Monday, 29 July 2013

Long time….no….blog!

I’ve been abandoning the old blog of late, not because I’ve stopped ringing – mainly due to not having the time to update it due to work, travel, keeping up with the family and doing lots of ringing! So here’s a look back over the last few weeks....

At the back end of June, Gillian & I travelled over to the Isle of Man for our annual trip to visit Sean & Kev. Getting up to all sorts but once again kayaks were deployed & off we went to a local gravel pits in search of Cormorants to colour ring, along with cr-ringing several large gull chicks & adding to a new cr-ringing project on Common gull.


A bonnie brood of Sparrowhawk were also ringed and we were also treated to visiting the nest of a Hen harrier pair and ringing a single chick.


The guys have been doing some fantastic ringing work with terns in the north of the island – ringing good numbers of Arctic & Little tern, and controlling several adults of the latter species! Good stuff!


Back at Sean’s house, the whoosh net was set & ready (as always!) resulting in several Herring gulls being captured. A fantastic weekend all round, as always – spending some quality time with great friends! Cheers to Sean, Niki and Kev for having us along!

We flew back home were the day after I travelled up to Lake Windermere to assist the RSPCA in catching moulting Canada geese. This being the start of a new (RSPCA) project, looking at the movements of the geese to & from the lake in relation to their moult migrations. The catches (three in total) were a huge success, resulting in 211 Canada geese & 40 Greylag geese being ringed. Interestingly I’ve ringed quite a number of Canada geese at Windermere over the years & not a single one of these birds were captured in the moult round-ups. We did control two birds from Northumberland and Mid Wales, which gives some initial idea of where these birds are coming from.

All the Canada geese carrying colour rings, were marked with red darvic type rings – white lettering with 4 characters starting AAAA. Any sightings of these can be reported via

A really enjoyable few days in the Lakes working with the RSPCA teams & good to put faces to names in meeting Kev Leighton & others from the RSPCA ringing group.

The end of June early July can be busy with moult roundups of flightless geese and swans. It was a pleasure to go down to Chew Valley Lake to help with the groups round up of flightless Canada geese. Around 70-80 birds captured in total, with the majority of the catch consisting of new birds.

A day trip over to West Yorkshire were I finally met Andy Jowett! Spent a day ringing Long eared owl & Red kite chicks with him, along with checking Barn owl boxes! A tip top day – cheers Andy! See you soon ;-)

06th July was an early start – going from Manchester to Beaumaris to meet up with the SCAN ringing group for one of their visits to Puffin Island to ring seabirds & gulls. A very enjoyable (but hot!) day spent ringing Cormorants, Shag, Puffin, Guillemots, Razorbills and Herring, Lesser & Greater Black Backed Gull chicks. Lovely!

The day after we travelled up to North Lancashire to spend a very nice evening ringing Sand martins on the River Lune with Richard Du Feu and Dave Bickerton. This forming part of their very neat work on a Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project on the species.


A few days later we travelled further north, to Scotland just north of Inverness to meet up with Bob Swann after an invite (back in Bulgaria in February!) to go ringing Osprey chicks with him. Not needing to be asked twice, I jumped to this opportunity & took Bob up on his offer! Well I’ve always wanted to work closely with Ospreys & getting the opportunity to help Bob survey & ring some chicks was like my birthday / Christmas day all rolled into one! I’m still reeling after this day & by far, it has to be said, my favourite day of the year so far!



We checked several nest sites & ringed several bonnie chicks. Twas’ a huge privilege to be up close to one of my all time favourite birds and a species of conservation success!

Huge thanks to Bob, Dora & Rob for having us along!

This year being an Abbotsbury round up year (they happen every two years!) and since I’ve not attended the last two (due to being away!) I thought it was about time to roll up my sleeves and join some of my colleagues & other ringing groups for some hard work on the south coast at Abbotsbury Swannery. Of course Mute swans were the subject of the day and together with a large kayak team a nice catch, of exactly 600 Mute swans were caught!

and finally the weekend just gone was spent on the Farne Islands catching up with my best matey Ciaran and of course carrying out quite a bit of ringing! It was great to be out ringing with Ciaran again and this time on his turf! Many Puffins (adults & chicks) were brought up from down their burrows to be ringed, measured and weighed before being returned. Kittiwake & Arctic tern chicks were also ringed, as were quite a number of Shags, both adults and chicks which were colour marked as part of CEH’s ongoing monitoring work.


