Tuesday, 9 May 2023

April sees the return! (2023)

Numbers increased at Minet compared with March. A Willow Warbler, three Blackcap and five Chiffchaff marked the start of migration and Green Woodpecker added further variety.

Visits to both sites at Bedfont produced more Blackcap and Chiffchaff as well as a Reed Warbler.

We opened Wraysbury for the year and also recorded Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler,, and Willow Warbler and added Garden Warbler and Whitethroat to the list of warblers.

A 3D model of a Cuckoo
Cuckoos haven't returned to Berkshire yet, so our decoy will have to be patient 

Saturday, 1 April 2023

March is a prelude to spring (2023)

In March many of our wintering birds have departed to their breeding grounds, while our own birds are still to return from their own wintering grounds.

Our ringing month started on 3rd at Minet, Southall. It produced a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Greenfinch amongst the tits, Dunnock and Blackbirds.

Mid-month we tried Bedfont picking up another Great Spotted along with Jay, Chiffchaff as well as more tits and Dunnock.

We surveyed Woolley Firs fields twice and its woodland once. The finch and bunting flocks had fallen in number as the year progressed and among the catch, only a single Yellowhammer graced the fieldsheet. We ringed four Nuthatch in the woodland.

3 hands holding 3 Nuthatches
Three Nuthatches (adult male: middle bird; others: young females)

Thursday, 2 March 2023

Windy February is Mighty Frustrating for Bird Ringing (2023)

Woolley Firs

Despite running three at Woolley Firs this month and getting out to Minet the high winds prevented ringing sessions in the second half of the month. February is one of the UK's windiest months but it's still frustrating when one loses half a month of mist net ringing, nonetheless.

The first two Woolley sessions were out in the fields. Frustratingly, one of my single-panel nets was damaged by a roe deer. That net did go on to catch a Skylark but I'm not sure that was a good trade :)

Along with the lark, we ringed other farmland species including Yellowhammer, Song Thrush, and Dunnock.

Single-panel net (not the damaged one).
Tethered shelf string (see the white loop on right) set close to tops of vegetation

On the 18th we ran a public bird ringing demonstration, organised by BBOWT. With 25mph gusts blowing through the wood, we sheltered a net behind a building. We also placed spring traps, baited with mealworms, to improve our chances of having birds to show. It worked, admittedly at a very small scale; the public were great - asking interesting questions and overall the event went well.

We used to run demonstrations each March but moved to February as milder weather in March led to fewer birds being attracted to feeding sites. I can see us having to move to January as this and last February have also been very mild.


A session at the beginning of the month produced a good range of species, including Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Song Thrush and Goldfinch.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Ringing in New Year (January 2023)

New Avian Influenza protocols came into effect in December and this curtailed group activity.

We did visit Woolley Firs twice and were pleased to ring Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, and Redwing using the fields. A Sparrowhawk also hunted along the hedgerows.

The end of January was marked by cold misty weather

AZJ9041 6 Blue Tit
Ringed in 11/2022, when it had a full head of feathers. While we're given a view of its ears (to the right of the eye, see photo) we hope this bird regains its feathers by the time we see it next. 

AXA6573 6F Great Tit, 22/1/2023
It takes practice to age this species by comparing GC and PC edges.
Ringed in 2019 as a 3, this adult's PCs are perhaps not as bright as typical adults

DT54468 5M Sparrowhawk, 28/1/2023
The yellow eye and brown colouring of feathers aid the aging
A supra-orbital ridge can shade its eyes from sunlight 

Among the catches we had 13 retraps. We often get older birds at Woolley Firs having ringed there for over ten years but this month only produced birds we'd ringed in earlier this winter.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

RRG December 2022

Two sessions at Woolley Firs and another at Bedfont took place ahead of the poor weather that dominated the end of the month.

Avian Influenza

The BTO set new rules for ringing that took effect from 14th December. As well as continuing the single use of bird bags the framework added recommendations for PPE, regular cleaning of equipment and the spraying of nets at the end of sessions. There have been revisions through December and some discussion between ringers on social media.

Bedfont Lakes – BFT (EP)

A quick trip to the main site on the 6th to the Private Nature Reserve at Bedfont. Three nets were put up in two places for 2½ hours. It was a calm sunny morning and a late start. 21 new birds were processed: a mix of the usual tits and a couple of Chiffchaffs and a lone Goldcrest. A second Treecreeper for the year was caught which was really encouraging.

Woolley Firs – WF (CHR)

After a reccie discovered a flock of Yellowhammer on site we netted the fields on 10th. It was great to
have hammers back on the site and just as good to ring a dozen of them - the site’s best single day catch (the previous record being 7 on 13/12/2014). The decision to stop arable farming on the site and the chemicals that made it economic in the short term was clearly having a positive impact on the site for nature.

We gave the site a rest as the South East was hit by an extended cold snap but unfortunately bad weather closed off further options later in the month and the BTO’s new HPAI framework suspended further ringing attempts as we waded through the new requirements. We’re obviously keen to return in 2023.