Ringing Review of 2021

A bad breeding season, no access to Thames Water land, further Covid restrictions... Ringing totals were low, but where were the bright spots?

Ringing and Results

Four ringers dragging a net to catch Jack Snipe in the meadow
Drag netting in the Meadow for Jack Snipe, Jan 2021

A review of ringing in 2021

Jan Swan reports:

In 2021 we ringed a total of 1,775 new birds, which is a decrease of just over 100 from 2020, just under 50% of the long-term average and the second-lowest total in the group’s 62 years of operation.  A total of 54 species were ringed: a decrease of two from 2020, just over 80% of the long-term average and joint fourth-lowest with 2011.  A bad breeding season for many species combined with the ongoing lack of access to the Thames Water site and the continuing restriction on the number of people allowed on site for much of the year has once again clearly had an impact on our activities and ringing figures (see the table below).

As perhaps expected, with access to only one duck trap during most of the year, the number of waterfowl ringed is once again low and only Mallard and Teal made it onto the ringing list.  However, our new duck trap on No. 3 Lagoon is starting to produce the goods as three of the four Mallard ringed were caught there.

Once again, the number of Jack Snipe ringed was in double figures and was only one away from matching the current high of 15.  Unfortunately, conditions in the meadows weren’t favourable for netting the number of Snipe we’re accustomed to and only three were caught and ringed.  The Common Sandpiper ringed was our first for five years and Tawny Owl made it back onto the ringing list after one blank year.  Species we would normally expect to ring but missed out on were Sand Martin and Swallow, due to the absence of any major roosts.  House Martin was also absent for the third year in a row.

Continuing its bid to overtake Sedge Warbler as the group’s top-ringed species, and despite a 44% drop from the previous year, Reed Warbler once again was our most-ringed species this year with 286.  Its average year on year increase between 1960 and 2021 is now 1%, whereas Sedge Warbler is -4%.

The remaining top four ringing total spots go to Blue Tit in second place (193), Chiffchaff in third (188), Black-headed Gull in fourth (185) and Sedge Warbler in fifth (153).

The highlight from the period was undoubtedly the two Rock Pipits caught in a mist net in the first meadow; our third and fourth for this species with the last two having been ringed in 1969 and 1978.

We managed all bar one of the North CES visits this year with figures similar to last year, which confirms how bad this year has been as we only carried out the latter half of the sessions in 2020. We were unable to carry out any visits to our South CES site for the second year running due to access restrictions.

In terms of recoveries, our Black-headed Gull pulli ringing is reaping some rewards with birds to Cambridgeshire and Worcestershire, three to London and the home counties, and two of this years’ birds venturing a bit further afield to Pembrokeshire and Cornwall.  Two Cetti’s Warblers have moved from our site: one unfortunately ‘fell from the air’ and was pronounced dead in Oxfordshire and the other was controlled a couple of times at Foulness in Essex.  We’ve also had a Blackcap controlled in Berkshire, the usual Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler recoveries in Hertfordshire and the south of England plus France and Portugal, and a Reed Bunting was controlled in Greater Manchester.

As for controls, birds which were ringed elsewhere and re-caught or re-sighted, mainly via colour rings at Rye Meads, there have been the usual Mute Swans from Essex and Hertfordshire, Black-headed Gulls from Gloucestershire (our first control from that county), London, Aberdeenshire, Essex, and a previously reported bird from Croatia.  Additionally, there were Reed Warblers from Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, France, and Belgium, and a Lesser Redpoll from Derbyshire, our first ever control from that county.

Looking forward to 2022, thankfully we should shortly be regaining access to part of the Thames Water site, which will increase our netting and duck trapping options, plus we’ll be able to run the south CES again.  Since shortly before the pandemic started, we’ve also had a glut of enquiries from potential trainees, whom we’re now excited to be able to invite down to see what it’s all about.  You never know, we may be about to meet some of the next generation of regulars who’ll carry on the baton of our long-standing group and run with it for the next 60-odd years.… here’s hoping!

