juvenile Willow Warbler - John Buckingham
juvenile Willow Warbler – John Buckingham

Friday 31st July

As we thought, a lot more Willow Warblers were processed today which we hope will continue for a while. This is a species that has declined enormously as a breeding bird in South East England. What was once a very common and widespread species is now a fairly scarce breeding bird of open woodland and scrub, especially amongst Silver Birch in the south of the Country.

Probably as our climate has been warming the Willow Warbler is contracting its range into the northern limits of where it has previously colonised. Although common everywhere in Britain at one time it is now much more numerous in the north, including Scotland, than here in the South. Take a look at the breeding distribution of Willow Warblers on the map in your field guide and you may be surprised to see that it has always been a bird of the north of Europe, right up into the Arctic in Scandinavia, Russia and east into Siberia and absent from all of southern Europe, especially the Mediterranean. This, incidentally, really contrasts with the Chiiffchaff which is absent from

Cetti's Warbler nest and beautiful eggs - John Buckingham
Cetti’s Warbler nest and beautiful eggs – John Buckingham

parts of Scotland and much of the arctic.

54 new birds and 37 re-traps today: 23 Willow Warblers, 4 Whitethroats, 2 Reed Warblers, 1 Cetti’s Warbler, 3 Blackbirds, 1 Bullfinch, 3 Dunnocks, 1 Greenfinch, 3 Great Tits, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Robins, 5 Starlings and 4 Wrens.

We do not catch many Cetti’s Warblers but since their colonisation from the continent they have continued to increase their range and population, especially throughout southern Britain. Kent was their first port of call in 1970 and they now breed in most suitable sites, including in wetlands throughout our local area. This loud, bombastic and iconic bird is a true success story!


juvenile Wood Warbler - Ian Hunter
Today’s juvenile Wood Warbler – Ian Hunter

Thursday 30th July

We expect to see Willow Warblers migrating through the Bay as passage migrants from late July and well into August, and the very end of July is the time for the few Wood Warblers to appear. So today saw our first Wood Warbler and Willow Warblers of the season.

26 new birds and 5 re-traps included 17 Willow Warblers, 1 Wood Warbler, 2 Chaffinches and 1 each of Robin, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Dunnock, Great Tit and Great-spotted Woodpecker.

It is a long time ago since Wood Warblers nested in Kent. They are now confined to the more traditional

Wood Warbler at nest Seal Chart in the 1980s - John buckingham
Wood Warbler at nest Seal Chart in the 1980s – John Buckingham

upland woods on poor soils in the west and north of the UK and the ‘new’ BTO Atlas shows a 37% range contraction since the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas. Changes in land use in their humid wintering grounds of tropical West Africa and possibly climate change here may have pushed them from their Kentish sites, where they nested on acid soils, often under Sessile oak and less often under Beech.

Like Willow Warblers, the Wood Warbler’s domed nest is built on the ground, usually on a slope and under Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus a plant of poor, acid soils. The photograph here shows exactly that, and it was taken in the mid-1980s in Seal Chart in West Kent, possibly one of the last pairs of this species to breed in the County.


Wednesday 29th July

We extended the coverage of our ringing effort today into the Gullies and processed 24 new birds and 5 re-traps. It was a good selection and new birds were: 1 Swallow, 2 Wrens, 4 Dunnocks, 4 Robins, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Reed Warblers, 4 Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Great Tit.


Tuesday 28th July

New net rides were cleared in the Gullies today but this didn’t stop us from ringing 45 Starlings and 2 Collared Doves.


Chiffchaff - John Buckingham
Chiffchaff – John Buckingham


Sunday 26th July

16 new birds and 17 re-traps today. New birds processed: 3 Blackcaps, 2 Wrens, 2 Greenfinches, 3 Chaffinches, 1 Blackbird,  Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Starling, Dunnock and Green Woodpecker.



juvenile Whitethroat - John Buckingham
juvenile Whitethroat – John Buckingham

Friday 24th July

Much the same as over recent days with a similar range of birds. 21 new: 1 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Chaffinches, 2 Greenfinches, 3 Great Tits, 4 Jackdaws, 1 Magpie, 2 Robins, 3 Starlings and 2 Wrens.


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juvenile Blue Tit - John Buckingham
juvenile Blue Tit – John Buckingham

Wednesday 22nd July

Bird numbers are picking up quite considerably now as many juvenile birds continue to disperse from natal areas, along with adults who have finished breeding and are not in the middle of second, or about to start third broods.

