Monday 24 December 2012

NRC 1000 Challenge ‘Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore’

You may remember back in May that we blogged about us forming as a recording team for the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme and out of that came the Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore nest recording partnership.

This year we set out to do a challenge and that challenge was to try and record 1,000 nest record cards during 2012. We have purposely kept quiet about the end result of the challenge, as we were invited by Andy Clements the Director of the BTO to present our adventures, findings and end totals at the BTO’s recent annual conference.

After such a successful season for us (it may well not have been for the birds) it was very rewarding for us to present the whole year to over 400 delegates attending the conference. We addressed the conference with the reasons for us getting together as a nest recording partnership, advantages we found as to working as a partnership, I touched upon inspirational people – who have inspired me to carry out my own monitoring projects, we told the conference the various methods we used to help us achieve our goal, Gillian gave a very impressive overview of her work on Reed warblers & Chris summarised his Pied flycatcher work in North Wales.

As we proudly announced to the conference our end total of 1131 Nest Record Cards submitted, the whole room came alive with the sound of cheers & clapping – certainly making all those very early mornings & very late nights much worthwhile!

With 1131 NRCs whipped off to the BTO in September, we calculated that we’d spent 186 days in the field! We submitted NRCs for 80 species and of those 406 cards were submitted of 37 BTO ‘priority’ species. 744 cards where submitted from England, 357 was Wales and 32 from Scotland. 28% of records came from nest boxes with 72% of the records coming from open nesting species.

Here’s a few slides from our presentation.

Two people who I’m in awe of and totally inspired by are:


(Photo – Ben Howard) Malcolm Calvert of South Manchester Ringing Group who has devoted a life times work to study the Reed warbler at Rostherne Mere in Cheshire.


Dr Ævar Petersen of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History who I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside during trips to Iceland and certainly someone who I look up to in the field of ornithology. Ævar, next year will be spending his 40th year in the field of nest recording and ringing Black guillemot chicks.

How & what methods did we use?!


……. lots of tree climbing and using poles mounted with cameras and mirrors.


……..many hours spent in waders wandering through reedbeds and kayaking helped to get those tricky nests on the reed bed edges!


…….and by using our phones to take photos & videos inside the nests of Great spotted woodpecker, Green woodpecker and Starling.


Gillian brought an update on her dissertation work studying Reed warblers……


& Chris spoke about how he has taken over the monitoring of two colonies of Pied flycatcher in N Wales.

What other people had to say.

Ieuan Evans – Your talk was awesome, you guys rocked! Thank-you!

BTO – Fantastically engaging talk, your impressive project should certainly inspire the next generation!

Paul Seligman – We all enjoyed your nest recording presentation! Well done!!

Mark Holling (British Birds) - Seeing their enthusiasm and inventiveness to reach their target was an inspiration to us all.

So that’s our 2012 Nest Recording Year! I’d just like to thank both Gillian & Chris for coming on board any helping me out with my already existing monitoring projects, for whom without, these projects would not be receiving the same amount of attention as they have done over the last several years!

It’s been hard work, but very much worth it! If you’d have asked me back in June as to whether I thought we were going to make our target of 1,000 – I would have probably turned around to you and gave you a blank expression & shouted NO! How wrong was I!? Here’s to 2013…………..and hopefully some better weather!! Have a lovely Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Kenya 2012.

Myself and Chris has just returned from a wonderful ringing trip in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. There we joined an international team of ringers on the 44th annual trip to Ngulia Lodge to ring western palearctic migrants and afrotropical birds.

The ringing carried out at Ngluia is very unique in that most of the ringing is carried our during the hours of darkness. Each night teams would take it in turns to check on the weather conditions and as soon as any mist appears, then the whole ringing team in awoken.


Perfect misty conditions to captured grounded migrants.

Two 60 foot nets are placed in front of the lodge’s floodlights and it’s these floodlights that attract any migrating passerines from above, finding it hard to navigate in such conditions the migrants head for these lights & sit it out until the mist passes. However some birds end up in the mist nets and at times over the period we captured up to 1,500 birds!

