Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ed Succumbs to Temptation

With varying numbers but some days as many as 20 Short-eared Owls being reported throughout the month at a site not too many miles from Stanford, Ed finally succumbed to the temptation, went to see them and managed a photograph.
Here is his report:

On Sunday 20th November I finally managed to take a trip across to the site at Maidwell in Northants to see if I could see the abundance of Short Eared Owls that had been reported there.

The day had been quite misty and following a break in the weather I headed off mid afternoon. I chose to walk the last mile, although you can drive, and on approaching the site I saw my first Shortie take to the wing from a tree not too far from the track that I was following.

The site had pockets of photographers dotted along the track so finding the right spot to stand wasn’t too difficult to work out.

I didn’t have to wait long either, in less than two minutes there was one flying around, swooping down low over the scrub and periodically landing. After that they seemed to be everywhere, but the most I counted at any one time was four. At one point two of the owls had a dispute and a mid-flight brawl but unfortunately they were too far away to photograph.

I was however treated to one flying quite close and passing within 30 metres or so as it went to the field behind to hunt up and down the hedgerow.

My visit was quite short lived, after only being at the site for half an hour the fog rolled back in sealing off any chances of seeing the owls any more.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Dutch Control and other Goodies

The perfect ringing conditions continued at Stanford for the last two weeks with overcast grey skies, reasonably flat calm mornings and no rain but there are no birds.  The Hawthorn bushes are laden with larger than normal berries awaiting the winter thrushes that so far have only appeared in small numbers with flocks generally consisting of ten birds or less.

Hawthorn berries for the taking

Mixed finch flocks are also a bit scarce as the expected Chaffinch numbers have failed to materialise so far, despite there being a reasonable harvest of Beech mast on the "Top Road" [the road on the Leicester side of the Reservoir from which the main entrance to the Reservoir can be accessed].

On Monday 7th, Intrepid Adam managed a solo session and ringed 23 new birds which included 11 Tree Sparrows and 3 Yellowhammers (always a good bird for Stanford) and amongst his 44 retraps was well rewarded by controlling our first Dutch Robin (NLA AT92405) - yes thank you - we have heard all the jokes about Robin Van Persie and 'was it trapped in the Dyke net ride?'

Masai Mick and I ventured out the next day to target any thrushes that might be around - we managed 8 new Redwing and 7 new Goldfinches amongst the paltry 23 new birds (with 10 retraps).

On Saturday 12th practically the whole group turned out such that we were able to split the effort with Masai Mick, Richard, Debbie and Emma ringing at the Top Road whilst, Adam, Webmaster Mike, Ed, Dawn and I netted from the 'Berries Boundary net ride' round to the 'Dyke Boundary ride'.  This action proved worthwhile as a total of 93 new birds were ringed and a further 49 retraps processed.  The 63 new birds on the Top Road primarily consisted of 25 Great Tits, 15 Blue Tits, 15 Chaffinches, a Goldcrest and yet another Treecreeper whilst a Nuthatch was amongst the 30 retraps.  Meanwhile the 'A' Team based on the old Railtrack sought quality rather than quantity and their 30 new birds consisted of 5 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, [Ed christening his new pliers with his first ever Fieldfare], 2 Yellowhammers and a Green Woodpecker - the second this year but only the 20th that we have ever ringed at this site. 

Ed poses with his new pliers and his first Fieldfare

Ed put his pliers down for a while to take this photo of his 2nd Fieldfare

Female Green Woodpecker

Masai Mick and I ventured out once more on Tuesday 15th and our new birds comprised of singletons of Wren, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Blackbird, and Song Thrush with 6 Tree Sparrows bringing the total to 13 new birds.  However the effort was worthwhile as amongst the 16 retraps was a control adult male Lesser Redpoll (is L082272 yours?)

Control adult male Lesser Redpoll

Is L082272 your bird?

Intrepid Adam and Webmaster Mike tackled the Top Road today and their 31 birds consisted of 9 Longtailed Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, 4 Chaffinches and yet another Treecreeper whilst their 29 retraps were predominantly Great Tits.

The totals for the period:

7th - 17th November

Reasonable totals resulting from a good deal of effort - thanks to all involved.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Perfect Conditions

We had pretty much perfect conditions for ringing last week at Stanford - muggy, overcast grey mornings with little or no wind and so the results of my three sessions on Tuesday (with Masai Mick & Webmaster Mike), Thursday with Masai Mick and on Saturday with Adam and trainees Ed, Dawn, Debbie and Simon were a tad disappointing. (Emma's car decided that winter had already arrived and refused to start and so, after half an hour of waking the neighbours, she decided to give it best and texted to say she would not be coming).

