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Having finished his exams, Biff was able to join Simon and I for CES session 6. It is fast becoming clear that the continuing sub par temperatures are having an effect upon the breeding season and todays catch is 33% lower than the corresponding visit in 2015, Blackcaps seem to be faring particularly badly and todays total is 42% lower than last years session 6 but we did manage two controls. In recent years a pair of Treecreepers has bred on site and we retrapped one today that was originally ringed in 2013. Undoubted highlight of the day was a juvenile Coal Tit that is only the second ringed on site, remarkable when you consider how often we ring on site and also that we have ringed over 2300 in total at other sites.
 
After packing up, Biff joined me for a nest box safari and we checked 70 occupied Tree Sparrow boxes and ringed 32 nestling Tree Sparrows, 4 nestling Swallows, and 3 nestling Kestrels. MP, SW, BF
 
Coal Tit 1, Reed Warbler 3 (4), Sedge Warbler 1 (1), Cettis Warbler 0 (2), Blackcap 5 (5), Chiffchaff 6, Willow Warbler 2, Whitethroat 3, Dunnock 8 (2), Robin 6 (2), Blackbird 4 (2), Blue Tit 1 (1), Great Tit 4, Treecreeper 0 (1), Wren 5 (2), Greenfinch 2, Bullfinch 1  (1), Goldfinch 3, Chaffinch 1, Woodpigeon 1
 
With the youth element of the group tied up with exams it was left to the old wrinklies to complete this session and I so I was joined by Simon and Paul.
 
Reed Warbler proved to be the dominant species and we ringed five and retrapped ten, the retraps included one from 2013 and two from 2014 but we also controlled one bearing a French ring. Any foreign control is exciting but we do have to bear in mind that thousands of warblers are ringed in France at some large ringing camps in the Loire Valley.
 
The main highlight of the day was the capture of two juvenile Cettis Warblers. We had ringed the male in April and then in May we caught a female with a brood patch and we have been waiting for the youngsters to appear. This is the first breeding of Cettis Warblers on site and is very long overdue since the first capture on 6th March 2005, in fact it took 19 birds over the years before finally a male and female were present on site at the same time to be able to breed.
 
1J cettis
 
We processed 17 species of bird today which is very impressive but the total of 79 birds is 16% lower than the corresponding session in 2015 and it appears that this breeding season will not be as successful as last year. MP, SW, PW
 
Reed Warbler 5 (10), Cettis Warbler 2 (2), Sedge Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 2, Chiffchaff 5 (1), Whitethroat 3 (3), Blackcap 3 (2), Blackbird 5 (5) ,Dunnock 7 (2), Robin 2 (1) ,Wren 2 (2) ,Great Tit 4 (1), Blue Tit 2, Long Tailed Tit 0 (1), Greenfinch 1, Goldfinch 2 (1), Bullfinch 0 (1)
 
After 15 years of monitoring Tree Sparrows by ringing them as nestlings in the summer and then trying to recapture them in the winter, I was persuaded by the BTO demography team to attempt a RAS project on them. RAS stands for Retrap Adults for Survival and requires a good sized sample of adults to be monitored each summer so that the BTO can work out adult survival rates which will complement the comprehensive dataset that exists for nest records of Tree Sparrows. This is all well and good but Tree Sparrows are renowned for being difficult to catch and even more difficult to recapture so imagination would be needed.
 
This expansive private garden on the downs is one of my favourite sites as I have known the owners for 15 years and we have become good friends. The site has 21 pairs of Tree Sparrows using boxes and also this year I have found and I am monitoring two natural pairs. For this short session I set my nets at strategic flyways and near a couple of feeders and I was kept very busy indeed. Flocks of juvenile Tree Sparrows swarmed around the feeders, a sight impossible to imagine many years ago.
 
I ringed four new adult Tree Sparrows and retrapped 11 adults and all of these if they did not already have one were fitted with a PIT tag which is a bit like a microchip. We have been putting a transmitter that reads these PIT tags as the sparrows go through the hole so that we can find out who is nesting with who and learn more about their breeding dynamics. The Tree Sparrow study area is about 200 square miles and thus we are able to monitor them across an entire ecological unit. The retraps included one from 2012, one from 2013, two from 2014 and seven from 2015 which gives an interesting insight into the age structure of the population. Capturing the juveniles means that we can add value to the nest records because we have proven successful breeding outcomes. MP
 
36 new and 38 retraps was a fantastic result given the session only lasted 3 hours and also the quality of the data provided by the Tree Sparrows.
 
