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During August we completed the last few CES sessions. It proved to be an unspectacular year and most of the key species are significantly down. This is the third full year of CES at Swindon STW and regardless of how we feel about the poor year, we are really pleased that we have another complete dataset so that we can compare productivity and survival year to year. The team have really committed to CES and 8 ringers took part throughout the year which is excellent. We turned the second to last session into a ringing demonstration and 15 people came along. This is the first time for several years that we have been able to give a ringing demonstration to the public and it was so well received that we will definitely do more of them.
 
Noah demo
 
The Tree Sparrow Project also suffered a below average season but we still ringed 1437 young from 194 pairs. This is a record number of pairs but a below average number of young per pair but at least plenty of young Tree Sparrows are making it out into the countryside. I put a big effort into catching adults for the Retrap Adults for Survival Project, I haven't tallied up the totals yet but we have collated more adult captures than last year and this is currently the most successful RAS for Tree Sparrows in the country.
 
Spadger in front of box
 
During the RAS sessions we ended catching a total of 24 Yellow Wagtails. Yellow Wagtails are a common breeding bird on the downs and the largest flock I saw was over 130. MP
 
yelwag

Another chance for a bonus session on Salisbury Plain saw us driving along the gravel track to the site at 0415. As well as chasing a Badger for some distance we flushed a couple of wheatear and a Nightjar off of the track. Once we got to our site we quickly put up the net where we've caught them a few times before with a lure playing and by the time all the nets were up we had managed to catch it.

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The usual spread of Whinchat and Stonechat were caught in the single net we have at the bottom of a valley and a couple of two-shelf nets along the track caught a few more chats along with the more expected Whitethroat's and Linnet's as well as an unexpected Yellow Wagtail which was a first for the site.

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It was another big day for Whitethroat with 30 ringed and of the scarcer migrants we also caught 4 Grasshopper Warbler and 3 Redstart. Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler passage is still ongoing but numbers of these species will drop off dramatically over the next week while Blackcap which has been virtually absent from the site this August will start increasing in numbers. GD,PD,OF

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143 new, 12 retraps

Nightjar 1, Tree Pipit 1, Meadow Pipit 15, Yellow Wagtail 1, Wren 5(2), Robin 6, Redstart 3, Whinchat 6, Stonechat 4, Blackbird 3, Song Thrush 5, Grasshopper Warbler 4, Sedge Warbler 9, Reed Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 4, Whitethroat 30(2), Garden Warbler 7(2), Blackcap 4(4), Chiffchaff 2(1), Willow Warbler 11(1), Long Tailed Tit 1, Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 3, Linnet 5, Yellowhammer 5, Reed Bunting 4

The drive to the site was through the tail end of a a weather front the gave a very light rain for most of the journey that cleared up as soon as we arrived. The hope was that this might drop a few extra migrants onto the site but as it turned out migrant numbers were generally much lower than average for the time of year so it must have really chucked it down further north of us which would have stopped the birds reaching us.

In the end numbers didn't really matter as we had a fanastic morning catching birds of real quality with the star bird being a totally unexpected Wryneck. This is the second Wryneck we have caught at this site and our group has caught a further 5 in recent years usually a few days after a big fall of them on the east coast but with only a couple of others in the country at the moment it makes you wonder how it has managed to get as far west as us.

The bird did the usual Wryneck neck twisting while being processed, a habit that gives the bird its name.

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We also caught a record number of Whinchat for a single session with 12 ringed as well as catching a good numner of Tree Pipit, a couple of Redstart, a Grasshopper Warbler and our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year. Good numbers of Whitethroat are still passing through but Blackcap's have all but disappeared since the bird catches of 3J's last month. GD/PD/OF

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120 new, 12 retraps

Wryneck 1, Swallow 1 & 4 pulli, Tree Pipit 7, Wren 4, Dunnock 3(1), Robin 4(2), Nightingale (1), Redstart 2, Whinchat 12, Blackbird 1(1), Song Thrush 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 5, Reed Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 3, Whitethroat 33, Garden Warbler 8, Blackcap 4(3), Chiffchaff 2(1), Willow Warbler 8, Spotted Flycatcher 1, Blue Tit 2(2), Great Tit 1, Chaffinch 2, Goldfinch (1), Linnet 1, Bullfinch 2, Yellowhammer 5

I've managed to get way behind in reporting on my Salisbury Plain CES sessions so here goes with a brief write up if something interesting happened. In overall summary however bird numbers are way, way down on previous years with resident species such as thrushes, dunnocks and finches virtually absent from the site in the early sessions. Warbler number don't appear to be in so much trouble though.

