Friday, 30 December 2011

Last Session of the Year and Totals

My last ringing visit to Leith Hill for 2011 this morning certainly saw a definite chill in the air, but produced another 44 new birds which again involved a range of Redpolls.  The most interesting birds though were the three Bullfinch, doubling the 2011 site total, and six Goldfinch, which I had only caught one of previously!  Thanks to Paul Stevenson who joined me this morning.

Otherwise it was fairly quiet with very little else around except the regular flock of c60 Crossbill and a few Redwing.

Birds ringed:
Redwing - 2
Goldcrest - 4
Lesser Redpoll - 4
Common (Mealy) Redpoll - 8
Redpoll sp. - 11
Siskin - 2
Chaffinch - 3
Goldfinch - 6
Bullfinch - 3
Robin - 1

My annual totals for 2011 involved 3764 birds which were as follows:
Mute Swan - 3
Canada Goose - 1
Mallard - 16
Grey Heron - 16
Mandarin Duck - 1
Sparrowhawk - 1
Moorhen - 1
Woodcock - 1 (new species for me)
Common Tern - 5
Stock Dove - 4
Woodpigeon - 2
Collared Dove - 6
Barn Owl - 13
Tawny Owl - 3
Great-spotted Woodpecker - 23
Swallow - 65
Tree Pipit - 1 (new species for me)
Pied Wagtail - 23
Wren - 54
Dunnock - 38
Robin - 67
Blackbird - 41
Fieldfare - 2
Song Thrush - 37
Redwing - 18
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 2
Reed Warbler - 58
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 28
Garden Warbler - 14
Blackcap - 107
Chiffchaff - 138
Willow Warbler - 60
Goldcrest - 179
Firecrest - 2
Spotted Flycatcher - 4
Long-tailed Tit - 40
Marsh Tit - 5
Coal Tit - 28
Blue Tit - 692
Great Tit - 430
Nuthatch - 10
Treecreeper - 15
Jay - 3
Magpie - 3
Jackdaw - 26
Starling - 1
House Sparrow - 10
Chaffinch - 94
Brambling - 2
Greenfinch - 79
Goldfinch - 105
Siskin - 289
Redpoll sp. - 203
Lesser Redpoll - 330
Common (Mealy) Redpoll - 337
Bullfinch - 20
Reed Bunting - 4

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Garden to Gambia

Having been prevented from ringing all week due to strong winds I managed to do a brief session in my garden today before the rains came.  Just 15 new birds including two Greenfinch and seven Goldfinch.

This will be my last post for a couple of weeks as I am heading off to The Gambia on a ringing expedition.  This is to look into Western Palearctic migrants on their wintering grounds and more study into West African birds.

Birds ringed:
Greenfinch - 2
Blue Tit - 4
Goldfinch - 7
Great Tit - 2

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two Demos and Two Finch Recoveries

With a rather windy week, it hasn't been ideal for doing two ringing demonstrations for National Trust volunteers!  The first was on 2nd Dec at Henman Bunkhouse, Broadmoor on the northern side of Leith Hill.  The catch was mainly Blue and Great Tits, but also included a continental Blackbird, three Goldcrest and a Lesser Redpoll, whilst the only retrap was the huge winged Goldcrest that I had ringed on Leith Hill on 21st Nov.

The second was in the normal spot on Leith Hill this morning with the catch including five Redpolls, two Siskin (above) and two Redwing.  Interestingly during this morning I caught eight retraps, which is the most ever caught up here in one session involving Siskins originally ringed in May, July, August, September and November!
Apart from these demos two normal sessions were had on Leith Hill catching 55 new birds including 35 Redpolls, four Siskin, two Redwing, four Goldcrest and a female Bullfinch (above).

A couple of recoveries I have had back as follows:

L977558 Lesser Redpoll - 1st year ringed on 10th Oct 2011 at Cannock Chase, Stafford and caught on 21st Oct 2011 at Leith Hill 11 days and 200km SE later (below).
X403389 Siskin - 1st year male ringed on 5th May 2009 at Slaley, Northumberland and caught on 30th Nov 2011 at Leith Hill 881 days and 430km SSE later (below).
Birds ringed:

Redpoll sp. - 15
Common (Mealy) Redpoll - 22
Lesser Redpoll - 4
Siskin - 6
Great Tit - 13
Blue Tit - 9
Chaffinch - 1
Bullfinch - 1
Goldcrest - 8
Wren - 2
Redwing - 4
Blackbird - 1

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fieldfare and Siskins Return

Another week and another two sessions on Leith Hill producing another wealth of Redpolls (a cracking adult male Common below).  Wednesday being the first non-foggy day for almost a week and a half produced another 39 with a supporting cast of four Chaffinch which seemed to be of northern origin and a few Goldcrest - including a first year male with a huge wing length of 58.5mm, well outside the accepted size for this species.
The second visit yesterday morning was much more productive with 101 new birds which included 12 Goldcrest and 43 Redpoll, but was highlighted by a Great-spotted Woodpecker (below top two), my first Fieldfare of the year (below bottom three) and 22 Siskin.

