Saturday 31st January

House Sparrow - John Buckingham
House Sparrow – John Buckingham


15 new birds and 25 re-traps processed today. New birds: 6 Greenfinches, 4 Chaffinches, 1 Stock Dove, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Starling and Yellowhammer.

One of the House Sparrows re-trapped today was first ringed as a 3J (juvenile) in 2009. This individual is therefore coming up to 6 years old. Back in 1978 a House Sparrow was recorded at 12 years old. Today’s bird is nearly half way there!




Tuesday 27th January

Just 9 new birds today, by far and away the most exciting was a Water Rail caught in the Heligoland. The full list: 2 Chaffinches, 2 Goldfinches, 1 Starling, Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit and Water Rail. As ringing was quiet, time to clean out some of the nest boxes around the Estate and all those in The Elms, Little Elms and Middle Field were done.

Water rails are very secretive throughout the year and live in dense reed-beds and amongst other deep wetland

Water Rail - John Buckingham
Water Rail – John Buckingham

cover. Consequently they are almost impossible to census with any accuracy, they are under-recorded and the estimate of their breeding population of 1,100 pairs cannot be accurate. At times and especially during the breeding season, the only way to discover their presence is by listening for their very loud, piercing ‘pig-like’ squeals and whistles.

It is unusual to see them fly and when we do see them, flight seems to be accomplished on rather weak fluttering wings! It is surprising, therefore, to discover that some individuals are migrants. From just over 100 ring-recoveries (30% of birds ringed abroad) we find that the species is capable of fairly long-haul journeys. Most of the birds ringed in the UK are highly sedentary and rarely travel more than 20 km away from their breeding sites, however, recoveries of birds ringed elsewhere indicate an autumn migration into Britain & Ireland from central and north-western Europe


Male Reed Bunting - John Buckingham
Male Reed Bunting – John Buckingham

Sunday 25th January

21 birds processed today with just 8 new birds: 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Starlings, 2 Chaffinches and 1 Great Tit.




Saturday 24th JanuaryStarling x

14 birds processed today. The new birds were 4 Starlings.





Friday 23rd January

27 birds in total processed today with 9 new birds:  2 Reed buntings, 2 Greenfinches, 2 Great tits, 1 Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Blue tit. Interesting re-traps included Great-spotted woodpecker and Sparrowhawk.



Sparrowhawk – young male – John Buckingham



Wednesday 21st January???????????????????????????????

75 birds processed in total today with just 28 new birds: 15 Starlings, 3 Chaffinches, 3 Blackbirds, 2 Collared Doves, 1 Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Firecrest and Greenfinch.

A re-trapped Blue Tit processed today has now reached a great age considering the record for this species! Our bird was first ringed here on 2nd March 2007 as age code 5, which means it was a young bird that had hatched in 2006 and in a few months will be 9 years old. The BTO’s longevity record for BlueTit is 9 years, 9 months, 2 days. Let us hope that this little bird survives longer and that we re-trap it once again in 2016 when it has beaten the record!


'ALL THE WAY FROM ICELAND' - Pink-footed Geese coming in to roost on the Wash at sunset - John Buckingham
‘ALL THE WAY FROM ICELAND’ – Pink-footed Geese coming in to roost on the Wash at sunset – John Buckingham








Sunday 18th January

Rain stopped play! Enjoy the geese.


Saturday 17th January

Maintenance work stopped play – six of the ringers lowered a lot more in the Whitehouse. Lots of hard work but we’ll all catch more birds in the long run!

Blue Tit young - John Buckingham
Blue Tit young – John Buckingham


Friday 16th January

Ringing curtailed by continuous heavy rain which had not been forecast! New birds: 5 Starlings, 1 Chaffinch, Blue tit and Greenfinch.



The Heligoland - almost completely clear.
The Heligoland – almost completely clear – John Buckingham.



Wednesday 14th January

Too windy for ringing so more maintenance – took the tops out of some of the willowsaround the Heligoland trap.





Friday 9th January

Just one bird ringed today – a Collared dove. However, much work was done cutting the Haven net rides back.

Cuttings at the Bonfire Site - Sue Smith
Cuttings at the Bonfire Site – Sue Smith

On Saturday a team of eleven ringers made further extensive in-roads into our winter maintenance work. The Observatory pond is now cleared of all the material cut from the tops of the Willows and is ready for burning. More Willows were also ‘topped’ in the Whitehouse and around the Heligoland, and cuttings piled at the bonfire site. A great effort rewarded by a lunch of jacket potatoes, cheese and baked beans plus the bonus of Maria’s fantastic trifle.



Stock dove
Stock dove


Sunday 4th January

21 new birds ringed today plus 31 re-traps. New birds were 10 Starlings, 1 Greenfinch, 7 Chaffinches, 2 Chiffchaffs and 1 Stock dove.


Chiffchaff - John Buckingham
Chiffchaff – John Buckingham


The Chiffchaffs that we are ringing now are probably birds that are ‘over-wintering’, something they do in quite large but varying numbers from year to year, depending on the weather. Otherwise, most of the population migrates into North and West Africa and we saw these birds moving through Sandwich Bay through September and even into October. The origins of the winter birds is unclear but there is some ringing evidence to show that at least some of them are British breeding Chiffchaffs. 



Stock dove - John Buckingham
Stock dove – John Buckingham

STOCK DOVES are very widespread and quite common birds in England and are often over-looked or misidentified, which is a great shame as they are really very attractive birds.  They are uniform warm grey in colour and lack the white neck and wing markings of the larger Woodpigeons and the varied coloured, mottled and streaked plumage of Feral pigeons.  Look out for a deep pink breast, distinctive green iridescent neck patch and dark-rimmed wing pattern in flight.

They are birds of agriculture and grazing land with usually, nearby patches of woodland where they breed in tree holes. They can also nest in holes in buildings and cliffs and sometimes rabbit burrows, while nest boxes are commonly used and Barn owl and Kestrel boxes are increasingly chosen. They feed on the ground on plant material including seeds, leaves, buds and flowers.

In the last 40 years both breeding productivity and overwinter survival have increased, following a recovery from the catastrophic  effects of organochlorine seed-dressings in the 1950s, and the estimated breeding population now stands at 260,000 pairs. In winter they can gather in quite large feeding flocks and we see them locally in good numbers throughout the year.  Birders on their quest for a Rough-legged buzzard near Eastbourne recently came across a flock of more than 500 Stock doves – quite a sight!


Goldfinch male - John Buckingham
Goldfinch male – John Buckingham

Thursday 1st January 2015

25 new birds and 11 re-traps today. The new birds were 14 Starlings, 4 Chaffinches, 4 Greenfinches, 2 Goldfinches and 1 Blue tit.

The Goldfinch is a classic example of a ‘partial migrant’ where a variable proportion of the population migrates each year, the remainder staying in the UK for the winter. Some individuals may migrate one year and not the next and if they do move on for the winter, they generally move south to south-west onto the Continent and stop when they find suitable food – and not in any specific wintering areas. Ring recoveries show British birds anywhere through France, Spain and Portugal in the winter.


Goldfinches feeding - John Buckingham
Goldfinches feeding – John Buckingham

The Goldfinch is now a very numerous breeding species in Britain & Ireland that has shown significant recent increases after sharp declines in the 1970s and 1980s. Many people report them now as regularly using garden bird feeders and here at the Obs. we seem to see them in varying numbers throughout the year. The breeding population now stands at an estimated 1.2 million pairs.

On that very positive note – HAPPY NEW YEAR to EVERYONE!