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.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Always something new

A useful weekend at the Swannery until the wind picked this morning which put a stop to things. However the visiting ringer was not disappointed. Saturday afternoon saw 40 birds trapped and ringed including a late Grasshopper Warbler.  I have had Grass Snake, Water Vole, Dragonflies and Hornets in the mist net but this morning never one of these before from the top shelf

A three-spined stickleback

Shortly afterwards the likely culprit was trapped and ringed


A flurry of Robins occured on Saturday along with the tail end of the tit flock towards the end  of the session. Chiffchaffs featured mostly though.
Two heavy Sedge Warblers were also trapped- surely some of the last for this year now. They were both very heavy and had fat score 60.  Next stop for them Etang de Trunvel!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Almost all over...

Just when it was thought that the Yellow Wagtail passage was over this evening 11 birds were trapped during what was supposed to be a Pied/White Wagtail roost.  Three Pieds and two Whites were caught along with them and also a very juvenile looking  male Sparrowhawk.with the usual beady yellow eyes..

The last few days the evening sessions have swept up the remaining Reed and Sedge Warblers lurking in the reeds. Fat Scores of the Sedge Warblers a very impressive score of 50/60. The birds look like small thrushes.

As Luke mentioned on his blog some of these Yellow Wagtails look a little suspect..  Other races must pass though Southern England.  This evening one bird clearly had grey moulting through on the head rather than the usual colouring we are used to with the British flavissima wagtails. British yellow wagtails vary considerably but these birds are clearly different.with longer  wings and heavier weights.

A delicate subject. The more of these birds we catch the more questions we ask.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Turning yellow again

These last four evenings we have set the nets just before 7pm and managed to catch 415 yellow wagtails.  The roost each evening has been something in the order of 500-600 birds. Fantastic sight. A very special species- for me at least as I love wagtails.

On some evenings we have caught some strange yellow wagtails which has got Luke and I thinking. Luke has featured some of these on his blog.  There is no reason as to why Grey-headed, along with Blue-headed Wagtails should not drift across the south coast of this country from Fenno-Scandinavia and mainland Europe at this time of year. As usual with ringing more questions than answers but we are working on it..

Last night we caught our first white 'alba' wagtails for the autumn. Two splendid males along with two juveniles and 106 'yellow' wagtails.  The late evening ringing sessions are helped along with the odd  'tanglefoot' or an  'old speckled hen'.

Male 'alba' wagtail complete with colour rings
Head of male yellow wagtail- flavissima


Sunday, 2 September 2012


A senior moment the other evening. The wagtail was a Blue-headed Wagtail not a Grey-headed Wagtail. These things happen as you get older. It was still a nice bird. Of equal interest that night were the half dozen or so apparent female yellow wagtails which were biometrically much larger in weight, wing length and physical appreance. Very white on the chin and facial markings quite different from the yellow wagtails which we caught that evening. Young Yellow Wagtails vary considerably but these birds were quite different.

Hopefully this week we can catch some more and unravel the mystery. The weather looks favourable mid-week to the end of the week

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Yellow mist!

Pulling up at the Swannery gates last night we were greeted by a few 'seeps' from overhead Yellow Wagtails.  Speculation arose that perhaps a catch of thirty or so birds was on the cards that night.

Walking out to unfurl the nets a Black tern flew overhead at Helen's Hide and made for the round-up area but was quickly lost to view. An omen for sure!

Soon the Yellow Wagtails started to arrive along with the Swallows and Sand Martins. We quickly picked up a few Sedge and Reed Warblers and a late evening Garden Warbler was trapped in the withy bed. There is a certain cut off point in the light when the birds say 'that is it 'and go in to roost. 

Luke and I had our work cut out for twenty minutes. In total 87 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Grey-headed Wagtail (nice bird) and a couple of Pied Wagtails for good measure.  A handful of Swallows and Sand Martins - including a control Swallow. 

A good evening.  Hopefully going for more Yellow Wagtails this week if weather is kind. We are keen to surpass last years total.