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The AGM using Zoom is on 30th September 2020, see WOS News for details.

Field Trips are cancelled until further notice.

Latest Sightings.

2 Wheatear, 8 Stonechat, Raven, 8 Yellowhammer, 3 Swallow, Chiffchaff - Pewsey - Brian Heath 8 Gold...
ROSE-COLOURED STARLING - Sanders Road, Trowbridge, with local Starling flock - Julien Crisp 16 CA...
18 CATTLE EGRET - Standlynch Down for 3rd day. Best viewed when they fly to roost at Trafalgar Fish ...
Peregrine - Odstock - Stephen Hackett GREAT WHITE EGRET, MARSH HARRIER, YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, 454 Tuf...
2 HEN HARRIER (ringtails), 2 Red Kite - SPTA centre - Mike Trew 4 Little Egret, 4 Shoveler, Chiff...

Crane chicks born at Slimbridge are the first recorded for 400 years

Crane web


A recently-hatched crane chick has given conservationists fresh hope about seeing a new generation of wild cranes in the west of Britain.

The crane chick was spotted on Sunday at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, where its parents were hand-reared.

Conservationist Nigel Jarrett said it was "incredibly exciting", especially after the same breeding pair lost a chick last year due to the weather.

For more info, please follow this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-27466509


Tree Sparrow conservation on Marlborough Downs goes from strength to strength


Matt Prior, WOS Conservation Officer is a driving force behind a flagship campaign run by the farmers of the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area (MDNIA) which is having a positive impact on endangered Tree Sparrows.  

The MDNIA was set up by a group of local farmers who in 2012 won funding under the government’s three year pilot scheme to encourage bio-diversity and wildlife-friendly farming methods – and get more people into the countryside.

It covers just over 25,000 acres south of Swindon down towards Marlborough on one side and Avebury on the other.

Their Tree Sparrow campaign involves planting suitable trees, providing nest boxes and food. Marlborough News Online has been seeing how two generations of young people have been helping the tree sparrows.

Recent event involving students from Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester and Swindon schoolchildren involved Matt Prior coordinating tree-planting, demonstrating bird-feeders and assembling nest-boxes.


With thanks on behalf of everyone at WOS to Matt Prior, more information can be found at Marlborough News Online via this link:


Sand Martins provided with unique bank of 150 nests which includes a hide in Notts


Work to complete a hide and nesting bank for Sand Martins has been completed at Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire.

It is believed to be the first of its kind, incorporating an artificial nesting bank made of clay pipes and breeze blocks and a hide.

Cameras inside the 150 nesting tunnels will transmit images into the hide.

Here's link for more information:



Complete archive of WWT's 'Wildfowl' Magazine is now available free on line.


The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has created free access to the entire catalogue of papers published by WWT in its scientific journal, Wildfowl.

The new online resource is the culmination of months of work by volunteers to digitise printed copies of Wildfowl dating back to 1947, when it first appeared as the Annual Report of the Severn Wildfowl Trust.

WWT hopes that budding researchers and waterbird enthusiasts will be encouraged by opening the vaults on some of the most significant moments in ornithological history.

Wildfowl online is fully searchable, giving the work of contributing scientists a far greater reach and influence. Here is a link for more information:


Many thanks to WOS member, Shane Faulkner for this news story.


Red-Flanked Bluetail in Wilts/Gloucs is now Britain's longest staying bird

The first winter Red-flanked Bluetail, discovered on the afternoon of 3rd February, as well as being a remarkable sight, has become a remarkable multiple record holder. Not only is the stunning bird the first for Wilts and South Gloucs by obligingly hopping to and fro across the border each day, but also the first UK record in February and from 16th February, it has represented Britain's longest-staying individual.

The story of John Barnett's discovery of the bird can be seen via this link.




The watcher watched! Film of Cranes at Slimbridge checking out a hide.

Three birds from The Great Crane Project are a regular sighting at Slimbridge WWT at the moment, and dramatically for warden James Lees, the birds came very close to the hide at The Lake to have  a close look inside. The film starts with loud calling of the birds, but it's worth keeping the sound on to hear them tapping the glass!

Follow this link to the short film:


Do some migrating birds have an innate sense of impending weather?

The study of satellite tracking of some migrating species of birds has led to some conjecture that there might be an innate ability to use approaching weather systems to save energy. As Atlantic fronts bring autumn sqaulls it would be interesting to think that birds migrating offshore find them helpful!

More info here: http://thewildlifewriter.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/skyscanner.html

The Arctic Tern musical cantata 'Atlantic Odyssey' will be performed again on October 20th in Swindon

" Atlantic Odyssey - A Journey Through Music", about the life cycle of the Arctic Tern - a cantata, will be performed by Swindon Choral Society and Warnford Junior School Choir with professional soloists and orchestra, at 7.30pm on Sunday October 20th at St Peter's Catholic Church, Swindon SN5 7ES.

