Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Robin - Colyford Common Dec '08 (c) Steve Waite

The Axe Estuary Ringing Group would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Colyford Common and Stafford Marsh - 15/12/11

Today saw the Group's annual festive feast! The last ringing session of the year always includes the bonus of lots of food and drink! This year, due to the weather there was a lot less ringing though, with mist netting only possible during the gaps between the showers. All ringing operations centered around the Field Studies Base, and the Abberton traps on Colyford Common were also used.

Weather; Heavy showers with some dry interludes, 100% cloud cover and a moderate south west wind.

The weather really did interrupt the ringing today. Just half an hour after the nets had been set, they were felled due to a rain shower. So although this was inconvenient for the ringing - it didn't matter as much as usual because there was plenty of food to eat!!

A game was even set up in the classroom by Adrian Bayley. Identify the species by its eye...

Doug having a closer look - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

And the winners were...

Doug and Fraser with the prize, some nuts! - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Back to the ringing, and only 13 birds of 6 species were processed;

2 Mallard
1 Moorhen
2 Blackbird
1 Robin (retrap)
6 Greenfinch
1 Goldfinch

Male Mallard about to be weighed - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

'The boss' keeping his hands in - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Monday 12 December 2011

Cannon Netting on Seaton Marshes - 11/12/11

Today saw the first cannon netting session of the winter. The first one of the season was due to take place a few weeks before, but due to a lack of duck and water (!) it was called off.

As ever the net was set the previous afternoon by a small team lead by the group leader.

Cannon net set - Seaton Marshes Dec'11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Weather: it remained dry, despite showers before and after the ringing session, 100% cloud cover, light to moderate south west wind, visibility good.

A remarkable 28 people turned up for this ringing session, as usual this total included a good mix of experienced A ringers, C ringers, trainees and helpers.

The team (minus two) - Stafford Marsh Dec'11 (c) Mike Tyler

After a briefing at 7am, the firing team (including qualified cannon netter and group leader Mike Tyler) made their way to the hide, whilst everyone else remained on standby for extraction out of sight.

From the hide, in the early morning gloom it was obvious there were a good number of wildfowl on the lagoon - although this did include about 60 Canada Geese! A small number of Canada Geese were already in the catching area, but with the rest of the flock making a bee line to join them, when all was safe to do so, the net was fired. The time was 07:30.

By 07:40 all birds had been safely extracted from the net thanks to the efforts of the qualified extractors, and experienced helpers.

Canada Geese - Seaton Marshes Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Considering the rather mild weather, and limited number of duck in the valley, the catch was respectable, with 63 birds of 5 species processed;

3 Mute Swan (2 retraps)
13 Canada Goose (1 retrap)
11 Shelduck (5 retraps)
22 Wigeon (2 retraps)
14 Mallard (1 retrap)

The Mute Swans were quickly processed and realeased on site. The decision was then taken to transport the rest of the birds to the new classroom on Stafford Marsh, as there was a very real threat of rain.

It takes two to ring a Mute Swan! - Seaton Marshes Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Once everything and everyone had arrived safely at Stafford Marsh, the group was split in to three teams.

Team Shelduck - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Out of the six unringed Shelduck, five were this year's young (aged 3) - but I wonder if they were born locally or have migrated in from elsewhere?

'Captain Cango' (aka Terry) keeps an eye on Team Canada Goose - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Team 'everything else' had the Mallards and Wigeon.

Wigeon 4M left and 3M right; wing and tail shots - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

The two retrap Wigeon were both ringed at Seaton Marshes. One of them was a 6F ringed by Luke Phillips on 8th January this year, but the other was ringed as a 4F by Peter Robinson on 29th November 2008. This just shows that wintering birds are often site faithful.

After all the birds had been safely processed and released, the team returned to Seaton Marshes to pack away the net.

Packing up - Seaton Marshes Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Friday 2 December 2011

Colyford Common and Stafford Marsh - 1/12/12

This mist netting session was another one that was meant to be taking place in the Crop Field at the north end of Colyford Common. But due to the apparant lack of birds currently feeding in and around the field, the group operated around the Field Studies Base on Stafford Marsh, and at the southern end of Colyford Common.

