Saturday, 2 July 2022

Mist netting 27/6/2022

Today's session started a little late as there were showers about, but we managed to ring a few birds. 

Our main objective was to ring the two boxes of kestrel chicks. One has a camera and is close to the Discovery Hut where a large screen is set up for visitors. This box held four chicks (and a failed egg) and the Borrow Pit box held five. They were all ringed. Both boxes are easily accessible as they are on poles and are lowered by winch.

The chicks were removed from the nest box after it had been lowered.

Kestrel Chick

The four 18m mist nets used provided a pretty equal mix of adults and newly fledged birds. 


Ringed

Re-trapped

Blackcap

3


Chiffchaff

2


Dunnock

1

1

Goldfinch

1


Great Tit

6


Reed Warbler

7

1 (ringed on site as juvenile last August)

Robin

2


Wren

2



24

2


Peter Bennett

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Mist netting 29/5/22


Several members attended the last ringing session on 19/5/22. Nets were set around the Discovery Hut from where we were able to observe a group of Swifts investigating the Swift boxes and at least two birds were seen to enter. We processed 29 birds. Several juvenile birds were caught including a Robin and Blackbird. The highlight was perhaps a retrap Reed Warbler ringed here as age code 4 in April 2018, and so born in at least 2017, making it 5+ years old.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Blackbird

As the session slowed down we took the opportunity to catch and process one of the Mute Swans from the Sand Martin pond - rather a contrast to the dainty warblers we'd just been handling!.

Ringing a Mute Swan

Weighing a Mute Swan.


Ringed

Re-trapped

Blackbird

2

2

Blue Tit

1

1

Cetti’s Warbler


2

Dunnock

1

1

Great Tit


1

Mallard

1


Mute Swan

1


Reed Warbler

7

4

Robin

3


Sedge Warbler

1


Wren


1


17

12


Robin Pearson

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Colyford Common

The last two sessions, held on 16/4/22 & 4/5/22, have been at the Colyford Common end of the reserve. At this time of the year, when the breeding season is underway, tape lures aren't used as they may disrupt breeding behaviour & thus numbers tend to be lower. However, both sessions still managed to produce some nice birds. 

On 16/4/22 18 birds were processed, which included 4 Song Thrush nestlings (pulli). Ringing pulli in the nest provides good data as the exact age of the birds is known. 

Song thrush nest with 4 nestlings (pulli)

Meadow Pipit

Male Blackcap

16/4/22

Ringed

Re-trapped


Blackcap

2



Blue Tit

1



Cetti's Warbler

1

3


Great Tit

1

3


Greenfinch

1



Meadow Pipit

1



Reed Bunting

1



Song Thrush

4


Pulli (chicks in nest)


12

6



One of the re-trapped Cetti's Warblers which was initially ringed on 7/9/21 as a bird that hatched in that year (Code 3), was caught at both sessions. Examining birds of a known age provides a good learning opportunity. Cetti's are difficult to age, but on this bird the alula feathers look faded & worn, a feature to look out for in the future. 

Cetti's Warbler, ringed 7/9/21 

Wing of Cetti's Warbler

The session on 4/5/21 was conducted to the sound of a very persistent Meadow Pipit singing nearby. A noisy family of Stonechats was also flying around the ringing base. We managed to catch one of the youngsters whose wing feathers were still growing.  

Juvenile Stonechat

We caught our first Reed Warbler of the year on the Reserve, and also saw two Wheatears, a first for the year for some of us, and two very young fox cubs. 

4/5/22

Ringed

Re-trapped

Balckbird


1

Blue Tit

2

3

Cetti's Warbler


1

Great Tit


1

Greenfinch

2


Long-tailed Tit

1


Reed Warbler

1


Stonechat

1



7

6





Thursday, 7 April 2022

Mist netting 5/4/22

The forecast for the day of our latest scheduled ringing session was for strong winds and rain showers so at very short notice we brought it forward a day and fortunately five members were able to make it. Wind was forecast to be light but picked up a little as we were setting up, so nets were restricted to the sheltered spots in and around the scrub at the top of Colyford Common. 

Ringing base at Colyford Common

Ten birds were processed with some showing clear signs that the breeding season is well underway. Two male Dunnocks showed typically pronounced cloacae and a female Song Thrush a well defined brood patch (BP2). 


