Ringing Report 2021

The Flamborough Bird Observatory (FBO) ringing group comprises the historical recording area east of the Dykes on Flamborough Headland together with operations at Bempton, mainly at Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve.  Totals of ringed birds are also given for Buckton, however all ringing at that site is independent of the FBO ringing group.

The purpose of the ringing group will be to gather data on wild birds, especially migrants, which are found in the FBO area.  The secondary purpose will be to assist in the training of people in the techniques of trapping, handling and ringing wild birds. In 2021 we trialled a constant effort site (CES) in the scrub at the Thornwick Bay Holiday Camp.  The CES scheme is a national standardised ringing programme started in 1983 and now including c.150 different locations throughout Britain and Ireland.  The scheme provides valuable trend information on abundance of adults and juveniles, productivity and also adult survival rates for 24 species of common songbird.

Totals of new birds caught on the outer head were 3518 individuals of 57 species which is the second highest ever for the bird observatory, although one must take into account the unprecedented number of Starling which were ringed in a Flamborough garden. Indeed the two Flamborough gardens in the village and at Ocean View accounted for 72% of all birds ringed, leaving short of a thousand birds ringed ‘in the field’.  In fairness we experienced a year of low numbers in evidence for much of the season, with daily catches often below 20 new birds. The ‘waves’ of autumn migrants failed to materialise, which was no better illustrated than by the paltry total of Goldcrest caught, 17, as compared to our average of 300+ over the previous 5 years.

The top 5 species ringed east of the dykes during 2021 were:   Starling 1577, Redwing 227, Blackbird 230, Tree Sparrow 178 and Goldfinch 122.  Migrant warbler numbers were a somewhat disappointing total of 283 after a recent sequence of good years. Despite this Reed Warbler at 20 birds returned its best total in the history of the Bird Observatory and 27 Lesser Whitethroat equalled last year’s record-breaking total. The Blackcap (65) and Chiffchaff (38) totals were both extremely disappointing after their recent highest ever year totals!

Our now annual targeting of Meadow Pipit passage during September turned out to be a non-event with a paltry 33 birds eventually captured and 20 of these were on a single day, the 12th Sept. The use of mp3. bird lures is essential in order to catch this species in any meaningful numbers, as also seems to be the case for Redwing. The total for Redwing of 220 birds was the second-best annual total for the Observatory, added to which a Belgian-ringed bird of this species was captured in October.

A breakdown of birds ringed by month is given in the table below:


The high totals for June, July and August were, in the main, the result of ‘whoosh-netting’ Starlings. 80% of all new birds caught in these months were of that species.

Aside from that, the two most productive months were as usual September and October, traditionally the months when the headland experiences its highest numbers of migrant birds. The Ringing and Migration Week (October 9th – 16th) held in conjunction with our friends at Filey Bird Observatory returned a disappointing 308 new birds of 29 species ringed on the outer head. 16 sessions at 4 sites over the 8 consecutive days, averaged less than 20 new birds each session.  The effort was there, but the birds weren’t! 

The bird of the year must surely be the Red-breasted Flycatcher caught at South Landing during Ringing and Migration Week.  The number of Goldfinch (122) ringed was again the highest year total since the Observatory was founded, whereas Lesser Redpoll and Yellow-browed Warbler were noticeable by their absence – a meagre 8 and 1 individual, respectively, caught during the whole of the autumn.  

 Flamborough Bird Observatory would like to thank the landowners on whose property the ringers set their nets;  The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Flamborough Head Golf Club and The East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the RSPB Bempton Cliffs.  We would also like to thank individuals who gave donations during the ringing and migration week, with which we were able to buy some new equipment.  

All ringing efforts of the Flamborough Bird Observatory group, East of the Dykes and at Bempton were supported by David Aitken, Sophie Bennett, Phil Bone, Jenny Butterworth, Paul Butterworth, Richard Cope, Tony Corscadden, Ana Cowie, Nathaniel Dargue, Harriet Day, Andy Hood, Jo Hood, Tony Hood, Andy Jayes, Jarrod Johnson, John McEachen, Jim Morgan, Elliot Morley, Poppy Rummery, Saskia Wischnewski, Graham Scott, Will Scott and our friends from the Stanford Ringing Group who stayed a week with us in September;  Stuart Heath, David Neal, Peter Norrie

Bird ringing to the west of the Dykes was carried out at Bempton and Buckton.