The woodpecker is an obvious first year bird and is showing a huge amount of bleaching and wear on the older feathers.  The Siskins were a real surprise as there have been very few about recently and I have only caught 12 since the beginning of October (seven new and five retraps).  They were all coming to nyger which is usually not started in earnest until the New Year when the natural food starts to become scarcer.  Only the next few weeks will tell!

Also today another control Redpoll was caught Y439009 and the following recoveries were received:

Y443956 - Redpoll ringed on 29.10.11 at Queen Mary Reservoir, Surrey and controlled on 16.11.11 at Leith Hill 18 days and 27km SE later.

DHC979 - Goldcrest ringed on 16.10.11 at Hardham, Sussex and controlled on 17.10.11 at Leith Hill one day and 29km NE later.  This was a great movement for such a little bird in just one day, and seemingly in the wrong direction for autumn migration!

Birds ringed:

Common (Mealy) Redpoll - 65
Lesser Redpoll - 3
Redpoll sp. - 14
Chaffinch - 5
Blue Tit - 12
Great Tit - 6
Robin - 1
Siskin - 22
Wren - 4
Goldcrest - 20
Redwing - 2
Fieldfare - 1
Great-spotted Woodpecker - 1

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Redpolls Continue and Recoveries

Two very foggy sessions at Leith Hill over the last week saw another couple of hits of Redpolls, again mainly Mealies (a couple of pictures of variation below), with a supporting cast of Redwing, Goldcrest, Chaffinch and a few Tits.

A couple of controls were also caught L623717, X816840 and Y443956 and received a few more recoveries as follows:

5256658 Canada Goose - ringed as a juvenile in Regent's Park, London on 4th July 2010 and seen by Jake Everitt at Warnham LNR on 3rd November 2011 - 487 days, 52km SSW

DHX336 Goldcrest - ringed as a 1st year male at Lancing College, Sussex on 6th November 2010 and caught at Leith Hill on 31st December 2010 - 55 days, 38km N

T400793 Great Tit - ringed as a 1st year female at Gomshall, Surrey on 20th December 2005 and caught in my Warnham garden on 18th September 2010 - 1733 days, 15km SSE

L852356 Lesser Redpoll - ringed as a 1st year at Easter Inch Moss, Blackburn, West Lothian on 27th August 2011 and caught at Leith Hill on 30th September 2011 - 34 days, 565km SSE

Birds ringed:
Chaffinch - 8
Common (Mealy) Redpoll - 35
Lesser Redpoll - 10
Redpoll sp. - 18
Blue Tit - 3
Great Tit - 3
Coal Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 11
Redwing - 1

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Woodcock and Rye Bay

A phone call from Jake on Monday 7th November, began 'How quickly can you get to Warnham LNR?'  I was luckily able to go and within ten minutes I was there and arrived to find Jake holding a box that he had been given by a local resident.  I quickly learned that the box contained a Woodcock (below by Jake Everritt) that the residents cat had brought into the house!  Although the bird was slightly shell shocked, it was completely unharmed so I ringed it, took a few photos and then released it.

The following day saw another session up on Leith Hill although with a much reduced amount of Redpolls present catching just 15.  One of which was a retrap from the previous winter ringed here on 1st February 2011 which shows winter site fidelity.  Other highlights were two male Chaffinch probably of a more northern origin, four Redwing and two continental male Blackbirds (below).
note thin yellow orbital ring and dark bill

note grey scalloped edges to breast and belly feasthers
Then I spent this weekend in ringing luxury with the Rye Bay Ringing Group at Icklesham.  The new accommodation here is great and a vast improvement on the caravans of the past.  The birds didn't disappoint either with about 600 new birds over Saturday and Sunday which is exceptional for this time of year.  The highlights were a Water Rail, a Teal (below top), three Firecrests, Meadow Pipits, the first Ring Ouzel here since 2005 (below bottom), c250 Redpolls, c40 Siskin and four species of warbler (Chiffchaff, Blackcap, a very late Whitethroat and two late Reed Warbler).

