s Swans have been well studied using ringing, colour marks and neck collars and, on an unusual basis, by variations in their yellow and black bill patterns. Sir Peter Scott, his family and colleagues compiled a huge amount of detailed information on the Bewick’s Swans at Slimbridge. This is now the job of Julia Newth & she was able to identify all the birds caught today & recall their names back to us at the ringing table!

P1090042 Bewick – Amuoet


Bewick – Pogues

We also caught Slimbridge’s oldest known swan, Winterling. She first arrived at Slimbridge as a cygnet in 1982 with parents Albert & Rachel, making her a wise 29 years of age! She’s already been ringed before, however managed to shed both her darvic & BTO ring and it’s only due to her bill pattern that we’ve managed to keep up-to-date with her regular check-ins at the feeds.

P1090101Julia & Winterling.

P1090102We thought it was only appropriate that Winterling would be ringed with this darvic ring!

So all in all a very successful catch – catching 30 Bewick’s Swans & around 300 ducks & 100 geese. We managed to fit all four collars onto the male Bewick’s and also retrieved a data-logger that we previously fitted at Slimbridge several years ago – which we’re very much looking forward to downloading the data from.


For me the highlights of today’s catch were being able to handle & ring the Bewick’s. Being a Whooper man from the north, it was great in seeing their smaller cousins up close and personal!

P1090082Neck collars do look invasive at times, however they are a crucial bit of equipment if we're to safe guard the future of the Bewick’s Swan.

Any sightings of colour ringed wildfowl can be sent to colourmarkedwildfowl’@’

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Summary of 2010.

This has been a record year for the group, with over 4,800 birds ringed and new record totals for 14 species during 2010. The combination of cold spells of weather at both ends of the year, coupled with a good breeding season, has led to high totals of a wide range of species. In both January and December, the large congregation of coot at Southport allowed 660 to be caught of which many were colour ringed, leading to some fascinating rapid movements. Most notable were birds sighted in Leicester and Cornwall within a few weeks of ringing, showing that coot will continue to move large distances during spells of cold weather. With regular reading of colour rings, some birds have begun to show established patterns of movement in successive winters. We hope to analyse these results in more detail after a further season of field observations.

Good numbers of tufted duck were also caught in January, but only a handful of short distance movements within Merseyside has so far been notified. As a spin-off, a rapid cold weather Canada goose movement of 50km across the Pennines was also recorded. Sustained ringing of Canada geese throughout the year led to record totals for this species as well. Later in the year, a new site for catching black-headed gulls by hand was identified which, combined with increased ringing effort at a productive colony, has also led to over 600 being ringed. Concerted efforts at ring reading in the field identified 15 foreign ringed black-headed gulls from 9 countries.

During late spring, the good breeding season with high nest box occupancy allowed record numbers of blue and great tits and tree sparrows to be ringed. Long-tailed tits were also caught in record numbers, showing that many had successfully survived the cold spell. More systematic searching of reed beds, coupled with increased expertise at nest finding, resulted in almost 50 pullus reed warblers being ringed. Later in the year, a new swallow roost was located and although no more than 250 birds were present at any one time, over 500 were caught in several visits. Notable were several retraps of pulli ringed nearby in previous years as well as a control that had moved 200km north-west from a roost in Northamptonshire earlier in the autumn. Increased ringing activity in the reed bed also led to record reed bunting totals.

The setting up of regular feeding stations helped to boost finch numbers and following the good breeding season record totals of goldfinch, bullfinch and chaffinch were ringed, including a rapid movement of one of the latter from Heysham. Good numbers of brambling were present from late September along with more resident species, leading to a record total of these. By December, that even more charismatic visitor from Scandinavia, the waxwing, arrived in force, leading to the capture of a record total of 36 over three days.

Many thanks are due to all landowners for permission to ring at numerous sites during 2010.

Steve Christmas.

2010 Ringing totals.

Species Full Pulli Retrap / Recov Total
Grey Heron   7   7
Mute Swan 316 1 624 941
Whooper Swan 1   2 3
Greylag Goose 1   1 2
Canada Goose 166   41 207
Gadwall 1     1
Teal     1 1
Mallard 2   4 6
R C Pochard 1     1
Tufted Duck 75   9 84
Goosander 1     1
Moorhen 1     1
Coot 657 3 791 1451
Lapwing   7   7
Black H Gull 106 501 31 638
Common Gull 2     2
L B B Gull 1     1
Herring Gull 4   1 5
Stock Dove 1 2   3
Woodpigeon 9 4   13
Collared Dove 3 2   5
Barn Owl   9 1 10
Tawny  Owl 2 2   4
Long Eared Owl   3   3
Swift 6     6
Kingfisher 1     1
GS Woodpecker 5   1 6
Sand Martin 39   3 42
Swallow 568 40 10 618
Meadow Pipit 92   1 93
Waxwing 36     36
Wren 17   1 18
Dunnock 37   16 53
Robin 45 9 19 73
Blackbird 70 24 19 113
Song Thrush 5 25   30
Redwing 1     1
Mistle Thrush   1   1
Grasshopper W 2     2
Sedge Warbler 10   2 12
Reed Warbler 34 47 14 95
Whitethroat 4 5   9
Blackcap 8     8
Chiffchaff 6   1 7
Willow Warbler 10 12   22
Goldcrest 15   5 20
Long-tailed Tit 87   24 111
Willow Tit     10 10
Coal Tit 24   8 32
Blue Tit 251 222 130 603
Great Tit 174 83 112 369
Nuthatch 5 6 10 21
Treecreeper 2     2
Jay 3     3
Magpie 3     3
Jackdaw   2   2
Starling 64   3 67
House Sparrow 13   2 15
Tree Sparrow 9 96 2 107
Chaffinch 142   8 150
Brambling 13     13
Greenfinch 95   7 102
Goldfinch 268   32 300
Linnet 3     3
Lesser Redpoll 44   2 46
Bullfinch 73   47 120
Yellowhammer 19   2 21
Reed Bunting 52 5 3 60
69 species 3705 1118 2000 6823


