Today I spent the morning at Stanford Reservoir with John Cranfield and the Stanford Ringing Group – what a great bunch! This band (if you excuse the American pun), active at Stanford since 1976, ring up to 4,000 birds annually with one of their goals being the introduction of people to bird ringing, training them and enabling them to gain a bird ringing licence. They also undertake a program of site maintenance (scrub management and clearance) during the winter months in conjunction with Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.
The busiest months are July/August, when the area is flooded with locally-bred juvenile birds; at this time 150-180 birds trapped per day is not unusual. Today was quiet with only around 35 birds trapped, many of which were retraps of birds previously ringed at the site. Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats predominated but we also trapped this first-summer Lesser Whitethroat, aged by the absence of a white tip
to the penultimate outer tail feathers, further supported by the reduced amount of white in the outer tail feathers. A cracking little bird and a great example of putting birds under the spotlight to allow in-hand examination to reveal ID and ageing features not normally
visible in the field. With the increasing interest in ageing and sexing individual birds in the field, along with the tendency to ‘split’ races, feather-by-feather scrutiny of all birds is now at its highest level, with trapping and ringing playing an important role in the process of confirming and establishing ID criteria.
But let’s not forget the original purpose of ringing, which is to produce information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, to enable an understanding of population dynamics and, ultimately, to help with conservation initiatives for species under threat. An amazing statistic involves a Common Whitethroat retrapped at Stanford on 21st April; originally ringed on 24th July 2004, it is 95 days short of the European longevity record for this species which is also held at Stanford. This also means that this individual must have crossed theSahara at least 15 times! The Stanford Ringing Group have also trapped their fair share of County rarities, including, Hoopoe, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaff and ‘Northern’ Willow Warbler. So watch this space …