Tree Sparrow 4 (25), Blackbird 9 (2), Chaffinch 7 (3), Greenfinch 1 (1), House Sparrow 3 (1), Robin 3 (1), Dunnock 3 (1), Wren 3, Song Thrush 2, Coal Tit 0 (1), Great Tit 1 (1)
 
As I have gone around the downs and the Salisbury Plain recently I have heard a few Quail calling. Very few people ever get to see this stunning tiny game bird and fewer than a hundred have ever been ringed in the UK. In recent years we have managed to catch and ring five which is a very good effort but if we are to learn more about this enigmatic summer visitor we need to continue to try and catch and ring more. Quail are covered under the Schedule 1 licence that I possess and also a specific endorsement is needed to be able to try to lure them with playback.
 
On 8th June I was joined by Jodie who has just joined the team as a trainee and after a good evening checking Tree Sparrow boxes we ended up high on the downs at dusk waiting to hear Quail. Sure enough we heard two, either side of the track we were on. We set a net and put the music on and within two minutes we had caught two males. Jodie is an extremely lucky young lady that the first adult bird she has ringed is probably amongst the rarest that she will ever ring but that's just the luck of the draw.
 
Two days later and I was joined by farmer James on the Salisbury Plain and we were very excited as when setting a box-net we heard four Quail but unbelievably not a single one of them responded. We tried another location and we did catch one there. We have no idea why they sometimes behave so rapidly and others do not respond at all but still, we have now taken the county total to 8 and we hope to increase it yet further soon. MP, JH, JW

 

WP 20160608 21 52 00 Pro1

 
During the summer one of our main contributions to conservation is monitoring and recording nests as part of the BTO nest records scheme. In 2015 we were the twelfth highest contributor of nest records in the country. Our team are all becoming experienced nest finders and nest recorders and it is great to see them gaining their permits and finding their own nests. Anna has found several Buzzard nests in Gloucestershire and Jack has been climbing to the nests so the young can be ringed. Paul W has found a few nests with the best being Spotted Flycatcher. Star of the show has been Noah who has found all sorts of nests and I joined him in Oxon so that he could ring two broods of Chiffchaff and a Blackcap brood. Simon is monitoring the Reed Warblers at Swindon STW as usual but his best success has been finding and ringing two broods of Reed Buntings, it is really important that we monitor all stages of the lifecycle of this declining bird which is a bit of a favourite of mine.
 
The main group activities in June are monitoring Tree Sparrows as usual and we have 192 pairs which is a record but the poor weather has resulted in a lot of failures but we have still ringed in excess of 600 so far. As we go around the farms we find a variety of other nests and these have included several Swallows, Lapwing, Little Owl, Kestrel, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, three broods of Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Whitethroat and two broods of Wren that were in nest boxes. MP, AF, NW, PW, SW
 
Lou with lapwing
 
Lowls

I’ve managed to get behind in reporting in this year’s CES catches but basically the number of birds from the first three sessions compare favourably with last year. The main differences seem to be in the number of ‘resident’ species we are catching or rather failing to catch. Having ringed this site since 2003 the numbers of Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch are the lowest we can remember them with Tits and Robin’s particularly poorly represented.

Session 3 started by getting out of bed at 0250 in order to race the approach of daylight. We arrived on sight at 0410 having driven through patches of dense low mist to be greeted by 1°c temperatures and as we are pretty efficient at getting the nets up these days we had all 14 CES and 4 bonus 60’s up in 45 minutes.

Catching was relatively slow after the first net round but we still managed to finish with 90 captures for the morning. A Grasshopper Warbler was singing from the other side of the fence line we aren’t allowed to cross as it’s on the artillery impact range which the Dutch army were using with some gusto all morning, so we able to try for it.

On the safe side of the fence oddities for this time of the year included a singing Sedge Warbler which evaded the nets and a silent Reed Warbler that did not. Best bird of the morning was a control Garden Warbler with an Icona Madrid ring. Worryingly, no juvenile birds of any species have been caught yet. All the Tit boxes we have up in this area are all still at the egg stage with nothing hatched at all as are all the Swallow nests we've checked so maybe everthing here is just 2 weeks behind average like many other areas of the country. GD/PD/OF/AB

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CES session 1

Wren 1(2), Dunnock 1(2), Robin (2), Nightingale (1), Blackbird 1(1), Lesser Whitethroat (1), Whitethroat 11(4), Garden Warbler 1(3), Blackcap 35(3), Chiffchaff (6), Willow Warbler 1(5), Long-tailed Tit (1), Chaffinch (2), Linnet 2, Bullfinch 2(2)

