Thursday, 3 June 2021

Bird Ringing 30th May (Second Helpings)

Hi all,

Weather-wise, it was a real mixed bag today. I arrived to a clear, starry sky and it was  a wee bit chiller than expected. As the sun rose, the wind picked up and a thick mist blew in, saturating the nets and making it feel a lot colder than the 8°C my car had indicated on the drive in. The mist gradually burned off and we finished the session in glorious and really rather warm sunshine.

On the bird front, this was the busiest session we've had at Linford so far this year with 77 birds processed of a diverse 20 species, 57 of which were newly ringed. This was helped by the emergence of our first fledglings of the year including robins, long tailed tits, and starlings.

We also had a nice selection of warblers including willow warbler, reed warbler, blackcap, garden warbler, whitethroat, sedge warbler and chiffchaff. A great spotted woodpecker and a kingfisher were nice birds to show todays visitors.

The headliners of today's session were  our first ever jackdaw to be ringed at Linford, and a frankly improbable 5 cuckoos! This included a new male, 2 new females, a retrap male  from 2020 and a retrap of the female we caught in the last session (now carrying an egg).

A female hairy dragonfly was also carefully extracted from the nets.


Photos courtesy of Tony Bedford

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Bird Ringing Report 1st May 2021

Hi all,

Reports of an impressive fall of migrants at Portland Bill during the week gave us some hope of an influx of new birds and perhaps something a little bit more unusual. As the day unfolded, it started to look like we might have somewhat of a "vanilla" session but things started to improve as the early morning mist began to lift.

27 birds of 7 species were processed, 17 of which were newly ringed. Reed warblers made up the bulk of the catch with 14 birds handled including 9 new individuals and a retrap of a bird originally ringed as an adult in 2016, making it at least 6 years old. Not a bad age but still some way from the longevity record of almost 13 years! Also notable was a control of a bird ringed elsewhere in the UK.

Other warblers included 4 blackcap, 2 sedge warblers and 2 chiffchaffs. A brief hail shower threatened to curtail the proceedings but it moved through and we soldiered on regardless.

We saved the best for last with the final bird of the day ironically turning out to be our first cuckoo of the year. This stunning male was even more impressive as he turned out to be a retrap, and not just any retrap.... This was DT04157, which was the first ever cuckoo we ringed at Linford back in May 2017.  He was an adult bird then, having been hatched at least two years prior, making him at least 6 years old. The current longevity record for cuckoo is just under 7 years so let's keep everything crossed that he makes it back to Linford again next year!

Also seen around the reserve were approx 12 swift, 2 snipe, a yellow wagtail, and a hobby.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Massive Tourist Visits LLNR - But Did You See It?


Following a tip off from a well informed member of the Friends Group (thanks Mark) I have done a little research on the interweb and have found the following post on the Roy Dennis Foundation Twitter Feed, which confirms  that a White-tailed Eagle did indeed roost at LLNR on the 2nd March 2021.

"Apart one brief return flight south to Northamptonshire (as described above), G318 remained in Lincolnshire until 27th February when it made a purposeful move to the south, passing to the east of Boston at 13:20 and then across the north side of Peterborough at 15:20. It eventually settled in woodland on the Cambridgeshire-Northants border having flown 107 km (67 miles) from the Lincolnshire Wolds. G318 continued to head slowly south over subsequent days, and spent a night at Linford Lakes on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, on 2nd March."

I am advised that it spent the night on Heron Island - which must have put the wind up a few Herons and Egrets and any wildfowl on and around the lake.

The bird which is one of those introduced on to the Isle of Wight is fitted with a GPS tracker and so it's movements and location can be very accurately monitored.

Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of the actual bird so I have posted below one of my own pictures of a WTE taken in Scotland a couple of years ago. I have been fortunate enough to see quite a few of these birds, at pretty close range, on my regular visits to Mull over the last 15 years and can confirm they are truly massive.

Tony Bedford

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

End of Year Ringing Report by Kenny Cramer

Hi all,

I think we've probably all read and said everything there is to say about 2020 and there are no superlatives or hyperboles left that haven't been applied to this most unusual of years. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, the ringing news is not all bad, in fact there have been quite some highlights which I have attempted to summarise below.

