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A landowner who owns a woodland that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest has asked me to help them survey their woodland to assist them manage their wood because it is currently classed as being in Unfavourable condition. The strange thing with this site is that nothing has changed on site and Natural England are not specific about what the site was notified for and what needs to be done to bring it back to 'condition'.
I have promised to do some butterfly surveys in the summer but my main focus will be the birds. The great thing is that this is a wholly private estate and all the staff including the game keeper are fully on board to the point where the estate has funded the feed and the rings and the keeper is now filling the feeders in the winter. On the way in, we bumped into the deer stalker and whereas I find some deer stalkers particularly difficult, this chap was fantastic and we had a great chat and I ended up giving him a little ringing demo.
To be honest I didn't expect a lot from this session, but it did pleasantly surprise me. I was joined by Anna and Noah and we set up short nets around two feeding stations which would give us a fair sample of the birds of the wood. 80 birds was a pretty decent catch and shows that the site isn't too bad and strengthened by the presence of four Marsh Tits. Seven Goldcrests was pretty good as was seeing three Woodcock that roost in the wood undisturbed by dog walkers.
We will definitely be doing some more monitoring here and it feels worthwhile, helping an engaged landowner to try to turn their woodland into favourable condition. MP, AF, NW
Marsh Tit 4, Blue Tit 23, Coal Tit 14, Great Tit 19, Long Tailed Tit 3, Chaffinch 3, Goldcrest 7, Nuthatch 2, Treecreeper 1, Robin 3, Magpie 1
The farm we were ringing today is the smelliest of our farms as the cows are fed with maize silage which is very rich and the arising slurry is particularly potent. However, it is also one of the best Tree Sparrow sites in the country with a flock of c300 present. The game cover has collapsed this year and the farm has been plagued by rats and so we have not fed on the ground this year resulting in a much smaller catch than we usually get at this site.
Most of the retrap Tree Sparrows were ringed as nestlings at the same site the previous summer but there was one from 2015 and then one from the summer of 2012 which is exceptional for a Tree Sparrow but we also caught this individual as a breeding female in the summers of 2015 and 2016. We also controlled five from a site 3km west and two from 2km north.
Corn Buntings have been very scarce at this site this winter and the were not many present but we managed to catch one that was originally ringed at the same site in April 2016. For most ringers a catch of 81  new and 31 retraps would be excellent but for this site, this is quite a poor catch. MP, GH, NW
Tree Sparrow 8 (24), Corn Bunting 1, Yellowhammer 37 (2), Reed Bunting 2, Linnet 1, Chaffinch 14, Great Tit 2 (1), Robin 5 (1), Dunnock 7 (3), Blackbird 2, Fieldfare 1, Woodpigeon 1
Fresh back from the heat of Bangladesh, I was wrapped up in many layers for this session. We weren't sure if the session was going to take place due to rain being possible but thankfully it held off and we enjoyed a lovely session. I was joined on the day by Olly Fox but sadly Gary couldn't join us though he had done a superb job of keeping the feeders fed and it served us well. Coal Tits dominated the morning with 41 ringed and 22 retrapped comprised eleven from earlier this winter, seven from last winter and two from two winters ago. Any woodland ringing session includes lots of Blue Tits and we ringed 22 today but the retraps were decent with six from earlier this winter, three from last winter, one from two years ago, one from three years ago and one old timer from five years ago.
This winter has been very poor for Bramblings and we heard one today and then towards the end we caught it. The main reason that we ring at this site is because we are trying to create Willow Tit habitat here and today we were very excited because we ringed one and then we retrapped another that we ringed as a nestling in our nest box a couple of kilometres away. MP, OF
Wilti ringed as nestling
Willow Tit 1 (1), Marsh Tit 3, Coal Tit 41 (22), Blue Tit 21 (12), Great Tit 5 (10), Nuthatch 2 (3), Brambling 1, Chaffinch 9, Lesser Redpoll 6 (1), Dunnock 1, Robin 6 (7), Blackbird 6
I have just returned from an expedition working with the Bangladesh Bird Club and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature monitoring birds in Bangladesh for Avian Influenza whilst also monitoring the birds that winter at their wetland nature reserves. Another major part of my role was to train the local ringers to improve their skills and we ringed over 60 species including some known to us European birders including Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Brown Shrike, Richards Pipit, Citrine Wagtail and Baillons Crake with the most common species being Paddyfield Warbler, Blyths Reed Warbler and Dusky Warbler.
Dusky Wrb
Dusky Warbler
Blyths Reed Wrb
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Paddyfield Wrb
Paddyfield Warbler
The team targeted wildfowl and we ringed Red Crested Pochards, Ferruginous Duck, Cotton Teal and quite a few Coot. This is really important work because domestic duck herders move their huge flocks around the lakes  mix with wildfowl and so both were tested for avian influenza.
Travelling around Bangladesh is extremely difficult and the driving conditions are terrible with basically no road laws so we were driven around to the far flung corners of the country to get to the nature reserves. My particularly favourite reserve was Tanguar Haor which is a RAMSAR site and is a massive wetland that supports tens of thousands of wildfowl. The speciality bird of Tanguar is a robin-like bird called a Firethroat that is about as secretive as a bird can be and its presence would simply not be known were it not for ringing and the knowledge gained from these expeditions is changing the status of the species from a vagrant to a winter visitor.
Baillons Crake
Baillon's Crake
Our last mission was to an island in the middle of the River Ganges to take biometrics of a range-limited bird called a White Tailed Stonechat for a professor at Bangkok University, we were very successful catching 11 of them and these were the first ringed in Bangladesh as previous efforts had failed. On the same day, we were very lucky to catch a Nightjar and we could not work out what it was based on the distribution maps in the field guide and then we worked out that it was in fact a Sykes Nightjar and thus a first for Bangladesh but it was over a thousand miles east of the previous known range. On the same afternoon we also saw a superb male Hen Harrier and this is a national rarity and so this day proved to be a true red letter day. MP
WT Stonechat
White-tailed Stonechat
Sykes Nightjar
Sykes's Nightjar - 1st Bangladesh record

