Friday, 13 December 2013

Poultry in Motion II

Way back when in 2010 GR03863 was ringed as a juv at Cosmeston Lakes. We heard nothing more of it until it's ring was read in Greater Manchester. And that was the last we heard of GR03863.

Until recently when we heard via Kane Brides that GR03863's ring had been again read in the field in Greater Manchester. We could tell you more but to be honest Peter Aker who read the ring has done the job on his blog. There is even a map!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Make The Effort And Reap The Rewards

Rich,James, Wayne and Martin visited CBWR for a scheduled ringing session and were rewarded for their patience with the processing of this beauty

This species undergo a complete summer moult and therefor it was not possible to age this male

Other processed species included Cetti Warbler - Reed Bunting & Starlings

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Cardiff Bird Ringers Travel To Pastures New

Martin & Teifion had an early start to join members of the Gower Ringing Group at  their site at Oxwich.

Species Caught : Meadow Pipit - Robin - Long Tailed Tit - Blue Tit - Great Tit- Goldcrest - Cetti Warbler and wait for it FIRECREST to the delight of Owain as this was a target species for the site

Special thanks go to Owain, Charlie, Heather, Cedwyn and Keith for our warm welcome
See below photograph of Firecrest & Goldcrest

Photograph Courtesy of Teifion Thomas Bird Images
Further images available on Gower Ringing Group Blog

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Making the most of migration

Well since a trip to Flat Holm island to monitor migrants was called off due to blustery conditions, the only option was to monitor at our usual haunts. The bay was the ideal substitute and a modest number of birds were caught - mainly willows and chiffs with a splattering of blackcaps and reed warblers. The later are now getting thin on the ground  (much to Vaf's relief) and migration for the species presence in the country is petering out.

Oh yes, what would science be without a graph. This one from BirdTrack
showing the reporting rate of reed warblers showing reed warbler migration
nearing its end.

The black caps we caught were very chunky and some had some major fat stored up - giving Facey a run for his money. But the stars show went to a spotted flycatcher and a mippit. The former was only caught for the first time at the site in 2011 but has put in an annual appearance since although at very low numbers. The mippit was only the twelfth we have caught; the first eleven all being caught in 2009!

Separating mippits and trippits involves things like measuring the hind claw. 

Close up of the meadow pipits head with data sheets in the back ground.

A picture of a meadow pipit to illustrate the fact we caught a meadow pipit.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Late in the Season

Swallows seem to be particularly unpredictable this year. I very recently received permission to ring at a farm where a surveyor counted around 40 breeding pairs. Permission seemed to come far too late for me to do much of anything, but reports from a few colleagues around the UK, including the venerable Facey, suggested it was worth a shot. It seems that while some birds have finished breeding for the year, others are occupied by their second broods and still others have laid their third clutch.

I got out to the farm yesterday to find all three scenarios in one place. The vast majority of nests were empty, two had chicks which will have fledged in  a few days time, and several contained eggs. Only one of the clutches was definitively cold so there's the possibility that some birds are trying to get one late brood in. I'll go back in a week or so to double-check.

Over 50 in the air, 1 caught. Result. There were only one pair with a brood in the building, to be fair.

I don't have short nets to cover exits but did manage to find space for a 12m and caught one adult female while we were there. It wasn't evening and the sun was low, so the nets were far too visible.

There were plenty of swallows feeding over surrounding fields. If I have time I'll try to figure out where they're roosting.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Eyes Have It

A very quiet morning at Cardiff Bay yesterday was very much a case of "quality over quantity". A meagre catch of the usual warblers was punctuated with a new Cetti's, a Kingfisher and a species we don't catch very often...

Ti looks on expectantly as Pliers removes the star of the morning from a bag...

Behold! A sparrowhawk! We catch these often but they
tend to leave the net before we get to them...

The eyes have it! You can't fail to be impressed by the eyes of a sparrowhawk.

Ti with our other star. Kingfishers are always impressive.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Swan round up

So a little while ago me along with my very small car and even smaller tent trundled off down to Abbotsbury to round up some swans!

As usual the day started nice and early which was thoroughly appreciated after a blustery night in the tent! The canoeists headed out on to the water and the volunteers began to walk out into the shallows in order to guide the moulting and therefore flightless swans into the pen. With some gentle encouragement and only a couple escapees, the swans were quickly penned up! 