The Classroom and Field Studies Base - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Peter Bennett

Weather: Dry, a slight 'bite' in the air, but still relatively mild for the time of year, overcast with 85% cloud cover, no wind, good visibility.

Despite the conditons of the previous day (strong winds and rain), it proved an absolute ideal day for mist netting. When the sun is shining, mist nets stand out to both the human and birds eyes, so the cloud cover meant this wasn't an issue. Also the lack of wind ensured the mist nets remained still. When nets move in the wind, birds can see the momevent and this usually means for a lesser catch.

As well as mist netting, the Abberton Traps were also set on Colyford Common.

Abberton Traps - Colyford Common Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

It was a very productive day of ringing, with a total of 68 birds of 14 species processed;

4 Moorhen
11 Blackbird (2 retraps)

1 Redwing

1 Song Thrush

3 Robin (1 retrap)

3 Dunnock (all retraps)

4 Wren (2 retraps)

1 Great Tit (retrap)
12 Blue Tit (8 retraps)

8 Long-tailed Tit (5 retraps)

2 Chaffinch

11 Greenfinch

5 Goldfinch (2 retraps)
2 Bullfinch (1 retrap)

So, the Abberton Traps did the trick with the Moorhens - which made a nice addition to the day's species list.

Extracting a Moorhen - Colyford Common Dec '11 (c) Peter Bennett

Processing Moorhens - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

3 Moorhen (aged by leg and bill colour, and body feather colouring) - Stafford Marsh Dec'11 (c) Adrian Bayley

There had obviously been something of a fall or arrival of thrushes with the numbers caught. The highlight was without doubt the Redwing - only the fourth ever to be trapped and ringed by the group.

Ageing the Redwing - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Peter Bennett

Redwing - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Two 3M Blackbird (presumably migrants?) - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Ageing the Song Thrush - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Peter Bennett

This session was attended by two of the group's most experienced A ringers...

How to tie up a guy correctly by Mike - Colyford Common Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

But there was no doubting who was the session's designated 'A Ringer In Charge'...

Is this what they call 'overseeing?' - Stafford Marsh Dec '11 (c) Adrian Bayley

Monday 21 November 2011


Just a short post to update all on the latest of two of our Black-tailed Godwits which are currently on the Exe Estuary...


Yellow Orange Green was reported to the group by an email from Colin Selway. This photo was taken by Colin of YOG on Exminster Marshes on 26/10/11.

YOG - Exminster Marshes 26/10/11 (c) Colin Selway

YOG was ringed at Seaton Marshes on 5/3/11, and was still present on the Axe Estuary on 10/3/11. However on 22/4/11 YOG was sighted feeding in a stubble field in Western Iceland, at Melasveit, Borgarfjarðarsýsla by Jenny Gill, Graham Appleton and Jose Alves.

View Larger Map

This is the first sighting of YOG since the Iceland record - good to know he/she has made the journey back south safely. Since being ringed, YOG has flown at least 2300 miles.


Red Orange Lime was spotted at Bowling Green Marsh by Ian Waite on 14/11/11. ROL was also ringed on 5/3/11, and was seen on a later date further north - but not as far north as YOG! ROL was seen on 29/4/11 at South Ronaldsay, Orkney by Morris Rendall.

View Larger Map

Like YOG this was the first autumn sighting of ROL. It will be interesting to learn whether these birds spend the whole of the winter on the Exe Estuary.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Colyford Common and Stafford Marsh - 10/11/11

This mist netting session was planned to take place in and around the crop field, but due to the potential threat of rain the decision was made to operate around the Field Studies Base on Stafford Marsh, and around the southern end of Colyford Common.

A mist net set besides Stafford Brook - Colyford Common Nov '11 (c) Doug Rudge

Weather: nothing like the forecast! Dry and mild with some sunny spells, cloud cover varying 50 - 80%, still with gentle s w breeze from late morning, excellent visibility.

