The Sorby Natural History Society, Sheffield

Covering a full range of natural history interests in Sheffield and the surrounding area, providing for both interested beginners and specialists.

Sorby Breck Ringing Group

Secretary: Geoff Mawson, Moonpenny Farm, Farwater Lane, Dronfield, Sheffield S18 6AR
Web Site: Sorby Breck Ringing Group

Sorby Breck Ringing Group is an autonomous group that is associated to the Sorby Natural History Society. It was formed in 1979 by the merger of the Sorby Ringing Group with the Breck Ringing Group. For many years the latter was based at Breck Farm, Staveley. Both groups were active in the Sheffield and north Derbyshire areas, each ringing about 1000 birds per year. Following merger annual ringing totals began to rise and have grown steadily.

In 2004 SBRG ringed 11782 birds.
In 2005 SBRG ringed 9100 birds.
In 2006 SBRG ringed 10882 birds.
In 2007 SBRG ringed 12685 birds.

Sorby Breck Ringing Group is part of the national network of ringing groups, contributing to the national database run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

Extract from the 2004 Sorby Breck Ringing Group Report

It is worth beginning this 2004 Annual Report with our core purpose, it states that the Group aims: –

“To provide data from ringing activities to support conservation and knowledge of bird species in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.”

It is a core purpose quoted on all our Monthly Newsletters and correspondence to emphasise the importance of our activities. 2004 has seen ringing consolidated at more local sites extending involvement to the management of sites linking more with supporting agencies to share both expertise and information. It has been our best year ever for birds processed.

Continuing links with Sheffield University have facilitated research into bird studies benefiting both organisations by providing a blend of practical fieldwork with laboratory studies into the scientific world of DNA, genetics and avian reproduction strategies.

An Annual Report seeks to present 2004 information to a wider audience placing on record Sorby-Breck’s activities over a calendar year. Computerization of data allows an easy access to the Group’s records and their findings highlighting the many points of interest for those from within the Group and to those who have supported our activities during the year. Ringers are thanked for their input of records with special acknowledgement reserved for David Williams who oversees our records with such skill and thoroughness.

Ringing in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire

Knowing the wintering areas of our local warblers, their migration routes and post breeding areas where they find abundant supplies of insects for their journeys is one way of protecting birds and their habitats. Some sites in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire take on significance conservationally when the results from regular ringing is analysed. It allows us to know more about the localities that support the largest numbers. Recoveries from other sites inform us of their movements about the area during their stay and questions, why?

The site at Hathersage for example is seen as one of special importance for the maintenance and improvement of Grey Wagtail numbers. The species post breeding dispersal is a vulnerable time for juvenile birds. Finding abundant insects, as they become independent feeders is a case of life or death for young Wagtails. With 54 Grey Wagtails ringed at Hathersage during this period, the habitat is seen to be of major importance for this species usually observed in small numbers, but with larger gatherings occurring at this site when recently fledged.

Meadow Pipits and Merlins move from their moorland breeding areas to the coast during winter. The topography of our region is a west to east altitudinal slope with landscape ranging from moorland at Ramsley Reservoir to Renishaw Park, with its lowland woodland habitat, providing habitat variations ranging from 800ft. to 100ft.

Our Thrush species, Finches and Buntings are frequently recovered further South in winter as birds travel greater distances in their search for food. Harsh weather affects their populations with evidence of long distance movements when birds from our region move further afield. In the case of Reed Buntings such movements appear to be followed by a population slump, often one slow to recover. Recoveries also repeat the same directional movements for many of our Finches and Buntings.

Putting a metal ring on a bird’s leg is a simple operation and one way of studying the migration of birds. The computerization of all the birds ringed by our Group and the centralization of data by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) improves still further the body of knowledge of bird species at particular sites in our area. Marshland habitat is scarce in our region and yet vital to the success of species such as Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers. Open scrub and rank vegetation near riverbanks and farmland holds the majority of our Whitethroats and Grasshopper Warblers where they breed. The same sites assume vital importance during late July and August as migrant Warblers disperse, feed and add body weight for their migratory flights ahead. Poor weather conditions during this time mean that these sites become significant to local populations. Evidence from retrapped migrants show birds feeding during this period returning early to breed at the same localities in future years. Dispersal through our area of migrant species provides some birds with a suitable breeding locality for the following year. What happens to marshland and farmland habitat during winter months begins to take on greater significance when this behaviour is considered and yet we rarely manage sites for invertebrates and migrant birds.