With the help of a 'few' volunteers and canoeists we
managed to round up exactly 600 swans!

The ringing stations were set up and the swans began to pile in, of course directed straight to the trainees! From what I heard there was a food station where hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches were available but I'm sure Rich will be pleased to here that a swan-free moment was never found to sample any!

By the end of the morning all swans were ringed, weighed, measured, sexed (which was interesting....) and released back onto the water. As great as the day was I must say I am glad its a biennial event as I feel it may take that long to recover! 

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Circle of Data

A week or so ago while chatting in the pub with my pal Sam, we came to the subject of the excellent Project Splatter *- the coordinator of which is his housemate.

Sam mentioned that he'd found a squished swallow near the Ambulance Station - he'd take a picture of it for his house mate, who noticed it was colour ringed. Of course I became excited! A colour ringed swallow in Cardiff had to be one of ours! But only two colour rings were on show... Easy, we caught all 10 adults at the Station so just check the notebook... oh, no it wasn't one of those... hmmm.

With 6 Red over Purples and 6 Purple over Reds to choose from, the identity of our swallow looked to remain a mystery. Until last night when Sam brought the now very, very, very splattered swallow to the same pub to complete the circle of data.

Our mystery swallow hatched on 27/07/2012 at the Cardiff Riding School in 2012, (one of 4 nestlings of a second brood). She was ringed L224778 on 06/08/2012, the lightest of her brood at 21.1g . She died on or just before 24/07/2013 having lost a fight with a motor vehicle. The day after we heard of her demise we found out it looked as if a sixth pair had moved in to the station - she was likely one of those before her untimely end having made it back from Africa.

This is genuinely a picture of the clutch of eggs L224778 hatched from in 2012.
Rumour has it she is the one of the left...

Although its a sad end to a beautiful creature, L224778's short life has
contributed to science in several ways; as well as to the BTO's RAS scheme
and ringing scheme, her early days will be included in the dataset of projects
as diverse as shell maculation, nestling growth, and female fecundity. And of
course she contributed to the  Project Splatter. A fair bit for a small bird.
* Project Splatter is a citizen science project based at Cardiff Uni that collates UK wildlife road casualty data using social media. Project Splatter collates UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter ( or @SplatterProject) and Facebook with the aim to identify roadkill 'hotspots' for future mitigation projects and help preserve our wildlife.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A Productive Morning

Greetings from Northern Ireland! It was lovely in the forest this morning. The canopy provided excellent protection from the sun and a light breeze payed through on occasion, lifting the heat and the small biting insects along with it. Much of the morning was spent with a coffee in one hand, a book in the other. Occasionally I'd rouse myself to tend the nets. This, almost predictably, is where, time and again, my morning came apart. Between 4:30 and 10am, three birds hit the nets. I'm not allowed to post without including a picture of a bird, it's an old charter or something, so here's the second 3J Robin of the morning:

It's not quite a Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher or Wryneck but it'll do.

It goes without saying of course that the forest was full of birdsong and movement, most of it 20 - 30ft up. It's probably time I explored another part of my site. The Estate is quite large and while I'm sure my current area will be good in the winter, especially with some tapes playing, the canopy is altogether too tall and too mature for much to come to the level of the nets. Here's a picture of one of my nets so you have an idea of what I'm dealing with:

The black stick down the bottom is, of course, the pole. The canopy extends to the top of the frame.

I'm sure there's a more appropriate summer ringing site somewhere on the Estate, I just need to find it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

More Dippers

On 18 July, we visited Taf Fechan Local Nature Reserve just north of Merthyr Tydfil for the monthly Dipper netting session. If you’ve not visited, then you’ve been missing out on one of our local treasures. The reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, and is made up of deciduous woodland, grassland, river and cliffs. It’s renowned for its bryophytes.

Mist net across the Taf Fechan
We ran a single mist net across the river between 6:30 and 8:30am. A Kingfisher whizzed by as we erected the net. Would it return later?

We didn’t have long to wait until our first Dipper speeded downstream and straight into our net. A safe return to the shoreline, and a juvenile was returned to the river with a fresh CC ring and its biometrics added to our notebook.

