Monday 28 September 2020

Bird ringing under Covid-19 - August 2020

Although the East coast experienced north-east winds bringing good falls of migrants, only Pied Flycatcher seemed to penetrate inland with 30-40 reported near our area up to 18th. Unfortunately, this was a period when we could not cover Wraysbury, the most likely site for this species to turn up.

189 new birds of 21 species were ringed, mostly at Bedfont. Top species was Blackcap (39) just beating Reed Warbler (36) and well clear of Blue Tit (25). Nice records were of a Kingfisher and two more pulli Common Terns, plus the return of House Sparrow to the Heston garden.

A six-year old Robin extended the Group longevity record by six days. 

Bird ringing under Covid-19 - July 2020

A busier month with 167 new birds of 21 species. Reed Warbler and Blackcap led the field with 30 each with Chiffchaff third at 20.

Some sightings of colour-ringed Common Terns were received including three young from this year.

Being able to identify a bird's hatching year is very useful for measuring the productivity of a species (and species on a specific site). Below, are examples of criteria we use for Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat.

Sedge Warbler
compare primary wear between two ages (youngest: left; adult: right)

compare eye colour between two ages (youngest: left; adult: right)

Bird ringing under Covid-19 - June 2020

Some ringing sessions were possible this month and new working methods tested, adhering to social distancing rules.

120 birds were processed, mostly at Wraysbury and Windsor garden, and 33 pulli Common Terns were marked at Bedfont.

After these, Chiffchaffs were top species at 16, with Bullfinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Treecreeper giving variety.

Tawny Owl at Tythebarns Farm, Surrey (Andrew Kingston)

Bird ringing & "noc-migging" under Covid-19 - May 2020

In the second month of lockdown only household-run garden ringing was possible following BTO guidelines.

Our Windsor ringer began a trial of the Garden CES and some boxlings were possible too. 85 birds were ringed of 10 species including 30 pulli. 27 House Sparrows indicate a healthy population around Thorpe Lea Road

Male House Sparrow

Our Ealing member used his ‘Noc-mig’ to identify the birds flying over his garden. Here's his account:

The ‘Noc-mig’ was used nightly from 1st -15th. However, the number and diversity of birds slowed right down and effort was reduced to setting the recorder to about every other day for the remainder of the month. During the month there were records of Common Sandpiper (1st), Moorhen on 5 dates (including two together on the 5th), Coot (5th and 11th) and a probable Whimbrel on the 12th.

For those thinked in ‘Noc-migging’ the picture below shows my very basic set up. I put the kit out on a chair in the back garden so it is raised up from the attention of prying foxes and other creatures of the night.

I also have an external hard drive to save files onto – each 3hr file takes up about 2Gb so will quickly fill up your computer’s hard drive otherwise.

An excellent place to start learning about Noc-mig, setting up, what to record and analysing files can be found at

Other useful resources are (for comparing others’ spectrograms) and where you can upload your audio files and it will give you a probability of which species it is.

Away from Noc-migging, not much was recorded in/over the garden during the month, though the first local Swifts returned on the 5th and one or more Swallow were ‘heard-only’ heading north mid-month. 

Friday 1 May 2020

Bird ringing under Covid-19 lockdown - April 2020

The first full month of lockdown and bird ringing, nest recording and other survey work was restricted to gardens. For the rest of us, there was exercise, net repairs, catching up on literature and nightmares over rampant spring growth in winter-cleared net rides!

Only 45 new birds at two gardens were ringed of 13 species with Goldfinch top at 13.

One garden ringer's catch added Jackdaw and Woodpigeon to the usual smaller species. He was pleased to see a Blue Tit ringed in the same garden in November 2015 and a pair of Coal Tit in breeding condition.

Male Jackdaw (C Hunter Roach)

Another of the group's ringers used her daily exercise to record the unfolding of spring at Bedfont. At the main site, two Red Kite, two Buzzard and a pair of Sparrowhawks were frequently seen and a cock Pheasant was flushed on 20th – an unusual record for Bedfont.

A Lapwing dropped in on 2nd and two Common Sandpiper on 30th. A Kingfisher was seen on five occasions in the month with Swallows on 26th and 28th. New growth in the reedbed welcomed back Reed Warblers on 8th, with an estimated 16 birds on 30th. Only one Sedge Warbler was seen but two Cetti’s Warblers were vocal.

Blackcap reached 22 on 26th with a Garden Warbler on 30th, whilst Chiffchaff maxed at seven on 12th with a single Willow early in the month. Greenfinches were noisy but had left or settled to breeding by the end of the month and a female Reed Bunting was seen on 8th with a male in another area on 12th/14th.

At the scrubbier part of the site, a Kestrel was seen as well as the raptors from the main site. Swifts showed on 25th; Swallow on 27th; Lesser Whitethroat arrived on 19th and Whitethroat on 13th, reaching 9 on 27th; Blackcap peaked at 34 on 21st; Garden Warbler on 17th; Chiffchaff at twelve on17th.

Greenfinch numbers have built up with a high of 22 at the end of the month but Goldfinch fluctuated. 4 Wheatear were seen on the smallholdings on 17th.

Other creatures of note were: Peacock, Comma, Small White, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, a Green Hairstreak* and a Grass Snake* (photos: E Page).