Without the Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and Lesser Redpolls in reasonable numbers there would have been very little to report at all.

The totals for the week are:

First week of November Totals

Friday, 4 November 2011

Outrageous October

Masai Mick reflects on the last month

A ‘scintillating’ September has been followed by an ‘outrageous’ October, a month in which we’ve ringed 933 birds of 31 species. 

Warblers continued to move through Stanford at the start of the month in reasonable numbers.  They then stopped for a week or two, before a few more Blackcaps appeared.  We’d like to think these later birds are of German origin.  Wouldn’t it be wunderbar if someone would recover one to confirm the theory!

During early October, Blue and Great Tits started to build up again at the feeding station.  We suspected that this was due to post juvenile dispersal and, on cue, we got a control Blue Tit (L263891) on the 5th followed by another (L263932) on the 14th.  Both birds were from the same series of rings and with a bit of detective work determined they had been ringed at Geddington near Northampton.

We’ve also had an impressive passage of finches, notably Greenfinch (149 ringed), Goldfinch (85) and Lesser Redpoll (94).  None of the ringed birds were subsequently retrapped.  On the 29th, we controlled a Lesser Redpoll (P545435), which we have discovered was probably ringed in Telford.  We also controlled a Chaffinch (Y184175) on the same day (our sleuthing skills deserting us on this ring, so we’ll just have to wait for the BTO to tell us who’s it is – unless you know?!) 

We must also mention the good old Tree Sparrow - this month we have ringed 128 of these birds and also controlled a colour ringed one (TR27180).  It’s a record year for this species at Stanford – we should soon comfortably reach 500 birds ringed.

But what has happened to the thrushes?  We saw a flock of 1500 Redwing mid month but very little since.  Blackbird and Song Thrush are non-existent whilst we have only had the occasional 50-100 Fieldfare overhead.

Our October ringing totals can be viewed here October Stats

Monday, 24 October 2011

5,000 Up, Control Tresp and more

With the absence of a ringing blog for the last two weeks you might think that we have not been busy at Stanford.  Far from it, we have had several ringing sessions there resulting in 600 birds being processed but yours truly has been tardy in writing them up so here is a quick resume to get us back on track.

Thursday13th October

Masai Mick, Webmaster and I arrived pre-dawn to a damp, dull, still and overcast Stanford.  The dampness in the air quickly went but the overcast conditions remained all morning and were in fact ideal ringing conditions.  We managed 137 new birds (and 30 retraps).  The new birds of note were 3 Blackcaps, 23 Tree Sparrows, 14 Lesser Redpolls and 17 Reed Bunting.
We also controlled a colour ringed Tree Sparrow TR27180

Control TR 27180
Control TR 27180
Lesser Redpoll

Friday 14th

The two Micks had a good session with 83 new (9 retraps), ringing our first Redwings (4) of the year, another Blackcap, 7 Tree Sparrows, 29 Greenfinches, 4 Lesser Redpolls, 5 Reed Buntings and a Yellowhammer (our fourth this year of a species that is now all too infrequent at this site)

Saturday 15th

A cold morning with a touch of ground frost meant that some of the new trainees experienced their first cold conditions such that the conversation quickly turned to hot water bottles, hand warmers and other such devices – I am sure trainees used to be made of sterner stuff!  A good morning’s ringing with 95 new birds which included 2 Redwing, 2 Goldcrests, 14 Tree Sparrows, 35 Greenfinches, 5 Lesser Redpolls, 4 Reed Buntings and another Yellowhammer (and 25 retraps)

Cold Trainee # 1
Cold Trainee # 2

male Goldcrest

Monday 17th

The two Micks had a reasonable session as Masai Mick recalls:

Ringing on Monday was quite subdued with only 68 birds caught, of these 54 were new ringed.  But it was also a day of celebration as we hit a significant total of 5000 new ringed birds for the year (at Stanford) and of these roughly half have been warblers, so come on you ringers around the country get catching them.  Recently we have been catching good numbers of Greenfinch and Goldfinch with some Lesser Redpoll interspersed, which is not a very usual occurrence for us.  Redwing and Fieldfare have just turned up over the last week or so and we are hoping to emulate last year’s sterling efforts with another 800+ thrushes this year, weather willing and an understanding wife!!!!

Thursday 20th

Another 54 new birds today (12 retraps) included a single Redwing, 8 Tree Sparrows, 6 Greenfinches, 16 Lesser Redpoll and surprisingly two Pied Wagtails - the three ringed this year are the first at Stanford since 1993.