Ringed

Re-trapped


Cetti’s Warbler


1

Ringed 7.9.21

Dunnock

2



Goldfinch

4

1

Ringed 19.8.21

House Sparrow

1



Song Thrush

1




8

2



One of the Goldfinches had an unusually speckled head. 

The AERG only rings about ten House Sparrows on the Axe estuary each year. House Sparrows belong to a small group, which includes Long-tailed Tits, Larks, Starlings and Corn Buntings, that undergo a complete post juvenile moult in the autumn rather than the more usual partial moult.

Male House Sparrow

So when we caught a bird at this session we automatically aged it as a 4, i.e. a bird that could have hatched last year or earlier. Both adults and juvenile Sparrows would have carried out a complete moult after the breeding season and an immature House Sparrow would not have retained any juvenile wing feathers which, in other birds, are a leading ageing criteria used to identify immature birds.  

As we are always trying to hone our skills, we looked in Laurent Demongin's 2016 Identification Guide to Birds in the Hand, where we were surprised to learn that more than 80% of male birds can be aged. According to Demongin, the median coverts (MCs) in the immature male show  "proximal half MC1-MC8 black, distal half white with shaft +/- black" whereas in the adult they are "virtually all white, distal part of shaft without black". Also the immature bird shows a "narrow brown edge on alula 2" whereas the adult shows "a broad rufous edge".

The wing of this bird shows black on the MCs and a narrow brown edge on alula 2, so according to Demongin, we think it's probably a bird hatched last year, i.e. age code of 5. From now on we'll be looking more closely at every male Sparrow we catch to see if this identification feature works. 

Features which suggest this House Sparrow could have been hatched last year. 

We packed up early as conditions deteriorated a little and were joined by two more members to carry out the long awaited group activity, the sorting of nets and labelling of the new net bags. 


Net details being ironed onto new bags, colour-coded for length.

 A long overdue job well underway....although not quite completed. 


Peter Bennett

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Mist netting 18/3/2022

Friday 18th saw the team out at Seaton Wetlands once more for a mist netting session.  As is usual at this time of year we caught relatively few birds, but took the opportunity to stocktake some nets and cut and refresh net rides.  

Examining nets during a quiet moment

19 birds were processed.  Among the more interesting birds was a chiffchaff, probably newly arrived from its winter quarters.  A number of these birds were singing in the beautiful weather we had on Friday.   Unfortunately the bird was released without photographs!  Here are some of the team, however, processing some birds.

Newer members under instruction in the Discovery Hut


Bullfinches were around in good number and we caught a few of these birds including these two.  The male, with the attractive red chest and the female, less ostentatious but very smart nonetheless.  Both were birds hatched last summer, which we can tell from differences in the age of feathers in the greater coverts (small feathers immediately above the flight feathers closer to the body of the bird).  These show newer fresher feathers with broad white tips and a more glossy blue black colour compared with older feathers (a more grey/browner colour with less distinct white tips often buffish brown) which are found further out on the wing.  These older feathers grew when the bird hatched last summer.  The newer feathers are replacement of these older feathers when the bird moulted feathers in late summer/early autumn.

Male Bullfinch


Male Bullfinch wing showing the differently coloured greater coverts. The carpal covert also has a buff tip, this would be white on an adult bird. 

Female Bullfinch

Female Bullfinch showing differently coloured greater coverts & buff tipped carpal covert. 


A rather more common bird for us to catch is the Blue Tit.  We ring birds that nest in the nest boxes around the Wetlands, and we caught a Blue Tit during the session which was originally ringed in one of the nest boxes nearby in 2018.  Coming up to the end of its 5th year, this is a good age for a Blue Tit. Blue Tits rarely move far and we have caught the bird a few times since first ringing.  Once in 2018 and three times in 2019, but then a big gap until 04/03/2022 and now two weeks later.  One wonders where it has been hiding between December 2019 and now!

Overall then a productive morning, even if the number of birds was relatively low.


Ringed

Re-trapped

Blackbird

1

3

Blue Tit

1

2

Bullfinch

3


Chaffinch

1


Chiffchaff

1


Great Tit

1

2

Robin

1

1

Wren

2


Totals

11

8


Ian Stanbridge