Bempton Cliffs RSPB 

Ringing totals were markedly lower at Bempton RSPB in 2021 when compared to the previous year.

The Tree Sparrow nest record scheme project continued into a fourth, successful consecutive year with 272 nestlings  ringed from the nest boxes. 

In addition 10 general netting sessions were carried out between May and October, averaging 34 new birds per visit.  This site has the potential to do so much better if we could increase the manpower.  The year’s highlight was the two Yellow-browed Warbler ringed in October. 


Ringing undertaken by Mark Thomas and Ed Green took place at Buckton in 2021 with a total of 260 new birds of 36 species caught and ringed in the 12-month period. 

The figures for the year were well below the Buckton twenty-year average, due largely to unconducive autumn weather conditions with no falls of migrants of any significance except for a short spell in mid-August that produced a few days with good numbers of Willow Warblers.

The combined top five birds ringed for the year were: Willow Warbler 23, Wren 22, Tree Sparrow 20, Blackbird 18, Dunnock 17 and Meadow Pipit 17.

Two broods of both Barn Owl (5) and Kestrel (8) were ringed. 

Only one rare/scarce bird was ringed during the year, a Green Warbler on 9th September, a new species for Yorkshire.

Thanks are extended to landowners Angus Wielkopolski and the Makin family

Flamborough Headland Ringing Totals

SpeciesEast of DykesBemptonBucktonGrand Total
Storm Petrel11
Collared Dove11
Barn Owl16613
Long-eared Owl11
Great Spotted Woodpecker66
House Martin11
Meadow Pipit3411752
Rock Pipit11
Grey Wagtail33
Pied Wagtail11
Ring Ouzel22
Song Thrush275335
Sedge Warbler175830
Reed Warbler202527
Lesser Whitethroat27330
Garden Warbler516
Yellow-browed Warbler123
Green Warbler11
Willow Warbler4462373
Red-breasted Flycatcher11
Pied Flycatcher415
Long-tailed Tit392463
Coal Tit1818
Blue Tit11487129
Great Tit715985
Carrion Crow11
House Sparrow42143
Tree Sparrow17834420542
Lesser Redpoll88
Reed Bunting1021022
Species total573234


During 2021 for all movements in excess of 5km, there were 21 reports of Flamborough and Bempton ringed birds moving to other localities together with 13 findings of birds which had been ringed previously elsewhere. There were four international exchanges involving, Cormorant, Blackbird, Redwing and Lesser Redpoll. 

Selected 2021 ringing recoveries involving the Flamborough Headland


291490               1       03/06/2021     Wasservogelreservat, Wallnau Germany    54046’N 11003’E        

                          VV    23/10/2021      Flamborough Head  540 7’N, 00 6’W     721 km W    163 days          

Barn Owl

GC97259           1        27/06/2019     Bempton Cliffs RSPB 

                          Inj      05/02/2021     Carnaby, Bridlington   10 km SW  589 days

Barn Owl are an often reported bird when ringed, however movements reflect their sedentary nature. The longest distance for a Flamborough ringed bird to figure in these reports is 25km.


LN15270          3F      28/11/2020    Flamborough Head    

                         Xf      24/02/2021    Hagg Wood, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorks   58km WNW    88days

LH06373          3F      09/11/2017    Flamborough Head  540 7’N, 00 6’W     

                         Xf      29/03/2021    Habet, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway  58049’N 5043’E  633 km NE 1236 days


10X22814         3       13/10/2020    Nijlen, Antwerpen,  Belgium  51008’N 4040’E 

                          R      12/10/2021    Flamborough Head  540 7’N, 00 6’W     461 km NW    364 days  

Lesser Whitethroat

AVN4543         3        10/10/2020    Bempton Cliffs RSPB

                        VV      18/01/2021    Elvington, York    57 km WSW   100 days

Re-sighted in a York garden in December, is the Lesser Whitethroat developing a habit of wintering in Britain?