Pied Wagtail

male Lesser Redpoll
another fine male

Saturday 22nd

68 new birds (23 retraps) were more of the same really, but never boring – 1 Redwing, another Blackcap (that’s 706 this year), 13 Tree Sparrows, 22 Greenfinch, 6 Goldfinch, 1 Linnet, 2 Reed Buntings (making 280 this year), and 8 Lesser Redpolls.
One of the Redpolls was a “Goldenpoll” and is described by Mike Alibone on his blog here

The totals for the period: 

13th to 22nd October Totals

Monday, 17 October 2011

Money for your Ringing Group

Anyone who keeps an eye on our website will know we've created an Easyfundraising account through which everyone can raise funds for Stanford Ringing Group from their own personal internet shopping (if you would like to help us and haven't yet done so then please use the Easyfundraising and Easysearch links on our website).

We've raised £100 in 10 weeks with very little effort.

If you want to raise money from Easyfundraising for your own Ringing Group then use this link -

Sunday, 9 October 2011

700 UP! - a new record

Last weekend, as we tucked into my wife’s traditional Sunday roast of Scottish Angus beef, Yorkshire puddings and all the usual trimmings, Masai Mick and I mulled over the ringing successes of last month.  It was the 2nd October and we were 21 Blackcaps short of 700 – an amazing total given that last year’s total of 263 was then an all time record and that, in just over a week ago, we were ringing our 500th for the year.

With the weather forecast getting worse towards the end of the forthcoming week we decided that we would go to Stanford on Monday (a day that I am not usually available).  We ringed 59 new birds (15 retraps) – 9 Meadow Pipits, 10 Chiffchaffs and 11 Blackcaps.

So, needing 10 Blackcaps for the all elusive total, Wednesday saw us setting a reduced number of nets in those rides that were actually sheltered from the strong breeze.  When the rain came just a few hours later we had already taken down and were packing up.  We controlled a juvenile Blue Tit (L263891) and the total for the day? 22 new birds (8 retraps) which included 7 Tree Sparrows, 2 Chiffs and NINE Blackcaps.  Were we going to end the year on 699? 

With the Met Office forecasting wind and rain for Saturday morning, we came close to cancelling the session but with two new prospective trainees wanting to come along to see what we get up to, we decided to go ahead.  And so it was that at 0530 hrs we were joined by Ed, Dawn and Debbie from our usual crew and met Emma and Simon for their first ringing experience day.  We waited for over an hour for the drizzle to stop and tentatively erected a reduced number of nets close to our base.  We needn’t have worried, the breeze settled down and there was no further rain.
We caught a House Sparrow – a rare bird for Stanford with only two ever having been ringed before (the first in 1977 and the second in 1994). We also retrapped the Grasshopper Warbler ringed last week and caught two Tree Sparrows with identically elongated upper mandibles. The 56 new birds (plus 10 retraps) comprised predominantly of 12 Tree Sparrows, 7 Dunnocks, 9 Chiffs, 10 Long-tailed Tits, a Lesser Redpoll and TWO Blackcaps – we did it!  Annual total for this species at this one site almost in the middle of the country - 701.

3rd ever House Sparrow at Stanford
one of two Tree Sparrows with elongated upper mandible
Emma getting to grips with a Tresp

The totals for the week are 137 new birds and 33 retraps (including a control)

The week's totals

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Smash and Grab

September Smash and October Grab

Adam joined Mick, Mike and me at Stanford on Friday for the final session of September and having broken through the 1,000 new birds target on Wednesday we continued in the same vein on this last day of the month which turned out to be the hottest September day on record.  Even before dawn the still air was very warm and the first few hours of the morning were reminiscent of our spring ringing sessions in Cyprus as the temperature gradually increased and we sought the shade of the Land Rover that is our usual ringing base.

We added 51 new Blackcaps and 15 new Chiffchaffs to our already incredible totals for these two species.  A total of 109 birds were processed as shown below.

30th September Ringing Totals

One bird, not mentioned in previous September blogs, was the Siskin ringed last Monday – only the fifth that we have ever ringed at Stanford.

We finished the month with a mind-blowing total of 1,179 new birds, which can be seen on our main web site by following this link September Totals

Saturday 1st of October, with Masai Mick given time off to attend his son’s wedding and Mike off to his bolt hole in Wales, it was up to Adam and myself to see if any more Blackcaps were still about.  In this task we were accompanied by Ed, Debbie and Dawn.  As on the previous few days the birds dried up after the first two or three hours but we managed a creditable 86 new birds to kick start the October figures.   Yet more Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs with a few Meadow Pipits, a Lesser Redpoll and yet another late Grasshopper Warbler enlivened the morning.

