Colour Ringing at Sculthorpe Moor Hawk and Owl Trust reserve

Just to introduce myself my name is Phil Littler and I have been ringing birds at Sculthorpe Moor for about 4 years. My main interest is Owls and birds of prey, but as the reserve has flourished and the habitat changed over the years, I thought it would be interesting to colour ring Sedge and Reed Warblers.

The main reason to colour ring a bird is that it can easily be individually recognised in the field, and as such a comprehensive record can be built up, possibly over several years, of a bird’s movements. Colour ringing involves adding a unique colour combination of rings, along with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) metal ring, to the bird’s legs. These colour rings are made of a very light plastic, and in no way hinder the bird. Colour ringing has proved to be an effective way of logging a birds details, as an individual can be recognised without the need to re-trap.

As the reedbed at the Moor has increased, so have the numbers of these summer visiting Warblers, and as more of the woodland will be cut down and returned to reed and sedge, so hopefully the numbers will continue to increase. Plans at the moment involve the cutting down and removal of all the Poplars along the western side of the reserve, along with some of the Birch trees, and when this is completed next year, should increase the size of the reedbed by about 30%.

For those of you who know the reserve, I undertook just four ringing sessions this summer in front of the Paul Johnson Hide; two in June, and one in both July and August.  A total of 52 birds were caught and ringed, broken down to 37 Reed and 15 Sedge; one of the Reed Warblers had previously been caught and ringed at nearby Guist by Ray Gribble, and another was ringed elsewhere (I’m still waiting to find out from the BTO exactly where and when). All the birds ringed this year had a Blue plastic over the metal BTO on the right leg, with a combination of two colours on the left leg, the combination being made up of blue, yellow, dark green, red, orange, black, lime and lastly white.

Next spring I will have made up some reporting forms which will be left in the hides and visitor centre, so please do record any of your sightings. I intend to run this scheme for 5 years, but I as I work shifts I cannot always get down the Moor when I would like to, and consequently will miss many sightings. I am also doing a colour ringing scheme on Marsh and Willow Tits, in conjunction with the Norfolk Ornithology Association (NOA), but more of that later.

Phil Littler

North West Norfolk Ringing Group

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