We have just heard back from the BTO about a Swedish ringed Reed Bunting we controlled at Swindon STW last year on 29th October. It was ringed at Handolsdeltat in the region of Jämtland on 27th July 2016 and was recorded as having a flat-fly infestation which luckily it survived.

Reed Bunting 5 Nightingale Wood April 2009

The original ringing site is quite close to the Norway border in a rather remote area and is on a marshy river delta at a large lake. On the close zoomed in image you can see the net rides. Quite how you reach the ringing site would appear interesting as it only looks accessible by boat.

The bird covered a distance of 1553km in the 94 days between captures. This bird is only the 13 Swedish ringed Reed Bunting retapped in the UK.

sweeen 1



Group totals for 2016 now all processed. A fair total considering the poor breeding season.


Species Full grown Pulli Retraps Total   Species Full grown Pulli Retraps Total
Eurasian Teal 14 0 0 14   Song Thrush 140 0 26 166
Sparrowhawk 5 0 0 5   Redwing 586 0 0 586
Kestrel 3 9 1 13   Mistle Thrush 1 0 0 1
Grey Partridge 6 0 0 6   Cetti's Warbler 10 0 16 26
Quail 3 0 0 3   Grasshopper Warbler 45 0 1 46
Water Rail 1 0 0 1   Sedge Warbler 425 0 25 450
Moorhen 1 0 0 1   Reed Warbler 223 70 120 413
Golden Plover 5 0 0 5   Lesser Whitethroat 65 0 16 81
Lapwing 5 4 0 9   Whitethroat 559 4 89 652
Jack Snipe 10 0 1 11   Garden Warbler 126 0 52 178
Snipe 6 0 1 7   Blackcap 2205 4 171 2380
Woodcock 5 0 0 5   Wood Warbler 1 0 0 1
Green Sandpiper 3 0 1 4   Chiffchaff 1162 0 110 1272
Black-headed Gull 1 0 0 1   Willow Warbler 331 0 49 380
Great Black-backed Gull 1 0 0 1   Goldcrest 529 0 61 590
Stock Dove 3 14 0 17   Firecrest 1 0 0 1
Woodpigeon 24 1 4 29   Spotted Flycatcher 10 24 0 34
Collared Dove 2 1 0 3   Long-tailed Tit 236 0 141 377
Barn Owl 5 12 2 19   Marsh Tit 16 0 24 40
Little Owl 1 3 2 6   Willow Tit 7 7 4 18
Tawny Owl 0 3 0 3   Coal Tit 144 8 56 208
Nightjar 3 0 0 3   Blue Tit 771 92 450 1313
Kingfisher 9 0 1 10   Great Tit 449 66 316 831
Wryneck 2 0 0 2   Nuthatch 12 5 12 29
Green Woodpecker 3 0 6 9   Treecreeper 33 0 15 48
Great Spotted Woodpecker 33 0 32 65   Jay 10 0 0 10
Skylark 9 0 0 9   Magpie 15 0 0 15
Sand Martin 2 0 0 2   Jackdaw 2 3 0 5
Swallow 451 157 7 615   Rook 1 21 0 22
House Martin 5 0 0 5   Starling 39 0 0 39
Tree Pipit 18 0 0 18   House Sparrow 106 15 9 130
Meadow Pipit 323 0 13 336   Tree Sparrow 204 1412 246 1862
Yellow Wagtail 25 0 0 25   Chaffinch 824 2 91 917
Grey Wagtail 34 3 7 44   Brambling 25 0 1 26
Pied/White Wagtail 86 15 4 105   Greenfinch 191 5 15 211
Wren 456 9 110 575   Goldfinch 181 0 24 205
Dunnock 500 0 257 757   Siskin 9 0 0 9
Robin 517 3 200 720   Linnet 306 5 13 324
Nightingale 2 0 3 5   Common Redpoll 1 0 0 1
Redstart 29 0 0 29   Lesser Redpoll 128 0 199 327
Whinchat 54 0 2 56   Bullfinch 145 0 76 221
Stonechat 12 0 0 12   Yellowhammer 680 0 80 760
Wheatear 1 0 0 1   Reed Bunting 213 8 89 310
Blackbird 384 0 121 505   Corn Bunting 23 0 1 24
Fieldfare 32 0 0 32            
            Total: 14284 1985 3373 19642
Our winter farmland bird feeding and monitoring is well underway and today I asked for a big turn out because when feeding it has been clear that there are a lot of birds present. We were joined by Richard Creighton from the deepest south of the county who wanted to come and see how we age and sex Yellowhammers, a renowned difficult species. The forecast was accurate and we were treated to a flat calm morning which is what is required at this extremely exposed site. The team did a great net set-up and the birds came in aplenty and we had six Corn Buntings in the first round, this is an exceptional catch because we had previously only caught 17 in the rest of the year. There are very few Corn Buntings ringed in the UK and based on the annual averages, each bird is approximately 1% of the national annual total so we are really making a significant contribution to the national totals.
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This site is superb for Chaffinches and Yellowhammers and both of these species show great site fidelity and we get plenty of retraps. We controlled a Yellowhammer from last winter and two from two winters ago. Chaffinch retraps included three from last winter, one from two winters ago, three from three winters ago and one from four winters ago.