It was a huge pleasure and very enjoyable to get to spend the night on the Farne Islands which was quite an experience, going to sleep with thousands of Arctic Terns & Puffins just outside the window! Amazing! Good to hear that the Puffins are having such a good breeding season out there which is a credit to the dedicated team of National Trust rangers that inhabit the islands.

If you’ve never been to the Farnes I’d thoroughly recommended a visit! Although to see some seabirds before they head off to their wintering grounds – you’ll need to visit soon!!


Many thanks to Ciaran, Andrew ‘big lad’ Denton, Graeme & Jonathan for having us on the island and to Bex & Will for swiftly getting us back to the mainland in the RIB yesterday evening when the weather had calmed down! Being stranded & working from the Farne Islands on a Monday morning could have been interesting!

photo ‘If you’ve a Puffin in your hands, then you’ve gotta have a selfie!’

I’ve got a busy few days in the office now, before flying out to Iceland on Saturday for annual Whooper swan ringing & productivity monitoring.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Two survivors.

The 2010/2011 winter saw the UK gripped by sub-zero temperatures that brought heavy snowfalls, record low temperatures, travel chaos and school disruption to the British Isle. It included the UK's coldest December since Met Office records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of -1°C, breaking the previous record of 0.1°C in December 1981!

As previously reported on this blog we managed to catch several hundred Coot at Southport Marine Lake during this cold snap. On casting an eye over the subsequent re-sightings of birds ringed during this period it is all too easy to think that some birds didn’t make it out of the cold snap, especially for any birds that appeared not to have been re-sighted soon after or in subsequent years.


However now and again we do get occasional re-sightings of what we’ll call ‘the cold weather birds’ and it’s somewhat relieving to know that they did after all make it out alive! One of these sightings came in yesterday from Keith Avery who had photographed a colour ringed Coot at his local park pond.


After a little research, delving into IPMR and confirming the colour rings with photos taken - it appeared that this bird was hot on the heels of the ‘Flying Scootsman’ and is now the 2nd colour ringed Coot, out of 1,700 marked to be re-sighted in Scotland!

Fife coot.

Since ringing this bird has not been seen elsewhere until Keith photographed it at Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy in Fife! A movement of 272km north in 2 years and 89 days!

Kirkcaldy movement

Thanks to Keith for reporting this colour ringed Coot and for the photos!

The second ‘survivor’ of the 2010/11 cold snap comes in the form of a Gadwall that we ringed on the same day as the above Coot at Southport Marine Lake. It’s quite unusual to be able to feed and catch, by hand a Gadwall at close range so I guess this goes to show the unusual tameness birds become when in need of food.


However this Gadwall also survived the dark cold days/nights of December 2010 and lived for a further 2 years and 54 days before sadly it was shot dead just 5km away further down the coastline from Southport.

Birds are hardy things it amazes me how they survive such harsh conditions……

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Flying Scootsman Returns North!

Just a few weeks ago we blogged about catching a cr-ringed Coot that was ringed in Greater Manchester, which became the first bird from the project to be re-sighted in Scotland. It returned back to it’s wintering (& ringing site) at Crompton Lodges near Farnworth in December 2012 and we managed to catch it in January 2013 were we replaced it’s rings.

Big Coot.

This week I got a call from Andrew Bramhall in the Scottish Borders to say he’d seen a colour ringed Coot on the River Tweed at Tweedbank and it soon became apparent that this was the newly re-ringed ASC returning back north!

Coot ASC showing darvic TB 23rd Few 2013

ASC tucking into some Scottish bread! Photo: Andrew Bramhall..

Andrew thought his initial sighting of ASC would be the last, however ASC soon departed the River Tweed and presumably during the night relocated to Gunknowe Loch, Tweedbank where apparently a territorial pair were seeing off ASC! So I guess he will not be sticking around there for too long! I wonder where it’ll be sighted next!? Gillian Dinsmore will have to go on the look for him and confirm whether he’s breeding up there!!