A very efficient ringing team is then on hand to extract any captured birds & these are then taken to the ringing teams who work busily throughout the night, to ring any captured birds before first light appears.


The majority of the catch is made up of Marsh warblers and Thrush nightingale, however the odd Nightjar (European, Plain and Donaldson’s smiths) were also captured. During our stay one controlled bird was captured, this being a Thrush nightingale which was carrying a Georgian ring. A first for the ringing expedition!

DSCN0476 Plain nightjar

Extracting birds at around 3am whilst you have Thrush nightingales sitting on your shoulders and Nightjars whizzing around your head is quite an experience! Also knowing that just hours before we got to work, sometimes up to three Leopards & at times Elephants were feeding in this vicinity – is quite a daunting thought! 


By the time daybreak had arrived most of the nights (or should that be early mornings!) catch has been released, allowing them to continue with their migration. At first light 20 mist nets were opened which allowed us to catch a variety of birds including quite a number of afrotrop species!

DSCN0430 African Green pigeon.

Dawn ringing then continued till around 10:30 when it was then too hot to have the mist nets open & the bird activity in the area had quietened down. After breakfast several single panel nets were placed up to catch Barn swallows, often with some big catches had. These birds were taken away to be ringed in the cool shade before being released.

Afternoons were either spent Swallow ringing, catching up on sleep – although who wants to sleep when there is so much to see & do!? or going on Safari – which is what we did! We had the most wonderful time out on safari & bird watching in Tsavo – seeing all but one (Lion!) of the big 5 and having some quite memorable if not scary experiences with the Tsavo’s temperamental Elephants! 


We both had the best time ever on this trip and we would both like to thank Dr David Murdoch, Dr Colin Jackson & Dr Graham Backhurst for inviting us along on this trip & for teaching us so much! We would also like to thank Malcolm Wilson, Baz Williams and Richard Charles for their company on the trip & to all the others and staff at Ngulia Lodge who looked after us so very well.

We returned back to the UK via Dubai, after flying into Manchester on the world’s biggest passenger plane – the A380 – which was an quite experience in itself!

For now we’ll leave you with some photos from the trip below, however more can be viewed here (for general trip photos) and here (for bird photos)


Grey headed kingfisher.


Asian lesser cuckoo.


Little sparrowhawk.


Pygmy batis.

Friday 10 August 2012


No it’s not the total number of Coot that have now been colour marked, but the total number of visits to this blog has topped 100,000 since the first post in 2009!


Since the first post on 03/02/2009 a total of 304 posts have been blogged on this site. Blogger has a clever little statistics tool, which allows us to keep tabs on the total number of visits, where people are reading from and what sites they’ve been directed from!

So I thought we’d have a little look to see what’s been happening!

The most popular posts, in terms of the number of hits have been - The Brides, Bridge and Dinsmore Partnership (857 views), ‘‘How do you catch your Coot?’’ (708), The Flatey Experience (624) and Busy Week (401).

Not surprising Google was the most popular ‘referring site’ with 13,705 views being directed from Google. Then people also found their way onto the blog via BTO Demog Blog (9,748), Oaring (857), Sean Gray’s blog (817) and Peter Fearon’s blog (644).

The stats tool also allows us to see what folk have typed into search engines to find the blog. Some too rude to mention on here! But – ‘Kane Coot’ has been typed into search engines 802 times and is by far the most popular search! Followed by ‘Kane WWT’ (608) and ‘Puffin chick’ (203).

When we look at the audience and where they’ve visited from, the top ten are – UK (55,070), USA (10,919), Denmark (3,916), Norway (3,156), Spain (1,627), the Netherlands (1,364), Germany (907), France (829) and Russia (808).

We’ve posted from or blogged on ringing trips from Iceland (4 trips), France, Germany, Holland, Norway, Croatia, Romania and Russia!

So thank-you for reading the blog & to all those who have invited me out ringing with them or have joined me out in the field! It’s been quite an experience! :)

Friday 3 August 2012

Recent Recoveries……

Steve recently sent round to the group our latest batch of recoveries, which came in from the BTO earlier this week.

