Winter Bird Ringing

Now that the winter months have drawn to an end, and all our winter migrants are leaving our shores, I thought I'd take this opportunity to summarise the highlights of last season's bird ringing.

Ringing during winter is often quieter than during the rest of the year, as birds become less active and our large numbers of summer migrants are no longer around. But despite this, we had good numbers of birds, and a few new species for me that were not only fantastic to see so close, but also to learn more about as I processed them.

When looking back over our photographs, despite the noticeably slower sessions, I realise we did catch a very good number and variety of birds.

Early in the season, at the end of November, we caught a particularly special bird that came as a complete surprise to us all. The site we ring at is mostly made up of relatively large patches of reedbeds which snake their way around the ponds. We caught many a reed and sedge warbler here last summer, but this species was a new catch for the site. A Cetti's Warbler. Not only was it fantastic to see such a gorgeous little bird in the hand, but this was probably the first time that I personally had ever seen one of these warblers properly.

The individual we caught was a re-trap that had originally been caught at Crossness Sewage Works in Thamesmead, Greater London - almost 51km away!

Cetti's Warbler

But, for me, the highlight from this year's winter ringing has to be the Fieldfare. I recall having one particularly amazing day on the 22 January, where we caught seven individuals in the one morning. They all had the usual rufous back, grey crown and rump, and signature orange spotted breast, and were just as beautiful in the hand as they are perched elegantly in the tops of trees. What's more, it is amazing to think that these birds could have come from as far away as Eastern Siberia, a 6000km journey, only to turn up at our small site in Surrey!

a pair of Fieldfare

On top of the two species talked about above, we also caught good numbers of various other species, both passerine and non-passerine. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins were all regulars, as well as the odd Greenfinch and Bullfinch. Redwing and a couple of Redpoll also visited the site, and we even caught a Moorhen on one particularly frosty morning. All of the data recorded from all the birds we caught over the winter months has been sent to the BTO, and will help to gain a better picture of the distribution and movements of Britain's winter species.

male Bullfinch

Now, as spring comes around the corner, I'm very much looking forward to the arrival of our summer migrants. Having caught a substantial number of Reed Warblers in particular last year, it will be very interesting to see, first of all, how many individuals return to the site, but also how many are re-caught, and whereabouts in the reserve. We may well find that a good number of warblers return to the same very same net they were caught in in 2016. All this data will not only provide us with a good estimate of the population, but will also help us identify whether any birds have returned to the same reedbeds they left six months earlier to travel all the way to Africa!

female Blackcap from last weekend



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