ATLANTIC ODYSSEY-A Journey through Music

The Arctic Tern isn’t exactly your characteristic Wiltshire bird, but the arrival of a flock of 125 birds in late April 2012 at the Cotswold Water Park marks the date when I began composing my extended choral work “Atlantic Odyssey”, which celebrates the circumpolar journey this incredible species undertakes each year. Now that the music is written it is time to orchestrate it, rehearse it and prepare for a performance in October with my choir-The Swindon Choral Society- alongside the Warneford School Junior Choir, two professional soloists and a 20 piece orchestra.

I have been a member of WOS since my move to Marlborough in 1982 to take up the position of Director of Music at the College. My passion for birds goes back to my initiation by a friend in Oxfordshire who taught me that a sound knowledge of songs and calls is an invaluable aid to bird recognition, something that appealed to my musical ear. My wife and I are now living in Avebury, where my local birds include Barn and Little Owl, Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow, and in spring and summer I am able to add Quail, Hobby and Yellow Wagtail, as well as Wheatear and Whinchat on passage.

My collaborator, Mike Polack, who just happens to live next door, is a gifted writer with a keen interest in natural history. Quite how it came about we are not entirely sure, but having thought about writing a piece about a Cornish fishing community devastated by a disaster at sea, we fell into the idea of celebrating the life of an extraordinary bird, the Arctic Tern.

Our Journey through Music begins in their northern breeding grounds, and a main theme inspired by a four-note phrase from The Skye Boat Song. “Fledgling” describes the vulnerability of a young tern tottering on a rock by an inhospitable sea, as it takes its first trial flights. As this song has a jumpy melody and an innocent feel to it, it seemed like a good one for the junior choir to take on.

The solo Soprano and Baritone have to play a number of roles, but in “On the Beach” the girl, now alone, recalls times with her young sweetheart, walking along the beach amongst the terns, and finding their nests. It is well known that Arctic terns remain faithful to one partner and can live for up to thirty years despite their perilous travels, and so, in an attempt to echo this with a human parallel, the baritone repeats the song in the second half: now he is a sailor at sea looking forward to being reunited with his sweetheart, now his wife, and their child, back on the shore with the terns.

The Soprano has to turn into a goddess in each half: Sedna, a frightening Inuit Goddess of the Northern waters in Part One and Yemaya, a colourful African Sea Goddess in Part Two.

The Baritone often plays the role of narrator, pointing to the dangers and disasters the birds are prone to and charting the ways in which humans have threatened and spoilt the order and balance of the natural world-global warming inevitably comes into the frame. Perhaps the most hard-hitting moments in the work involve a reference to the disastrous oil pollution resulting from commercial exploitation of the Niger Delta and another serious and extended song which includes some text from Margaret Atwood: “How to Justify the Ways of Men to Birds.”

One curious phenomenon in the  Arctic Tern’s life-cycle is the so-called “Dread”-a period of silence in an otherwise noisy tern colony, prior to the departure of all the birds south, on their long migratory journey. In the song “The Dread” the sharp “Kee-err!” calls of the terns are mimicked by the children and when the colony goes silent the chorus and orchestra create the atmospheric whispering sounds of wind and sea.

The second half begins with “Gliding”, an instrumental piece which we hope to combine with slowed-down video footage of Arctic Terns filmed in flight on the Farne Islands-then later there is “Resting”, again supplemented with images, this time of a flock of birds roosting together along the shoreline. All songs will be accompanied by projected images and maps.

Mike and I have received much encouragement, advice and support information from Graham Appleton, Director of Communications at the BTO whose particular expertise is bird migration. He was ringing Arctic Terns in Iceland this spring and gave an illustrated talk to members of our choir and other interested parties in July.

Creating “Atlantic Odyssey” has been quite a journey, and has left both Mike and I amazed at the courage, skill and stamina of a bird, no heavier than an apple, that reputedly travels the equivalent of three times to the moon and back during its lifetime. Fiercely defensive of its nest, it can draw blood from the head of a human intruder, as members of WOS may know from personal experience! Recent research has revealed that its dispersal south is not via one route hugging the African coastline, as has been assumed, but by two quite different ones. Tracking the birds has also established that they target specific feeding grounds in the mid-ocean, and this gave rise to the song “Mid Ocean Feeding.” They are capable, like Swifts, of sleeping on the wing as they fly, sometimes at great heights, and when returning north in the Spring they can cover a distance of up to 300 miles per day.  These are just a few remarkable facts about “Sterna Paradisaea”, the Paradise Tern. I hope members may feel that the performance of “Atlantic Odyssey” is something they would like to attend.

Robin Nelson

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