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~ About Stanford Ringing Group ~
The Stanford Ringing Group has been ringing birds for 35 years at Stanford Reservoir.
Founder Mick Townsend recalls how it all started, some of the personalities and highlights along the way, plus the present group composition!
In the beginning....
Peter Finden and myself had been ringing together for a while with The Brandon Marsh Ringing Group in Warwickshire. During the winter of 1975 we investigated a possible new ringing site at Stanford Reservoir (SP 6080) on the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
We saw Great Grey Shrike and a pair of Short eared Owls during that first visit and after a walk around the reservoir we decided that it clearly had potential! Although, there was very little vegetation on the Northamptonshire side, the Leicester side looked a lot more promising. In those early days the reservoir was still being used on a regular basis as a water supply to Rugby and therefore the water level often fluctuated, resulting in wide margins of mud where waders could rest and feed.
Permission was obtained from Severn Trent Water and we started ringing on the 8th May 1976 under the banner of the Brandon Marsh Ringing Group.
First catch (birds and trainee)...
Our first catch was 43 birds in the bay on the Leicester side, 32 of these being warblers. We went on to catch 2,534 birds that year (which stood as our annual record until as recently as 2004).
The following week we met a local birder, John Cranfield, who stopped and helped us that day. The following year John became a trainee, quickly gaining his “C” licence and then his “A” in 1980. We ringed together ever year thereafter, both in the UK, and abroad, until Johns untimely death in 2013.
At the end of 1978, Peter Finden decided to give up ringing and concentrate on his birding, so John and I continued, along with the help of a new recruit, Dr David Porter. 1980 saw the eminent Leicestershire ornithologist Ron Hickling (*) join us. Although advancing in age, Ron was a great asset to us and encouraged us to form our own group.
In 1982 the Stanford Ringing Group was formed. Peter Grant (**) designed our logo of Black Terns (a species far more frequent in those days than it has been recently). Ron decided to give up ringing at the end of 1983 and was a great loss to us as he was the font of all local knowledge.
The size of the group has fluctuated greatly over the years from ten or more members down to two, so understandably there have been years when little ringing has been undertaken – notably 1988-91 and 1996-98.
One of our key goals has been to introduce people to bird ringing and we have trained many people to enable them to gain a bird ringing licence. Some of these trainees have gone on to become trainers in their own right.
We also started a programme of site maintenance during the winter months in conjunction with Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust. This takes the form of scrub management and clearance and the work is undertaken each year between January and the end of March. Assistance is always welcome! Afterwards we can usually be found at our local headquarters - The White Hart at South Kilworth!
The management of the scrub around the reservoir has undoubtedly increased the numbers of warblers using the reservoir margins for both breeding and feeding up both before and after migration. We are now ringing, on average, two to three times as many warblers in comparison to earlier years. Over the years there have been a number of interesting species either ringed or recorded at the reservoir.
We've been lucky enough to catch and ring a number of interesting birds for the area such as -
Recoveries and Controls have featured heavily over the years with birds coming and going in all directions. Highlights have been a Chiffchaff down to the Coto Doņana National Park, SPAIN; a Redwing to GERMANY; a Garden Warbler from SPAIN (at the time, this was the first from there to Britain), a Goldcrest from FINLAND (just 20 days after having been ringed there) and a Great Black-backed Gull arriving from within the Arctic circle in RUSSIA.
Without you it wouldn't have been possible...
Finally I would like to give warm and heart felt thanks to the land owners for allowing us access and of course the group members, both past and present, who have given their time and effort unstintingly. Without all of your help the Group’s achievements would not have been possible.
Special thanks, as always, for site access and support to
* RONALD HICKLING (“RAOH”) 1912 - 2006
Ron was born in Leicester and spent a lifetime studying its birds writing “Birds in Leicestershire and Rutland” in 1978 and editing “Enjoying Ornithology” for the BTO in 1983. A frequent visitor to Stanford, he was a founder member of the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society serving as Secretary, Chairman and then President and Honorary Vice President. He also served on Council and Scientific Committees of the British Trust for Ornithology, of which he was Vice-President (1969–1972) and President (1972–1976). He remains the only person to be awarded BTO’s Bernard Tucker Medal twice – 1957 and 1983. The medal is awarded “for outstanding service to the Trust’s scientific work, through Trust surveys or Trust-aided investigations”
** PETER GRANT (“PJG”) 1943 -1990
Peter Grant was an illustrious ornithologist, Chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee (1976 -1986) and on the editorial board of “British Birds” magazine for many years. He authored, co-authored and illustrated many articles and books. His first book, co-written with Dr Jeffery Harrison, “The Thames Transformed” highlighted the return of wildlife to the Thames as the waters became cleaner. His “Gulls – an Identification Guide”, a result of many hours sea-watching at the power station outflow, “The Patch”, off his beloved Dungeness, inspired many to study gulls in far more detail than they had done hitherto. The Collins Bird Guide, co-authored with Killian Mullarney was published after his untimely death.