The incredibly warm and sunny weather on Sunday saw a good number of butterflies and dragonflies and the most unexpected catch of the weekend.  As I was checking one of the rides I flushed a dragonfly that was sunning itself into one of the nets.  As I got it out of the net I realised it was something different and after further investigation it turned out to be a female VAGRANT EMPEROR!!!  Although there have been a number of sightings this year there have only been about 20 records for Britain prior of this Mediterranean species (below).

note whitish frons and brown eyes

note sitting position and yellow blotch within wing

To finish, I had a short session in my garden this morning catching 53 new birds including a Coal Tit, 11 Goldfinch, a Treecreeper and four Dunnock.

Birds ringed (not including Rye Bay):
Robin - 2
Redpoll - 14
Chaffinch - 5
Blue Tit - 28
Coal Tit - 1
Goldfinch - 11
Great Tit - 3
Dunnock - 4
Wren - 1
Goldcrest - 6
Treecreeper - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Redwing - 4
Blackbird - 2
Woodcock - 1

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Redpolls and Recoveries

Another successful ringing session at Leith Hill on 29th Oct produced another 88 Redpolls taking the Leith Hill Redpoll tally for the year to 645!  Continuing the theme of the last month at least 46 of these were Common (Mealy) Redpolls.

A further session on 31st Oct was cut short due to the onset of rain with just nine birds caught which involved another Redpoll, a Redwing, seven Goldcrest and a very late Chiffchaff (below) which was possibly the same bird that was seen here on 29th.
Birds ringed:
Blue Tit - 6
Great Tit - 2
Redpoll - 39
Common Redpoll - 46
Lesser Redpoll - 4
Chaffinch - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 7
Redwing - 1

Also received a few recoveries this week as follows:

L991303 Blue Tit ringed as a juvenile on 5th Jul 2011 at Gomshall, Surrey and controlled on 10th Oct 2011 in Rhododendron Wood, Leith Hill 6km away.

X317180 Blue Tit ringed as a first-year on 12th Oct 2008 at Warnham LNR, Sussex and taken by a cat on 7th Oct 2011 in Horsham, Sussex 2km away.

DJB232 Chiffchaff ringed as a juvenile on 18th Jun 2010 at Warnham LNR, Sussex and controlled on 3rd Aug 2011 at Weir Wood Reservoir, Sussex 22km away.

X969143 Blackcap ringed as a first-year female on 21st Sep 2009 at Chesworth Farm, Horsham and controlled on 23rd Jul 2011 at Cissbury Ring, Sussex 21km away.

Also, Sue Cocker found Canada Goose 5256306 at Southwater Country Park on 15th Sep 2011 which had been ringed on 6th Jul 2009 as a juvenile at Wimbledon Park, London 48km away.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Siskins Return and Common Redpolls Continue

Just ten new birds caught at home on Saturday morning showing that there is still not much coming to my feeders!  This involved a Dunnock, six Goldfinch, a Song Thrush, a Blue Tit and amazingly a Common (Mealy) Redpoll!  This was a first for my garden and was a very pristine immature male (below).
My next visit to Leith Hill with Martin again produced a bounty of Redpolls although much reduced from last week.  A total of 34 Redpoll were caught of which 32 were Commons and just two were Lesser and one of these Lessers was a retrap from 28th Sep which was only the second caught this autumn.  Same site retraps of this species are uncommon in autumn and winter because they are generally moving areas all the time in search of food.  A selection of photos of these Commons are shown below:
Bird1 - Adult male

Bird 1 - Adult male

Bird 2 - 1st winter

Bird 3 - Unaged

Bird 3 - Unaged
Other species caught included 11 Goldcrests, two Long-tailed Tit and after a couple of weeks absence five Siskin.  These were all first year birds and four of which were retraps having been originally ringed here on different dates between 22nd August and 27th September.

Birds ringed:
Dunnock - 1
Goldfinch - 6
Blue Tit - 5
Common Redpoll - 33
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Great Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 11
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Song Thrush - 2

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Common Redpoll Galore

An amazing morning on Leith Hill which started with my first two Redwing of the winter (below), typically being adults as the first arrivals.  Crests also had a good showing with 18 Goldcrest and another Firecrest.
But the highlight was another onslaught of Redpolls, but this time I was able to devote more time and caught 134 by 10am!  Although this was a huge count what was more amazing was that 112 were Common Redpoll (below)!  I was very grateful to have Martin Gray and Wes Attridge with me so that we could discuss the finer points of this species ID. 
Adult Male Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll with Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll with Common Redpoll
This sudden arrival of this species was quite unexpected as the normal trend is for them to migrate over from Scandinavia to the Northern Isles and the north east coast and steadily more south, but this hasn't happened.  The only other place to have been catching large numbers of this species is Dungeness Bird Observatory where they have been catching them since 15th October so are these birds arriving from the south-east?  Another interesting confusion was that the majority of these birds were unusually smaller and variably coloured compared to the standard fare for this species to the point where there is a greater resemblance to Lesser Redpoll.  This is also the same as birds caught at Dungeness (pictures here) and starts thoughts as to the origins of these birds.