 House Sparrows are still busy in nest boxes around the Obs. with 4 pulli ringed today and two other boxes still with very small young. As we are colour-ringing House Sparrows as part of our RAS project, this is a great opportunity to record more birds to boost our results.  Although this species is considered to be mainly a seed eater, it has been discovered that insects are a major factor in the early survival of young, and the continuing warm, dry weather producing lots of

juvenile Robin - John Buckingham
juvenile Robin – John Buckingham

invertebrates is certainly a bonus for them and other breeding birds.

We are also processing a wider range of species now, reflected in the lists over the last 3 days which includes 19 species, featuring Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers and now a Reed Warbler to add to the list.

41 new birds – 3 Collared Doves, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Wren, 3 Dunnocks, 2 Robins, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, 10 Starlings, 2 Chaffinches, 4 Greenfinches and 4 House Sparrow pulli, plus 24 re-traps.


Tuesday 21st July

26 new birds – 3 Collared Doves, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Wrens, 1 Dunnock, 1 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 4 Whitethroats, 3 Jackdaws, 6 Starlings and 4 Chaffinches plus 22 re-traps. 

male Greenfinch - John Buckingham
male Greenfinch – John Buckingham

A female Blackbird was re-trapped today and processed by the same person who ringed it (on their birthday) as a juvenile in 2013. The presence of a brood patch indicating that it has been breeding, probably for the second time this year.


Monday 20th July

21 new birds – 14 Starlings, 2 Greenfinches, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap and Chiffchaff plus 21 re-traps today.


adult Jackdaw - John Buckingham
adult Jackdaw – John Buckingham

Sunday 19th July

23 new birds today and 7 re-traps. ‘Bird of the day’ was a re-trapped male Jackdaw that was first ringed as a bird hatched in the previous year on 29th May 2005. This bird is therefore 11 years old.

New birds: 2 Blackcaps, 4 Chaffinches, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Collared Doves, 1 House Sparrow, 1 Jackdaw, 8 Starlings and 2 Whitethroats.


juvenile Great Tit - John Buckingham
juvenile Great Tit – John Buckingham


Friday 17th July

43 new birds today and again lots of dispersing juveniles. 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Robin, 5 Blackcaps, 2 Swallows, 15 Starlings, 14 Jackdaws, 1 Rook, 2 Great Tits and 1 Greenfinch plus 12 re-traps.



Wednesday 15th July

jujvenile male Kestrel ringed yesterday - Becky Johnson
juvenile male Kestrel ringed yesterday – Becky Johnson

Still more young birds on the move today and a good mix of species. Lesser Whitethroat was only about the 4th of the year and a very nice male Bullfinch was caught in the Whitehouse, while 3 Swallow pulli (nestlings) were ringed from a nest in the Observatory tower. 

Blue tit in nest box - John Buckingham
Blue tit in nest box – John Buckingham

Several nest boxes from around the estate were finally checked and ‘signed off’, so that nest record cards have now been completed for every one of our boxes used this year and important details on fledging success, clutch size and dates are ready to be sent to the BTO ‘Nest Records Scheme’. Ringing pulli (nestlings) gives us the opportunity to gather this information on large numbers of birds which can be easily, quickly and safely handled, once again providing the BTO with data enabling them to assess survival rates, a vital aspect of their work.  

New birds were: 2 Collared Doves, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Wren, 3 Dunnocks, 1 Blackbird, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Jackdaw, 2 Starlings, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Bullfinch and 3 Swallows plus 10 re-traps: TOTAL 29 birds. 


Swift detail - John Buckingham
Swift detail – John Buckingham

Tuesday 14th July

An extremely busy day with 102 birds processed including 72 new birds and 30 re-traps. House Sparrows were colour-ringed and a juvenile male Kestrel and 2 juvenile Siskins were ‘birds of the day’. We again had a very healthy movement of young birds through our area and we also enjoyed the spectacle of a huge movement of thousands of Swifts, possiblymoving back into the UK from the continent after being pushed out ahead of the wet weather.

If Swifts find it difficult to find food for their young in bad weather during the summer, they regularly travel hundreds of miles, sometimes into Europe to locate better weather and hence more food. They then bring this back to their young, sometimes after several days of foraging whilst the nestlings have

Swifts newly hatched - John Buckingham
Swifts newly hatched – John Buckingham

survived using the strategy of  deliberately slowing down their metabolism and becoming torpid (as mammals commonly do), thus saving energy. There are very few birds that have this ability of ‘partial hibernation’ and it is also recorded in Nightjars (around the world), Hummingbirds (in the Americas) and Mousebirds (in Africa). Nuttall’sPoorwill (a type of Nightjar from America) is known to have undergone a winter hibernation, the only bird species to have done so.