In 2020 we ringed on 38 different days, beating the previous record of 27 visits in 2018 by quite a margin. This was despite the fact that we only managed to squeeze in one session in the first 4 months of the year due to a combination of illness, my expedition to The Gambia and the first coronavirus lockdown. Ringing resumed in earnest from mid-May, setting a new monthly record of 7 visits in June 2020 compared to the previous record of 4 visits in February 2018. This resulted in 1755 captures of 50 species, 1453 of which were newly ringed, yet another new record. We also set a new record for most captures in a day on 10th September with 165 birds handled.

At the species level, we had 5 new entries on our Linford ringing list in 2020 consisting of house sparrow (yes really!), spotted flycatcher, yellow wagtail, skylark and of course, who could forget the glorious long-eared owl last November. This brings us to a total of 61 species ringed at Linford since 2014. This is without any special effort being put into targetting waterfowl on site, something which I hope to address in future years.

When we were able to properly restart our ringing efforts, May - July was mainly concerned with cuckoos, a species we had not encountered since 2017 despite plenty of birds being present and much effort being put into catching them. In 2020 however, we had quite a reversal of fortunes and managed to ring 11 individuals around the reserve with only 1 retrap.

Other individual species that had record years included Redwing with 193 ringed in 2020, smashing the previous record of 104 in 2018. Warblers were also generally on the increase with Blackcap, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler all having record years. This was perhaps helped by the dense vegetation on the bund where we were able to take advantage of some particularly productive net rides before being flooded off at the end of September. Throughout Summer and Autumn, the bund also produced record numbers of Reed Bunting (55 in 2020 vs 28 in 2019), Meadow Pipit (39 in 2020 vs 12 in 2018) and Lesser Redpoll (24 in 2020 vs 5 in 2015). 2 newly ringed snipe were another Autumn bonus with just one previous record, although waders such as jack snipe, lapwing, common and green sandpipers eluded the nets.

After heavy rain and flooding and with the bund now under several feet of water and out of action, we retreated to the bug bank and boundary walk from early October and turned our attention to winter thrushes. As mentioned previously, redwings had a bumper year, but it was also a record year for blackbirds with 42 newly ringed compared to the previous record of 35 in 2016, and song thrush with 21 birds newly ringed compared to 13 in 2017. Mistle thrush and Fieldfare are much harder to catch but we managed 4 fieldfare compared to 8 in 2018, and 2 Mistle Thrushes with 1 in 2019 being the only previous record. Siskins usually winter in good numbers at Linford thanks to the many alders which they like to feed on. Catches can be variable but we managed a respectable 10 compared to the record of 16 set in 2015.

As we moved from Autumn into Winter, we turned our attention to owls resulting in 2 new Tawny Owls plus a recaptured adult from 2017, a new Barn Owl (interestingly, we have yet to encounter any of the birds ringed by Paddy Jackson in the two onsite nest boxes) and the previously mentioned Long-eared Owl.

Other notable captures in 2020 included 5 new Sand Martins (our first since 2017), 3 new Moorhen, 2 new water rails, 2 new Green Woodpeckers, 2 new Sparrowhawks, our first Marsh Tit since 2014, and our second ever Grasshopper Warbler. 2 new Siberian Chiffchaffs were perhaps the rarest encounters yet at Linford.

On the negative side, species that seem to be in decline include Bullfinch (just 2 ringed in 2020 vs 14 in 2015), Chaffinch (4 ringed vs 17 in 2017), Dunnock (21 ringed vs 40 in 2017), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 ringed vs 7 in 2014), Greenfinch (3 ringed vs 40 in 2018), and Treecreeper (4 ringed vs 14 in 2017). We failed to attract any sand martins to the "Sand Castle" for a second year, here's hoping that it will be third time lucky!

Recoveries included a chiffchaff ringed at Linford in August 2019 which moved 739 km down to the west coast of France in 55 days. (This was not reported until 2020.)

