Friday 31st October

12 new birds today and the first Lesser redpoll of the winter. 3 Goldfinches, 1 Lesser redpoll, Blue tit, Bullfinch, Great tit, Song thrush and Blackbird.


Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th October

Little owl - 25th October - Steve Tookey
Little owl – 25th October – Steve Tookey


Only two birds, one a Blackcap – a departing summer visitor and the other a winter visitor, a Blackbird with a large wing measurement – a bird from the continent.

With few birds and windy conditions we concentrated on finishing the 40’ boardwalk across the Haven and this was completed very successfully by 3pm this afternoon – excellent work by all concerned.


Sunday 26th October

Just 7 new birds – 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Chaffinch, a Goldcrest, Song thrush and Blue tit.



One of our local breeding Little owls - John Buckingham
One of our local breeding Little owls – John Buckingham

Saturday 25th October

24 birds ringed and a good assortment, but birds of the day and new for the year were a very unexpected Little owl and 2 Siskins. Total list: 5 Chiffchaffs, 4 Song thrushes, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Blue tits, Chaffinches and Siskins, plus 1 Collared dove, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Great tit and of course Little owl.

There are now an estimated 5,700 pairs of Little owls breeding in Britain deriving from introductions made from Europe in the late 1800s. By 1900 the species was breeding regularly in several counties and a period of rapid expansion took place, lasting into the 1930s. It is a highly sedentary species found throughout England and parts of Wales and is generally abundant within areas of mixed habitat, including small parcels of farmland, woodland edge and hedgerows. We are now seeing a rapid population decline, probably due to changes in agricultural practices leading to lack of food during the breeding season. 


Bullfinch - young female - Becky Johnson
Bullfinch – young female – Becky Johnson

Saturday 18th, Monday 20th, Wednesday 22nd & Thursday 23rd October

Strong blustery winds and occasional heavy showers from the west is the wrong combination of weather for ringing here at this time. (Possibly good for American vagrants in the Isles of Scilly!) Consequently totals of birds ringed were low and this is an ‘over-view’ of birds covering all four days – Total 31 new birds:

3 Robins, 3 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaffs, 4 Blue tits, 5 Great tits, 1 Jay, 3 Chaffinches, 4 Blackbirds, 1 Great-spotted woodpecker, 3 Goldfinches and 1 Bullfinch.

So – a few summer visitors in the form of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps still trickling through, Blackbirds, Robins and Chaffinches possibly winter visitors from the Continent and a young female Bullfinch, quite rare for us and dispersing from its natal breeding area.

On Wednesday we re-trapped a young male Sparrowhawk obviously staying around, as it was first ringed at the Observatory on 18th August this year and a female Blackbird first ringed here as a young bird on 27th November last year, re-trapped again on 24th January and not seen again until now as an adult.

Ringing was out of the question on Tuesday because of strong gales and heavy showers but a good start was made in cutting timber for cross-struts on our replacement Haven boardwalk.

Sparrowhawk - young male - Becky Johnson
Sparrowhawk – young male – Becky Johnson


Sparrowhawk - young male - Becky Johnson
Sparrowhawk – young male – Becky Johnson








The BTO have quite recently published population details of Britain’s breeding birds. Here is a list of those species with an estimated population of more than one million pairs. – you may or may not be surprised.

  species pop.     species pop.
1 Wren 7.7M pairs   12 Meadow pipit 1.9M pairs
2 Robin 6M pairs   13 Starling 1.8M pairs
3 Chaffinch 5.5M pairs   14 Greenfinch 1.7M pairs
4 Woodpigeon 5.3M pairs   15 Skylark 1.4M pairs
5 House sparrow 5.1M pairs   16 Jackdaw 1.3M pairs
6 Blackbird 4.9M pairs   17= Song thrush 1.1M pairs
7 Blue tit 3.4M pairs     Whitethroat 1.1M pairs
8 Great tit 2.4M pairs     Blackcap 1.1M pairs
9 Dunnock 2.3M pairs     Chiffchaff 1.1M pairs
10= Pheasant 2.2M pairs   21 Carrion crow 1M pairs
  Willow warbler 2.2M pairs        


Just a few thoughts:       Wren, Chaffinch and Blackbird have vied for the ‘number 1 spot’ for many years.                                                                                                                                                                                   

House sparrow, Starling and Skylark remain high on the list despite recent catastrophic falls in population.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Blue tit and great tit must benefit from garden bird feeding. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff have all increased recently.  

