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.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A good night for stars!

When the temperature gauge in the car shows the flashing frost symbol then it is a good time to go out looking for Woodcock. These evenings are best when no moon is showing. At Abbotsbury Swannery the sky is so dark that the stars are spell binding. This evening was no exception. We set off for our first Woodcock of the winter. In the second field Luke's lamp found a Lapwing. With great stealth the Lapwing was netted and ringed. These are  fabulous birds in the hand.

First year male lapwing

In the third field the lamp picked up a Woodcock. The bird was perhaps a little too alert and despite Lukes careful approach it shot off just a fraction of a second before the net dropped down onto it. The bird flew off into the dark of the night. Next time it will leave with a ring on it!

Hopefully we will get a few more evenings in next week before the moon is 'wrong' again.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A day off and no wind!

The combination of no wind and a day off was too much to resist. Setting up after lunch for a few hours was a must.  Always a chance for an afternoon Dusky Warbler. The withy nets were set first and then two around the feeders. Although not bristling with birds the tops of the Alders were busy with finches and goldcrests. First bird out of the nets at the feeders was a feisty female Great Spotted Woodpecker. Each woodpecker should come with an EU  health warning. Maybe the risk assessment should be updated. My hand had several leaks

During the painful extraction Steve G and Dave looked on smiling. The rest of the session produced several more new Chiffchaffs and the party of Long-tailed tits made contact just after 15.00hrs which boosted the total a little. New Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin, and Blue Tits helped. The best bird of the afternoon was a Grey Wagtail caught deep within the withybed. Possibly the wet mud had attracted it as it flew overhead  and it dropped down. Not many Grey Wagtails are caught here at the Swannery

Grey Wagtail

The stunning underparts of the Grey Wagtail

Long-tailed Tits

The session finished as it has started with a Great Spotted Woodpecker. This bird though was a male and had been ringed 9th september 2008. The ring was still as shiny as the day it had been put on. The longest retrap Great Spotted for the Swannery to date. Just under 40 birds at this time of year in two hours wasn't too bad.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

News from the BTO

Today news was received of a Willow Warbler controlled at the Swannery back in August and also of two Sedge Warblers ringed there in July

Willow Warbler AYX919
Ringed at Murroes in Angus, Scotland on 25th July this year and controlled at Abbotsbury 20th August.  26 days
This was the first Willow Warbler control at Abbotsbury since 1995 when we started.

Sedge Warblers  Y230119 and Y230132
Two Sedge Warblers- one  ringed at the Swannery 23 July 2011 and the other 30th July 2011were both controlled at Saint Joachim, Loire- Atlantique in France. One 7days after ringing and the other 12 days after ringing. The later ringed bird got there first!  In recent years we have had other Sedge Warblers controlled here.  We do not seem to get so many pass through Etang du Trunvel in Finistere as we used to. Luck of the draw most likely.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

You wait all year.....

.... and three come along!  Luke and I were discussing yesterday the dearth of Cetti's Warblers trapped at Abbotsbury this year after the last hard winter when the species disappeared from the site when one turned in the withy net run.  Ten minutes later another net round and another Cetti's in exactly the same place!   But it gets spookier. Another ten minutes go by and another net round check and yes.. another Cetti's again in the same place.

Cetti's Warbler 

Apart from this the usual fare from the withies at this time of year. Dunnocks, Chaffinchs, Robins, Goldcrests, and a solitary Chiffchaff.

Sunday- a two hour spell again in the withy bed and around the feeders to give  a possible new trainee a taster session. On the second net round in the withies yes..  another Cetti's Warbler ... in exactly the same spot as the three birds were extracted yesterday. The rest of the catch was predominantly Blue Tits and Great tits. Although a new Treecreeper was welcomed and a heavy juvenile female Blackcap.  Fat score of forty on the bird. Probably not going to be hanging around much longer.  Just a single Goldcrest but the wind was billowing the nets considerably just before we left.

Treecreeper being ringed

The finished product

The wind looks like swinging SE during the week and staying mild so a few afternoon visits may be possible.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A gap in the clouds

A break from the rain this morning and being on late shift offered a chance to set the nets in the withy bed for a short while.  Whilst walking to the net ride goldcrests, firecrests, goldfinches, siskins and chiffchaffs were all calling. First bird 'on'  the net was a Firecrest which was in typical crest fashion just clinging to the net. When just a few inches away from extraction it opened its feet and shot off!


Anyway a useful session with several Goldcrests, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Long-tailed tits, Robins and Chaffinch all obliging. The best bird was a male Bullfinch. Not a frequent bird down here. Luckily the camera was in the car.

Couple of retraps included a one  year old female Chaffinch and a  Treecreeper. Weather looks settled next two mornings so a couple of visits are envisaged. Walking back from work earlier Redwings could be heard overhead. The Northerly winds are doing their stuff

Monday, 10 October 2011

Too quiet for too long!