New birds today: 38 Starlings, 7 Blackcaps, 4 Blackbirds, 4 Chiffchaffs, 4 Chaffinches, 3 Blue Tits, 3 House Sparrows, 2 Siskins and 1 Kestrel, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Robin and Goldfinch.

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Monday 13th July

Yvette Austin with cameraman interviewing Jan Pritchard  by Barn Owl box.
Yvette Austin with cameraman interviewing Jan Pritchard by Barn Owl box.

Two of our ringers worked with the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership today, monitoring Barn Owl nest boxes and ringing pulli (nestling Barn Owls). We were joined by Yvette Austin from BBC South East and filmed for a programme that went out at 6.30 on Monday evening.




re-trapped Juvenile Green Woodpecker - Sue Smith
re-trapped Juvenile Green Woodpecker – Sue Smith

Sunday 12th July

23 birds – 12 new and 11 re-traps. New birds were 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chaffinch. Collared Dove, Great Tit, House Sparrow and Starling. One of the re-trapped Starlings was in fact a control of a bird ringed locally in Deal.




Friday 10th July

Great-spotted Woodpecker at nest hole - John Buckingham
Great-spotted Woodpecker at nest hole – John Buckingham

A nice mix of new birds today – 1 Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 2 Blue Tits, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 2 Great

Tits, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Robin, 11 Starlings, 1 Whitethroat and 2 Wrens plus 11 re-traps.

The population of Great-spotted Woodpeckers has increased in recent years to an estimated140,000 pairs. A national decline in Starling numbers and the consequent reduced competition for nest sites, increases in the availability of dead and decaying wood and the provision of supplementary food at garden feeders have all been suggested as factors potentially contributing to these increases in Britain.

Great-spotted Woodpeckers were not recorded in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic until 2006 and 2009 respectively. This is an amazing colonisation across the Irish Sea, as this species is highly sedentary with only small movements away from breeding areas, and is no doubt explained by the recent impressive rise in population.


Marbled White on Southern Marsh Orchid - Becky Johnson
Marbled White on Southern Marsh Orchid – Becky Johnson

Wednesday 8th July

Only two people turned out for maintenance on Saturday so a great effort was made by several of us today. Net rides were well strimmed, mown and overhanging trees cut back, other areas were prepared and poles adjusted to take new nets, so we are now ready as larger number of birds are moving into our catching area and as the busy autumn season approaches.

There was time for a couple of hours or so of ringing beforehand with 14 birds processed and two more House Sparrow pulli were ringed at the end of the day.

New birds were 2 Jackdaws, 4 Starlings, 1 Rook, 2 Blackcaps and 2 House sparrows plus 5 re-traps.

It was very pleasant working in the Whitehouse today, with cooler conditions than of late, but with hordes of butterflies, including Marbled White, MeadowBrown, skippers, Small Copper and others,amongst the SouthernMarsh Orchids and Marsh Helleborines, Bramble and other flowers.   


Tuesday 7th July

Just two ringers and a visitor today with 24 birds processed, again pretty well all juveniles and a nice mix with a few warblers. 20 new birds and 4 re-traps, including a Dunnock that has been around for a few years. 4 Blackcaps, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Great Tits, 4 Blue Tits, 3 Robins, 1 Dunnock, 1 Blackbird, 1 Wren and 1 Chaffinch.


Friday 3rd July

3 Starlings, 1 House Sparrow and 1 Rook.


Wednesday 1st July

We started fairly early, before temperatures rose and it became the hottest July day recorded in SE England. We took nets down by 11.30 am, but managed to ring 8 birds with 5 re-traps. Again these were mostly juveniles with warblers again on the move, and a re-trapped Reed Warbler had been ringed as a juvenile passage migrant in ‘the maize’ last year. So back with us again, having bred for the first time this spring, its onward journey will take it back again to winter somewhere between Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. 

Fault bars - juvenile Reed Warbler - John Buckingham
Fault bars – juvenile Reed Warbler – John Buckingham

New birds were 1 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Great Tit, 1 Jackdaw and 2 Starlings. Added to these, as it was still shady and cool in the Elms, we ringed 5 Robin pulli, a healthy looking brood unusually using a tit nest box, but with the front opened up by a woodpecker.

A number of juvenile birds are showing the presence of ‘fault bars’ in their tails. The pale bands indicating a probable lack of nourishment during part of the time in the nest when nestling flight feathers were growing, and when adults were unable to bring sufficient insect food to their young, perhaps due to poor weather conditions.