One of the few Lesser Redpoll caught was already bearing the ring L977558.

Sightings during the morning included 120+ Fieldfare, 1 Woodlark, 100 Crossbill, 2 Woodcock, 5 Brambling and 200+ Redpoll.

Birds ringed:
Redwing - 2
Goldcrest - 18
Firecrest - 1
Robin - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 20
Common Redpoll - 112
Redpoll sp. - 1

Monday, 17 October 2011

A Morning to Remember

Just a quick posting about this mornings visit to Leith Hill which was cut short due to the large number of birds present.  As I put up the two nets just prior to first light I was not expecting to have finished after the first net round!

On returning to the nets they had been swarmed mainly by Redpolls and Goldcrests and just shy of 100 birds were caught!  Myself and helper Colin set to work extracting and closing the nets as we went and in the end we caught 94 birds.  This included 71 Redpoll including one retrap from 14th Oct and 16 Goldcrest including a British control DHC979.

This part of Leith Hill was absolutely alive with birds with sightings including c200 Redpoll, c100 Siskin, c100 Crossbill, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Wheatear, 5 Skylark, 50+ Goldcrest, c100 Redwing and 2 Fieldfare.

Birds ringed (retraps/controls):
Redpoll - 70 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Blue Tit - 3
Siskin - (1)
Goldcrest - 15 (1)
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (1)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

International Control

Within the last ten days I have done five ringing sessions to try to make the most of the abundant autumn migration and managed to avoid the really windy conditions.

On Leith Hill the large influx of Lesser Redpoll continued with another 65 caught over two visits along with just six Siskin, four Goldcrest, nine Long-tailed Tit and a Firecrest (above) amount others.  Whilst the highlight was a Lesser Redpoll that had been originally ringed in Belgium 11535633 (below) - my first international control that I have caught.  A third visit to Leith Hill was too windy, so I relocated to the sheltered Rhododendron Wood where a Nuthatch, five Goldcrest and 25 Blue and Great Tit were caught in an hour and half as well as a control Blue Tit L991303.

The two other ringing sessions were in my home garden catching 91 new birds of which 46 were Blue and Great Tit, 14 Goldfinch, two Song Thrush, eight Goldcrest, 13 Greenfinch and probably my last three Chiffchaff of the year.

Birds ringed:
Lesser Redpoll - 65
Siskin - 6
Blue Tit - 51
Dunnock - 3
Goldfinch - 14
Great Tit - 28
Chaffinch - 1
Wren - 5
Goldcrest - 17
Chiffchaff - 3
Firecrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 9
Greenfinch - 13
Nuthatch - 1
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 2

Thursday, 6 October 2011


What a difference a week makes!  Three short pre-work sessions at Leith Hill proved very productive with 165 new birds caught.  The 28th September visit produced the first ten Lesser Redpoll of the autumn, along with two Siskin, a male Nuthatch and large counts of nine Goldcrest and 14 Chiffchaff.  The Nuthatch which was caught had a very interesting head colouring that comprised a lot of white/creamy plumage along and behind the eye, which I had never seen before (below).
Two days later I caught six more Goldcrest, eight Siskin and 57 Lesser Redpoll and was highlighted by a control Lesser Redpoll L852356, while session three on 3rd October caught another 51 Lesser Redpoll.  Both of these sessions had to finish early as there were at least another 100 Lesser Redpoll were circling about the nets and would have been too much to handle.  In total 118 new Lesser Redpoll were ringed and there was a huge variety in the plumage, but there was also an interesting variation in the colour of the 'poll' (the forehead). All but three had a red poll  of variable shades from blood red to soft red (below top).  Two birds had what I and others refer to as a golden poll (below middle) which I have seen a number of times before, but another had what I could only describe as a 'firepoll' which was half and half (below bottom).  I can't think of how this has been caused or whether this has been seen before!

Adult male Lesser Redpoll
A day at home on 2nd October produced 28 new birds which included another Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, two Nuthatch, eight Greenfinch, three Wren and a Blackcap.  Also caught a control adult female Goldfinch L614106.

Interestingly, over the last 6 or 7 weeks there has been a huge decrease of birds coming to feeders at home and at a number of gardens up on Leith Hill, especially tits and finches.  Where have they all gone, are they making the most of the availability of natural food, have they moved further afield or have they suffered the worst?