Ringing shows that our central location within the British Isles results in partial migration of many local bird species. In the case of Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Starling, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest and Siskin there is evidence of both resident and immigrant wintering populations. Knowledge and importance of the areas they use and the food species they rely on continues to remain important. Little conservation exists to actively promote management strategies for sites within our region. Perhaps the next few seasons require a rethink of our approach to such habitats, their viability and conservational management.

By Geoff Mawson – Ringing Secretary

Annual Report 2007

Having a clear sense of purpose is important to Sorby-Breck Ringing Group. It is to:

‘provide data from ringing activities to support conservation and knowledge of bird species in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.’

Milestones come and go, 2007 makes forty year of ringing for myself with thirty-five years as Ringing Secretary, first as Ringing Secretary of Breck Ring Group and then as Ringing Secretary of the combined area group. If is fitting to mark this with the highest ever total of birds ringed by the Group. Heartening too, because it reflects the increased activities of Group members. 2007 has produced some interesting birds, pride of place going to two Firecrests and a Great Grey Shrike.

The totals ringed for each species provide some interesting comparisons over the years with 2007 ending with good numbers of Siskins, Redpoll and Brambling in the area. The winter holds positive upward expectations for all three finches.

The web-site heralded in the 2006 Report came online in October 2007. The three-month end of year statistics are impressive. Monthly updates show fifteen visits/day making its content available to Group members and a wider audience alike.

Web Site

The group Web site is at Sorby Breck Ringing Group

A ‘login’ section within the site is designated to Group members only via a password. Its focus is to keep members informed of ‘headline’ news to supplement the monthly Newsletter. Its effectiveness is determined by members themselves. Access to the 2007 Annual Report is also via the web-site address, another innovation. This ease of access will allow articles to be archived for future use with monthly Newsletters serving as a vehicle for content.

Single species study along with the study of specific localities continue. The Report cover is of a Swallow celebrating over a thousand Swallow pullus ringed by Harry in 2007. The effort of visiting all those farms deserves our congratulations. Harry was attacked by cows and by two hairdressers who were suspicious of his intentions near to their premises! In addition, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Tree Sparrow, Dipper, Tawny Owl, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Hobby, Ring Ouzel, Mute Swan, Peregrine, Merlin, Snipe and Goshawk have received specific attention, although the number of birds ringed often fails to match the efforts contributed by ringers.

New sites at Bakewell, Baslow, Carr Vale and Derwent have been established with two Constant Effort Sites at Tinsley and Williamthorpe. Comparative results from Williamthorpe show encouraging trends for species like Chiffchaff, but unprecedented wet Summer weather took its expected toll on Willow, Sedge and Reed Warblers.

Biodiversity Action Plan Bird List

The Group contributes fully with national and County Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP). It is a priority for Group members. Articles in this Report contains records and reports from further afield, but it is worth repeating that local priorities in a National setting remain a driving force for our activities. Wider experiences allow individuals within the Group to function at higher personal levels of competence to focus on this core purpose more effectively. The following list includes the variety of species identified for their specific (BAP) concerns. This is an additional to other National Schedule One rarities.

New to BAP list On previous BAP list and retained
Red Grouse Grey Partridge
Lapwing Turtle Dove
Curlew Nightjar
Cuckoo Woodlark
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Skylark
Tree Pipit Song Thrush
Yellow Wagtail Spotted Flycatcher
Dunnock Tree Sparrow
Ring Ouzel Linnet
Grasshopper Warbler Bullfinch
Wood Warbler Reed Bunting
Willow Tit Corn Bunting
Marsh Tit
House Sparrow
Lesser Redpoll

Although it falls upon me to thank David Williams each year for maintaining our computerised records, I don’t do this lightly. His expertise, thoroughness and time commitment updates all our records allowing an easy access for those within the Group and enables the website to be updated easily. Finally, my thanks to all Group members for their tireless fieldwork providing the data that makes this Report possible.

By Geoff Mawson – Ringing Secretary

Previous Publications

The first twenty years of bird ringing by Sorby Natural History Society and Breck Ringing Group was summarised and published in 1980 in Ringing and Recoveries in the Sheffield Area (Sorby Record Special Series No 2) by Alan Crabtree and Geoff Mawson.

The two Groups combined in 1979 to become Sorby-Breck Ringing Group and the following decade’s results were featured in, Bird Ringing in the Sheffield Area, Sorby Breck Ringing Group Report for 1980-1990, edited by Jon Hornbuckle.