KAN057          5        26/04/2020     Flamborough Head

                         R       01/05/2021     North Ronaldsay Bird Obs.  Orkney   601 km NNW   370 days         

NBL722           3J      24/08/2021     Flamborough Head

                          R      08/10/2021     Filey Brigg Country Park, Filey, N.Yorks    17 km NW    45 days

Great Tit

AFR2756        3J      05/08/2021    Marton, Sinnington, North Yorks

                         R      08/11/2021    Flamborough Head    53 km ESE    95 days

AVN5103       3M    17/09/2021    Bempton Cliffs RSPB 

                         R      09/102021    Filey Brigg Country park, North Yorks    10 km NW    22 days

ACN7259        3J     19/07/2020    Spennithorne, North Yorks

                          R     06/06/2021    Flamborough Head    112 km ESE    322 days.

Two exceptional movements for birds of this species.


LN16380         3J      13/06/2021     Flamborough Head

                        Xf      25/06/2021     Fourstones, Hexham, Newcastle     167 km NW    12 days

LN69646         3J       09/06/2020     York   

                         R        22/06/2021     Flamborough Head   70 km ENE   378 days

LL69564         3F      13/09/2019     Flamborough Head

                         R      02/06/2021     Osgodby, North Yorks    24 km NW   628 days 

LN08559         3J       13/06/2021    Osgodby, North Yorks

                         R       24/06/2021     Flamborough Head   24 km SE  11 days

In addition to these 2 latter records, there were 10 more individuals that moved between Flamborough Head and Osgodby or vice versa.

Tree Sparrow

TW84136            1        24/06/2021     Bempton Cliffs RSPB

                            R       11/11/2021     Kilnsea Clays, Spurn B.O.      65km SSE    140 days

AVN4884            2       12/10/2020     Flamborough Head

                            Xf      23/11/2021    Dunnington Common, York    60km WSW   407 days


AKH9385         6M       15/04/2020    Flamborough Head

                           R         03/03/2021   Little Barningham, nr. Aylsham, Norfolk      164km SSE   322 days


VZ05050           3M     05/10/2020    Filey Brigg Country Park

                          5M     01/02/2021    Flamborough Head  17 km SE    119 days

                            R      06/06/2021    Flamborough Head  17 km SE    244 days

Lesser Redpoll

APB9389          3M      14/11/2018     Flamborough Head

                            R       07/11/2020     nr. Hollesley Heath, Suffolk     252 km SSE   724 days

APB9422             3        30/09/2018      Flamborough Head 

                            R        07/03/2021     Beechamwell, Swaffam, Norfolk    173 km SSE    889 days 

AVN5336            3        28/09/2020     Flamborough Head

                             R       16/10/2020     Bambois, Namur, Belgium  50022’N 4042’E    528 km SE  18 days

AVN4855            3        10/102020      Flamborough Head

                             R        2204/2021     Brandon, Norfolk     192 km SSE   194 days

A pretty impressive set of re-captures involving a species for which in most years very few are caught at Flamborough.

Reed Bunting  

AED1942          3M      29/09/2020      Filey Brigg Country Park, North Yorks

                             R      09/01/2021      Flamborough Head     17 km SE   102 days

Key to symbols and terms used:

Age/Sex:Manner of recovery:
1   nestlingR   caught and released by a ringer
2   fully grown, year of hatching quite unknownVV  sight record
3   definitely hatched during current calendar yearXf   found freshly dead or dying
3J  still in partial juvenile plumageInj  found injured, later released
4   hatched before current calendar year, exact year unknown
5   hatched in the previous calendar year
6   hatched at least before last calendar years, exact year unknown
M   male
F   female
Age/Sex:Manner of recovery:
1   nestlingR   caught and released by a ringer
2   fully grown, year of hatching quite unknownVV  sight record
3   definitely hatched during current calendar yearXf   found freshly dead or dying
3J  still in partial juvenile plumageInj  found injured, later released
4   hatched before current calendar year, exact year unknown
5   hatched in the previous calendar year
6   hatched at least before last calendar years, exact year unknown
M   male
F   female