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Our group (Bisham Barn Owl Group) is now featured in this report.

http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/State-of-the-UK-Barn-Owl-population-2015.pdf

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Having nearly fallen off my chair at work after checking the weather Monday lunchtime, minimal wind speeds predicted for Tuesday! I quickly arranged a day off work and a visit to Chobham Common. I was joined by Erica, a fellow C permit holder, meeting at the site for 0630. A lovely clear crisp morning with the temperatures early on around the -1 mark. We set just one 40′ net to begin with and played Lesser Redpoll on the tape lure having spotted a couple near by. A second net was added about an hour later with the catch still in single figures. It proved to be a quiet session and we decided to set down at 1030.

Although the final total was 10 birds, 8 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Long-tailed tits, it was still great to be out on a beautiful morning on the Common.

Chobham Common

Chobham Common

Chobham Common

Chobham Common

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The long planned ringing demonstration at BBOWT Woolley Firs took place on Saturday 13th February, however the weather let us down again and we were not able to open any nets due to the persistent rain.

We’d planned to net the fields beforehand, 0600, hoping for some winter thrushes, the weather on arrival was dry with a borderline wind speed, but we were able to use the hedgerow to protect the nets and any birds we caught. We only managed to catch 8 birds in total, 6 Redwing and 2 Song thrush before the rain started.

Although still raining we decide to set up a 30′ net next to the feeders, the net was furled (rolled up and unable to catch any birds) but ready and in place should the rain stop. Alas the rain didn’t stop. At 0900 Carl slipped off to do a pre-planned radio interview for BBC Radio Berkshire. By 0930 the activity centre was buzzing with people, unable to show any birds being ringed Carl decided to go and explain what ringing was all about. It was obvious the rain was set for the day so at 1030 we packed up and headed home.

On Sunday I was over on LBF farm, in the wood repairing three tit boxes which had been damaged by the squirrels last summer, all three had the entrance hole enlarged. All are now set for this year’s breeding season, 11 tit boxes, a Treecreeper wedge, Kestrel box and a Tawny owl box.

2016-02-14 12.59.12 2016-02-14 12.32.00 2016-02-14 12.22.26

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The weather continues to be dominated by the wind with storms rolling in off the Atlantic on a regular basis, this in turn is dominating my ringing activities with very few opportunities to get out this month. My only session held in the garden on the 21st, with 15 birds processed including a small flock of 10 Long-tailed tits.

The 30th saw me over in the counties of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire with Carl, Paul and Sarah continuing our work as members of the Bisham Barn Owl Group (BBOG) checking & cleaning out nest boxes ready for this years breeding. Owls will often use boxes outside of the breeding season to roost in, especially when the weather turns colder, so there’s always the possibility of us catching birds during these rounds, alas we didn’t find any BO’s this time.

Following on from the last two seasons of monitoring, ringing and nest recording, this year we are starting a RAS scheme (Retrapping Adults for Survival) one of only 4 such schemes being carried out in the UK this year. More information on RAS here.

We also have Tawny Owl, Little Owl & Kestrel boxes in place and we caught this Little Owl roosting in one.

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday 5th July

Myself and 2 others spent a day with Phil Belman ringing geese over in south-west London.  We started the day with a roundup in Richmond Park on Pens Pond.  A quick count was made and we determined c75 Canada geese on the pond, Pens Pond is dissected by a track and all the geese were on the ‘wrong’ side, this meant we would have to coax them over the track and into the water opposite. The usual location was chosen for the pen and lead-in nets and we set up. We always have to put a boat onto the pond for the roundup and Phil set about inflating the dirigible. The roundup didn’t at all go to plan, two reasons, firstly, there was a hole in a fence we thought secure and secondly, there was a Mute swan with cygnets on the side of the pond we were trying to corral the Canada’s,  and the swan was very aggressive, flying at the Canada’s and scattering them. We eventually managed to corral c35. With the main catch of the day complete we headed off to locations in Chiswick, Moseley & Walton on Thames for some hand catching.

Measuring the wing length of an Egyptian goose

Measuring the wing length of an Egyptian goose

 

Wednesday 8th July

Another trip to Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire for another round of Barn owl box checking, a further 10 owlets and a single adult ringed, with a box containing 3 healthy chicks being the highlight.

Barn owl owlets

Barn owl owlets

 

Monday 13th July

Another trip over to south-west London, Wimbledon Park our destination for another goose round-up. We would have liked to have visited sooner but a certain popular tennis tournament had delayed us by a week! The access to the pond is via a golf course which over the Wimbledon fortnight is turned into a car park and staging area, so there was quite a lot of cleanup activity going on. A count of c100 geese was noted and we got to work setting up the pen and lead-in nets. Once all the netting was in place we all got into our position while Phil once again took to the water in the dirigible. Everything was going well, with the flock slowly moving in the required direction, Phil had managed to elicit the help of a couple of club canoeists, the geese were just starting to exit the pond heading towards the pen when the sight and sound of a grass cutter suddenly filled the air and spooked them, chaos ensued and the geese scattered, Phil and the canoeists were overwhelmed as the flock disintegrated. To me, it seemed like a deliberate attempt to scupper our roundup, subsequently I learned that the head groundsman had previously been reported for shooting the geese, I guess he’s not a big fan! So no birds caught. After we had packed the net away we headed around to the other side of the pond to try some hand catching, a single Mute swan was the result.

