Monday 30th June
12 new birds were ringed today. 5 Dunnocks (we are processing lots of young Dunnocks – they seem to be doing well), Swallow, Great tit, Wren, one each of three warbler species – Chiffchaff, Whitethroat & Lesser whitethroat, Wren and last but not least a Kingfisher.
We average probably only one Kingfisher a year and this one and last year’s birds were both juveniles. Kingfishers are pretty sedentary and these two will almost certainly have been chased from their parents’ territories so that the adults could then prepare for a second brood. This species is usually double and in extra good conditions and very occasionally treble brooded. If you are lucky enough to have a good view of a perching bird they are quite easy to age and sex. Young birds have a shorter bill than adults, showing a white ‘growing tip’ and their feet are a dull dark brown on the front of the tarsus compared to the adults’ bright red feet. Males have an all-black bill and during the breeding season particularly, the female’s lower mandible shows varying amounts of bright orange/red. The mantle of the male (in both adult and juvenile) is much brighter blue than that of the female.
This was Sue Smith’s first Kingfisher and, as mentioned before, SBBOT have benefitted from a donation from the ringer as she has ringed more than fifty species.
Friday 27th June
A bit busier today with 33 birds processed. New birds ringed were 5 House sparrows (continuing to indicate much better numbers locally and matching national information showing that numbers are stabilising), 4 Collared doves, 2 Chaffinches, 2 Robins, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Dunnocks, Great tit, Long-tailed tit, Whitethroat, Greenfinch and Blue tit. Once again most of these birds are juveniles, probably from local broods. Graham’s photograph shows a juvenile Dunnock and Robin. Although obvious to most, new trainee ringers sometimes confuse them in the hand.
The more upright stance of the young Robin with its large eyes and long legs should be compared to the shorter legged, dull eyed, shuffling young Dunnock with its rufous, ‘sparrow-like’ back and wings.
The other photograph of a young Robin is of a bird just starting to develop its ‘red breast’. It is at this stage that the adult birds will attack and chase their offspring out of the territory, seeing the red front of the young bird as a threat. This then leaves their territory available to find sufficient food for another brood – the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Tuesday 24th June
New birds – 4 Chaffinches, 2 Chiffchaffs, Reed warbler, House sparrow, Great tit and Greenfinch.
As well as our many resident birds, summer visitors such as Swallow, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Lesser whitethroat, Blackcap and Reed warbler have been contributing to our daily totals as they are actively raising young and some of them hopefully preparing for a second brood.
Monday 23rd June
New birds today were 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Whitethroats, Wren, Robin and Green woodpecker.
Friday 20th June
2 Blue tits, 2 Great tits, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Wren and Dunnock.
Sunday 22nd June
New birds ringed today were 4 Chaffinches, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Greenfinches, Blackbird, Jackdaw and Blue tit.
Thursday 19th June
Birds ringed today were 3 Blue tits, 2 Greenfinches, 2 Blackcaps, Great-spotted woodpecker, Long-tailed tit, Magpie, Blackbird and Reed warbler.
Ringers pay into SBBOT funds when they have reached either 50 species ringed in total when they pay £1 for each subsequent species and £5 per species when they have ringed 100 species or more. The Observatory is better off by £1 today as Becky Johnson’s Great-spotted woodpecker was her 50th species – well done! This is a good source of income after ringers have paid their SBBOT membership, BTO membership and ringing permit costs.
Wednesday 18th June
Today – 4 Blue tits, 3 Great tits, 3 Jackdaws, 2 Blackbirds, Chaffinch, House sparrow, Magpie and Robin. The greater proportion of birds ringed over the last week or so have been juveniles.
Friday 13th June
New birds were 5 Great tits, 2 Stock doves, 2 Dunnocks, 2 Blue tits, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Jackdaw, Lesser whitethroat and Yellowhammer. Two of the birds re-trapped today were first ringed here as juveniles in 2011. They were a Great tit and a Chaffinch andboth were males in breeding condition.
Sunday 8th June
New birds today – 2 Great tits, 4 House sparrows, 2 Jackdaws, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Robin.
HOUSE SPARROWS are featuring quite regularly on our daily totals and like other birds seem to be enjoying a good breeding season. House sparrows are found everywhere in Britain except for the exposed uplands of northern Scotland. The fact that they are very widespread belies a huge population decline and this was measured at 69% in the UK breeding population between 1977 – 2010. After extensive research this falling population has been put down to a number of factors. Affecting rural populations has been agricultural intensification, causing low first-year survival rates connected with a reduction in winter food supply. In urban areas reduced breeding success will have been affected by fewer available nest sites in buildings and lack of invertebrate prey items at a critical time when young birds are growing.
Friday 6th June
New birds ringed today were 2 Chaffinches, 2 Dunnocks, 5 Great tits, 2 Yellowhammers, House sparrow, Jackdaw, Magpie and Stock dove.
Monday 2nd & Tuesday 3rd June
Birds ringed over the two days were one each of Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Swallow, Stock Dove, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Magpie and Long-tailed Tit and two each of Robin and Corn Bunting. There were also a number of re-traps particularly including several juvenile Great Tits, most ofwhich had been ringed as ‘pulli’ in nest boxes, indicating continuing breeding and survival success for this species.
CORN BUNTING New forthe year were the two Corn Buntings – male and female, probably a pair and caught in the same net. They will have started breeding and both showed signs of this – the female particularly had a well-developed brood patch and was the heaviest of the two, probably close to egg laying.
It is rare for us to catch Corn Buntings and these were the first for two years. This is not surprising as there has been an overall population decline of 90% during 1970-2010 accompanied by a 27% contraction in winter range and 56% in breeding range since previous BTO Atlases in 1984 and 1972. This is particularly worrying as East Kent lies in what has always been considered to be a very important coastal range ‘cluster’ for the species between Kent and Suffolk. Other fragmented clusters are on chalk soils between Dorset and Cambridgeshire and on low-lying arable from the Fens northwards. Major reasons suggested for this continuing decline are a switch from spring to autumn sowing of cereals and subsequent loss of weed-rich stubbles for winter feeding, changes in cropping causing a failure of second broods and breeding productivity failure due to the intensive use of pesticides.
Corn Buntings are highly sedentary (staying in the same area all year with only small seasonal movements) and are therefore unable to avoid local conflicts with agricultural intensity. From the photographs note the long legs and toes and typical ‘bunting’ bill with large lower mandible.
Sunday 1st June
11 birds ringed today of which 4 were juveniles. 2 Blackbirds, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Dunnock, 4 Jackdaws, 2 Robins and best of all an unexpected adult male Nightingale.
NIGHTINGALE a bird of coppiced woodland with thick understorey vegetation and dense scrub, this has never been a widespread species in the UK, despite the fact that it is well-known in the eyes of the British public. What has caught the imagination is that males sing after dark as well as during the day and they can produce a staggering 90 decibels when they are in full-flow – a fabulous song to be ‘experienced’ rather than just ‘heard’ at close quarters.
We are fortunate that Kent is a stronghold and at one time there was thought to be 20% of the British population breeding in our county. This is probably not the case now and the British population is currently estimated at 6,500 singing males. Nightingales are only found in England, concentrated south and east of a line from the Humber down to the Severn and very much on the northern and western edge of their continental breeding range. We have seen an incredible 90% decline in numbers here in the last 40 years.
They are summer visitors arriving at the end of April/early May and after raising a single brood in a leafy nest on the ground, they moult and then leave us in late July for western areas of Africa south of The Sahara, but much is to be discovered about their migration routes and wintering areas. So where was our bird today on its way to and from?