North Wilts Group

17th August 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 11

After a coupe of bonus non-CEs session where the catches had been very low, just over or just under 100 birds we were hoping that that the second half of August was going to offer more than the first half.

With all the nets up before sun-up it soon became apparent that there were a few more birds around than there had been with Blackcap calls coming from bushes and Sedge Warbler flitting through the grass. The first net round saw us catch a good few Sedge Warblers along with a few Whinchats from the bottom of the valley. Of the Sedge Warblers, two were already ringed, one with a BTO ring and the other wearing a Paris ringing scheme ring, our second foreign ringed bird of the month.

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Quite a few Tree Pipits had been migrating over once the sun had started to warm things up and by the end of the morning we had managed to ring 3 of them along with a Grasshopper Warbler and a Redstart and a couple more Whinchats.

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As the morning went on we started to catch more and more Whitethroats which turned out to be the most ringed species by the end of the day. By the time we reached the last few nets of the last net round we managed to catch a Lesser Whitethroat and so got a full house of all the common warbler species.

As we left the site we flushed a Nightjar from close to where one of the nets had been.

The morning ended on 143 new, 13 retraps, an increase on recent sessions but still below average for the time of year.

Tree Pipit 3, Meadow Pipit 2, Wren 1, Dunnock 2(1), Robin 3(1), Redstart 1, Whinchat 6, Blackbird 2(1), Grasshopper Warbler 1, Sedge Warbler 34(2), Reed Warbler 5, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 37(2), Garden Warbler 7(4), Blackcap 28(2), Chiffchaff 2, Willow Warbler 4, Goldfinch 2, Yellowhammer 2

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1st August 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 9

The morning started in annoying fashion with a shelf-string on an old net I'd cut down to a 3-shelf for the Chat Valley net snapping 3 times. By the time I'd got the spare up in its place my early start was somewhat wasted and I'd still got the 14 CES nets to get up.

Once all the nets were up, still well before 0500, a quick tour of the nets showed that there had been a good Sedge Warbler movement overnight. Good numbers of Willow Warblers were around for the first time this year and once the morning had warmed up and Whitethroats started to move about it proved to be the best day we've had for them in a long time. Chat numbers were dissapointing as we only caught one Whinchat so it looks like the massive fires across Salisbury Plain last month have killed off the majority of the locally bred birds, porbably while they were still in the nest.


A Grasshopper Warbler made a half-hearted attemp at singing but managed to avoid the nearby net although we did catch a moulting adult female Redstart later in the morning as the only real oddity of the day.

The highlight however was the capture of an adult female Balckcap with an ICONA MADRID ring, the first foreign ringed bird we've had since the Norway Brambling last November.


Quite a busy morning with only the 3 of us, 150 new, 14 retraps.

Wren 8(4), Robin 3, Whinchat 1, Redstart 1, Blackbird2, Song Thrush 1, Sedge Warbler 21, Reed Warbler 6, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 49(1), Garden Warbler 6(2), Blackcap 25(5), Willow Warbler 16(1), Chiffchaff 2, Goldcrest (1), Goldfinch 2, Bullfinch 4, Linnet 1, Yellowhammer 1


7th July 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 7

Arriving onsite at 0345 was quite an experience. The fires on the artillery range had intensified somethat over the last few days since the last visit and although still some 2.5km from our ringing site the flames and red glow from the were clearly visible and even at our distance the constant crackle sound was very loud.

While putting up the nets the local male Nightjar started up very close to us and then a second bird flew over us. We rushed to get the net up and get out of the way. By the time we got back to the net after getting the rest up both birds has found their way in. They turned out to be an adult female and a last years male. This is the third consecutive year that we have had birds here in the breeding season and have caught a mixture of adults and fledged young in the past so we were surprised that both birds were new.

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The first net round saw us get another 3 Whinchat from the Chat Valley net, one of which was a retrap from 2016 and is the first returning retrap we have ever caught.