Species1960-201920202021Grand TotalComments
Canada Goose20912212
Mute Swan30726315
Egyptian Goose1313
Shelduck4141
Garganey11
Shoveler4343
Gadwall652652
Mallard2,174142,179Second lowest after last year since 1968
Pintail11
Teal52845537
Pochard5252
Tufted Duck1,0291,029
Ruddy Duck88
Red-legged Partridge22
Grey Partridge33
Manx Shearwater11
Little Grebe158158
Great Crested Grebe1717
Bittern22
Grey Heron17118
Little Egret11
Gannet11
Shag11
Cormorant66
Sparrowhawk9821101
Water Rail14421147
Moorhen2,083242,089
Coot1,343131,347
Lapwing114114
Ringed Plover1616
Little Ringed Plover212212
Bar-tailed Godwit11
Ruff11
Dunlin1515
Little Stint11
Woodcock55
Jack Snipe1141014138One short of our record year of 2018
Snipe29643303
Common Sandpiper2711272
Green Sandpiper88290
Solitary Sandpiper11
Redshank2424
Wood Sandpiper22
Greenshank33
Black-headed Gull1,9761741852,335
Common Gull11
Herring Gull11
Common Tern2,692712,700The worst year for the colony since it started in 1971
Stock Dove17657188
Woodpigeon33424340
Turtle Dove7878
Collared Dove75277
Cuckoo10021103
Barn Owl729
Tawny Owl22325Equals our best year
Little Owl1010
Long-eared Owl44
Short-eared Owl11
Swift6,9016,901
Kingfisher1,4111081,429Lowest total since 1966
Wryneck55
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker2828
Great Spotted Woodpecker17121174Lowest total since 1989
Green Woodpecker9898 Second blank year in a row, last happened 1986-7
Kestrel125125
Hobby11
Great Grey Shrike22
Jay14813152
Magpie49614501
Jackdaw11
Carrion Crow1891190
Coal Tit30131
Marsh Tit99
Willow Tit430430
Blue Tit11,80812219312,123
Great Tit9,724591209,903
Bearded Tit162162
Skylark268268
Sand Martin7,358257,383First blank year for nine years
Swallow6,638316,669First blank year for ten years
House Martin7,8777,877
Cetti's Warbler4614545551As last year, a total we've only beaten four times
Long-tailed Tit3,98536404,061
Wood Warbler22
Willow Warbler8,7551648,775Lowest total since 1961
Chiffchaff9,2361521889,576
Sedge Warbler24,40126715324,821Lowest total since 1961
Reed Warbler18,06541128618,762Lowest total since 2003
Grasshopper Warbler11221115
Savi's Warbler11
Blackcap12,55210513812,795
Garden Warbler3,5041183,523Lowest total since 1972
Barred Warbler22
Lesser Whitethroat2,847142,852Just the third single figure total since 1967
Whitethroat5,24935435,327Second lowest for 29 years
Firecrest1313
Goldcrest96386977Lowest total for 30 years
Wren6,84552616,958After last year, lowest total since 1966
Nuthatch1212
Treecreeper41721420
Starling3,266183,275
Ring Ouzel11
Blackbird7,94322277,992Second lowest after last year in our 62 years
Fieldfare5781579
Redwing1,0734141,118Our best since 2003 and eighth best in 61 years
Song Thrush4,6937134,713Second lowest after last year in our 62 years
Mistle Thrush2020
Spotted Flycatcher108108
Robin3,98745324,064Lowest total since 1960
Bluethroat11
Nightingale1414
Pied Flycatcher77
Black Redstart44
Redstart1414
Whinchat58159
Stonechat7474
Wheatear4141
Dipper11
House Sparrow3,8733,873
Tree Sparrow4,9584,958
Dunnock7,83120517,902Second lowest after last year since 1961
Yellow Wagtail1,5481,548
Grey Wagtail37511377
Pied Wagtail4,0844,084
Meadow Pipit1,422181,431
Tree Pipit44
Water Pipit40242The fifth and sixth birds this millennium
Rock Pipit224Our third and fourth birds ringed
Chaffinch3,595123,598Second lowest after last year since 1960
Brambling163163
Hawfinch22
Bullfinch3,24033,243Second lowest after last year since 1960
Greenfinch11,22711,227This and last year the only two blanks in our 62 years
Linnet5,6265,626
Lesser Redpoll821259855
Goldfinch3,4764143,494
Siskin8383
Corn Bunting231231
Yellowhammer1,662291,691
Little Bunting11
Reed Bunting9,42659449,529
Total ringed252,4511,8771,775256,103
Number of species1415654141

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