Another 45 minutes went by, with a few Jays and Long-tailed Tits over, before Dipper number 2 hit the net on its way downstream. Another new juvenile.

We hung on for a while longer in anticipation of the Kingfisher return. Sure enough, it came back upstream, bounced and return from whence it came. We lingered awhile, but it was clear this bird was too smart for us, and with breakfast and work beckoning we relunctantly departed, already looking forward to the next visit.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Blackbird Curry

  • A RAS on the abundant and seemingly easy to catch Blackbird (other species can be substituted)
  • Friend with a project based on resighting colour ringed gulls

  • Take nets and struggle to catch blackbirds before missing season one target of 50 birds completely
  • Read Facebook comment by friend, when on 32 gulls, betting a curry on the fact that they will reach 50 gulls before you reach 50 blackbirds.
  • Fail to inform friend that blackbird total stands at 47 birds
  • Accept bet
  • Struggle to catch birds for 1 month until two more are caught
  • Watch as Blackbirds evade every net put up.
  • Read Facebook and twitter messages from friend as they make it into the forties
  • Colour ring gulls, thus making it easier for friend.
  • Read more comments; become concerned,
  • Check bank balance and look up reviews of curry houses
  • Catch 50th blackbird on a whim and sigh
  • Claim curry via blog post 
Never, we repeat never, has a blackbird been more welcome
HP - also known as 2 poppadoms with dips followed by Thai
green fish curry with a pashwari naan and two pints and
whatever Dr V is having.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Few More Photographs Of Plumage Characteristics From This Mornings Sand Martin Colony

As Rich has already indicated a good session was had by all at this mornings SAND MARTIN Colony

Juvenile Plumage - Note The Buff Fringes Of The Tersials
Juvenile Head Pattern
A comparison is covered below of the Adult head pattern and plumage characteristics also  additionally a brood patch is shown from An Adult Female

Adult Head Pattern
Adult Plumage Characteristics - Note NO Buff Fringes On Tersials
Mrs Sand Martin Showing Off Her Brood Patch

Sand Martins in the Mist

A very early start this morning rounded off a packed two weeks of ringing. Our species of choice this outing was Sand Martin; possibly one of the nicest birds the world has to offer. We've not been to the colony for a year or two so it was nice to be back. Even in the mist!

Like father like son; Billy Whizz and Ti ringing sand martins. At one point Ti
processing sanma quicker than his old man! Ti's ringing is coming on well
handling birds with confidence and is consistent with his wing lengths. He's also
very good at aging and sexing sand martins!
One of 19 birds caught and ringed. We didn't work any
colonies last year due to the rain. 2012 seems to have taken
its toll on the pairs of this site - it contains fewer pairs than
before and we had no retraps from previous years. Several
females had brood patches at a stage that suggested that they
were on second broods. Fingers crossed for a productive 2013.

Aging Sand Martins is pretty straight forward, even with such as low quality
image. The bird on the left is this year's young - note the ginger/buff edging to
the rump and tertials compared to the uniform colour of the adult (right). The
young bird's feathers are also a lot darker than that of the adult. You can't see it
in this image but an adult's feathers look worn; well they were used to fly back
from Africa! 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gulls, gulls, gulls we just can't say no

On Friday we donned our second strip, that of the Flat Holm Ringing Group, and head to that small rock in the Bristol Channel for the annual gull chick ringing trip. With the retirement of Gull man Brian Bailey it was down to Facey and Vaf to lead the charge an ensure the annual quota of Lesser BB chicks left the island with a colour ring and a shiny BTO meta ring.

From left to right, G-Team 2013 were: Lizzie G, Vaf, Pliers Morris, Facey,
and Fisherman Mike. p.s. this photo was taken just before we left the island.
Landing on Friday afternoon gave us some time for mist netting the islands
smaller residents; as well as an obligatory visit to the Gull & Leek, Wales'
most southerly pub. Sadly the day trippers (aka migrants) were conspicuous by
their absence. What did we catch? Mainly dunnocks but also...
... three adult lesser black backed gulls which are now sporting
colour rings. Ringing adult gulls was great experience for the
trainees and excellent entertainment for their trainers!