Mute swan

Mute swan being weighed

 

 

 

 

 

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The first week of June, 3rd & 7th, saw Paul and myself out and about in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire checking our owl boxes on behalf of Bisham Barn Owl Group

Barn owl pulli

Barn owl pulli

A week on the Isle of May 13th – 20th

Having missed out previously, it’s a very popular location for photographers, artists and ringers alike, and with limited space, a team of us, Carl, Paul, Marie, Tonia, Stuart and myself managed to secure a week on the ‘May’ in June.

The Isle of May boasts Scotland’s oldest Bird Observatory, which was founded in 1934, and is home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Cormorants and terns, it is also a stop-off point for many migrating species.

Transfer out to the island was courtesy of Roy, aboard the RIB “Osprey”, an interesting and rather exciting 25 minute journey due to the wind and a choppy swell which had us all thankful for the supplied waterproofs!
Osprey

 

The island has two accommodation area’s; the main block which is home throughout the season to the reserve staff and volunteers who monitor the vast and varied wildlife and the Lowlight Lighthouse which is where visiting ringers, birdwatchers and artists stay, duration is limited to one week.

 

Lowlight - IoM

Lowlight – IoM

The accommodation is well-appointed considering it’s an old lighthouse stuck on a rock, a recently added block consisting of 3 bedrooms, toilet and a solar-powered shower have really added ‘stars’ and a level of comfort previously missing, it’s not quite living off-grid but pretty close!

The six of us quickly settled in to island life and found a routine that suited all.

As always with ringing the weather plays a major factor in activities and that was certainly the case on the ‘May’, and as you’d expect the wind played its part and at times hampered our mist net deployment, however, there was plenty of other ringing to be had which the wind didn’t affect.

Throughout the week we were involved in various ringing activities; we helped catch and ring Puffins, part of one of the schemes being carried out on the island

Puffin

Puffin

we were able to ring Shags, Razorbills and Guillemots

 

 

Shag

Shag

 

Razorbill

Razorbill

 

Guillemots

Guillemots

along with some pulli ringing which included, Oystercatchers, Herring & Lesser black-backed gulls.

Gull egg hatching

Gull egg hatching

 

Oystercatcher pulli

Oystercatcher pulli

 

Gull pulli

Gull pulli

 

Gull pulli

Gull pulli

We visited the 4 heligoland traps a couple of times a day throughout the week

Heligoland trap

IoM scenic

Heligoland trap

and deployed mist nets when we could, these turned up a few species between them including; Rock pipits, Nightingale, Starling, Chiffchaff, Robin, Willow warbler, Pied wagtail, Dunnock, Songthrush, Blackcap, Lesser whitethroat, Garden warbler and Wren.

A fantastic week came to an end far to quickly and after a big clean up of the accommodation we packed and headed off to the boat, the trip back to the mainland was rather less wet and we were able to take in final views off the island as we departed, before we knew it we were back on the mainland and packing the car ready for the journey home.

I will return…

Photo gallery –

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Guano cliff

Guano cliff

 

Fulmar

Fulmar

 

Lighthouse by Robert Stevenson

Lighthouse by Robert Stevenson

 

Razorbill

Razorbill

 

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Puffin on the wing

Puffin on the wing

 

DSC00600

Midnight on the ‘May’

 

IoM scenic

IoM scenic

 

Monday 22nd June

Back to one of our Kestrel boxes to ring a couple of pulli.

Kestrel pulli

Kestrel pulli

 

Friday 26th June

A very enjoyable chat by Mark Avery at the Surrey bird club.

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Thankfully activity levels in May picked up after an extremely slow April.

After a short break in Poole (8th – 11th) visiting family and with the windy weather abating a little, I finally got to ring some birds, 3 Blue tit pulli from one of my garden boxes, I had checked the box on the 7th and found a brood of 8, unfortunately the weather had been rather cold, wet and windy over the weekend and by the 12th there was only 3 pulli left.

On the 14th I was over at Woolley Firs (WF) to give support to Carl who was giving a presentation on bird ringing and our involvement at WF to the members of the Wildlife Trust, this proved to be very popular and provoked plenty of interest and questions.

Woolley Firs Presentation

Carl, Woolley Firs Presentation

On the 16th I was back at WF again checking boxes with Carl, Paul & Roger, initial findings suggest this season’s productivity is below last year.

