Sunday 31 December 2023


 Runnymede Ringing Group operates from Maidenhead in the north to Chobham in the south covering parts of Berkshire, Middlesex and Surrey.

We use ringing to monitor bird populations contributing to conservation projects through the BTO.

Please send any queries to

Common Crossbill
Young male Common Crossbill, 2020

Wednesday 29 November 2023

October - an old Jay and a long-distance migrant gull

The group got out to Bedfont and Minet, in addition to a couple of sessions at Wraysbury.

A mid-month visit took place at Bedfont. Summer migrants had gone and winter visitors had yet to arrive in number - that's just the way it sometimes goes. Blue Tits dominated the numbers and were joined by a good range of species including Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest and a band of Long-tailed Tits.

A nine-year Jay turned up at Minet; hatched in 2014 and ringed in 2015, taking it well past the typical 4-years an average Jay can expect. The UK record for a Jay is 16 years 9 months, set in 1983. The same session had a female Sparrowhawk taking the sites ratio of female:male ratio to 5:7. Quite different to the group ratio for this species of 1:3.1. Both ratios reflect our use of passerine nets that female Sparrowhawks tend not to be caught in - their larger size making a net's mesh size behave like a blanket to them which they can roll out of.

The first session at Wraysbury, on the 8th, was good for October. The last of the Blackcaps numbered fifteen and we ringed twenty Meadow Pipit too. We caught one of two Grey Wagtails that had come down to our pipit triangle of nets (a right-angle triangle using 18m/9m/12m nets). The second visit on 22nd was quieter: the Blackcaps were gone, replaced by the first Redwings arrivals. A few pipits were ringed and a Green Woodpecker provided a trainee a new ringing experience.


at Datchet

A Bedfont Black-headed Gull chick was sighted this October, 13 years 4months after we ringed it.

at River Thames, Windsor

A Black-headed Gull ringed at the nest in 2002 in Ijsselmeerpolders, The Netherlands turned up at Windsor.

A series of photos patiently gets a full ring number

A Greylag Goose seen in October turned out to have been ringed just 14km away in Southall in September.

Sunday 1 October 2023

September - the quiet busy

With the Wraysbury CES completed in August we kicked off September at the Westside site. Generally providing lower catches, but from a wider range of species than the Eastside, it did well with a figure of 88. There was little to surprise, species wise.

With many members away for parts of the month, this year turned out to be one of the group's quietest Septembers on record.

Still, a visiting trainee from Tring RG picked a good day to visit, ringing over 70 of 111 birds processed when he joined a trainer at Wraysbury on 16th. A triple 18m ride caught the majority with a triangle providing a couple of dozen Meadow Pipits. The day was our first outing with the updated Svensson passerine guide which provided plenty of added details for species aging.

Minet has had a good session this month with species including Blackcap, Chiffchaff and a Magpie.

Friday 1 September 2023

August - Lesser Whitethroat

All three groups got out to Bedfont, Southall and Wraysbury this month.

A short post this month; just long enough to admire the pink flush on the chest of this Lesser Whitethroat, ringed this month.

Tuesday 1 August 2023

July - Redwing surprises us all

July is the month for peak fledglings. Bedfont had its Reed Warbler young and the Black-headed Gull pulli not ringed in June. Families of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits moved into the site and young Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Garden Warbler, Robin, Treecreeper and Wren were also ringed.

Wraysbury also ringed young warblers, its habitat attracting good numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. Other young ringed included Cetti's Warbler, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Reed Warbler, Robin and Wren.

The team at Wraysbury were most surprised to catch a winter migrant - a Redwing of all things. Typically these birds overwinter with us returning to their northern breeding grounds before Spring. But here we had an adult bird, in good condition, on 9th July. 

 The bird was moulting its primary feathers, had some bareness on its lower belly. Wing coverts suggested it might be aged five though its tertials had no hint of pale wedges, perhaps having worned down. The bird looked and behaved fit and healthy though its feathers were, in general, in a worn condition.
Redwing, England, July 2023

We can age this bird code 5 with its 5 old greater coverts and one old (outer) primary coverty (two on the left wing). Its 1st-5th primary feathers are new, its 6th growing and its 7-10th are old, still to be replaced. This is not a typical moult pattern; one wouldn't expect just the 6th to be growing, but then this bird is far from typical.

From the fieldsheet: Sexing Method E cloacal examination: shaped like a female's and pointed tailwards and the area was bare. There was no "dip" but there wasn't a Brood Patch either.

This wasn't Wraysbury first summering Redwing - there was another on 26 June 2004. That individual had one short wing perhaps explaining why it had stayed in the UK. This year's bird had wings of the same length (within 1mm).

Saturday 1 July 2023

June - the busy breeder month

Bedfont netting topped and tailed the month with sessions on 10th and 24th. Reed Warblers had built-up from May and it was great to see a bird ringed in 2014 return again. Colour was delivered by Jay and Kingfisher. A mid-month visit saw fifteen Black-headed Gull pulli ringed.

Ermine Caterpillars
Wraysbury completed all CES sessions for June plus one additional visit on the Westside, each navigating the unsettled weather masses as they crossed the country. Bullfinch and Greenfinch were added to the species list and warbler numbers continued to build.

No bird photographs this month but a clump of Ermine caterpillars hung by the path as we left the site (if you have a different id, do add a comment).

Minet's mid-month session saw Chiffchaff and Whitethroat along with resident species such as Robin, Song Thrush and Wren.

Thursday 1 June 2023

May kicks off the breeding season for many of our warblers

Ringing took place at three group sites in May, recording the breeding season in full swing.

5M Kestrel
Wraysbury ran two CES sessions this month recording Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Whitethroat from the warbler family. A couple of Reed Bunting stand out as this species has become less common at the site and a Kestrel and Green Woodpecker provided new training experiences for our trainees to learn ageing, sexing and handling.

The month's oldest ring was on a Wraysbury Whitethroat from July 2018 and it was good to see Lesser Whitethroat  and Song Thrush from 2019 again.

The Kestrel was aged 5 and a single replaced blue/grey tail feather enabled sexing as a male. Note that bluish head feathers would have been a strong criterion on their own.

Away from the CES we tried a 3D-printed Cuckoo decoy but no birds were yet present.

Towards the end of May, Minet recorded Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat along with regular residents. 

Bedfont also added a session on 29th catching returning Reed Warblers (2021 being the oldest ring).

The Blue and Great Tits had a good start at Woolley Firs and clutch size was typical for the site. For nest-recording, four visits took place giving a good picture of breeding at the site.

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 sessions 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.