With apologies for the delay in getting these updated – enjoying a big migration of exciting species in Kos, which sits off the southwest tip of Turkey on a great flyway.  


Wednesday 29th April      

Nice to see the first Green-winged Orchids of the year in the Whitehouse - Becky Johnson
Nice to see the first Green-winged Orchids of the year in flower in the Whitehouse – Becky Johnson


Becoming very windy and with rain expected we ringed 4 new birds: 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps and processed 6 re-traps.

One of the Chaffinches re-trapped was first ringed as a juvenile male in September 2011. 4 years later he’s looking very smart and well up for the breeding season.


Tuesday 28th April

Just Steve in doing 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Willow Warbler, plus 8 re-traps including 4 Yellowhammers. That is now 8 re-trapped Yellowhammers in two days.

A re-trapped Chaffinch was first ringed as a young bird on 23rd June 2010.


Monday 27th April

New birds were 1 Moorhen, 2 Dunnocks, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 House sparrow and 1 Chaffinch plus 8 re-traps including 4 Yellowhammers. A reasonable haul of warblers today and our first House sparrow colour-ringed. 


Reed Warbler - John Buckingham
Reed Warbler male singing – John Buckingham

Friday 24th April

14 new birds today with the first Reed Warbler of the year in amongst a reasonable catch of warblers. 3 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Blue Tit, 3 Goldfinches and a Magpie. There were 9 re-traps.

With more than half a million Reed Warblers ringed and 6,000 recovered, we have a reasonable picture of their migration. The birds arriving now will have spent the winter in West Africa, possibly in Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau and then Ghana. The return movement north is under way in March and on a broad and rapid front across northwestern Africa and into Iberia and France. Interestingly, not only do adults return faithfully to their breeding areas, but many returning young birds make for their natal  areas to breed as well.


Wednesday 22nd April

1 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chaffinch and 2 Rooks plus 4 re-traps.


Tuesday 21st April

New birds were 1 Collared Dove, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Reed Bunting plus 10 re-traps. 5 Collared Doves have now been colour-ringed. 


Whitethroat singing along the Ancient Highway - John Buckingham
Whitethroat singing along the Ancient Highway – John Buckingham

Monday 20th April

A mixed bag today with 1 Woodpigeon, 1 Collared Dove, 1 Robin, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Rook, 1 Chaffinch and 2 Yellowhammers. The Yellowhammer score is happily rising. There were 6 re-traps.


Sunday 19th April

A windy day with just Graham in. New birds were 2 Rooks, a Blue Tit and Wren plus 3 re-traps including 2 Yellowhammers.


Friday 17th April

Very windy today so very little caught in nets. Just 5 new Rooks and re-trapped Blackbird and Blue Tit.

Collared Dove with colour ring - Ian Hunter
Collared Dove with colour ring – Ian Hunter


Thursday 16th April

Just one bird caught today, a Collared Dove and an opportunity to see one of our new colour rings on the left leg. Birds have a standard metal ring on the right leg as well.

                                           — click on image to enlarge —

Wednesday 15th April

20 new birds and 6 re-traps on a lovely warm day. New birds: 10 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Yellowhammer, 1 Chaffinch and 2 Collared Doves.

Collared Dove - John Buckingham - look out for colour rings on left leg.
Collared Dove – John Buckingham – look out for colour rings on left leg.

Of significance was the continuing movement of warblers with four species processed and yet another new Yellowhammer, boosting our record numbers of this species. A Great Tit re-trapped today was a controlled bird ringed elsewhere – Ring number TV19936 – a 5 female (last year’s young) with a developed brood patch and ready for breeding.

The two new Collared Doves enabled us to start our colour ringing programme of this species under the BTO’s RAS scheme – RE-TRAPPING ADULTS for SURVIVAL. We are fitting dark blue rings with white letters to the left leg, so keep an eye open for these locally.

RAS aims to provide information on adult survival and uses captures or sightings of colour-marked individuals to calculate what proportion of a population survive each year. 


Whitethroat male at nest - John Buckingham
Whitethroat male at nest – note brown iris colour – John Buckingham

Tuesday 14th April

Warm and fairly still and warblers are still on the move through The Whitehouse and Oasis with Common Whitethroat new for the year. 19 birds processed today with 15 new: 5 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Rook and 1 Chaffinch. A Blackcap was another control of a bird ringed elsewhere and we await the details of this from the BTO.

Whitethroats are long-haul trans-Saharan migrants and are currently one of the UK’s most numerous summer visitors, with an estimated breeding population of 1.1 million pairs. They spend the winter in a belt of dry, drought-resistant scrubland which stretches along the southern fringe of the Sahara called the Sahel. Historically droughts come and go in this region and at the moment Whitethroats are ‘holding their own’ as British breeding birds.

This has not always been the case, as was shown back in the 1960s when numbers collapsed due to several

Blackcap - John Buckingham
Blackcap – John Buckingham

consecutive years of drought in the Sahel, and poor local farmers over-grazed their animals in the poor conditions. Our migrant Whitethroats of coursefailed to compete with this extra pressure and populations plummeted. They were simply unable to lay up enough fat as fuel for their journey north, which would have included a non-stop crossing of the Sahara on their way to Britain and Ireland. In the spring of 1969 it was estimated that 60-80% of the population failed to return, probably perishing in the desert.

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Monday 13th April

A cloudy start with warm sunshine later saw a good day for warblers. 30 birds were processed in total with 19 ringed: 9 Blackcaps, 6 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers and a Wren. Re-traps included two more Yellowhammers and the control of a Blackcap from elsewhere in the country.