ASC Red pin – Ringing location ~ Farnworth, Grt Manchester 23/12/2010.

Yellow pin – Straiton, Midlothian sighted on 02/02/2012 – 264km N

Red pin – re-sighted back in Farnworth on 28/12/2012

Purple pin – re-sighted in Tweedbank – 20/02/13 & 22/02/13. 229km N

Many thanks to Andrew and others who have reported this bird……….

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Wild Goose Chase is OVER!

I’ve now been in Bulgaria for nearly two weeks and over this period we’ve been out working 15+ hour days monitoring, counting & weighing up catching locations and also trying to catch Red-breasted geese! As soon as darkness fell we’d be out in the field working into the night setting cannon nets, often setting up to 4 nets a night!

Over the last two weeks we seen many a Red-breasted goose approach the catching area only to be flushed off by a White tailed sea eagle, Goshawk, Peregrine or a Long legged buzzard! There have been times when we’ve worked late into the night setting nets and the birds just didn’t turn up the day after!

Today was our last day of catching! It was now or never! After carefully watching the birds all day yesterday, we kept birds off the ‘green patches of wheat’ in the fields & set 4 cannon nets in likely places last night. Exhausted we returned back to our hotel & were up well before dawn. Within half an hour of me & Bob being in the tent (our firing point!) we had successfully made a catch of Red-breasted geese & White-fronted geese! Oh WOW!

Here’s some photos!!


I have never been so scared & nervous in all my life - as today when I pressed this red button & fired the cannon nets, on Bob's call - the net flew out & caught 91 Red-breasted geese & 28 White-fronted geese! So HAPPY -  Making all those long days in the field over the last 2 weeks worthwhile!


The world’s most stunning goose species!?



Peter Cranswick – WWT’s Head of Species Recovery – fitting satellite transmitters.


Two very happy WWT Conservation staff holding the world’s most endangered goose species!


A Red-breasted goose in a special ‘goose jacket’ designed to keep the birds still in order for us to x-ray them. We were x-raying birds to see see whether any were carrying gun shot in their tissue.


One of eleven male RBGs that we fitted with tags to help us answer many questions, in order to help conserve the species.


Bob Swann – lead cannon netter keeping us all in check and directing the setting of cannon nets!


Go, go, go – go and help us collect data to help us answer those questions!


One of 28 White-fronted geese that we caught. All carrying neck collars.


Packing up the cannon net that held over 100 birds! Non got out! Whoooh!

Staff back at Caerlaverock & Slimbridge have already been in touch with us to let us know that the first fixes from the transmitters have been received – phew!

What a trip! It has had it’s low points and it’s high points! I’m now looking forward to celebrating with the team tonight, going looking for Eagle owls tomorrow and then flying home on Sunday – looking forward to a nice break!! Massive thanks to the team out here from WWT Anne & Peter. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. Thanks to Bob Swann for assisting us on this trip and for teaching me so much! Being cooped up in a tiny tent with Bob for large periods of times allowed me to pick his brain on everything cannon netting! Thanks also to my Line Managers for sending me on such an awesome WWT trip!

More photos here -

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Long eared owl roost!

I’m currently out in Bulgaria with WWT colleagues, Scottish cannon netter – Bob Swann and colleagues from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of birds trying to catch Red-breasted geese to fit with satellite transmitters. More on the collaborative work being carried out on the Red-breasted goose can be found here and hopefully later to come if we’re successful in catching some geese.

Although this post is totally unrelated to bird ringing! Whilst at the BSPB office today Bob decided to go for a walk to try and find some Long eared owls in the local town! 5 minutes later, Bob came back to announce to the group that he’d found some – however it became apparent that there were more than several, probably more likely to be around 40-50 individuals within a small conifer plantation….


I’m just having the best time ever here in Bulgaria, despite it being really cold & lots of snow on the ground – but hey I do like snow, so not complaining at all – we’re having some cracking birding experiences in amongst weighing up opportunities to cannon net geese.