On the Saturday, ably assisted by Island's volunteers and members of the Flat
Holm Society we got down to the reason we were there - ringing gull chicks.
Here we See three trainees modelling different gull ringing attire. While Mike
(right) sports protective overalls and hat, Lizzie G and Pliers opted for the
"Bugger it, lets get covered in crap" look which was all the rage this season.
Pliers is rocking the backwards cap, a look preferred worldwide by stake
boarding yoofs and ringers that don't want their necks covered in gull crap
or sunburnt too much.
Vaf on biometric duties about to weigh a gull chick. This
year, we took a number of biometrics as we did with Peter
Rock on our trip to the roofs. This will allow us to determine
the sex of the birds we ringed.

And of course we had plenty opportunity to study the diet of
nestling gulls of the Rock. Here we see bacon and eggs.
We always manage to miss a chick or thousand - well you can't get them all. The chick on the right is one of the unlucky ones that did not get its own set of personalised bling. As you can see this year's colour rings are green with white lettering. If you see any please let us or Viola know.
We had a cosy trip on the way back to the mainland.

A big thank your to the Flat Holm volunteers and staff for their excellent help and hospitality. And of course our thanks to the Flat Holm Society for their help and for organising the trip.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Ringers on the Roof

Tuesday saw what is becoming an annual event for the Cardiff Ringers – a visit to the roof tops of Cardiff with Peter Rock.* This trip, as well as providing a gulls eye view of our beloved City, is a great warm up for our Flat Holm gull ringing trip (coming this weekend).
Up on the roof...
...we were after these! Although this one was to you for us. 
As parent gulls defend their part of the urban metacolony with vigour, catching gull chicks on roofs is not for the faint hearted nor the fool hardy. Although by signing up you are clearly the latter so we fielded two trianees; Pliers Morgan and Lizzie G. Unlike their trainer, they both remained gull excreta free.
We finished the day with over 40 lesser black-backed gull and a few herring gull chicks ringed. Our biggest haul was 31 from one roof! We'll be heading back up in the next week or so to catch those birds too young to ring on this trip.
Lizzie G and Pliers with 31 gulls ready to ring.
This years colour rings comprise black letters on a yellow ring. If you see any in Cardiff or the great yonder then please let Peter know – he can be contacted at
With an estimated population of 3,339 pairs of gull breeding in Cardiff in 2011, the largest of 38 assessed in the Severn Estuary area, you would be forgiven for thinking that ringing sites abound. However, other than the obvious presence of breeding gulls, a roof has to meet several criteria before it can be deemed workable:
- It needs to be safe to walk on
- Be surrounded by a decent parapet to stop young gulls disappearing over the edge
- Have a good chick to roof ratio to make it worthwhile (i.e. pairs in or close to double figures)
- Be accessible
- Be control measure free (no nest destruction or egg oiling going on, plastic owls are fine as they don’t work)
If you know of any roofs that meet these criteria in the Cardiff are then please let Peter know (details above).
*correct, the very same Peter Rock of episode 11 of Springwatch 2013 fame (

Monday, 24 June 2013

Progress At Coed Y Bedw

Following several sorties to Coed Y Bedw by members by Cardiff Bird Ringers good progress is being made with the site

The site has in excess of 100 plus boxes which have been put out by volunteer staff over the last couple of years, this years occupancy of the boxes have been the usual suspects Blue / Great Tits, Nuthatch which have recently fledged &  Common Redstart also recently fledged.

The first full day visit was conducted by members of the Cardiff Ringers on 26th May 2013 with checked boxes showing an occupancy rate of 69%

The second full day was conducted on 28th May 2013 with different boxes being visited the occupancy rate of these boxes was 70%

Whilst visiting a nest box on 26th May 2013 the below was found, a possible Redstart egg amongst Blue Tits eggs

A further visit tonight and this was witnessed

A Common Redstart with A Brood of 5 Blue Tits

Monday, 3 June 2013

Colour Ring Sightings Welcome

Many Thanks to Andy Burns who got in touch with this fantastic shot of a colour ringed reed warbler.