Saturday 11th April

Only a short session this morning until the wind got up and it started to rain. The Eastbourne RSPB Group did however arrive in time to see a couple of interesting birds being processed. Just 3 new birds: Great Tit, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. The Willow Warbler was the first of the year and hopefully heralds a few more summer visitors to come, and one of the re-traps was a controlled Chiffchaff (a bird ringed elsewhere).

Willow warblers return to the same location each year building a domed nest on the ground - John Buckingham
Willow warblers return to the same location each year building a domed nest on the ground – John Buckingham

Willow Warblers undergo a complete moult whilst in their wintering grounds in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, in the Gulf of Guinea and with more than 2,500 ring-recoveries to work on, we also know that adults return to their precise point of origin to breed in the UK. Their rapid spring migration starts in February and they make their way through Africa and into Europe using long stages as they cross the south and southwest coast of Britain and Ireland. Males arrive a couple of weeks before the  females arriving in early April and swiftly move on to establish territories ready for the returning females. If you find yourself in open, often coppiced woodlands and areas of scrubby birch, listen out for them from now on into the early summer, singing their beautiful cadence of pure descending notes.

The Willow Warbler is the most widespread and has the most northerly distribution of all the British Warblers, breeding commonly right up to the north coast of Scotland and beyond into the European Arctic. In the south, their breeding numbers are declining rapidly whilst continuing to do well in the north of their range. 


Long-tailed Tit - John Buckingham
Long-tailed Tit – John Buckingham

Friday 10th April

A quiet day with 6 new birds: 2 Chaffinches, 1 Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin and Chiffchaff, plus 6 re-traps.

A re-trapped Long-tailed Tit had first been ringed by Ian in Sandown Road way back in November 2010! The BTO longevity record for this species stands at 8 years, so this one is not doing too badly.



Green Woodpecker - 8 April - John Buckinmgham
Green Woodpecker – 8 April – John Buckingham

Wednesday 8th April

A second day in a row of warm still weather but with quite small numbers of birds. Today, however, was our best this year for incoming warblers as we reached the ‘dizzy heights’ of ringing 5 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps. 21 birds were processed in all, of which the following 13 were new:  5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Robins, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Great Tit and 1 Chaffinch. The GreatTit was very pale and probably of continental origin and the Green Woodpecker was a young male, which along with a re-trapped young male, are probably the two birds that have been very noisily disputing a territory in the Oasis.

It is always nice to find birds that have surpassed their expected average survival span and a re-trapped adult male Great Tit today was first ringed as a juvenile in 2012. 

                click on images to enlarge


Tuesday 7th AprilMallard f

An interesting day with 5 Yellowhammers, a female Mallard and only our third Chiffchaff of the spring. New birds totalling 10 with 16 re-traps: 3 Yellowhammers, 2 Chaffinches, 2 Greenfinches, a Chiffchaff, Wren and Mallard. Of the re-traps an adult male Collared Dove was ringed as a juvenile in 2011 making it 4 years old.

The photographs are of today’s female Mallard and the speculum shows the iridescent colouring well. Both male and female have this ‘patch’ on the wing, where the colour is produced by iridescence and

Mallard speculum - John buckingham
Mallard speculum – John Buckingham

can only be seen when there is sufficient light emanating from a particular direction. Light passes into and through transparent layers in the feather barbs (which themselves grow from the shaft, and make up the web of the feather) and the light is then reflected off a central strand of dark melanin pigment, when depending upon the speed at which the light waves are reflected, produce various ‘rainbow-like’ colours.  In Mallards this reaches the human eye as purple/blue and in the Teal, for example, that we have seen on the scrape over the winter as green.



Over the past few years we have noticed that we have been catching more Yellowhammers and in 2015, we realise that we have processed more in the first three months than in any recent complete year. The chart below indicates how the numbers of birds processed at SBBO has been increasing over the last 10 years.

2006 0 0 0
2007 0 0 0
2008 0 0 0
2009 0 0 0
2010 1 0 1
2011 2 0 2
2012 11 2 13
2013 9 7 16
2014 15 19 34
2015 to 8 April 11 32 43   to 8 April

NB: of the 32 re-traps in 2015 16 are adults and 16 are juveniles.


Green Woodpecker male - John Buckingham
Green Woodpecker male – John Buckingham

Sunday 5th April

A still day for ringing at last, with 12 new birds including the second Blackcap of the season and 7 re-traps. New birds: 3 Chaffinches, 2 Great Tits, 2 Yellowhammers, 1 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Robin.


Green Woodpecker is a breeding bird of the Observatory’s reserves and we see them around throughout the year, feeding mostly on ants and their pupae that do well in our sandy grassland. They have a very long tongue that projects well beyond the end of the bill  and is covered in sticky saliva and has a hardened, barbed tip. This is a great tool both for probing and for collecting their prey

Green Woodpecker dropping - note ant exoskeletons - John Buckingham
Green Woodpecker dropping – note ant exoskeletons – John Buckingham

often quite deep in the soil. Evidence of the ant diet can be found in the form of their exoskeletons liberally filling the strange dry, white casings of the woodpecker’s droppings, commonly seen around the Obs and reminiscent of ‘fag ends’..

Living in South East England, we could be forgiven for thinking that the Green Woodpecker is a common and widespread species throughout the Country, as it is flourishing and increasing with us. In fact the bird is only found in good numbers in the Midlands, East Anglia and the South East, while in the North it can be scarce and is now absent from West Wales and from much of Scotland and has never been seen in Ireland. The latest breeding population estimate is 52,000 pairs.


Yellowhammer male - John Buckingham
Yellowhammer male – John Buckingham


Wednesday 1st April

A very windy day with just 7 birds re-trapped – 3 Yellowhammers & 4 Starlings.


If you would like to see past records please click on ‘select month’ and move back from there.