Session 4 - 4th June  - Swallow 20 pulli, Wren 1(2), Dunnock 3(8), Robin 2(2), Nightingale 1, Blackbird 2(4), Song Thrush 2(1), Lesser Whitethroat 4(1), Whitethroat 8(6), Garden Warbler (6), Blackcap 6(3), Chiffchaff 2(3), Willow Warbler 1(3), Blue Tit (1), Great Tit 10 pulli (1), Chaffinch 1, Linnet 8, Bullfinch 2(7)

Bonus session - 12th June - Highlight of the morning was a female Nightjar with brood patch which was also found to be carrying an egg. We caught the bird at the ridiculously late time of 0730, 3 hours after daylight so don't know what had disturbed it. There are some small open patches in the scrub where the MOD have done some clearance work so it may be nesting in one of those. As we are only ever there in the early morning as its already getting daylight we've not heard the male calling. 

Nightjar 1, Wren (2), Dunnock 3(6), Robin 3(2), Blackbird 5(4), Song Thrush 1(1), Lesser Whitethroat 2(2), Whitethroat (8), Garden Warbler 1(2), Blackcap 2(2), Chiffchaff 2(5), Willow Warbler 1(3), Long Tailed Tit (1), Linnet (2)

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Session 5 - 18th June - Swallow 7 pulli, Wren 3(2), Dunnock 6(3), Robin 4(1), Redstart 1, Blackvird 1(1), Song Thrush 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2(2), Whitethroat 7(1), Garden Warbler 4(6), Blackcap 3(2), Chiffchaff 7(6), Willow Warbler 1(1), Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 1, Starling 22, Chaffinch (3), Linnet 5(1), Bullfinch (1)

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Session 6 - 23rd June - Wren 5(2), Dunnock 7(4), Robin 4, Redstart 1, Blackbird 1, Song Thrush 2(1), Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 2, Garden Warbler (3), Blackcap 4(4), Chiffchaff 3(5), Willow Warbler 4(2), Long Tailed Tit 4(1), Blue Tit 3(2), Great Tit (1), Linnet 1, Bullfinch 1(4)

Session 7 - 4th July - Wren 5(3), Dunnock 6(1), Robin 6(3), Redstart 2, Stonechat 1, Blackbird 3(3), Song Thrush 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1(1), Whitethroat 15(5), Garden Warbler 3(2), Blackcap 14(6), Chiffchaff 6(4), Willow Warbler 8(2), Goldcrest 4, Long Tailed Tit 1, Blue Tit 4(2), Great Tit 6(1), Linnet 3(3), Yellowhammer 2

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Session 8 - 18th July - Wren 6, Dunnock 5(2), Robin 11(3), Whinchat 2, Blackbird (3), Song Thrush 3, Whitethroat 21(6), Garden Warbler 3(1), Blackcap 30(5), Chiffchaff 11(5), Willow Warbler 2(1), Goldcrest 2(1), Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 8(1), Linnet 3, Bullfinch (4), Yellowhammer 1

Bonus session - 23rd July - Bird numbers starting to increase as 3J's are now up and about in numbers. A good selection of warblers with big numbers of Blackcap's. A control Whinchat caught we have now learned was ringed about 10km to the east on the eastern edge of Salisbury Plain as a pulli.