There were several local movements of finches, Coot and Mute swans ringed in the North West, but two notable recoveries are listed below.

A Tufted duck ringed in Sefton Park, Liverpool (no doubt a lunch time ringing trip of Steve’s!) on 12/01/2010 as a 5M was caught/drowned in fishing nets at Pelym, Ivdelsky in RUSSIA – 3977km ENE in 847 days. Just goes to show that not all bread eating ducks sit on the same pond all their lives!

A Common gull caught at Nimmo’s Pier in Galway, Ireland on 03/01/2011 was recaptured by ringers on 22/06/2012 at Breiavatnet, Stavanger in Norway, 1113km ENE in 536 days. The ringers also colour ringed the bird – white J5VP.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Big Brother coming to a nest near you!

Over the last few weeks Gillian & I started our nest camera trapping work on our Reed warbler colony. We’re placing cameras at the nests of Reed warblers in the hope of identifying the adults by their colour rings. This is a video of the first nest that we filmed at, containing small chicks. We’re rather pleased that we’re able to identify the female as BTO Pink, Pink Dark Blue. She was ringed at the site as a 3J in 2010, she was recaptured in 2011 and again in 2012. Hopefully with the colour ringing & the cameras we'll be able to follow her nesting attempts over the coming years.

As you can see from the video the male is unringed, but hopefully more trapping over the coming weeks will see him colour ringed! We’re rather excited at being able to film our nests as we never get to see the ‘private’ lives of the Reed warblers and what goes on after we’ve left the nest! With well over 70 nests at the site – we’ve had our work cut out!

This short video is slow to start off with, but you can see some cool/interesting stuff further on….

The above work is being carried out by Gillian for her dissertation.

Excuse the sounds of the planes in this clip! The site sits under the flight path of the UK’s third busiest airport!!!

Saturday 7 July 2012

CANGO & GREGO Catches.


Over the past two weeks I’ve been involved in several round-ups targeting moulting geese. These catches taking place at the BTO’s Nunnery Reserve in Thetford and in the Cotswolds Water Park. Good fun as always & very successful – but it was all hands on deck & I didn’t manage to take any photos. All of these round-ups were for separate projects & the Cotswolds Water Park blog, details more information on the round-ups taken place there, this week……

It was good to work with staff from the BTO – my first visit to the Nunnery, which I very much enjoyed! Thanks to Daria for the tour round! & also good to work with FERA & Exeter University teams on the CWP catches…

Sunday 17 June 2012

The Highlight of My Day!

Checking on one of my Barn owl boxes in Greater Manchester, that I’ve had up for three years now & finding out that a pair have taken to it and raised a brood!


We seem to be having a good Barn owl year with three broods already ringed & two more to ring in a few weeks time.


Saturday 16 June 2012

Island Hopping.

On Thursday we flew out from Manchester & hopped across the water to the Isle of Man to see Mr Gray & Mr Scott for our annual 'ringing jollies'!

Meeting the pair at the airport they whisked us off to the local gravel pits, calling off at Sean's home to collect the kayaks first, before launching them to gain access to an island. This held several pairs of breeding Greater blacked backed & Herring gulls along with a nice small Cormorant colony.


After a small battle with the wind all four of us safely made it onto the island and we got to work ringing several GBB & Herring gull chicks. The Cormorant nests were at various stages ranging from eggs to medium sized chicks - so a handful of chicks were marked with darvic rings.



After completing our little expedition we then went into a nearby breeding colony that held Herring & Lesser blacked backed gulls. Here we colour marked several chicks of both species.


We then took a walk along the beaches to see if we could muster up any wader pulli for ringing resulting in an Oystercatcher chick being caught & after a small run around a Curlew chick being found in the nearby sand dunes.


At a nearby Little tern colony two newly hatched chicks were ringed, along with the capture of a controlled adult bird.



By this time it was time to call it a day so we headed off back to Sean's to clean up & to fill our faces! However knowing from my previous visits to Sean's, I knew we hadn't quite finished ringing for the day! There were gulls to be whooshed netted in the garden!