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The morning was steady rather than spectacular with good numbers of 3J warblers as well as another freshly fledged Redstart and an adult Grasshopper Warbler. Blackcap numbers have picked up considerably in the last 2 visits as have Whitethroat but Willow Warbler numbers are still extremely low.

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By the time we took the nets down it was roasting hot and the fire had crept a little further to the east but still well north of us and hopefully it wil stay that way.

76 new 28 retrap

Nightjar 2, Wren 5(1), Dunnock 3(1), Robin 2(1), Redstart 1, Whinchat 2(1), Blackcbird 1(1), Grasshopper Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 14(2), Garden Warbler 8(3), Blackcap 27(12), Chiffchaff 3(2), Willow Warbler 3(3), Goldcrest (1), Great Tit 2, Yellowhammer 1

4th July 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 6

Another very hot day in a long period of hot dry days has meant that the military artillary ranges have had a few large fires recently and again there were a few going on this morning about 1 mile from our location with the smoke blowing over us later in the morning as the wind shifted. We can only hope that the fires burn themselves out before they get to the ringing site which is a valuable area of hawthorn scrub habitat on otherwise chalk downland.

 We put up the nets at the bottom of 'Chat Valley' for the first time this summer in our usual place in front of the only only hawthorn tree in the valley with an addiotnal cunning 3-shelf net as an extensionn through the long grass which next month we hope will catch many migrating Sedge Warblers that we would otherwise miss. The net lived up to its name throughout the morning and caught us our first 3 Whinchat of the year, a male and female with one of their fledglings, and a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler.

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Whitethroat and Willow Warbler numbers picked up after very low numners on site this year with double figures of both being ringed along with good numbers of 3J Blackcap's and Garden Warbler's. 

We then caught our first Redstart of the summer, a bird fledged this year which may have been from one of the few pairs that breed locally on Sailsbury Plain. We also caught a very freshly fledged Pipit that casued some debate as it looked odd and as its biometrics were somewhere between Meadow and Tree, but based on a general plumage went down as Meadow in the end.

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It was quite a profitable morning with 83 new birds ringed and 19 retraps but taking down the nets in roasting +30c scorching temperatures was extremely unpleasant.

 Wood Pigeon 1, Meadow Pipit 1, Wren 3, Dunnock 2(3), Robin 1(2), Redstart 1, Whinchat 3, Blackbird 1(1), Song Thrush 3, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 13(5), Garden Warbler 10(2), Blackcap 21(4), Willow Warbler 10(1), Chiffchaff 4, Goldcrest 1, Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 2, Goldfinch 2, Linnet (1), Yellowhammer 1

23rd June 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 5

This was the last possible day we could have done the CES 5 visit since all the previos 10 days were un-ringable due to strong winds. Bird welfare is the most important thing and putting nets up in 20mph justs is dangerous to the birds and damages nets. I've heard the excuse 'my nets are all sheltered' too many times from some quarters and I'd rather miss a session rather than end up with net casualties.

With today being so close to mid-summer's longest day even leaving Swindon at 0250 meant that it was bright enough not to need a head torch when putting the last 12 of our 17 nets up. We had been warned that there was quite a large fire on the main artillery range and it was lucky that the extensive smoke cloud was moving very slowly less than half a mile from us otherwise it would have been an unpleasant morning.

Catching was very steady for the first couple of hours and then as susal dropped of once it started to warm up. We ringed juveniles of all the common warbler species although only 1 Whitethroat (the most common bird species here) compared to 12 Garden Warbler and 20 Blackcap. Numbers were boosted considerably with a large tit floack which added us 25 new Great Tit's but only 1 Blue Tit. The total catch was 101 new and 26 retraps, up from just 80 captures from the same session last year.

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We finished off the morning with some Swallow pulli from the artillery bunkers and strimmed a couple of bonus nets at the bottom of the valley which usually catches us around 50 Whinchat from July to September.

