This is foreseen to be an occasional blog relating to bird ringing at Abbotsbury Swannery. The site has operated as a BTO Constant Effort Site since 1995 and has taken part in the BTO Swallow Roost Project. In recent years we have concentrated in the autumn with both Yellow and Pied/White Wagtails. In 2009 we joined the Woodcock Network.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Back in the reeds....

Last week it was Iberian Chiffchaffs on Gibraltar but this morning it was a pleasant return to the usual Chiffchaffs. The first Spring session  was made today at the Swannery  - too many visits prior to CES are not encouraged.  This morning was more of a test run to see what was about.  The nets in the reed ride were set up yesterday.  The reed beds took a hammering this February in particular. The reeds on the Fleet side of the Swannery were completely destroyed and a load of rubbish was washed up into the reeds trashing them considerably but we managed to set up the usual net run - albeit with less reed surrounding it but it is growing well in the warm weather already.

Large areas of reed were completely  flattened but it is growing well

Helen's Hide- around where the Yellow Wagtails roost later in the year was particularly hit.  The reed screens disappeared and as can be seen the reed around the hide just gone.

Helen's Hide area
Steve G and his colleagues are already making good the hide and the tern island.

Back to the ringing.  It was a steady morning with 5 Cetti's Warblers trapped in the withy nets.  Four re-traps and one new bird.

Cetti's Warbler ringed in 2012

Several Chiffchaffs were ringed.  Willow Warblers were calling but none were trapped.


Deep in the withy bed a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling but it too did not venture into the run of mist nets. As the morning warmed up things slowed a little but on hearing and seeing a pair of Bullfinchs it was a delight to extract the male shortly afterwards.  Not a common bird here and probably only a dozen or so birds ringed since 1995.

Luke will probably do a Gib update later this week but there is one bird which is always a treat to catch there.  A fine and often feisty Woodchat Shrike

Ringed on Gibraltar last week - not the Swannery!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The big clean up!

Following the storms and flooding in back in February Abbotsbury Swannery was severely flooded- twice.  The staff  and interpretation buildings around the entrance bore the brunt of the floods but perhaps luckily the ringing hut probably got away lightly in comparison.  It is positioned off the ground but still over a foot of water got inside.  Opening the door last week saw the floor strewn with debris. From previous smaller floods lessons were learned and nothing of value was on ground level.  Despite this ringing poles had been dislodged.  The floor was covered with mud and a carpet of broken reeds.

The ringing desk survived but the cupboard doors have had it and will be removed next visit

Debris everywhere

Flood level shown three boards up -a green colour!

On friday afternoon our good friends from Kingston Maurward arrived with bow saws and loppers and started work on the management of the withy bed.  It was not coppiced last year as the weather was so poor.  The students made easy work of the job and after two hours had coppiced a good area.  This will help with the catching rate later in the year- in particular Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

Over the next few weeks the wildflowers will respond to the increase in light and campions and primroses will appear from the woodland floor.

The next job is to get the net rides in the reed bed sorted out and then get ready for CES which we hope to continue with this year.

Whilst working in the withy bed pairs of Blue Tits and Great Tits were chasing about and the Cetti's Warbler was sounding out from the nearby reed bed. A very vocal Wren was clearly disgruntled by our presence.

We will try for a couple of ringing sessions this week around the feeders now that the weather has at last calmed down.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Two sides of the Chesil.....

Not much bird news this time. Another wind blasted few days with no hope of setting any nets. With the Reed Buntings now having moved elsewhere - I need to find out where - it was decided to take down the roost nets as deteriorating weather was imminent. When the outside of the beach looks like this

You can be sure that the reed bed inside the Swannery will look like this.

The water level had gone from wellington boots to waders. However the short lived net ride had done the job with just under 100 Reed Buntings trapped at roost.

Late afternoon skies are always spectacular on the Fleet - this afternoon was no exception

The weather does not look very inspiring over the Christmas break but maybe the wind will drop for a couple of hours and allow a few more birds to slip onto the end of year totals

Friday, 6 December 2013

Bunting bonanza!

Since the last post over 90 Reed Buntings have been trapped and ringed.  They drop in at 15.30 sharp and then move about the reeds.  The maximum counted coming into roost the other evening was 63.  This evening the visit caught just ten birds.  They have moved slightly nearer the water where the reed is possibly warmer which means that the nets will have to be repositioned for maximum effect.

A few Chiffchaffs are still moving about in the reeds and the ever present Blue Tits who seem to spend a lot of time over the winter months in reed beds.

This evening the sunset from the viewpoint was spectacular.

Hopefully the weather next week will permit some more visits to the roost.  Always the chance of something good in with the Reed Buntings!  About 50 Pied Wagtails are also roosting nearby in the reed bed so a chance there to get more colour rings on birds.

Monday, 2 December 2013

An Emberizidae experience

Following a quiet morning last Friday at the feeders and the withy beds when the most interesting bird caught was a Treecreeper- the first coincidentally for 2013 which was followed by a raucous Great Spotted Woodpecker a passing comment from Steve about a lot of Reed Buntings gathering out by the Fleet Pipe pricked my ears up.

Returning later that afternoon to see what what was happening it was clear that Steve's observations were very accurate. About 50 Reed Buntings in the reeds by the Fleet Pipe.  A quick measuring session would permit 3x15m nets.

Last evening a total of 29 Reed Buntings were trapped. Interestingly none of the birds which I had ringed during the year at the Swannery were re-trapped although the bird which Luke had ringed nearby at his private site the other week was re-trapped at the roost.

A second attempt is envisaged this evening as calm conditions prevail.  Always hopeful that something a little special is in with the Reed Buntings.  From previous experience Little Buntings are not unknown to roost with this species!


Monday, 18 November 2013

After the tristis....

After the delight of the evening before the following morning produced just under 50 birds.  There was no sign or sound of the tristis from the withy bed but a steady trickle of Chiffchaffs turned up and most of them were extracted from the nets in the reed bed not in the withy bed. Nine Cetti's Warblers have also been caught in the last two ringing sessions.  They are everywhere at the moment calling from just about anywhere in the Swannery.

A couple of Lesser Redpolls were trapped in the reeds but not in the numbers which had been hoped for on such a lovely calm morning.

Delightful birds

The usual species were trapped at the feeder including many new Great tits and a Blue Tit from 2008.  A nice re-trap.

The Chiffchaffs had predominatly longer wings than usually caught here most of them 61-62mm.  Different population no doubt. 

Finally my photographic offering of the tristis from the night before

A handsome bird!

Weather on the change this week so things might get put on hold after a golden run of a few days good ringing.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A five star morning!

A morning session today proved to be very rewarding.  A slow start and then it took off big time. A lovely variety of Redpolls were trapped in the reeds.  Good reason for not taking in the wagtail nets yesterday!

This was followed by the surprise of the morning when four Bearded Tits were found in the same net run.  There had been no sounds heard from these birds all morning and certainly no typical 'pinging' as they moved about the reeds. Obviously they were in a stealth mode!

Also trapped were several Cetti's Warblers as they moved about the Swannery.  October and November often sees good numbers of these birds as they move through the area.

A few more Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were trapped and the last bird of the morning lived true to yesterdays suggestion.

A Siskin was extracted from the bottom shelf in the centre net of the withy bed- right above a small puddle of fresh water!

The weekend looks good so hopefully a few more calm mornings to follow.  Whether they will live up to this morning remains to be seen!