Here are a few photos…….  




Sunday, 20 January 2013

Quick update on the NW BH gull study.

This weekend we’ve been pretty busy catching Black-headed gulls to colour mark for our NW Black-headed gull project – catching by hand and colour marking thirty individuals. 


Throughout this winter we’ve caught and colour ringed 109 adults, with 30 pulli cr-ringed at the Killington Reservoir colony in June 2012. This now brings the total to 271 birds now colour marked.

As much as we’ve been out and about busy catching these birds, we’ve also been busy on the admin side of things as these colour marked birds are keeping us on toes with lots of re-sightings! Some very interesting movements of both resident and wintering migrants have been received. We’re keen for any sightings – so please keep them coming and thanks to all who have reported birds so far!


Kane & Ciaran……

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Flying Scootsman returns….

Colour ringed Coot GR25480 will always go down in the history of the NW Coot project for being the first and only (up to now) bird to be sighted in Scotland. This bird was ringed at Crompton Lodges in Greater Manchester in December 2010 as an adult male, where he also wintered in 2011, however in February 12 this bird was photographed by Robert Mackay at Straiton in Mid Lothian (260kmN). In December 2012 we re-sighted this bird back at it’s original ringing location of Crompton Lodges and today we managed to catch him to confirm it was GR25480!

001 ‘GR25480 photographed in Scotland during February 2012’

Scootsman ‘GR25480 today at Crompton Lodges’

Does make you wonder where this bird has been in time between being seen in Scotland and returning to Greater Manchester! Norway? Iceland? Sweden? Finland? or Scotland!?

So today Ciaran & I have been out catching (just like the good old days!) and we were rewarded with 10 Coot, 20 Black-headed gulls and a single Tufted duck all hand caught and colour ringed (except the Tufted duck!)


Monday, 24 December 2012

NRC 1000 Challenge ‘Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore’

You may remember back in May that we blogged about us forming as a recording team for the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme and out of that came the Brides, Bridge & Dinsmore nest recording partnership.

This year we set out to do a challenge and that challenge was to try and record 1,000 nest record cards during 2012. We have purposely kept quiet about the end result of the challenge, as we were invited by Andy Clements the Director of the BTO to present our adventures, findings and end totals at the BTO’s recent annual conference.

After such a successful season for us (it may well not have been for the birds) it was very rewarding for us to present the whole year to over 400 delegates attending the conference. We addressed the conference with the reasons for us getting together as a nest recording partnership, advantages we found as to working as a partnership, I touched upon inspirational people – who have inspired me to carry out my own monitoring projects, we told the conference the various methods we used to help us achieve our goal, Gillian gave a very impressive overview of her work on Reed warblers & Chris summarised his Pied flycatcher work in North Wales.

As we proudly announced to the conference our end total of 1131 Nest Record Cards submitted, the whole room came alive with the sound of cheers & clapping – certainly making all those very early mornings & very late nights much worthwhile!

With 1131 NRCs whipped off to the BTO in September, we calculated that we’d spent 186 days in the field! We submitted NRCs for 80 species and of those 406 cards were submitted of 37 BTO ‘priority’ species. 744 cards where submitted from England, 357 was Wales and 32 from Scotland. 28% of records came from nest boxes with 72% of the records coming from open nesting species.

Here’s a few slides from our presentation.

Two people who I’m in awe of and totally inspired by are:


(Photo – Ben Howard) Malcolm Calvert of South Manchester Ringing Group who has devoted a life times work to study the Reed warbler at Rostherne Mere in Cheshire.


Dr Ævar Petersen of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History who I’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside during trips to Iceland and certainly someone who I look up to in the field of ornithology. Ævar, next year will be spending his 40th year in the field of nest recording and ringing Black guillemot chicks.

How & what methods did we use?!


……. lots of tree climbing and using poles mounted with cameras and mirrors.


……..many hours spent in waders wandering through reedbeds and kayaking helped to get those tricky nests on the reed bed edges!


…….and by using our phones to take photos & videos inside the nests of Great spotted woodpecker, Green woodpecker and Starling.