CES Session 2

Wren (1), Dunnock (5), Robin (2), Blackbird (1), Song Thrush 3(3), Lesser Whitethroat 4(2), Whitethroat 5(2), Garden Warbler 5(3), Blackcap 7(9), Chiffchaff 1(2), Willow Warbler (1), Long-tailed Tit 2(3), Chaffinch (1), Linnet 3, Bullfinch (3)

CES session 3

Wren 2(3), Dunnock (9), Robin (4), Blackbird 3(4), Reed Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat (3), Whitethroat 5(12), Garden Warbler 3(5), Blackcap 6(3), Chiffchaff 1(5), Willow Warbler 1(3), Goldcrest (1), Long-tailed Tit (5), Linnet 6(1), Bullfinch 1(3)

I was joined by Paul W at the canal at Moulden Hill in Swindon. We were supposed to be joined by Noah and his dad but unfortunately they couldn't find us and without a phone they couldn't contact us which is a real shame because this is a nice site and it is not very nice to wake up at 3am and then not actually get to join us.
 
We set the nets in scrub adjacent to the canal, we were not in the real Reed Warbler hotspot but that will come in a few weeks. It was again a very sedate session but it ended up as a constant ringing demo as walkers and dog walkers found our work fascinating. Top surprise of the day was seeing my parents coming to join us. They have not come to see me ringing since I first started 17 years ago and I was delighted to be able to show them what I do. I then had another great surprise as my old Venture Scout Leader and his wife came along and we had a big catch-up.
 
My mum and dad were obviously inspired by their morning and they came out in the afternoon, along with my wife to see me do a nest box inspection round. I tend to charge around quite quick on these rounds so I had to slow down a bit but mum and dad kept up quite well and they got to see Tree Sparrow nestlings, along with a Kestrel nest and all of the usual farmland sights. The last check of the day was a Little Owl box and I was really proud of my mum and dad who both climbed the ladder to look inside and as ever the adult Little Owl just turned away to pretend that we weren't there. It was really fantastic to show them the conservation work that I have been up to all these years and I don't think that they had previously realised the scale of the Tree Sparrow Project. MP, PW
 
Mum up a ladder1
 
Blackcap 3, Whitethroat 5 (1), Lesser Whitethroat 2, Reed Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 4, Willow Warbler 5, Goldcrest 1, Bullfinch 3, Greenfinch 1, Blackbird 2, Song Thrush 1, Dunnock 5, Wren 3, Robin 2 (1), Long Tailed Tit 4, Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 4 (1)
It was fantastic to have Anna back out with us today after having a baby a couple of months ago and we were joined by Paul W and Simon to do CES number 2. The forecast had looked quite iffy but it turned out to be a really nice day, though with a team like this, processing 63 birds is very sedate.
 
Reed Warbler is a major species in our CES and today we ringed 10 and processed 5 that were originally ringed in 2014 and 3 from 2015. Undoubted highlight of the day was the 'control' Reed Warbler that was ringed by the Basque ringing scheme in northern Spain, this is the first bird that we have controlled from that scheme which is exciting. We only processed a few Blackcaps but we retrapped a male that was originally ringed in April 2011 making it one of our oldest ever Blackcaps, we have retrapped this old chap 12 times over the years though strangely we didn't retrap him in 2014.
 
Basque Reewa1
 
Talking with the team it was fantastic to listen to all the plans that they have and what nests they have found and are monitoring, thus contributing to the BTO nest records scheme.
 
This will be one of the quietest ringing sessions that we will have because the males are tight on territory, a lot of the females are sitting on eggs and of course there are no juveniles out yet. It was however great to complete another CES session, see Anna again and that Reed Warbler sticks in my mind. MP, SW, PW, AF
 
Reed Warbler 10 (8), Sedge Warbler 5 (3), Blackcap 3 (2), Garden Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 3 (1), Cettis Warbler 0 (2), Chiffchaff 1, Goldfinch 3, Bullfinch 1, Greenfinch 0 (1), Blackbird 0 (3), Song Thrush 0 (1), Dunnock 0 (3), Robin 0 (2), Wren 2 (2), Long Tailed Tit 0 (1), Great Tit 0 (3)

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Wiltshire Ornithological Society was formed on November 30th, 1974, and has grown in recent years to more than 500 members.

Our mission is to encourage and pursue the study, recording and conservation of birds in Wiltshire

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