Wednesday 1 December 2021

Chobham ringing and Ealing nocmig - November 2021

A very quiet month for the group with only two ringing sessions, both at Chobham, giving us the opportunity to catch up with a London member's acoustic findings.

Nocturnal Migration "noc-migging"

September 2021

Noc-migging was carried out on 18 nights, with a total of 26 birds (or groups of birds – you can never be sure of the actual numbers of overflying birds) of 13 species recorded.

Gadwall were recorded on three nights (1st, 14th and 17th). There are presumably migrant birds moving through unlike the Mallard – recorded on 20th (2 records) and 24th – which are probably mostly local birds. The only other waterfowl was a Mute Swan at 01:37 on the 10th and identified by the characteristic noise of the wingbeats.

Two other waterbird species were represented by singles of Coot on 20th and  Grey Heron on 3rd.

Two wader species were recorded, Oystercatcher on 11th and a Common Redshank on 9th. Both would have been migrants.

September is usually a good month for migrant passerines, especially up to an hour or so after sunrise. However, this year was poor with just 6 Meadow Pipit and 3 Yellow Wagtail (the September 2020 figures were 85 and 8 respectively). However, fewer nights recording this month, finishing the night’s recordings slightly earlier and the loudness of the local Robins drowning out anything else all may have had a bearing and made any potential comparisons with the previous year difficult.

Two Robin that were recorded in the middle of the night (3rd and 26th) were considered to be migrants overflying the garden, rather than the local birds calling, but impossible to be sure. 

The early Redwing, predicted in my August report, did not arrive either and there seem to be very few in the country so far this winter.

They say always save the best until last, and the undoubted highlight of the month was a flock of at least 3 Sandwich Tern at 21:30 pm on 29th.

October 2021

Noc-migging started off as a fairly quiet affair with a possible Dunlin on the 3rd and a Coot on the 5th of note.

The first Redwing of the season (7 calls) were recorded, along with a two Song Thrush and a Blackbird on the night of the 6th. This is nearly a fortnight later than in 2020 when the first redwing were recorded on 26th September.

Then the 12th of October happened! That night, (12th-13th) 777 Redwing calls (involving thousands of birds) were logged over the night with a supporting cast of 61 Song Thrush calls and  4 Blackbird calls. At least one Golden Plover went over as did some nocturnal (probably migrating) Black-headed Gull. This influx was mirrored from other sites in the SE and was the first large arrival of thrushes in the UK this year.

The following night (13th) Redwing numbers were still high with over 220 calls recorded (plus 50 Song Thrush calls) but only 35 Redwing calls on the 14th.

Numbers of Redwing rallied to over 200 calls on both the 15th and 17th before falling again to double figures on the 21st.  However, the 21st did bring a new species to the garden noc-mig list with a Green Sandpiper.

Redwings continued to pass overhead with over 250 calls recorded on the 24th before another huge influx on the 28th when 856 calls were recorded mostly before midnight and well over 200 per hour between 20:00 and 22:00, along with 12 Blackbirds and 25 Song Thrush.

The less frequent species recorded this October have rather paled into insignificance after the above, but included 1+ Gadwall on the 14th along with another Golden Plover on that date, an unidentified call which was probably a migrating Jay on the 28th and a Yellow Wagtail on the 13th.

Post-dawn migration has been rather poor in terms of numbers this year, but did include small numbers of Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Siskin and alba (Pied/White) and Grey Wagtails during the month, and a Brambling was heard ‘live’ going over on the morning of the 13th.

In total, 14 nights of recording were undertaken and 21 species logged (including post-dawn migrants)

There have been no Fieldfare and it looks like they are late-arriving this year.


Monday 1 November 2021

Chobham Kingfisher - October 2021

 A transition month as summer migrants left for warmer climes and winter migrants arrived from colder climes.

A good autumn at Wraysbury delayed our first trip to the site but with news of Lesser Redpoll in the region, we ran our first session on the 23rd. The weather was mostly calm and overcast with occasional brighter periods, ideal for mist netting. It was still mild with temperatures around 9°C-14°C thanks to a gentle south-westerly wind. 