Friday we met back up with Kev in Peel Harbour where we spent the majority of the day spring trapping Herring gulls & catching Black guillemots. The Herring gulls obviously had only one thing on their minds, in finding food for their chicks - which allowed us to capture 18 birds for colour ringing! Three Black guillemots were caught - 2 new & 1 recapture from 2005!


As always I've enjoyed my trip over to the IOM, it's a stunning place and has some cracking bird life! Sat in Sean & Niki's kitchen watching Gannets diving into the sea at the bottom of their garden, with a cheeky G&T to hand was truly memorable!


A massive thanks to Sean, Kev & Niki for having us along! Some quality bird ringing carried out with three quality friends! Thank-you muchly! until next time chin-chin!

A video made by Sean -

Monday 11 June 2012

Mini Eggs….

We decided to take advantage of Sundays fine weather to check up on a few nests that had pulli ready for ringing, but first on the list was to check the status of a Goldcrest nest that we found during nest box monitoring in Atherton woods.


Two weeks ago we observed one of the adult birds collecting nesting material & after a small search we eventually found the nest safely tucked away on the end of a branch of a Yew tree. On our 2nd visit to the nest it contained four tiny eggs & as none of us have ever found a Goldcrest nest before, we are rather looking forward to watching this nest progress!


Very hard to photograph!

A quick visit to our reed bed site in Worsley found us three new nests with pulli that were able to be ringed. First up a Willow warbler nest (6 chicks), Greenfinch (4 chicks) and Reed bunting (2 chicks) all being ringed. 

Finally we finished our day by ringing a brood of Barn owls that have taken up residence in a box at a new location within Greater Manchester. Brilliant!


Then we went to watch Coldplay at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium – which was AWESOME!

Saturday 9 June 2012

Swiftly Does It!

Gillian & I visited my local cemetery this afternoon to check on a few nests, but as a mini downpour had just passed over not long ago – several Swifts were coming down low to feed. A quick dash home to fetch some poles & a mist net, soon saw several Swifts in our grasp.


I’ve handled several Swift in the past, so Gillian ringed & processed today’s catch – leaving my hands unscathed & my hair flat fly free!


Smart birds!

Thanks to one of the cemetery keepers for his help today…….

Friday 8 June 2012

The Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore Partnership!

Everything is happening at once at the moment, which is keeping us very busy! The Reed warbler season has kicked off to a good start - we're currently monitoring nests at three sites, totalling 62 nests found. Our main reed bed site in Cheshire is holding 41 nests (that we know of!) and we've already ringed our first broods & recorded our first fledged young!


We've also been very busy over at WWT Martin Mere monitoring the Tree sparrow boxes. Out of 109 boxes checked 71 contained nests of Tree sparrow. Most chicks being ringed from these boxes & nest record cards filled out for all attempts. Most of the first broods have now left and second clutches are now well under way!


I'm expecting both our 2012 Reed warbler & Tree sparrow nest record totals to be well over 100 cards for both species!

I usually fly solo when nest recording, however this year I've teamed up with Gillian & Chris and out of this has come the Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore (BBD) nest recording partnership.

Although we're spread across the country myself at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, Gillian in Stirling & Chris in Bangor, N Wales - we are not only nest recording at sites near our homes, but we meet up 'in the middle' (or near enough!) in Manchester every weekend. This is so that we can continue to run several monitoring projects such as the Reed warbler & Tree sparrow recording, that I've been running for several years now.

At the moment a lot of our time is being spent out in the field, however during a recent group meeting we sat down & worked out that we've something around 700-750 nest record cards on the go at the moment, between us. 300+ of these now complete, sitting in IPMR and awaiting submission to BTO HQ.

I think ringing & nest recording should go together in the same way that Ant & Dec does, Gin with Tonic & Morecambe and Wise - In that one can work without the other, but it just wouldn’t be right to just have the one! So much information can be gleaned from ringing & nest recording if both are put together.