Birds ringed:
Lesser Redpoll - 118
Siskin - 10
Blue Tit - 3
Coal Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Blackcap - 1
Great Tit - 2
Goldfinch - 3
Dunnock - 1
Chiffchaff - 18
Goldcrest - 16
Wren - 4
Nuthatch - 3
Greenfinch - 8
Song Thrush - 1
Blackbird - 1

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

128 Birds Later

The last two weeks has gone by so fast and with a hectic work load of late have not kept up with the blog!  But I have still managed to do some ringing with four sessions at home and three sessions at Leith Hill which totalled 128 birds.
The sessions at home produced mainly Blue Tits and Great Tits, but a few highlights included the first Coal Tit here for the autumn (above), nine Goldfinch, six Long-tailed Tits, a Blackcap, a Goldcrest and two ChiffchaffMeadow Pipit migration is is full swing, but although I attempted to catch some of these on each session unfortunately came up with a big fat zero!  Will keep trying.  An interesting catch was a juvenile Greenfinch which had a partial amount of wing moult, having moulted primary feathers 5 and 6 with primary 4 just coming through (below)
At Leith Hill, I continued to try to catch some of the migrant Siskin that are coming through, but as with the Meadow Pipits, this proved far harder than expected as after three sessions only managed to catch eight!  One of these juveniles (below) looked as though it could have been a bird of northern origin as it had a darker plumage than the local birds and was further behind in its moult. Considering there were large numbers around including a flock of over 300, this was really poor, but they all seemed to be focusing on eating natural food instead of coming to feeders.  Although the Siskins weren't present in numbers ringing included 17 Chiffchaff and 7 Goldcrest.  Other migrants over Leith Hill included a few Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit, lots of Swallow and House Martin, but highlights were a Marsh Harrier and a Honey Buzzard.

Birds ringed:
Blue Tit - 40
Great Tit - 14
Coal Tit - 3
Dunnock - 4
Siskin - 8
Chaffinch - 2
Robin - 3
Goldfinch - 9
Blackcap - 1
Goldcrest - 8
Wren - 4
Long-tailed Tit - 6
Chiffchaff - 19
Greenfinch - 5
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Chiffs and Hawk

This week I spent a morning ringing at home and a morning at Leith Hill.  Highlights from the garden included two Goldfinch, a Chiffchaff, a migrant Blackcap with a huge fat score and my first Sparrowhawk of the year (below - a second-year male).

Whilst at Leith Hill there was a big movement of Chiffchaffs through the site with 20 new birds caught in two hours from two nets as well as a Long-tailed Tit and another four immature Siskin.  There are large movements of Siskin coming out of Scotland at the moment which we will hopefully be seeing them down south soon.

Birds ringed:
Robin - 1
Blue Tit - 20
Blackcap - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Great Tit - 2
Siskin - 4
Chaffinch - 2
Coal Tit - 1
Chiffchaff - 21
Willow Warbler - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Sparrowhawk - 1

Friday, 2 September 2011

August Catch Up

During the remainder of August three visits to the heathland at Leith Hill, a visit to Warnham LNR and a bit of nest ringing produced 163 new birds of 23 species.

A continued study of the Siskins at Leith Hill has slowed dramatically with just 12 new birds, whilst another six were retraps from previous weeks and a single juvenile male Siskin bearing another ringers ring - L867948 (above top).  Other species caught included two Coal Tit, three Blackcaps, two Whitethroats, nine Willow Warbler (including a northern 'acredula'-type above middle and bottom) and 15 Chiffchaff.  Although the highlight was a migrant immature Tree Pipit (below) which happened to be the last bird I caught on 22nd Aug as I was taking the last net down.

A last trip to my regular Swallow nests produced three more to be ringed which resulted in 12 nestlings, which brings my years total to 65.  Whilst Ruby managed to find a Bullfinch nest in the Rhododendron Wood which had four chicks ready for ringing.

The session at Warnham LNR on 27th Aug produced a Sedge Warbler, four Reed Warbler, a Reed Bunting, five Chiffchaff, three Willow Warbler and an amazing 32 Blackcap!  This is the largest count of Blackcap I have ever caught in one session and seems to match the high migration levels of this species that are being caught elsewhere.

Birds ringed:
Blackcap - 35
Dunnock - 2
Blue Tit - 22
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Bullfinch - 2 + 4 nestlings
Great Tit - 13
Robin - 4
Siskin - 12
Chaffinch - 2
Tree Pipit - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Coal Tit - 2
Blackbird - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Willow Warbler - 12
Chiffchaff - 21
Goldcrest - 2
Wren - 5