A starling ringed in May 2019 was recovered in April 2020, sadly having been found dead within 3km of Linford.

A reed warbler ringed in August 2020 was re-caught in Icklesham, East Sussex having moved 164km in 11 days.

Controls included a reed warbler originally ringed as an adult at Marston Vale Millenium Country Park, Beds in April 2017 which we recaptured in May 2020 making it at least 4 years old.

A cetti's warbler ringed as a juvenile in July 2019 at Brandon Marsh, Warwickshire was recaptured in July 2020.

A garden warbler ringed as a juvenile in September 2018 in Bolea, Spain was recaptured in August 2020 after 707 days and a movement of 1091km.

Two blackcaps ringed at Hillesden, Bucks as juveniles seemed to go the wrong way, moving 20km north east in around 40 days, and were recaptured within a couple of weeks of each other.

A goldcrest ringed as a juvenile in October 2019 at Beachy Head, East Sussex was recaptured at Linford almost exactly one year later, presumably heading south to cross the channel for a second time.

A reed warber ringed as a juvenile in September 2020 at Wilstone Reservoir, Bucks was recaptured 22 days later, having apparently gone the wrong way and moving 32km north!

A lesser redpoll ringed as a juvenile in October 2020 at Marston Sewage Works, Lincs was recaptured 4 days later having travelled 99km south.

A siskin ringed as a juvenile in September 2020 in Telemark, Norway was recaptured 71 days later having travelled 1025km south west.

Thanks go to all the helpers who contributed by scribing, carrying equipment, filling feeders, clearing net rides or simply providing good banter, your help is vitally important to our work and just as important (if not more so) than additional pairs of ringing pliers, so a massive thank you to Tony for all his bad jokes and amazing, high speed release photos, Martin and Margaret R for keeping the feeders full and putting up with all of our early morning clatterings, Amy J for walking all the way back from the far hide to scribe a tit flock and showing great trainee potential, Jessica and Aimee for their excellent net setting skills (sorry about the snake!), Jim for sharing his pics - look forward to seeing you again once lockdown has unlocked.

To Sarah the bramble slayer - I'll always remember our scrub bashing sessions on the bund with fondness, it won't be the same without you.

Extra special thanks goes to Keith for tirelessly tagging along and showing amazing dedication and commitment by weathering the early mornings, long set-ups, double sessions, sweltering heat, bitter cold, multiple tiers of lockdown, and learning how to tame the beast... and all of this with a dodgy ankle! 

I also have to thank Martin K and everyone at the Park's Trust for allowing me the great privilege of ringing at the best wildlife site in Milton Keynes. I look forward to many more years of partnership and friendship.

Last but not least, I have to thank Bob, our new and beloved Linford mascot, who brought us great joy and much entertainment between net rounds over the past few months. May your mealworms be ever fat and juicy (and watch out for that sparrowhawk!)



Tuesday, 4 August 2020

About Terns

The Common Terns seem to have had a successful breeding year at LLNR and a number of juvenile birds can be seen begging food from the adults.

I recently took this picture which suggests that both parent birds had caught fish and appeared to be queuing up Heathrow style to feed junior.

In actual fact the first adult Tern offered the fish to the youngster then veered off to feed another, leaving the second adult to feed the confused juvenile. I can only assume a case of mistaken identity.

Above, the young Tern finally gets a feed.

Article by Tony Bedford
Photos copyright Tony Bedford.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Welcome Back

The first Marsh Tit to be recorded on the site in the last 5 years was ringed by Kenny Cramer and his team last Sunday. Lets keep our fingers crossed that this is the start of a return of this scarce species.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Clock This

Those of you who have been following the ringing stats for LLNR for a while will know that in 2017, an impressive 5 cuckoos were ringed at LLNR which accounted for around 10% of all the fully grown cuckoos ringed in the UK that year. 

Since then, despite Kenny's best efforts, we have spectacularly failed to catch another one... until now...A handsome juvenile male stayed in the net long enough to be extracted and processed, ending the long running streak of bad luck. 

At least 3 individuals were present (probably more) and so the cuckoo quest continues...