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.






Blue Tit









Great Tit











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.


















No. present by year ringed. 


















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!

Monday 7 March 2022

Mist netting 4/3/22

A quiet mist netting session on Saturday saw us catch only 18 birds.  There were some interesting birds in the catch, with the most interesting birds towards the end of the session.  A redwing, which we don’t catch often, was the last bird.  They are usually one of the early ones, but not this time.

This bird had presumably lost half of its tail at one point and regrown the feathers.  Notice the more abraded pointed feathers on the right of the picture, rounder broader and fresher looking feathers on the left.

A pair of goldfinch provided an interesting comparison.  Male on the left, with more extensive red behind the eye obvious on the photo, with the female on the right.  

The tails of the goldfinches indicate their age. The left hand bird has more pointed tail feathers, indicating a first winter bird (this was the female) while the tail on the right has broader rounder feathers, suggesting a bird from at least 2020 if not earlier. 

Other birds caught included chiffchaff and this handsome Cetti’s warbler.

We were hampered slightly by these beasts occupying some of our net sites!  

A few rams, being used to control the level of growth in the area around the dipping pond and the willow plantation prevented us using that area, but they are doing an excellent job of keeping the vegetation low so we should be able to make good use of the area once they have moved on.

Ian Stanbridge