North Wilts Group
30th April 2016 - Salisbury Plain (centre)
The forecast was for potentially quite breezy conditions by mid-morning with a cold start but the chance to catch some more quality migrants was too good to pass up.
The cold morning turned into a -2°c start with a considerable frost so that some of the first nets we put up had a bit of a frosty sheen to them but thankfully this didn't effect the catch and it soon warmed up. A few Grasshopper Warblers were reeling away early on with some putting more effort into it than others as the closest one gave a few seconds of half speed song which soon stopped once we went over to investigate and a Cuckoo was calling in the far distance.
It soon became apparent that it was going to be a good warbler morning with lots of Blackcap and Willow Warbler around supported by a lot of Whitethroat that started moving once it had warmed up a bit. A pair of Redstart were knocking around the female of which we caught late on and we also added a Grasshopper Warbler to the totals right at the end. as well as ringing our first Garden Warblers of the year.
The most interesting bird of the morning was a very pale and grey coloured Willow Warbler which looked good for a 'Northern' acredula type.
A very productive morning with 82 new, 25 retraps. GD PD OF AB
Wren 1, Dunnock 1, Redstart 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 1(1), Whitethroat 14(2), Garden Warbler 3(1), Blackcap 33(3), Chiffchaff 2(4), Willow Warbler13(8), Goldcrest (2), Long Tailed Tit 1(1), Chaffinch 2, Goldfinch 3, Linnet 2, Bullfinch 1(1), Yellowhammer (1)
19th April 2016 - Salisbury Plain (centre) - early spring migration
With spring now with us and the migration season under way we have had a few visits to our Salisbury Plain site in the last couple of weeks to catch some of the early migrants and get the site set up ready for CES.
The first couple of visits were fairly quiet but we managed to catch reasonable numbers of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap including a good number of retraps going back as far as 2013 and even a retrap Goldcrest from 2014. We’ve also had a control Blackcap that we believe may have been ringed further west at Portishead based on the ring number from a previous control from this area.
A late Redwing was a good catch on our first visit, the first one we have caught at this site in spring and it appears that Redstart has had a good winter as we have seen them on all our visits including 4 (1 caught) today. One has been holding territory at the only large trees on the site where we always seem to get them and where we believe they have bred in the past. Hopefully they will use one of the nestboxes we now have up on the trees before the local Tit’s take advantage.
Early Lesser Whitethroat’s have also been a feature each visit this spring including 3 today but all of them have done a grand tour of the nets rides without getting caught which is a shame as we never seem to catch as many as we used to or should do at this site.
Redstart, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat all made their 2016 debut on the ringing totals today along with 2 of 4 Grasshopper Warbler that were all singing away. All that’s missing for the full warbler set are the above mentioned Lesser Whitethroat’s and Garden Warbler that we’ve neither seen or heard so far.
So far resident birds seem to be well down in number with very few finches caught and virtually nothing from Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush.
One very sad note this year is the total absence of Nightingale’s meaning that this small isolated population right at the edge of their current range in now gone for good. After the very wet 2012 breeding season when all breeding attempts failed was the cold spring of 2013 when no females arrived onsite as they had all stayed to breed in France in the warmer conditions. This meant that the number of returning males on 2014 was down to 3 from 10. Only one of these males attracted a female and that breeding attempt failed just after the young fledged and so were probably predated by badgers. Last year it was down to 2 males and one female and again the only breeding attempt was predated and again probably by badgers. Nightingale therefore joins Turtle Dove in the extinct from this site list. GD, PD. OF, AB
Totals so far, 158 new, 59 retraps: Wren 7(3), Dunnock 5(11), Robin 1(5), Redstart, Blackbird 1(1), SongThrush 1(2), Redwing 1, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Sedge Warbler 2, Reed Warbler 1, Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 88(5), Chiffchaff 7(17), Willow Warbler 18(5), Goldcrest 3(1), Long Tailed Tit 2(4), Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 2(2), Linnet 3, Bullfinch 7(3), Yellowhammer 3
3rd April 2016 - Pewsey Downs
Though I get a bit sad to see the wintering flocks break up I have been looking forward to April to start the Tree Sparrow 'Retrap Adults for Survival Project' (RAS) for the year. RAS requires us to catch a certain number of adults of a certain species during the breeding season which is counted as between April to the end of August so that survival rates can be calculated. Tree Sparrows are one of the most challenging species to catch but we found that the data we collected last summer was of such high quality that the effort was well worth the while.
