Blue Tit clutch of 9
Blue Tit clutch of 10

Wednesday 27th May

16 birds were processed today including 13 re-traps and 3 new birds: a Goldfinch, Greenfinch and House Sparrow. The House Sparrow was colour-ringed under our RAS (Ringing Adults for Survival) project. Please look out for House Sparrows wearing RED rings with WHITE letters/numbers on the left leg and Collared Doves with DARK BLUE rings and white letters.

Also today, on a round of nest boxes around the estate, a total of 30 young Blue Tits and 16 young Great Tits were ringed in the boxes. With more boxes containing eggs, or pulli that will be big enough to ring next week, the situation is now more encouraging, following last week’s poor results. All of the data that we collect from our nest boxes is submitted to the BTO as part of their very long-standing and vitally important Nest  Record Scheme.


Tuesday 26th May

Just one person ringing today – 7 new birds: 2 Goldfinches, 2 Stock Doves, 2 Collared Doves and 1 Woodpigeon plus 7 re-traps which included a Chaffinch first ringed as a juvenile on 12th October 2011, so now 4 years old. The 2 Collared Doves were fitted with colour rings as part of our RAS study.DSCN5358


Monday 25th May

13 birds today: 1 House Sparrow, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Starling, 2 Greenfinches and 1 Magpie plus 7 re-traps including 2 juvenile Starlings, still around having been ringed as pulli in theObservatory nest boxes.  The House Sparrow was ringed as part of RAS study – photo shows clearly colour ring BA6.



Friday 22nd May

Jackdaw pulli - John Buckingham
Jackdaw pulli – John Buckingham

Just ten birds today – new birds were 1 Reed Warbler, 3 Goldfinches and a Collared Dove plus 5 re-traps.


Wednesday 20th May

1 new Chaffinch was ringed plus a good number of nest box fledglings (pulli) – 6 Blue Tits, 6 Great Tits, 5 Jackdaws, 4 House Sparrows and a Moorhen.


Sunday 17th May

A busier day for general ringing – 1 Blackbird, 1 Yellowhammer, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Blue Tit,         

Lesser Whitethroat - John Buckingham
Lesser Whitethroat – John Buckingham

9 newly fledged young Long-tailed Tits plus 17 re-traps. One of the re-traps was an important and interesting record – a Reed Warbler V485930 was originally ringed on 20th June 2008 as age code 4 (a bird hatched before the current calendar year but exact year unknown.) This Reed Warbler was therefore at least aged 8 years old and had travelled to West Africa and back in each of those years. The oldest BTO record of a Reed Warbler stands at 12 years old.

Lesser Whitethroats winter in East Africa which means a dramatically different migration to other warblers which stay much further to the west. Visual records show them wintering in damp thorny scrub in Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia and ring-recoveries show them taking a south-easterly route out of the UK in autumn through France and Italy then crossing the Mediterranean through Greece and into north-east Africa. Their return migration in spring takes them on a north-westerly route a little further to the north after a northerly route up the Levant coast of the extreme east of the Mediterranean, then through Turkey and north-westwards. Those bird watchers taking early spring holidays in Cyprus will see them as an extremely numerous passage migrant.


Herring Gulls, Langdon - John Buckingham
Herring Gulls, Langdon – John Buckingham


Saturday 16th May

More pulli were ringed today – 3 Moorhens and 15 Starlings plus single Blackcap, Jackdaw and Herring Gull.

On the coast we are used to seeing Herring Gulls in quite large numbers and on a regular basis, however, the species has been in rapid decline since the 1960s. Successive BTO Breeding Atlases have shown declines of 48% between 1969-70 and 1985-88, 13% between 1985-88 and 1998-2002 and a further very rapid  33% decline between 2000 and 2011.  


Wednesday 13th May

Willow Warbler singing from Silver Birch - John Buckinmgham
Willow Warbler singing from Silver Birch – John Buckingham


4 birds ringed – a Blackbird, Collared Dove, Wren and Willow Warbler.

Willow Warblers are scarce breeding birds in Kent these days and are usually found in open woodland or heathland with  small scattered Silver Birch trees or Birch scrub. If you visit habitats like this at the moment, you should be lucky enough to hear the males singing their beautiful cadence of descending notes.


Tuesday 12th May

Just 2 Goldfinches and a Linnet.


Monday 11th May

Today was spent checking nest boxes around the estate with less than one third of the boxes in use. Very cold nights and blustery cool days are probably affecting at least these hole-nesting species. One good piece of news, however, was a re-trapped female Great Tit that was first ringed at The Observatory as a juvenile on 11th July 2007 – 8 years old! Oldest BTO record 13 years old.


Spotted Flycatcher - Graham Crick
Spotted Flycatcher – Graham Crick

Friday 8th May

A still day at last and a better catch of birds with 8 new and 12 re-traps. New birds included a Spotted Flycatcher, new for the year and a species that we only catch in small numbers: 2 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldfinches, a Jay, Collared Dove and Spotted Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatchers are one of the last of the summer visitors to arrive and sadly the British breeding population is at an all-time low at only 33,000 pairs, and in the South East we see only fragmented breeding and the rest as passage migrants. The decline has been  dramatic with BTO population figures showing a 6–8 times larger breeding population in the 1970s than now. The reasons for this are unclear and ringing data gives little information about them while

No longer a familiar bird- John Buckinmgham
No longer a familiar bird- John Buckingham

they are in Africa apart from the fact that they are trans-Saharan migrants. Visual

Nest in Apple tree - John Buckingham
Nest in Apple tree – John Buckingham

observations record them wintering along the coast of West Africa and also much further south in Cameroon and Angola. In Britain they are no longer the familiar bird that they used to be, hunting from regular open perches from which they would launch out after flying insects and then returning to the same place, often identified by their behaviour rather than from their streaked grey-brown plumage. They are birds of parkland, gardens, open woodland and hedgerows where they nest in climbers, tree forks and open-fronted nest boxes.


Thursday 7th May

Ian ringed new Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Dunnock plus 5 pulli Starlings from one of the Observatory nest boxes. Despite the gale-force conditions making it impossible to use nets he also managed to colour ring a House Sparrow and 3 Collared Doves caught in the Obs. crow trap during Tuesday and Wednesday.


Tuesday 5th May

Strong winds and showers for a few days has meant no ringing and it doesn’t look any better for tomorrow. On Sunday, however, a dead Robin with one of our rings was brought in by an Estate resident. L071817 was a male first ringed on 8th August 2010 as a bird that had hatched at least in the previous year and therefore had lived till the age of 6.


Saturday 2nd May???????????????????????????????

A strong, cold south-easterly wind with very few birds around once again. The only new bird today was however a bonus, as it was not only new for the year but a species not ringed at the Observatory in the past two years – a fine male Linnet. Not only that but these are usually autumn birds for us and it was the first ringed in the spring for some time.

There is some ringing evidence to show that Scandinavian Linnets may sometimes over-winter in the UK and either these or more likely birds that are moving north through the continent in the spring may be blown westwards off their normal track, and are some of those that we have been seeing lately.

Other birds were 3 re-traps including an adult female Green Woodpecker first ringed as a young bird in 2009 and with a well-formed brood patch is about to start her sixth breeding season. Another bonus today was to find that the six eggs on the Moorhen nest in the Obs pond have hatched and three lively young were seen feeding behind the ringing room. One was caught very briefly to check the leg size, and will be ready to ring shortly.


Friday 1st May

Just two new birds today – a Starling and a Magpie with 4 re-traps.