Bird Ringing hasn't stopped at Abbotsbury. Recent visits over the past month have been in the evenings solely for the wagtail roost and this has been covered in Luke's blog. However visible notes taken whilst watching the roosting Pied/White wagtails showed that the reason for small catch numbers despite quite a large roost was the condition of the reed. They did not like the older bent reeds and were favouring the new reed growing from the burnt area done back in the winter months.
With this in mind this morning the roost nets were repositioned in what we hope will give more favourable roost catches. Time will tell.

The withy bed nets were opened during the re-jigging of the nets  and a reasonable catch was made. Highlight being a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not often caught away from the feeding station this bird could probably be heard in Langton Herring as it was extracted!

The sharp end!

One of several Robins

5.2 grams of Goldcrest 

Hopefully the wind will ease this week and the new net rides tested. Watch this space!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Increasingly yellow!

 Sorry, more Yellow Wagtail pictures!


As last evening the breeze finally dropped at about 18.30 and a hurried trip to the Swannery was made and the Yellow Wags were already arriving. By the end of the evening there were over 380 Yellow Wagtails at the roost. Not seen anything like this for many years. Every time they started settling down a low flying swan would set them all off out across the embayment and then back into the reeds. Forty nine birds were trapped and ringed. The nets were closed early on to avoid too large a catch.

Not a Yellow Wagtail - sunrise this morning

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Turning Yellow

A late decision to go down for a roost on Wednesday proved very successful. Despite the calm conditions there were hardly any hirundines in the sky over the Swannery -max count of 11 all evening and they all flew off east into the breeze. Yellow Wagtails though were streaming into the pre roost continuously for about an hour. Just one Pied Wagtail dared to get amongst them but it also flew off east as the numbers of Yellow Wags increased. In all 35 Yellow Wags were trapped and ringed including some fine males. Other species trapped were a few Reed and Sedge Warblers. The roost was in the region of 150 birds but more were dropping in as it got dark.

Another chance hopefully this evening if the wind doesn't pick up - and the Sparrowhawk stays away!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tuesday evening

The high pressure made for a lovely calm evening. Just over 80 birds were caught - mainly Swallows and Sand Martins. This included a controlled Sand Martin. The hirundine roost just before dark must have numbered some 800 birds- mainly Sand Martins.Yellow Wagtail numbers were much lower and we caught just six birds which included a splendid male.

Willow Warblers continue to trickle through along with the last of the main Sedge Warbler movement.

Juvenile Sand Martin

Adult Sand Martin

Previous Sand Martin movements have involved birds from Llangorse Lake, Powys in Wales and Arkholme in Lancashire.

Monday, 29 August 2011

A week on

The breeze has been quite strong this past week which curtailed ringing activity but some 200 newly ringed birds were added to the yearly total. Birds were predominantly Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Yellow Wagtail. Almost 70 Yellow Wags were trapped at roost. The total would have been a lot more but the female Sparrowhawk paid several quick visits one evening, dispersing the hundreds of Swallows and Sand Martins and then giving the Yellow Wags a bit of a wobble. Not too worry- the wagtails should be about for another week or so. They seem to have done remarkably well this year with regular roost counts at Abbotsbury of over 200 birds and apparently a similar sort of count at Radipole some evenings.

Catching roosting Swallows
With the month coming to a close the numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps will slowly increase. With light winds forecast mid-week perhaps another couple of stabs at the Yellow Wagtails. Don't tell the Sparrowhawk!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday Morning

The morning was going well until the rain, which wasn't really forecast, set in. It started  very light but soon things took a turn for the worse.
However 64 birds were trapped and ringed in just over two hours. Not a bad follow through from the previous evening.

First bird out of the nets was a Grasshopper Warbler. Other highlights were couple of Garden Warblers, Whitethroat and a steady stream of Willow Warblers up until the rain started.

Sedge Warbler weights are slowly increasing with fat scores regularly in the 30s and 40s


Garden Warbler

This Garden Warbler had been feasting on Elder Berries. Hence the purple around the gape, the purple stain left on the bird bag and the purple hand left after the bird had been released.

Grasshopper Warbler

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A busy evening

This evening we trapped and ringed exactly 100 birds in just over three hours. Species included Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin and Yellow Wagtail. Following on from my recent comments of numbers of Yellow Wagtails there was an interesting count of over 230 Yellow Wagtails going in to roost this evening. They were quite a sight mixed in with some 400 Swallows  and  200 Sand Martins. The Yellow Wagtails were all over the site prior to roost. They were even heard flying over the village from 17.00hrs onwards. With calm conditions forecast for the next few days hopefully more birds will be trapped and ringed.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Time to catch up

Shift work and weather plays a big part at Abbotsbury but we managed five ringing visits from 29th July to 6th August. The bird totals were 29th July (105) 30th July (83) 3rd Aug (76) 5th Aug evening only (22) and 6th Aug (79). The main species trapped as usual were Sedge Warblers with a total of 194 from these visits. The birds do not appear so heavy on average this year. So far only three birds over twelve grams and fat scores low- averaging 20. A couple of 30 and one of 40.