We  put up a net-set for Redwings and Fieldfares and ringed another 19 Redwings taking them past 200 for the year, along with our sixth Fieldfare for the year. A bonus net in a silage clamp caught the Pied Wagtail as we had hoped. Dunnocks seemed to be going in from every angle and once again we caught more Robins than normal, they seem to be having a very good year.
Surprise of the day was the number of Starlings that we ringed, we see them at several of our sites but we never catch them and we don't really spend any time trying to get them. For whatever reason, today they were very easy to catch and we ringed 11 which is our largest catch of them since 2010. This gave the team some valuable experience comparing the complexities of ageing and sexing of a bird that is very interesting in the hand.
Starling 001
We had a great time working through Yellowhammer ageing and sexing with Richard, using our own Yellowhammer identification guide that is more advanced than published identification guides. It was great to work with Richard as he has been ringing in Wiltshire for many years and we hope that we can team up again sometime.
The total of 207 birds ringed and 15 retraps makes for another staggering day but with a team of this size and quality it really was quite straightforward and we were able to hold quality workshops on many of the species and even go through wing formulae in preparation for upcoming permit upgrades. MP, PW, AM, NW, TW, OF, GH, JH, RC
Corn Bunting 6, Yellowhammer 39 (3), Chaffinch 55 (8), Goldfinch 13, Tree Sparrow 1, House Sparrow 1, Starling 11, Fieldfare 1, Redwing 19, Blackbird 4 (1), Song Thrush 3, Pied Wagtail 1, Meadow Pipit 1, Robin 13 (1), Dunnock 26 (1), Wren 1, Blue Tit 7, Great Tit 4 (1)
We ring this site on the banks of the Kennet a couple of times each year and it is a good consistent little site but the real beauty of it is that being in a woodland in a valley it is completely sheltered from the wind and so we can ring it when we cannot ring other sites. It also has fewer birds than our farmland sites and so suited us today as we wanted to really focus on training Gary and Jodie and we also wanted to get away early to see our families for Christmas.
This is only a small set of four nets around some feeders, so to bolster the catch we set up a T-shaped wader net set for Redwings. Paul and I did a good workshop on extracting Redwings from that net set and then a bit later on he took a bonus Kingfisher out. Jodie has been out a couple of times since being back from Uni and I think she has ringed about ten new species and Kingfisher was another new one for her. They take an unusual ring that requires considerable care to fit correctly but she did a great job.
Throughout the morning we were busy but again never hurried and this was one of the best training sessions that we have had as we had father and daughter, Gary and Jodie extracting plenty and also ringing plenty and they have both really improved and are pretty natural ringers.
We found time to cook up some bacon sandwiches, this is becoming a real fixture and we love it.
There was a lovely flock of 70 Siskins but they were feeding in the tops of some nearby alders and just would not come down. A Mistle Thrush came and inspected the Redwing set but thought better of it. 
We had finished and packed up a few minutes after noon which was perfect and we all went away really pleased with a super morning. Gary, Jodie and I then went to Ogbourne to prepare the site for our session planned for next week.
The total of 95 new and 15 retraps surprised us somewhat as it was a very evenly, easy paced session and it is testament to the team that we handled this catch with such ease. MP, NW, TW, PW, GH, JH
Kingfisher 1, Redwing 23, Blackbird 5 (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker 3, Lesser Redpoll 3, Goldfinch 2, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 8 (1), Greenfinch 2, Robin 7 (1), Dunnock 5, Marsh Tit 1, Coal Tit 3 (1), Blue Tit 25 (6), Great Tit 10 (2), Goldcrest 1, Nuthatch 0 (1), Wren 0 (2)

Information about WOS

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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