Group members 2010

Steve Christmas, Tim Christmas, Wes Halton, Kane Brides

Charles Findlay, Jenny Cliff & Ciaran Hatsell.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Two species of Redpoll.

We were invited back round to Michael & Mary’s garden today, for another go at catching some of their Redpoll. Arriving at dawn and a 30 foot net up soon after, the birds started to trickle their way in.

P1080969 After several slices of toast & cups of coffee – kindly provided by Mary, we were ready for the first net round, which produced many Redpoll, keeping us busy throughout the morning. But perhaps the highlight of this visit was catching a Mealy Redpoll, only the 5th ever to be ringed by the group!



For comparison – Mealy on the Left & Lesser on the Right.

Goldfinch were more numerous on this visit, resulting in 10 being caught, along side a Great Spotted Woodpecker which just missed our net last time! However of the 12+ Brambling present none felt bold enough to come close to the net!


The session was rounded off on an all time high, when capturing our first control for the site. This came in the form of a Lesser Redpoll carrying ring – X922915 – which sounded rather familiar & upon checking IPMR, confirming what we thought, that I ringed this bird at my Shakerley feeding station in Feb 2010. Around 10km distance.


Control X922915.

In total 67 birds were caught including 50 new, 16 recaps & 1 control.

Species New Recap Control
Lesser Redpoll 29 16 1
Mealy Redpoll 1    
Goldfinch 10    
Great Tit 1    
Blue Tit 6    
Blackbird 2    
G S Woodpecker 1    
Our thanks to Michael & Mary for having us again……

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Siskin added to the Shakerley list!

I've been mega busy recently, so I've been unable to do much ringing - hence the lack of blog posts. However with a bit of free time this morning, me & Ciaran headed off to Shakerley & netted the feeding station for an hour or two, before freezing fog put stop to that.

In total 37 birds were trapped of which 30 were new & 7 recaptures. This included two Siskin that came to feed on the nyjer seed, which although we see Siskin at the site - they never seem to come down to the feeders.

Blackbird - 2
Blue Tit - 2 / 2
Bullfinch - 6 / 1
Chaffinch - 1
Dunnock - 1
Goldfinch - 11
Greenfinch - 1
Great Tit - 3 / 3
Reed Bunting - 1 recap
Robin - 1
Siskin - 2

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Gull Grabbing in Galway.


After me & Chris went to Galway in January 2010 & realised the potential for both catching gulls and reading their rings in the City harbour - the four of us have just returned from spending five days on a holiday & ringing trip to Ireland.

Arriving in Galway on Monday (3rd) we had a few things to do before we could start catching. Notifying the Garda of our presence in the harbour was important, should they’ve received any reports of 4 youths enticing birds in with bread & then catching them! So once the Garda & Harbour Master had been notified – we were all set for catching.

P1080845 Monday proved to be our most successful day with 20 gulls being caught within an hour. Tuesday was another good day with 19 birds caught. But come Wednesday they had started to get wise to our catching methods & only 10 birds were caught.


In total 49 birds were caught – 35 Common Gull & 14 Black Headed Gull.


Being in the City Centre and catching right next to an ice skating rink, groups of people often came over to see what we were doing. This allowed the perfect opportunity to tell people about bird ringing & the importance of ringing & reporting bird rings.


When not catching the birds, we focused on reading any already ringed birds. We made it easier for ourselves by ringing all ‘our’ birds on the left leg. This allowed us to easily pick out ‘other’ birds that were ringed on the right leg, thus giving them priority in the ring reading line.

Five (BHG) rings were read from Finland (1), Iceland (1), England (2) and Ireland (1).

ST238271 – Nestling – 27.06.04 – Seinajoki, Finland – 2,141km

575830 – Nestling – 27.07.07 – Breidabolstradir, Iceland – 1,415km

EX515** – Nestling – 17.06.10 – Bedfont Lakes, Heathrow - 618km

EW30311 – Nestling – 03.06.07 – Baston Pits, Lincolnshire – 589km

220P – Nestling – 16.06.07 – Lough Mask, County Mayo – 45km.

On returning back to Dublin for our flight home & after a walk down the River Liffey – we spotted another ringed Black Headed Gull.

EL86131 – Nestling – 09.06.09 – Cleveland Farm, Wiltshire – 346km.

Thanks to John Wells, Dave Harris & BTO Online for the above ringing information.

Perhaps it's worth pointing out that a separate licence is required for bird ringing to be carried out in Ireland. This is issued by the National Parks & Wildlife Service in County Monaghan.