 Populations of Willow warbler, Meadow pipit and Song thrush countrywide are not mirrored in populations here in the South East.   

The population of Woodpigeons has probably increased by more than any other British species.

Wren - 'Top of the pop.'s
Wren – ‘Top of the pops’
Wren - wing.
Wren – wing.









Friday 17th October

27 new birds ringed today. 12 Chiffchaffs, 3 Blackcaps and Blue tits, 2 Robins, Song thrushes and Great tits plus 1 Cetti’s warbler, Blackbird and Jay.


Blue tit - young OctoberBlue tit – young bird October

Wednesday 15th October

Kingfisher young male 15 Oct 2014 - Becky Johnson
Kingfisher young male 15 Oct 2014 – Becky Johnson

A bright day with a light breeze and a good ringing result. The ‘bird of the day’ was a young male Kingfisher caught in the Side Haven and the second to be ringed this year. We rarely catch them and this bird was another youngster dispersing from its natal breeding area. Still a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps on their way south and more winter Robins and thrushes arriving.

Total 46 new birds – 10 Robins, 8 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps and Blackbirds, 4 Redwings and Song thrushes, 2 Blue tits and Chaffinches plus 1 Meadow pipit, Goldcrest, Greenfinch and of course the Kingfisher.

young Robin - Becky Johnson





We are ringing good numbers of Robins, winter visitors from the Continent.


We have a breeding population of an estimated 4,900 pairs of  Kingfishers in the UK, widely distributed on lowland

Kingfisher food for young - John Buckingham
Kingfisher – food for young – John Buckingham

rivers. Young birds especially undergo a post breeding dispersal and consequently the winter range of  the Kingfisher is greater than the breeding range. Numbers fell sharply through the late 1970s to a low point in the mid 1980s following a number of extremely cold winters with heavy snowfall and prolonged freezing conditions. Numbers have recovered since but we have seen a further downward trend since 2005.  Adults have bright red legs and feet (brown fronted in juveniles) and males have all black mandibles, while females show varying amounts of orange on the lower mandible, extending as the breeding season approaches.

Kingfisher female - orange lower mandible - John buckingham
Kingfisher female – orange lower mandible – John Buckingham

They nest in all sorts of sand and clay banks excavating a tunnel 60-90 centimetres long and gently inclining with a chamber at the end in which 6-7 round, white eggs are laid. They usually raise two broods with three broods quite common. This of course gives them the opportunity of quickly building up numbers lost during winter. The Kingfisher  (Alcedo atthis) is not just a British species but can be found throughout Europe, as far east as India, S E Asia and as far away as the Solomon Islands. You may be surprised to discover that it is one of 87 species of kingfisher to be found worldwide, all of them brightly coloured, hole-nesting carnivores. 



Our numbers of ringed birds are increasing well, probably reflecting a successful breeding season.  TOTAL NUMBER OF NEW BIRDS RINGED TO DATE IS : 7,636 of 66 species. This is now more than the figure for the whole of 2012 which was mentioned earlier in the month.

TOTALS TO 15 Oct 2014 – Some notable species are:

Reed warbler - John Buckingham
Reed warbler – John Buckingham


Blackcap 1,437   Robin 175
House martin 1,322   Swallow 131
Chiffchaff 833   Willow warbler 130
Sedge warbler 825   Blue tit 127
Reed warbler 491   Goldcrest 49
Meadow pipit 471   Firecrest 9
Chaffinch 264      


???????????????????????????????Tuesday 14th October 2014

A good day, fairly calm and cloudy, with 49 new birds and 5 re-traps. We are still seeing summer visitors in the form of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs moving to North and West Africa crossing over with incoming winter visitors which are very much in evidence. We ringed our first two Redwings of the autumn and there was a good movement of winter Robins plus Blackbirds and Goldcrests from the Continent.

New birds were 17 Robins, 12 Chiffchaffs, 6 Blackcaps, 6 Blackbirds, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Redwings plus 1 Firecrest, Song thrush and Jay.


There were also some interesting re-traps of birds previously ringed here:

A GOLDCREST ringed as an adult on 13th November 2013, returning 11 months later, possibly having been breeding somewhere around the Baltic.

