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

Monday, 14 March 2022

Ring-reading 12/3/2022

For various reasons, Saturday's cannon netting session was cancelled. The Group has been ringing Shelduck on Seaton Marsh since 2006. The Shelduck have been caught between November & March each year, and since 2010 each has been fitted with a yellow colour ring with black lettering on the left leg below the knee, in addition to the meal BTO ring. The post from the last cannon netting session can be read here.  As the catch area had been baited with grain in preparation for the planned session, a couple of us made use of the gathering Shelduck to read colour rings. 

More grain was put out just after 6am, and by 6.30am, we were in the hide with scope & camera at the ready. It was a slow start as the Shelduck seemed very wary, and only a few at a time made brief forays onto the grain before returning to the water. Two Canada Geese arrived and tucked in, which may have put off the Shelduck for a while. However, by about 7.30, larger numbers of Shelduck started feeding and soon every Shelduck in sight was busy on the grain. The maximum number of Shelduck we counted at any one time was 47, and we managed to read 43 colour rings. 

Ring-reading from the Seaton Marsh hide 

Shelduck gathering at Seaton Marsh

Of the 43 individuals we could identify by their colour rings, the numbers from each year are shown below.


2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

No. present by year ringed. 

1

0

5

1

3

0

4

1

2

0

0

2

3

12

1

0

8


The male Shelduck marked BT was ringed as an adult on 1/2/2006, the earliest to be ringed of those spotted. Since then it has been caught a further 4 times, and sighted 21 further times, always on various parts of the Axe Estuary wetlands. The encounters have all been between January & May, apart from one record in July 2013. 

The most encountered bird spotted was AH, a male ringed as an adult on 25/2/2009. Since then he's been caught 10 more times & sighted on a further 35 occasions, mostly between December & May, although there were 2 sightings in July 2013, and again in June 2014 & 2017. Again, all encounters were on various parts of the Axe Estuary wetlands. AH has been seen on the Axe every year except for 2020 & 2021.

FH, a male, was ringed as an adult on 26/1/2008 after which there have been 26 further encounters. Up until March 2016 all sightings were on the Axe Estuary, but on 24/10/2017 he was seen at Steart Point on the north coast of Somerset, part of the Bridgewater Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  He was then seen again on the Axe before returning to Steart Point in September of 2019 & 2020. 

Location of sightings of Shelduck FH

Shelduck XJ, ringed on 31/3/2010 as an adult female, was also seen in Bridgewater Bay, on 20/9/2020, just to the west of Steart at Catsford Common. Bridgewater Bay is an area where other Axe-ringed Shelduck have been sighted, particularly in September & October, suggesting that this may be a favoured moulting site. 

About 50 Black-tailed Godwit were present on the estuary mud, also viewed from the Seaton Marsh hide. The Group has been involved in a project colour ringing the Godwit, and information can be found here. There were 3 colour-ringed individuals on the mud, although one was roosting on one leg and thus only revealed its Axe Estuary signature colours of Yellow Red Yellow. Another bird showed its other leg, revealing the colour combination of Red Orange Orange. This bird was ringed on 5/3/2011 and since then has been re-sighted on a further 27 occasions.  All sightings at locations other than the Axe Estuary were made before Feb 2013. It seems to have explored before deciding to become faithful to the Seaton Wetlands. 

Locations of sightings for Black-tailed Godwit Red Orange Orange

The third colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit was Green White Green, which was ringed on 25/9/2018 and hadn't been seen again until it appeared at the Seaton Wetlands in February this year. 

A Mute Swan was then spotted on the estuary mud showing a yellow colour ring with the black letters FDA. Details were submitted to the Abbotsbury Swannery who have confirmed that the male Sawn did not hatch at the Swannery, but was ringed there as a newly arrived second calendar year bird on 7/7/2018 i.e. it was hatched elsewhere in 2017. 

Having finished reading rings at Seaton Marsh, we dropped in at Seaton Wetlands to see if there were any further ringed birds there. There were only 3 Shelduck present, all of which were on the water & thus not showing their legs. As we left the reserve, a pair of Mallards were guarding the car park. The female was wearing a metal BTO ring, which we managed to read using binoculars & patience! She had been ringed at Seaton Marsh on 9/1/2016, having been caught at a cannon netting session. She had been hatched on 2015 and there were no reported sightings. 

Please keep your eyes peeled for colour-ringed Shelduck & Black-tailed Godwits on the Wetlands. Please report any sightings to Ian Stanbridge. Every sighting is important!