Swallow 16 pulli, Wren 7, Dunnock (5), Robin (5), Whinchat 1(1 bto control), Blackbird 3, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 3, Reed Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 18(3), Garden Warbler 7(4), Blackcap 34(7), Chiffchaff 7(1), Willow Warbler 13(1), Goldcrest 3, Blue Tit 8(1), Great Tit 5(1), Chaffinch 2, Linnet 1, Bullfinch 1(1), Yellowhammer 1(1), Reed Bunting 1

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Session 9 - 26th July - Numbers from the days catch may not have been impressive but we did get some very good birds including the first Tree Pipit of the year, a couple of Stonechat's in a bonus net, a couple of Redstart's and a rather nice Green Woodpecker. Star bird of the morning was a Wood Warbler, the first I've caught on my rings in 16 years. As always seems to be the case with 'good birds' on this site it was not in a CES net but in one of the bonus nets, a net that we've not had up since we caught the Nightjar in it earlier in the season.

Green Woodpecker 1, Tree Pipit 1, Wren 8(2), Dunnock 1(1), Robin 4(2), Redstart 2, Whinchat 1, Stonechat 2, Blackbird 2, Song Thrush 1(1), Grasshopper Warbler 2, Sedge Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 3, Whitethroat 13(3), Garden Warbler 4, Blackcap 34(8), Wood Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 8(2), Willow Warbler 10, Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 2, Goldfinch 1, Linnet 5(2)

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Bonus session - 30th July - A session all about one bird, a juvenile Nightingale and one species, Willow Warbler. After not having any birds on site until May we ended up with an unattached male on its usual territory and another male that attracted a female were were hoping they would breed sucessfully on the site for the first time since 2011. After hearing all the usual adult alarm calls we eventually heard fledged young calling one morning in late June and then nothing for a month so assumed they had been predated again until todays capture. Hopefully this is one of our birds and not one from a different population and hopefully it will make it back next year with any of its siblings that we didn't catch.

A catch of 45 Willow Warbler's was the highest day total for this species I've ever had so conditions must have been good for migration the night before although other migrant species numbers were all within normal totals.

Swallow 14 pulli, Wren 9, Dunnock 3(2), Robin 5(2), Nightingale 1, Blackbird 3, Song Thrush (1), Sedge Warbler 12, Reed Warbler 4, Whitethroat 26(5), Garden Warbler 10(2), Blackcap 13(6), Chiffchaff 3(1), Willow Warblet 44(1), Goldcrest 1(1), Long Tailed Tit (1), Blue Tit 5, Great Tit 1, Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 1, Linnet 3, Bullfinch (1)

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Session 10 - 6th August - A big Whitethroat total for the day, something that was also noted at several other CES sites in the south of England.

Stock Dove 2 pulli, Tree Pipit 2, Wren 6, Dunnock 1(1), Robin 7, Redstart 1, Whinchat 4, Blackbird 3, Song Thrush 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 17, Reed Warbler 7, Whitethroat 54(1), Garden Warbler 9(2), Blackcap 8(5), Chiffchaff 2(1), Willow Warbler 15(2), Long Tailed Tit 2, Blue Tit 2, Linnet 3(2), Bullfinch 1(1)

Session 11 - 14th August - Highlight was a Paris scheme control Sedge Warbler. Having caught a good number of foreign controls over the years this is actually the first French ringed bird I've caught. As the French scheme specially targets migrant Aquatic Warbler's which use a similar habitat on wetland sites on the west coast of France they catch a large number of Sedge. As I don't its probably why its only my first.

Swallow 8 pulli, Tree Pipit 2, Meadow Pipit 6, Wren 3(1), Robin 12(2), Redstart 1, Whinchat 11, Blackbird 5, Song Thrush 2, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Sedge Warbler 23(1 & 1 Paris control), Reed Warbler 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 30(1), Garden Warbler 4(2), Blackcap 9(1), Chiffchaff 2(1), Willow Warbler 16, Goldcrest 1(2), Blue Tit 3, Goldfinch 1, Linnet 2, Bullfinch 6, Yellowhammer 3, Reed Bunting 1

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We were a bit shy on team for CES visit 9 and so Simon and I were joined by one of his volunteers Michelle who scribed for us. This is very helpful to enable us to concentrate on ringing.
 