A young Blackbird ringed in June and not seen since, and a Robin ringed back on 3rd August 2013.

Redwing adult - 14 Oct 2014
Redwing adult – 14 Oct 2014
Detail of Jay wing - a young bird.
Detail of Jay wing – a young bird.










The Jay above was identified as a young bird, as the dark stripes on the individual feathers (greater and primary coverts) do not ‘line up’ across the closed wing (apart from the newly moulted two upper feathers of the alula) and in an adult they would do so.

Sunday 12th October

Goldcrest at nest - John Buckingham
Goldcrest at nest – John Buckingham


A very calm morning and a good number of birds ringed, especially a boost for Chiffchaff numbers.   105 Chiffchaffs, 20 Blackcaps, 3 Goldcrests, 3 Blackbirds, 1 Song thrush, Jay and Great tit.

















THE KENT BIRD REPORT  has been published fairly recently by the Kent Ornithological Society for 2012 and as usual it contains a ringing report for the year by Chris Hindle, in which Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory once again features very heavily. You may be interested in a reminder of some of the unusual or rare species that we ringed in that year and which of course appeared in our own 2012 Annual Report.

Firstly   the Total Number of Birds Ringed in Kent for 2012 was 27,126 of 122 species.                                  Our figures for the year compare very favourably – Total at SBBOT for 2012 was 7,311 of 90 species.             Sandwich Bay Ringing accounted for 27% of the Kent Total and contributed to 73.8% of the species.

Red-breasted flycatcher 2012
Red-breasted flycatcher 2012
Richard's pipit 2012
Richard’s pipit 2012


Little bunting 2012
Little bunting 2012







9 species of unusual or rare birds were of particular note and 6 of them were ours:     YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER (2), WAXWING, RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, RICHARD’S PIPIT, SNOWBUNTING (10) and LITTLE BUNTING.

Chris Hindle also lists the KOS top ten recoveries and controls and two of the birds ringed at Sandwich Bay are of particular interest:

1.   The oldest BTO ringed Common Gull at 27 years 10 months 19 days

2.   The first Kent ringed Brambling to be controlled in Finland

Brambling controlled in Finland
Brambling controlled in Finland
Snow bunting 2012
Snow bunting 2012











Friday 10th October

19 Chiffchaffs, 5 Blackcaps, 3 Goldcrests, 1 Firecrest, 1 Robin and 1 Jay.


Tuesday 7th & Wednesday 8th October

Chiffchaff nest-building - John Buckingham
Chiffchaff nest-building – John Buckingham


A mixture of strong winds and heavy rain showers has meant no ringing on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, some of us managed to spend a good length of time over both days in repairing the front section of the Heligoland boardwalk and setting in the metalwork base for the new 40’ boardwalk across the Haven stream. 


Space then to pick up on some interesting ringing details. We have been ringing very large numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in the last month or so and have ringed more Blackcaps to date this year than in any of the last 10 years covering all 12 months. Chiffchaff numbers are also pretty good considering there is still some time to go.

female Blackcap
female Blackcap


2014 1400   689 TO DATE
2013 1048   923 FULL YEAR
2012 621   941 FULL YEAR
2011 1134   602 FULL YEAR
2010 1013   689 FULL YEAR
2009 1059   973 FULL YEAR
2008 805   385 FULL YEAR
2007 753   367 FULL YEAR
2006 780   265 FULL YEAR
2005 475   421 FULL YEAR
2004 831   556 FULL YEAR


We have also received recent details of recoveries of birds ringed at Sandwich Bay and controlled elsewhere. Here are some of the more interesting ones.


1. BLACK-HEADED GULL Ringed as adult 20 Dec 2007 – recovered POLAND 18 May 2014 7yrs later.

2. HERRING GULL Ringed as young bird 15 March 1980 – recovered Thurrock 2 Aug 2014 34yrs later.

3. BLACKCAP Ringed as young bird 29 Aug 2011 – recovered Cambridge 23 June 2014.

4. LESSER REDPOLL Ringed as young bird 14 Oct 2013 – recovered NORWAY 19 May 2014.

5. LESSER REDPOLL Ringed as adult 2 Nov 2013 – recovered BELGIUM 13 Nov 2013 only 11 days later

6. LESSER REDPOLL Ringed as young bird 13 Nov 2013 – recovered Gwynedd 19 April 2014.

7. CHAFFINCH Adult male ringed 12 Mar 2010 – recovered NORWAY 26 Mar 2014 4yrs later.

Black-headed gull - John Buckinham
Black-headed gull – John Buckinham
young Lesser redpoll - John Buckingham
young Lesser redpoll – John Buckingham








Monday 6th October

A pretty quiet day – breezy with some showers and a total of 19 birds ringed. 11 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests and Long-tailed tits plus 1 Robin and Chaffinch.