Anyhow back to the ringing side of things. Today whilst working from WWT Martin Mere, during lunch I joined my colleagues from the Reserve Team & we headed out onto the reserve to check on the Barn owls. I'm happy to report that the owls this year seem to be having a better year than previous years, as we found one brood of three healthy chicks, along with a female sitting on 6 eggs.


Two nice Kestrel broods were also added to the days findings, both containing newly hatched chicks & one of the adult females we managed to trap on the nest, which was duly ringed before she bid a feisty retreat back into her box! Blood pouring from my hand......! (from me not the bird!)


So I hope the above goes to show for the lack of blog post recently! We're spending a lot of time out in the field, still ringing lots of birds - but struggling to keep up with the admin work! We need an admin team!

I've got some exciting ringing events & trips coming up over the coming weeks - so check back soon!!

Monday 7 May 2012

Busy Bank……..Holiday!?!

The bank holiday weekend started with a nice voicemail on my phone from my friend, Andrew. He was ringing to tell me that he could hear 'hissing' coming from one of my Barn owl boxes that I've had on his farm now for around 8 years. Andrew was asking whether it would be possible to call in to check on this. So armed with a schedule 1 licence - we ventured up to the farm to see whether our box had gained lodgers after all these years!

This become quite clear as we approached the box to 4 small but rather loud mouthed 'hissy' chicks! And the feisty female who remained inside the box. Two of the chicks were big enough to hold rings, with the other two being ready in the next 2-3 weeks. We also managed to lift the female out of the box for ringing too.


Saturday we spent the full day at WWT Martin Mere for the 2nd instalment of Tree sparrow monitoring. Out of 109 boxes, 70 were occupied by Tree sparrows at various stages – most containing eggs/chicks – with others containing lined nests which are ready to be laid in. 30 chicks ringed during the day, with lots more ready for ringing next week.

photo (3)

We also monitor other species at WWT Martin Mere both for ringing & Nest Recording. These including Barn owl, Kestrel, Lapwing, Avocet & Stock Dove.


Female Stock Dove lifted off the nest whilst brooding small chicks.


& several Lapwing broods gave us the run around with 10 chicks ringed over the weekend & several nests found (below).


The rest of the weekend has been spent nest recording, we’re having somewhat quite a record year – with almost 400 nest records on the go at the moment. Nesting highlights this weekend include finding Bullfinch, Whitethroat, Green Woodpecker and Starling nests (the latter two being monitored by placing our mobile phones in the nest holes to record/photograph the contents!)

All in all a very busy, fun & rewarding weekend! The highlight definitely being - finding out that our Barn owl box is now being used, in a new location for them in Greater Manchester in the NW of the county. Today the weather isn’t too great – so this will allow us time to catch up on IPMR work!

Sunday 29 April 2012

Colourful Nesters.

Yesterday Zac, Gillian & myself decided to take advantage of the break in the recent bad weather & head to Atherton Woods for a nest box check. We tried to do this last week, but the weather stopped us. This visit was mainly to see what stage the Tits were at in the breeding season & to ring a brood of Tawny Owls that we found in a natural hole.
Me & Gillian checked 60 boxes of which 47 were occupied. 31 by Blue Tits, 14 by Great Tit & 2 holding Nuthatch nests.

photo (2)
Zac is carrying out his university dissertation project in the woods this year, looking at whether Blue Tits overlap in territory whilst collecting nesting materials. So we left Zac to monitor his ten boxes. I won't go into great detail on this (I'll leave this for Zac) but he's using different colours of wool to help him answer this. So as you'll see from the below photos lots of the boxes we opened were rather colourful!

photo (1) 

photo (2) photo
The brood of Tawny Owl were duly ringed before leaving the woods.

After dropping Zac off at the train station to head back to Bangor, I went to visit my parents at Pickmere in Cheshire. Again making the most of the better weather, a spot of Nest Recording was on the cards. A rather successful search gave us 8 Blackbird, 2 Dunnock, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Greenfinch & 1 Blackcap nest to monitor for the scheme.
However find of the day has to go to Gillian for finding this nest -

photo (2)

Taaddaaa……. Clutch of 6 Robin eggs….

photo (1)