The session was extremely sedate and pretty unspectacular, the catch was a whopping 54% down on the same session last year and Blackcap faring especially badly being 67% down. It is unusual to see Blackcap faring so badly because they have enjoyed a seemingly inexorable rise in recent years. MP, SW
 
Reed Warbler 5 (3), Sedge Warbler 2, Chiffchaff 5 (5), Willow Warbler 1, Blackcap 8 (3),Whitethroat 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Blackbird 5, Song Thrush 2 (1), Robin 2 (1), Wren 5 (3), Dunnock 1 (4), Greenfinch 2, Bullfinch 1, Blue Tit 1, Reed Bunting 1
The forecast was for overcast and perfectly calm and so it was spot on to do my RAS session at this, the mightiest of Tree Sparrow sites, and also the smelliest.
 
 
The site has two feeders that have been draining consistently so I knew there would be good numbers of sparrows. I put a couple of nets up near these feeders and then another couple on a flight line where the birds fly as they leave their nest boxes.
 
Tree Sparrows get up later than most other birds and I had already surprisingly ringed Reed Warbler, a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler and then my world filled with Tree Sparrows. It was absolutely amazing just how many Tree Sparrows were present and I reckon that the flock exceeded 300. I ringed 33 new and 42 retrap Tree Sparrows, the retraps included 9 adults. I would go through all the movements but there are literally too many to describe here but I will say that I have learnt new things about how young Tree Sparrows disperse and knowledge gained from sessions like this will be transferred directly to new targeted conservation work for this species. The information gained from the adults is fantastic and the RAS is so successful I am absolutely delighted and we are compiling new knowledge into the species.
 
I had a flukey capture of two juvenile Yellow Wagtails that flew into a nets set across a hedgerow but I will take every Yellow Wagtail that I can get because they are so hard to catch at the best of times. The catch was a highly varied and interesting one but aside from the data, a catch of 75 Tree Sparrows is absolutely awesome. MP
 
Tree Sparrow 33 (42), Yellow Wagtail 2, Whitethroat 12, Blackcap 3, Reed Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 1, Wren 3, Dunnock 0 (1), Robin 4, Goldfinch 1, Linnet 1, Chaffinch 1
 
Paul, Simon and I were joined by Anna who squeezed in a short session away from her young baby.
 
The first round produced a lot of Chiffchaffs mostly in one flock in net 1. Reed Warbler numbers were up but unfortunately these were mostly adults that have finished breeding already and they were building up to migrating back south. This is symptomatic of the poor breeding season that they have endured.
 
One of the few birds that seems to be faring well is Wren, we ringed another 8 today and they are prevalent in all of our recent catches.
 
Simon came back from one round particularly chirpy and revealed that he had a juvenile Reed Bunting, but that it was one of a brood that he had ringed a few weeks earlier. We have about 6 pairs of Reed Bunting on site, to find a nest is great but then to retrap one of the youngsters is even better.
 
We ringed 81 and processed 33 retraps which is virtually identical to last years catch for the same visit period. MP, SW, PW, AF
 
Chiffchaff 24 (1), Willow Warbler 3, Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 9 (2), Sedge Warbler 6, Reed Warbler 9 (11), Reed Bunting 0 (1), Robin 4 (4), Dunnock 5 (5), Blackbird 3 (2), Song Thrush 1 (1), Wren 8, Long Tailed Tit 1 (2), Great Tit 3 (2), Blue Tit 4, Bullfinch 0 (2)
 
I have really taken to our new site at Purton Wood because it is showing how the River Ray parkway is connected by birds. This was once again proven by the recapture of a Chiffchaff that we originally ringed on a CES session at Swindon STW last summer. It also feels really worthwhile because we are feeding back our information to the landowner, The Woodland Trust. It is vital that they now own this area to prevent it from the ever continuing 'development' that is destroying green spaces around Swindon.
 
This session proved somewhat quiet compared with the previous sessions but I do think that it would be good in a better breeding season because it supports good numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. All the captures are concentrated in the gaps between the ancient hedgerows and the presence of good numbers of Bullfinches shows that these hedgerows are excellent. MP, NW
 
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Willow Warbler 3 (1), Chiffchaff 9 (2), Blackcap 6, Whitethroat 0 (1), Reed Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Bullfinch 4, Chaffinch 2, Robin 6 (2), Blackbird 1, Dunnock 1 (1), Wren 8,  Song Thrush 2, Great Tit 4 (1), Blue Tit 2

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