The conditions ironically turned out to be ideal for mist netting, with no wind and mostly overcast skies. The net by the bird feeders next to the Field Studies Base proved to be the most productive during this session, not a surprise at this time of year.

Trainees extracting birds under the watchful eye of the session leader - Stafford Marsh Nov '11 (c) Doug Rudge

33 birds of 9 species were processed;

3 Robin (all retraps)
2 Dunnock
1 Wren (retrap)
2 Goldcrest (1 retrap)
1 Great Tit
13 Blue Tit (6 retraps)
1 Chaffinch
5 Greenfinch (1 retrap, 1 control)
5 Goldfinch (2 retraps)

Goldcrest F - Stafford Marsh Nov '11 (c) Doug Rudge

The control Greenfinch was first ringed by 'the blogger', in his Seaton garden on 22/7/11. So it's moved 1.3 miles in 111 days - not the most adventurous passerine!

Saturday 22 October 2011

Colyford Common - 22/10/11

Today saw the first session of the autumn in the crop field at the north end of Colyford Common.

Crop Field - Colyford Common Oct '11 (c) Steve Waite

Weather: Dry, cloud cover varying 30% - 70%, moderate to blustery s w wind, excellent visibility.

The strength of the wind made the mist nets look very obvious, which ensured few birds were caught - even the double shelf north ron didn't work!

The overhead wires also played a part in the lack of birds caught. The Linnets (100+) and Reed Buntings (25) feeding in the crop field often flew up vertically to perch on the wires - going nowhere near the nets!

Linnets - Colyford Common Oct '11 (c) Steve Waite

11 birds of 4 species were caught and ringed;

2 Song Thrush
1 White Wagtail
4 Dunnock
4 Reed Bunting

A photo of the White Wagtail will appear here soon, but for now I'm afraid you will have to make do with one of the four Reed Buntings...

Reed Bunting 3F - Colyford Common Oct '11 (c) Steve Waite

Unfortunately the Jack Snipe flushed whilst setting a net in the wet area behind the platform didn't return and get caught!

With the number of birds processed, as you can imagine the ringers and helpers present today were always kept busy...

Adrian enjoying the sun - Colyford Common Oct '11 (c) Steve Waite

Thursday 13 October 2011

Colour-ringing Schemes

If you see any of our colour-ringed birds, even if it is on the Axe Estuary, please email the full details (date, time, location, species and colour-ring combination or code) to Ian Stanbridge
The Axe Estuary Ringing Group has two active colour-ringing schemes;
Black-tailed Godwit
Since March 2009, 20 Black-tailed Godwits have been caught, ringed and colour-ringed by the Group. Some birds have been caught during night time mist netting sessions on Colyford Marsh, but most are caught during wildfowl cannon netting operations on Seaton Marshes. This project is part of an international study on Black-tailed Godwits. Every Black-tailed Godwit colour-ringed on the Axe Estuary is fitted with six colour rings, with the combination of YELLOW RED YELLOW on the birds right leg being the Axe Estuary's unique colour-ring combination. The colour-rings fitted on the birds left leg are unique to each individual bird. Birds are named by the first letter of each colour ring on their left leg from top to bottom, for example yellow over orange over green would be known as YOG.
Black-tailed Godwit 'GOR' - Axe Estuary Mar '10 (c) Steve Waite
So far, 60% of the Godwits colour-ringed by the Group have been re-sighted in the field. There have been some very exciting sightings too, with several being seen in France, two in Ireland and singles being reported in Scotland, Norfolk, and Iceland! Full details of these re-sightings will be posted at a later date.
Since December 2010 the Group have been colour-ringing Shelducks, 95 have been colour-ringed to date. Shelducks are mostly caught during the winter months through canon netting, but many have also been caught using whoosh nets and in duck traps. A yellow darvic ring with two letters is fitted on the birds left leg, with the standard BTO metal ring placed on the birds right leg.
Shelduck 'FL' - Seaton Marshes Mar '11 (c) Mike Tyler
Once again, if you see any of our colour-ringed birds, even if it is on the Axe Estuary, please email the full details (date, time, location, species and colour-ring combination or code) to Ian Stanbridge