I have left ringing this site for a month so that it was primed for the first session in April but it can only be ringed when the weather is flat calm so there are no guarantees that we can ring it. On my way to the site it was raining but with the forecast set to improve, I carried on and as I arrived on site the rain stopped and the wind calmed down to nothing.
The first round was brilliant as I took a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler out and then I saw the bright pink legs that can only mean one warbler - Grasshopper! I knew immediately that this was a notable record because I normally hear my first ones in mid April. It turned out that is was in fact the earliest ever Grasshopper Warbler to be recorded in Wiltshire. It really was a strange place to catch such a fantastic bird. Grasshopper Warblers favour long grassy areas but this one was caught by a pile of tyres around a silage clamp but I guess that it was grounded by the rain that went through just before dawn.
There was a lovely flock of about 80 Corn Buntings and I did really well catching 5. Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows trickled in in decent numbers for the time of year and a Pied Wagtail was a nice surprise and despite the fact that they are ever present on site it was the first full grown one that I have ringed at the site since 2001!
Tree Sparrows are always interesting because the retraps tell us the story of how they move around the downs and todays retraps were all ringed as nestlings and included 4 from 3km west, 2 from 2km north and 1 from 12km away on the Marlborough Downs. Same site retraps included 2 from last year and 2 from 2014.
I was on my own today and it was quite nice to bimble around on my own but a group of birders came over to see me and we had a really nice chat and though they missed the Grasshopper Warbler they did get to see Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer close up. MP
Tree Sparrow 9 (11), Corn Bunting 5, Yellowhammer 32 (6), Chaffinch 11, Linnet 2, Goldfinch 2, Chiffchaff 4, Willow Warbler 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Pied Wagtail 1, Wren 2, Blackbird 2, Robin 2
2nd April 2016 - WHOOSH!
The team have been pushing me to try different methods, particularly with the number of lost days earlier in the winter. I have been regaling them with rose-tinted stories from yesteryear about whoosh netting and they have all been badgering me to dust off my whoosh net. A whoosh net is a large net that is fired using powerful bungee elastics under tension but not a lot of ringers have whoosh nets these days.
I have found that just putting a whoosh net out and putting a pile of grain there does not work because our farmland birds are just too cautious so I have set up dummy poles and elastics and keeping the areas fed for a few weeks and with today forecast for being too windy for mist netting today was the day. We met up mid morning and after me having to go back home to get one of the elastics we had set a net where I have been watching decent numbers of Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers coming down. We sat back in the car and were treated to a lovely close quarter performance by a stoat. He disappeared and we were then able to sit back and wait for the birds. The addition of the net made the birds quite wary and the Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows thought better of it. The Linnets however were much more obliging and we took a catch, reset and then took another. 26 Linnets, 2 Chaffinches and a Corn Bunting were excellent reward for our efforts.
We then packed up and went round to Windmill Hill where I have seen over 50 birds coming down onto the seed in the dummy net area. Our net setting had already improved and we sat back to watch the birds but it soon became clear that they didn't like the net. We pulled the net on a small flock and caught 3 new and 3 retrap Yellowhammers but it was a poor effort compared with the huge number of birds present.
We ended the day on 32 new and 3 retraps which was very good for a day when we could not otherwise have ringed. We learnt some good lessons about how to improve the dummy net sets and also where to site our catch zones and the team loved the method so we will definitely be working on this method more in the future. MP, PW, SW, NW
10th April 2016 - Group Totals
2016 groups totals so far....
|Full Grown||Pulli||Retrap||Total||Full Grown||Pulli||Retrap||Total|
|Water Rail||1||0||0||1||Long-tailed Tit||62||0||35||97|
|Golden Plover||2||0||0||2||Coal Tit||51||0||30||81|
|Jack Snipe||4||0||0||4||Blue Tit||387||0||253||640|
|Great Spotted Woodpecker||10||0||19||29||House Sparrow||36||0||2||38|
|Meadow Pipit||14||0||3||17||Tree Sparrow||87||0||76||163|
|Cetti's Warbler||1||0||0||1||Reed Bunting||114||0||56||170|
|Grasshopper Warbler||1||0||0||1||Corn Bunting||8||0||1||9|
25th March 2016 - Thames Valley
24th March 2016 - Swindon STW
19th March 2016 - Kennet Valley
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Wiltshire Ornithological Society was formed on November 30th, 1974, and has grown in recent years to more than 500 members.
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