Gillian brought an update on her dissertation work studying Reed warblers……


& Chris spoke about how he has taken over the monitoring of two colonies of Pied flycatcher in N Wales.

What other people had to say.

Ieuan Evans – Your talk was awesome, you guys rocked! Thank-you!

BTO – Fantastically engaging talk, your impressive project should certainly inspire the next generation!

Paul Seligman – We all enjoyed your nest recording presentation! Well done!!

Mark Holling (British Birds) - Seeing their enthusiasm and inventiveness to reach their target was an inspiration to us all.

So that’s our 2012 Nest Recording Year! I’d just like to thank both Gillian & Chris for coming on board any helping me out with my already existing monitoring projects, for whom without, these projects would not be receiving the same amount of attention as they have done over the last several years!

It’s been hard work, but very much worth it! If you’d have asked me back in June as to whether I thought we were going to make our target of 1,000 – I would have probably turned around to you and gave you a blank expression & shouted NO! How wrong was I!? Here’s to 2013…………..and hopefully some better weather!! Have a lovely Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Kenya 2012.

Myself and Chris has just returned from a wonderful ringing trip in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. There we joined an international team of ringers on the 44th annual trip to Ngulia Lodge to ring western palearctic migrants and afrotropical birds.

The ringing carried out at Ngluia is very unique in that most of the ringing is carried our during the hours of darkness. Each night teams would take it in turns to check on the weather conditions and as soon as any mist appears, then the whole ringing team in awoken.


Perfect misty conditions to captured grounded migrants.

Two 60 foot nets are placed in front of the lodge’s floodlights and it’s these floodlights that attract any migrating passerines from above, finding it hard to navigate in such conditions the migrants head for these lights & sit it out until the mist passes. However some birds end up in the mist nets and at times over the period we captured up to 1,500 birds!

A very efficient ringing team is then on hand to extract any captured birds & these are then taken to the ringing teams who work busily throughout the night, to ring any captured birds before first light appears.


The majority of the catch is made up of Marsh warblers and Thrush nightingale, however the odd Nightjar (European, Plain and Donaldson’s smiths) were also captured. During our stay one controlled bird was captured, this being a Thrush nightingale which was carrying a Georgian ring. A first for the ringing expedition!

DSCN0476 Plain nightjar

Extracting birds at around 3am whilst you have Thrush nightingales sitting on your shoulders and Nightjars whizzing around your head is quite an experience! Also knowing that just hours before we got to work, sometimes up to three Leopards & at times Elephants were feeding in this vicinity – is quite a daunting thought! 


By the time daybreak had arrived most of the nights (or should that be early mornings!) catch has been released, allowing them to continue with their migration. At first light 20 mist nets were opened which allowed us to catch a variety of birds including quite a number of afrotrop species!

DSCN0430 African Green pigeon.

Dawn ringing then continued till around 10:30 when it was then too hot to have the mist nets open & the bird activity in the area had quietened down. After breakfast several single panel nets were placed up to catch Barn swallows, often with some big catches had. These birds were taken away to be ringed in the cool shade before being released.

Afternoons were either spent Swallow ringing, catching up on sleep – although who wants to sleep when there is so much to see & do!? or going on Safari – which is what we did! We had the most wonderful time out on safari & bird watching in Tsavo – seeing all but one (Lion!) of the big 5 and having some quite memorable if not scary experiences with the Tsavo’s temperamental Elephants! 


We both had the best time ever on this trip and we would both like to thank Dr David Murdoch, Dr Colin Jackson & Dr Graham Backhurst for inviting us along on this trip & for teaching us so much! We would also like to thank Malcolm Wilson, Baz Williams and Richard Charles for their company on the trip & to all the others and staff at Ngulia Lodge who looked after us so very well.

We returned back to the UK via Dubai, after flying into Manchester on the world’s biggest passenger plane – the A380 – which was an quite experience in itself!

For now we’ll leave you with some photos from the trip below, however more can be viewed here (for general trip photos) and here (for bird photos)


Grey headed kingfisher.


Asian lesser cuckoo.


Little sparrowhawk.


Pygmy batis.