On the 17th this female barn owl was found to be incubating a clutch of 5 eggs in a box at another one of our Berkshire locations.

Barn owl

Barn owl

The following day (18th) I was on my own patch checking boxes in the woods on Langley Bottom Farm (LBF).

I was happy to see the 3 ringed garden box birds fledge on the 19th, a relief really knowing how difficult it had been for the hardworking parents during the horrible weather.

The pulli ringing ramped up on the 23rd on LBF with 29 birds ringed from 3 boxes, one box with 12 pulli turned out to be the largest brood of the year in the wood.

In the woods on LBF

In the woods on LBF

Wraysbury CES 3 was held on the 28th, again there was a worry the wind would cause issue and we would have a weather affected session, however the predicted gusts didn’t reach the suggested speeds and we did manage to complete the session. 42 birds processed with a 21 new/21 retrap split.

Wraysbury team

Wraysbury team

The final birding activity on the 28th saw me once again in the woods on LBF with a further 28 pulli ringed from 4 boxes. There is just one brood left to ring.

So all-in-all an excellent month. Next up, more owl boxes to check and a trip to the Isle of May.

 

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Although the wind speeds where far from ideal for netting Skylarks, the forecast of frost and clear skies early morning did tempt me out. I set the alarm for 5am so I would be able to get set-up before sunrise. I set my normal line of nets in the field along with a 30′ 4 panel across the hedge line.

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

It certainly was a lovely morning, crisp and fresh, the golden hour just after dawn is always a special time. Again there where plenty of Skylarks up and about with some of the males displaying their song-flight and parachuting techniques, already looking to impress the females, spring is definitely in the air. It turned out to be a very slow morning both with the Skylark nets and the 4 panel, the wind making the Skylark nets just a little too visible and very few birds in the 4 panel, with a total of 5 birds ringed, all Blue tit and all new.

Blue tit

Blue tit

The wind continued to gather speed and I ended up taking down at 9am, although it was slow on the bird front it was still great to be out and about on such a lovely morning. I was back home by 10am with a nice cup of tea in hand.

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14th – Demonstration at Woolley Firs

We were over at Woolley Firs on Saturday 14th giving a ringing demonstration for the Wildlife trust. We set the nets and our ringing station up in the usual positions and created a semi-circle of various bird boxes for the public to stand behind, this gave us space to carry out our normal ringing procedures without the birds or ourselves getting overwhelmed.

We managed a respectable 55 birds processed, mostly Great tits 22 new/12 retraps and Blue tits 5 new/9 retraps , Dunnocks 3 new, Coal tit 1 new/1 retrap and singles of Long-tailed tit and Firecrest both new birds.  Carl did a great job keeping a very eager public engaged whilst the ringing process was taking place. It was really satisfying to see faces light up and huge smiles break out when someone got to hold and release a bird for the first time, it always takes me back to a frosty morning on Chobham Common and my very own first bird in the hand. The crowd dispersed at 11am and the feedback from Carl was very positive, it seems everyone enjoyed what they’d seen and heard.

Unfortunately for our visitors the highlight of the day came too late, on the last net round of the day Carl came back with a lovely Firecrest, and as you can see – an absolute cracker!

All in all the demonstration was a success and we all had a great morning, we headed off to the pub for a well-earned pint and lunch.

Firecrest

Firecrest

A further write-up can be found here on the Runnymede Ringing Group pages

15th – The farm

On Sunday I was on the farm adding 7 more nest boxes to my scheme, 6 more tit boxes and a Treecreeper box, this brings the total up to 12. Last year I ringed 24 pulli from 5 boxes so with the additional boxes added this season I would be hoping for a few more, fingers crossed!

After a few different builds and material choices I have now settled on this design, the main changes have been the materials, I now use 21mm gravel boards, purchased from Farm Fencing, a big thanks to them for the great deal they give me, I use old truck wheel inner-tubes for the roof hinges, recycled and donated for free from Tadworth Tyres, a big thanks to them too and a mixture of screw and nails for the construction, an extra coat of wildlife friendly preservative on the roof and we’re good to go!

2015-02-15 13.19.31

New design tit box


2015-02-15 11.14.03

A much better use of a golf trolley!


2015-02-15 12.54.09

Treecreeper box

 

All the boxes get GPS’d and added to my Googlemaps when I get home, obviously this is really helpful come the summer when the wood is transformed from winter bare branches to lush summer foliage.

Bring on the breeding season!

 

 

 

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I dropped in on the session at Woolley Firs on my way to Leicester on Sunday for a couple of hours of ringing and to pick up some bird boxes for repair.

Carl, Marie and Paul had set the nets up at the main house this week and where busily extracting birds when I arrived.

It was a ‘tit’ filled morning with 45 birds processed in total and all where either Blue tit or Great tit bar a Coal tit and a Treecreeper.

After setting down we retired to the local pub for lunch before I headed off to Leicester.

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