Bird Ringing

Kingfisher photographed by Hugh Pihlens
A yellow browed warbler, a rare visitor from Africa, caught during the annual bird ringing in Hungerford

Yellow-browed Warbler, a rare visitor from Siberia

Come and see a demonstration of bird ringing in Freeman’s Marsh.

Wildlife is one of the key aspects of the work of Town & Manor, and year on year we increase our understanding of the wealth of wildlife in the area, and specifically on Freeman’s Marsh, with annual bird monitoring.

This tiny Yellow-browed Warbler is a rare visitor on its way south west from Siberia.

Volunteers with two Red Kite chicks, during the annual bird ringing in Hungerford

Volunteers with two Red Kite chicks, during the annual bird ringing in Hungerford

Bird Monitoring on Freeman’s Marsh

We started bird ringing and monitoring in 2011. This helps us establish the number of birds and variety of species visiting the local area. The ringing has been carried out by John Swallow and Jerry Woodham, both qualified and accredited by the British Trust for Ornithology.

In 2012 we added territory mapping, with members of the Berkshire Downs Ringing Group (BDRG), to gain greater insight into the birds visiting or breeding on Freeman’s Marsh.

See our 2017 Bird Ringing results

Britain's smallest bird, the tiny Goldcrest, caught in bird ringing at Hungerford Town & Manor

Britain’s smallest bird, the tiny Goldcrest

When is the next bird ringing? 

The next BDRG visit will be displayed on Town & Manor notice boards on the north bank of the River Dun, just downstream from the ford and footbridge at the western end of Freeman’s Marsh. While BDRG are not able to work to fixed dates, they will visit one Saturday or Sunday each month between May and August.

A beautifully coloured Kingfisher, by Hugh Pihlens

Beautifully coloured Kingfisher, by Hugh Pihlens

How we catch the birds

Almost invisible nets are set between poles to catch birds for ringing and data collection. The nets don’t harm the birds, and are visited frequently with the birds being carefully removed and taken to our nearby ringing base for examination.

If you see a bird caught in a net, please don’t touch the bird or the net, but speak to one of the trained ringers nearby – they’ll be happy to explain the process.

All the ringers involved in the study carry permits issued by the British Trust for Ornithology, on behalf of the government’s Nature Conservation Agencies.

What you can do during this time

Please help the young birds survive in the critical period from 1st March to 31st July by:

  • Staying on the footpaths and keeping your dog on a short lead wen walking on land between the river and canal
  • Moving away quickly if you see a disturbed or distressed bird
  • Encouraging other dog walkers to follow your example


Birds you might spot, that have visited the area

Barn Owl
Blue Tit
Cettis Warbler
Chinese Swan Geese
Coal Tit
Garden Warbler
Glossy Ibis
Great Tit
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit
Mute Swans
Red Kite
Reed Bunting
Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Song Thrush
Willow Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler

Unusual sightings

The outstanding bird was an Icterine Warbler caught in June at our CES site near Halfway….this was only the third bird ever caught in Berkshire.

Rarely seen Glossy Ibis on Freeman's Marsh, by Jerry Woodham

Rarely seen Glossy Ibis on Freeman’s Marsh, by Jerry Woodham

a kingfisher, photographed by Hugh Pihlens, on a Hungerford river

Kingfisher, by Hugh Pihlens

2017 Bird Ringing results

April results:
Most of the summer migrants are now arriving in large numbers – the Chiffchaffs led the way in late February followed by Blackcaps in March, and now we have lots of Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler singing on their territories.  Whilst overhead the numbers of Swallows and House Martins are building and two male Cukckoos were spotted.


Tawny Owl



Tawny Owl



Garden Warbler



Garden Warbler




Most migrants are now with us. Whilst out ringing on Saturday morning we saw a Common Sandpiper at Harvey’s Meadow, on passage from Africa to its breeding grounds along the fast rivers, lakes, lochs and reservoirs of Scotland, Wales, NI & the North of England. The UK breeding population is 15,000 pairs. One of these birds was seen at almost exactly the same time last year in the same location.

Read more

Our ringing session was from 0530-1030 on Saturday 13th May, during which time we saw at least 3 Cuckoo, including a female, calling up and down the river, and we caught good numbers of Bullfinch and Garden Warbler.

We also caught our first juvenile birds of the season, a Robin and a Long Tailed Tit, both early breeders recently fledged from their nest, and a Reed Warbler from outside our area, which is termed a ‘control’.

Total caught = 35, including 12 Retraps (shown in parentheses)
Robin 3 (1)
Wren 2 (2)
Garden Warbler 3
Blackbird 3 (1)
Willow Warbler 1
Long Tailed Tit 5 (1)
Song Thrush 1 (1)
Reed Warbler 2
Blue Tit 2 (1)
Chiffchaff 4 (1)
Bullfinch 6 (2)
Dunnock 1 (1)
Cetti’s Warbler 1 (1)
Treecreeper 1 (1)
On completion we went to Hungerford Marsh and ringed two Tawny owlets, which were in the box funded by Town & Manor, built by John Swallow and erected two years ago.

Past bird ringing research findings


2015 results – by Jerry Woodham

2015 wasn’t a bad year for bird ringing within our group, we managed to ring just over 5,000 birds, of which 4,430 were new, slightly down on our 2014 figures.

The outstanding bird of the year was an Icterine Warbler, caught in June at our CES site near Halfway. This was only the third bird ever caught in Berkshire.

Read more

As far as Hungerford was concerned, all the ringing took place at Harvey’s Meadow with a total of 1,224 birds of 33 species caught, of which 667 were new. This compares with 1,124 caught in 2014, of which 711 were new.

The total number of birds caught in and around Hungerford since November

2012 is now 5,457 of which 3,524 were new. There are some extra birds to add to this figure, which are held on John’s records since ringing started in late 2011. So probably in excess of 6,000 birds ringed and a total of 47 species so far.

It should be noted that the species count could be increased somewhat by targeting specific species, such as Water Rail, Coot, Grey Wagtail, House Martin and Swift. And of course, our habitat in the river valley is very close to the adjacent downland, where we regularly catch numbers of other species such as Yellowhammer, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Fieldfare, Pied and Yellow Wagtails, Lesser Whitethroat and Meadow Pipits, and also regularly see Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatear on passage.

Below is a list of Hungerford captures by species, with re-traps in brackets, for 2015 

Barn Owl 1
Blackbird 41 (26)
Blackcap  84 (19)
Blue Tit  332 (147)
Bullfinch  25 (16)
Cettis Warbler  19 (12)
Chaffinch  28 (9)
Chiffchaff  54 (11)
Coal Tit  26 (15)
Dunnock  66 (45)
Garden Warbler  1
Goldcrest  12 (5)
Goldfinch  57 (3)
Greenfinch  8
Great Tit  97 (67)
Great Spotted Wp  7 (6)
Kestrel  1 (1)
Kingfisher  1
Long-tailed Tit  126 (78)
Marsh Tit  16 (13)
Moorhen  1 (1)
Nuthatch  5 (5)
Redwing  1
Reed Bunting  3 (1)
Reed Warbler  17 (10)
Robin  68 (36)
Sedge Warbler  11 (2)
Siskin  3
Song Thrush  10 (2)
Sparrowhawk  5
Treecreeper  13 (6)
Willow Warbler  2
Wren  83 (26)

The bird species spotted, 2011-2012

During 2011 and 2012, John and Jerry spotted 97 species from 2789 records and 100 complete lists. Follow this link for their full 2012 end of season report.