The evening visit on the 5th saw our first attempt at the Pied Wagtail roost- now numbering well over 130 birds. The roost has moved a little into some drier reeds where a 60 foot net was waiting for them. We will be continuing our colour ringing project of these birds this year. The split bi-coloured rings have been discarded now and we are using full colour rings. Please look out for these birds! After a couple of years of intensive colour ringing Pied Wagtails we have almost filled Scotland with red dots on the map and had a sighting in Britanny near Quimper and a bird caught in the Spring in the Netherlands..Hopefully from now on we will be targeting these along with Swallows and Yellow Wagtails with a peak of Swallow catching at the end of this coming week.

Sedge Warbler

Yellow Wagtail

Ten years ago  the Yellow Wagtail roost numbered several hundreds of birds but in recent years we have struggled to count over 100 with about 80 being the norm of a late August evening. A far cry from back in the early 1970's when Yellow Wagtails ringed at roost at nearby Radipole were 702 in 1970, 212 in 1971 and 798 in 1972. In 1975 there were 2279 Yellow Wagtails trapped and ringed there.We shall not see those days again!

Other highlights from the five visits included Garden Warblers on three of the visits and good numbers of Willow Warblers which do not really pass through the Swannery in big numbers. The total to date this year  is about 70 birds.

Reed Bunting (male)

Reed Buntings are also moving about a bit now. They are often drawn in, for some reason, to the Swallow roost.

With a weeks leave forthcoming hopefully more visits will be undertaken- providing the weather holds out.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Autumn under way!

Following a morning visit on the 26th  when Luke caught over 50 birds we went down this morning and managed 79. Typically this time of year they were mainly Sedge Warblers and also a good number of Willow Warblers, but not equalling Lukes Willow Warbler total from  the previous day.

Highlight though was practically the first bird extracted of the morning - a French ringed Sedge Warbler. Mauretania would be good - this would match the control there of one of our birds last winter.  Also this morning a Grasshopper Warbler- unusually though- extracted from the top shelf!

Willow Warbler

A few Blackcaps were caught and also a couple of Goldfinchs. Just prior to packing up a delightful Treecreeper jumped into the net


The overnight Pied Wagtail roost was estimated at 60-70 birds - at least this many birds were feeding on the round-up area just after first light. An evening visit is planned if the calm weather continues to catch them and also start Swallow roosting as a small passage was noted during the morning

Grasshopper Warbler

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A review of Sedge Warbler movements since 1995

Following on from the recent news of two Abbotsbury ringed Sedge Warblers a review of 'to and from' for this species may be appropriate

Birds controlled from Abbotsbury (numbers involved in brackets)
Teifi Marshes, Cardigan, Wales(2)
Worthing, Sussex  (1)
Icklesham, Sussex (8)
Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne (1)
Spalding, Lincs (1)
Combwich, Bridgewater, Somerset  (1)
Billingham Beck, Cleveland (1)
Golfe du Morbihan, France  (1)
Etang Trunvel/Treogat, France (5)
Loire Atlantique, France (5)
Diawling National Park, Mauretania, West Africa (1)

Birds controlled at Abbotsbury (numbers in brackets)
Strathclye Park, Scotland (1)
Helton Tarn,Witherslack, Cumbria (1)
St Nicholas at Wade, Kent (1)
Christchurch, Hampshire  (2)
Thatcham, Berkshire  (1)
Leighton Moss, Lancs  (2)
Kenfig Pool, Glamorgan, Wales  (1)
Uskmouth, Gwent. Wales  (1)
Strand Lough, Co Down, Northern Ireland (1)
Romsey, Hampshire (1)
Barrow-in Furness, Cumbria  (1)
Caerlaverock, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland  (3)

There have also been many local recoveries/ controls between Abbotsbury and Radipole Lake in Weymouth over the years.

Apart from the few birds in central and eastern England most movements are almost true north - south. From the result early moving Sedge Warblers (first week of August) tend to move east from Abbotsbury , then across the Channel and along the French coast. Later birds (end of August) seem to fly direct to the French coast.

On a  chance visit to Etang Trunvel two years ago I met Bruno Bargain, who runs the bird ringing there. The site is quite remarkable. It plays a big part in the RSPB/Birdlife Aquatic Warbler Project.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Recent recoveries

To kick start the blog news today of two Sedge Warbler recoveries from Abbotsbury.

L150228 ringed as a 3J on 9th August 2009 was controlled at the Reserve de Briere Sud, Saint-Joachim , Loire- Atlantique in France on 15th August 2009. 6 days. 365kms

X889617 ringed as a 3 on 9th August 2009 was controlled at Ouvrage de Bell, Parc National de Diawling in Mauretania, West Africa on 27th December 2009. 140 days. 4004kms

Sedge Warbler

Monday, 6 June 2011

Some archival photographs

Aquatic Warbler

Thrush Nightingale   

In the same net at the same time!
Bearded Tit
An unwelcome guest when roosting Yellow Wagtails

Radde's Warbler