Lesser Redpoll

Another late Grasshopper Warbler

The day’s birds were

1st October Ringing Totals
 Debbie with Chiffchaff

The Reservoir is now drier than it was in the drought of 1990 and possibly as low as it was in 1977.  The photo below (taken from the feeder net ride) shows Blowers Lodge Bay which is normally under a good six foot of water with the bird watching hide (on the left of the picture) now sticking out on a grassy foreshore.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Record Day and a Day of Records

It was 0500hrs as my ex-military Land Rover slowly chugged towards Stanford - I was in no hurry as I had left home in plenty of time for the 0530 am meeting at the disused railway track entrance.  As always I had Skye, the SRG mascot by my side - his head hanging, in characteristic pose, out of the window.  As we entered the mist pockets that had formed in the dips and hollows in the road and the headlights illuminated the autumnal colours of the roadside shrubs and hedgerows I was reminded of Keats’ acclaimed poem to autumn.  “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” the first stanza begins – yes September is a lovely soft focus time when the fruits and berries begin to ripen, the leaves take on their rich and colourful hues, early morning mists and spiders webs hang with glistening dew.  The dew was certainly sparkling on the Landy’s bonnet-mounted spare tyre. 


But I digress .........

Not a breath of wind – my thoughts turned to ringing. These were good ringing conditions and maybe, just maybe, we might trap the 49 new birds needed for a record breaking monthly total of 1,000 birds.  As the Landy turned into the railtrack entrance fifteen minutes early the gate had been unlocked and was wide open.  Masai Mick had arrived early too.  Seconds later our Webmaster, Mike arrived - the gate was locked behind us and we made our way down the railtrack towards the reservoir gate.  In the dark, nets were allocated and off we went - I was to erect the “feeder nets”, Masai Mick would set nets to the right of me and Webmaster Mike would set those to the left.  Half an hour later those nets were all up, the feeders had been refilled  and Mick and Mike went about erecting four nets in the adjacent field to target Meadow Pipits whilst I set up our base camp.  It was now daylight and a few minutes sit down, a quick slurp of coffee was followed by the first round of the nets.......

39 new birds from the first round consisted of 26 Blackcaps and 8 Chiffchaffs.  
We were going to make the magical 1,000th bird for the month with ease!  The second net round gave us 51 new birds but after that the numbers dropped considerably demonstrating without doubt that (at Stanford certainly) you need to get the main nets up whilst it is still dark before the birds continue their migration south.  The Meadow Pipits never showed, only four were ringed but the final tally was 134 new birds and 10 retraps which included the late Grasshopper Warbler ringed five days ago and a new Reed Warbler.


The 57 new Blackcaps is a record number caught in a single day (previous best 32) and pushed the already massively high annual total for this year to two short of 600 swamping the previous record of 266 set last year.

The 44 Chiffchaffs ringed is also a record daily total easily surpassing the 26 of just two weeks ago and giving us a record for this year so far of 327 (previous best was 248 last year).

We had trapped just over 900 of these birds migrating south through Stanford and not a single control amongst them - is anybody ringing these north of Leicester?

A record year for Dunnocks too – the 9 today gave us an annual record of 104.

The total of new birds at this one, magical site for this month is 1058 with one more session planned for Friday.  A monthly total that surpasses many of the annual totals that we have had in the 35 years we have been ringing here.

Today’s birds also pushed our database through the 100,000 mark.

Truly a remarkable record-breaking day.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Late Warblers and a Sparr

Masai Mick, Adam and I were joined by Ed, Debbie and husband MAL at Stanford on Saturday.

For a change the weather conditions were perfect for a good morning's ringing with no wind at all and an overcast sky (needless to say not all what had been forecast!)

We managed 72 new birds with 14 retraps - a tad disappointing given the conditions but the reward was some late warblers and our second raptor of the week - a female Sparrowhawk.
Amongst the new birds were 4 Goldcrest, 8 Chiffs, 26 Mipits, 12 Blackcap, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Sedge Warbler.

Garden Warbler

Fault bars on a Garden Warbler

Male Goldcrest

Lesser Whitethroat

2nd Lesser Whitethroat

Juvenile Sedge Warbler

Female Sparrowhawk

Back view

On its way

Debbie's husband MAL, a keen photographer, took this image of the SRG Mascot about to devour his favourite treat - a morsel of sausage.

Skye - sausage dog