Sunday 5th October

51 new birds today:   25 Blackcaps, 13 Chiffchaffs, 5 Goldcrests, 4 Blackbirds, 2 Robins, 1 Reed warbler and 1 Songthrush

Friday 3rd October

48 new birds dominated again by Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps but with Goldcrest, Robin and Wren still featuring in the total: 32 Chiffchaffs, 12 Blackcaps, 1 Green woodpecker, Goldcrest, Robin and Wren.


Chiffchaff - John Buckingham
Chiffchaff – John Buckingham

THE CHIFFCHAFF       BTO data indicates that 1.1 million pairs of Chiffchaffs breed in Britain as summer visitors with a small proportion of the population over-wintering in varying numbers each year. They arrive in March and breed in woodlands with their domed nest built within 18 inches of the ground in bramble and other low cover.

On arrival from West Africa the males immediately set up territories singing their disyllabic, monotonous ‘chiff-chiff chiff-chiff’ song which has led to their onomatopoeic English name. Their iconic song has also been heard recently during the wonderful, late sunny and warm weather as they moved through Sandwich Bay on their autumn migration. The Chiffchaff’s quite harsh ‘swhit’ contact note can always be heard when birds are present.

The scientific name is Phylloscopus collybita which from the Greek translates as: phullion = a leaf, skopos = a watcher and kollubistes = a money-changer. So appropriately this is a bird that watches leaves (on its search for insect food) whilst sounding like a money-changer counting coins – ‘chink-chink chink-chink’!! Even in France the bird is sometimes called ‘Compteur d’Argent’

Thursday 2nd October

Steve was in on his own and with 6 nets up ringed 59 birds – 28 Chiffchaffs, 21 Blackcaps, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Blue tits, 1 Jay, Great tit, Robin and Wren.

Wednesday 1st October

A new month and a change in the weather to a southerly breeze and fewer birds as Ian reported today. Our total of just 43 new birds included 22 Chiffchaffs, 13 Blackcaps, 4 Meadow pipits, a Great-spotted woodpecker, Robin, Blue tit and Starling. Although smaller numbers, the breakdown and pattern was much the same with Blackcaps tailing off a bit, Chiffchaffs and Meadow pipits still on the move plus Great-spotted woodpecker and Robin possibly in from the Continent. Another visiting group commented on a most enjoyable, friendly and highly informative morning with us!

Icterine warbler - September
Icterine warbler – September
Blackcap - September
Blackcap – September


Firecrest - September
Firecrest – September







Numbers of new birds totalled 3,857 for September. A successful breeding season, good autumn migration conditions and excellent ringing weather definitely boosted our numbers. The following chart picks out some interesting species totals:

Species Total 16 of 46 species ringed in September 2014
Blackcap 1206 Impressive numbers indicating a large movement now tailing off
House martin 1000 Reflects a very large visible migration over several days
Chiffchaff 512 The usual quite high numbers of this species for us with more still to come
Meadow pipit 466 A record number reflects a very large visible migration with more to come
Swallow 80 Have caught more in the past but a huge visible migration
Reed warbler 79 The tail-end of large numbers in August in the maize
Robin 68 Good numbers and the start of an autumn/winter influx
Sedge warbler 46 Like Reed warbler the tail-end of large august numbers in the maize
Chaffinch 37 The start of an autumn/winter influx from the Continent
Goldcrest 26 The start of an autumn/winter influx from the Continent
Lsr whitethroat 16 Quite large numbers for us
Blackbird 15 Includes two Continental birds, the first of an autumn/winter influx
Grt-sp w’pcker 13 A good number of autumn birds – dispersing and incoming
Pied flycatcher 6 Maybe a few extra on easterlies from the Continent
Firecrest 6 Just nice to see and a few more than usual with hopefully more to come
Icterine wrbler 1 A common Continental bird seen in here in some years and not others