We processed 66 birds (no retraps) of 11 species: 17 Blue Tit, 16 Lesser Redpoll (two adults, the rest juvenile), 9 Long-tailed Tit, 8 Meadow Pipit (two adults, the rest juvenile), 5 Redwing 5 (one adult, four juvenile), 4 Coal Tit (all juveniles), 2 Goldcrest, 2 Great Tit, a Kingfisher, a Reed Bunting, and a Robin; a good mix for trainees to see.

The surprising and delightful catch of a young female Kingfisher was the first bird into the Meadow Pipits nets and a new species for the group at Chobham Common.

Young female Kingfisher

A training session for two new members of the group

Birch polypore, Fomitopsis betulina

Friday 1 October 2021

Our bird in Belgium - September 2021

 Details came in of a Lessser Redpoll, we ringed at Chobham in October 2020, was captured twenty days later in Hainaut, Belgium; 300km ESE. Weighing just 12 grammes it still amazes the distances these small birds travel.

Young male Lesser Redpoll in hand
Male Lesser Redpoll

Saturday 25 September 2021

Dave Harris - September 2021

Sadly, we lost Dave Harris this September. While the members' newsletter is the appropriate place for tributes, I feel I can share a memory of Dave Harris of my own with this blog.

Dave and I spent a week ringing together in The Lebanon, back in 2005. On the plane journey to Beirut we discussed the trip ahead and the birds we hoped to see.

Whilst we were all delighted to handle new species, there was special joy in the group whenever Dave Harris got one as, given his considerable experience, this didn't happen as frequently as it did for the rest of us.

When handling Rock Sparrows and Syrian Serins, new to Dave (and obviously to the rest of us too), his broad experience helped us figure out these novel species – and his beaming smile just reminded us all how special these birds were.

Above all, I’ll remember Dave as one of the country’s gentleman naturalists, delivering valuable insights, respectful to all and always showing enjoyment for what we do.

Sunday 1 August 2021

Warblers & Pipistrelles - July 2021

A quiet month with only 150 birds ringed at three sites. There were no pulli this month though the bulk of the catch was juveniles.

Reed Warblers topped the list with 27 followed by Blackcap at 26 and Chiffchaff at 20. The lower level of activity nationally in the last 18 months is reflected in the absence of controls from other groups though hopefully, this will increase with juvenile dispersal.

We’ll take consolation from a Nathusius’ Pipistrelle ringed by the bat group at Bedfont Lakes in 2016 and killed by a cat close to the tripoint of Russia, Estonia, and Latvia in July – some five years since ringing and a movement of 2018km, a British Bat record.

Thursday 1 July 2021

A decade of Black-headed Gulls - June 2021

While CES sessions continued in June, let's focus on our Black-headed Gull ringing programme. A boat trip at Bedfont gave access to eleven pairs and twenty chicks were ringed by a two-person team.

Rather timely, a report came in about a gull we ringed as a chick, at this site, in 2010 (ten years and nine months ago) being sighted at Bagshot Lea in March. Black-headed Gulls have been recorded as living past thirty so we hope this individual will be spotted again. But it's great to see the birds we ring again and this one, more so, given the decade that has passed.

Sunday 20 June 2021

Routine bird ringing just around the corner? May 2021

A busier month than April, with 289 birds ringed. While training is still restriced due to social distances, more experienced members of the group were able to get out and run some projects.

May's total includes 27 boxling Blue Tits and good numbers of newly-fledged juveniles. Blue Tit were top species on 62, but House Sparrow and Reed Warbler did well at 30, with Blackcap at 29. Patience secured a Carrion Crow in the Windsor garden – a rarely ringed species for the group.

Reports suggest that the cold spring delayed the caterpillar hatch and failed Blue Tit nests have been noted. No controls were reported this month but there was a sighting of a near 13-year old Black-headed Gull breeding at Bedfont that was ringed at Bedfont.

It was good to see good numbers at our sites and the return of our warblers. With training, one can identify some indivduals as hatching last year. The below Blackcap, was such a bird of 2020, identifed using characterics such as an unmoulted outer greater covert.

Knowing the survival rates of each species tells us much about how species are coping with the pressures, both of breeding in Britain and wintering in Africa.