Reed Warbler with colourful 'shackles'

This bird was ringed as an adult last year and was one of 446 reed warblers ringed in our monitoring sites in 2012. For more information about our colour-ring projects or if you want to see our general monitoring results please get in touch.
All our monitoring data is submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology and the Harbour Authority and is used to inform management at the reserve. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Bird in the Hand

Learning new techniques is a daily occurrence when working so closely with such distinguished visionaries.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Cardiff Bird Ringer in Ireland

Seven months ago, Twinkletoes Hallam left Wales to watch fluffy mammals in Northern Ireland, a new C permit in hand. Seven months later, ringing sites were finally secured and the first tentative steps into a world of semi-independence were taken.

What followed were several lessons in habitat assessment and net placement. Clearly the initial net locations were woefully inadequate and were scorned by the local birds, with only a couple of blackbirds and a blackcap to show for the first couple of hours. But lo and behold, moving the 18m net 15ft seemed to make it a much more attractive proposition, and 8 birds were caught in 40 minutes. The two 12m nets are currently sulking after being chastised for poor performance. Unfortunately the clouds decided that the increased success was unacceptable and by the time everything was packed away, all was sodden.

Bird #3. Evidently more photogenic than birds 1 & 2 which the camera decided weren't worth focussing on.

The session was finished with 13 birds ringed, a 6M blackbird being the first. It's a start and it was good to finally get out. Birds were caught, lessons were learned and I'm finally an active C ringer. A-woohoo! The Cardiff Bird Ringing Group has invaded Northern Ireland and we're up and running.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Postcard from accross the water

A big thank you to Mike Jones of Devonshire who recently sent us this photo below of a Cossie Coot abroad, well in Exeter.

BCF auditioning for the part of "T-rex chasing car" in Jurassic Park

Despite a reputation of not moving (when did you last see a coot flying) we've had some good movements of Coots away form Cosmeston - see here and here for examples.

We'd also like to re-iterate our plea to local birds to report colour ringed sightings to us at even if the bird is ringed at the site its seen at. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Reedbed Fever!

I dont know why it excites me so much,  but everytime I walk past a reedbed -which is a lot- I have to stand and listen for ten minutes- just to check.
I did the same this morning- at 5:20am, while my heart filled with joy, my heart dropped because...they're back!
Larry. He was pleased to see me too

Monday, 15 April 2013


It was a case of Cardiff Ringers to the rescue today. Pliers Morris (bad ass ringer on weekends but by day a mild mannered librarian at the University of South Wales) called to say that a Pied Wagtail had found its way into his booked domain and was largely being ignored by students, and was refusing to leave until it had caused a scene.
Cue the Cardiff Ringers! Our mission to liberate Mr Wag to somewhere people would actually enjoy seeing it. Armed with a mist net and a bit of persuasion (Facey with a pole) it was mere moments before the 'wag was caught and released. These moments were of course filled with twitters of delight as students realised something was happening as we ushered the 'wag to liberation.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Howdy Stranger!

Brrr its been cold, which is probably why we haven't had a repeat of this sight in the CCW bird observatory, despite it being late March.

But a pair of ducks have been frequenting the office quad more and more recently. As one eagle-eyed colleague noticed the female of the pair was ringed, Facey whipped out his might midget (naughty) in order to read the ring. And lo GR38123 was spotted.

She was one of four ducklings ringed at the site in 2011 and this is the first we've heard of any of the brood. They took a bit of catching that year but we learnt, improved our technique and so we should be able to ring GR38123's ducklings (if she has any) more quickly than she was.

All those years ago - GR38123 (or one of her
siblings) as a baby.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Chiffys Are Back

Suddenly they're everywhere. Six new Chiffchaffs ringed today, first migrants of the summer to come, including this one sporting both a 'pollen horn' and a 'pollen lump'- sure evidence that it's been spending the winter somewhere sunny with its face deep in flowers full of nectar and pollen, i.e. probably not in Cardiff.  

These accretions always seem to disappear pretty quick once the birds start poking about in our damp vegetation, and certainly don't seem to cause any inconvenience.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Colour Ring Calamity

Sometimes the Gods of Ringing really try your patience*. Needless to say several blackbirds went un-colour ringed this morning due to breakage after breakage. The air was a dark blue. Hot drinks were needed not only to calm the nerves but also take the brittleness out of the colour rings, sadly none were available. Still it was a nice morning and a good excuse to have a bacon sandwich!

*the happier version of events will be found on our sister blog later!