Swallow 1 + 4 pulli, Wren 7(1), Dunnock 4, Robin 6(1), Blackbird 1(1), Song Thrush 1, Lesser Whitethroat 3, Whitethroat 1(4), Garden Warbler 12(2), Blackcap 20(7), Chiffchaff 6(3), Willow Warbler 4(2), Goldcrest 3(1), Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 25, Linnet 2, Bullfinch (3), Yellowhammer (1)

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8th June 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 4

As it's now well into June the early daylight means we are currently leaving Swindon at 0300 to drive the 50 minute journey to get to the site with enough time to get all 14 nets up in time.

On arrival we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler singing from a location away from where any have been this year but as it was on the live artillery firing side of the fence we weren't able to go for it this morning. Best of all a male Nightjar was churring from close to the location where a pair has bred for the last two years so hopefully it's a returning bird rather than just a late migrant.

Catching was steady if a little slow. Warbler numbers are usually exceptionally high on this site but this year numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler Whitethroat and Blackcap are through the floor. Garden Warbler numbers appear to be stable and if anything, Lesser Whitethroat's have increased this year.

A few 3J's are now starting to be caught, including 2 Lesser Whitethroat's as the first young warblers of the year as well as a family of Linnet and a bit of numbers padding with a large family party of 14 Long-tailed Tit's. The first brood of Swallow pulli were also ringed from the artillery observation bunkers.



Totals; 47 new, 19 retraps

Swallow 5 pulli, Wren 3(1), Dunnock 2, Robin 2(1), Blackbird 1(1), Lesser Whitethroat 2(1), Whitethroat 1(2) , Garden Warbler 2(5), Blackcap 3(3), Willow Warbler 2(3), Goldcrest (2), Loing Tailed tit 14, Chaffinch 1, Linnet 6, Bullfinch 2, Yellowhammer 1


28th May 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 3

Nets were set under clear skies and the first net round with the rising sun saw a Spotted Flycatcher as the first bird of the morning caught, an unusual spring catch for this site. By the time the second net round started thick fog had rolled in and stayed the rest of the morning.

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A suprise catch in the second net round was a female Nightingale with an advanced brood patch in the territory where a male had been singing for several weeks. Hopefully the reason the male has been quiet the last 2 visits is because this is his mate and there's no further reason to sing seeing that he's the only male left at this site.

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The rest of the catch was fairly run of the mill stuff except for one male Whitethroat that had originally been ringed on 26th August 2013 but had not been retrapped  until today. This bird was ringed as a juvenile and so had made 10 trips migrating across the Sahara and in doing so will have travelled at least 45,000km.

The total catch was fractionally better than CES3 last year with 21 new and 43 retraps.

Wren (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (1), Nightingale (1), Blackbird (3), Song Thrush 2(1), Lesser Whitethroat 1(2), Whitethroat 7(10), Garden Warbler 1(5), Blackcap 5(10), Chiffchaff 1(1), Willow Warbler (1), Goldcrest (2), Spotted Flycatcher 1, Blue Tit (1), Great Tit 2, Bullfinch 1(1)

19th May 2018 - Salisbury Plan CES session 2

An extremely quiet session with numbers well down on the same session for the past 4 years and if it wasn't for the extra nets the total catch would have been pathetic.

The only real bird highlights of the morning were 2 Stock Dove pulli ringed in one of the artillery observation bunkers and a brood on 9 Great Tits in one of the sites nest boxes.

Most of the rest of the mornings free times between nets rounds was spent looking for butterflies but we failed to turn up any Marsh Fritillary or Duke of Burgundy but did find plent of Green Hairstreak.

41 new, 26 retrap

Stock Dove 2 pulli, Wren (2), Dunnock 3(1), Robin (2), Blackbird 2(3), Sonh Thrush 2, Lesser Whitethroat (2), Whitethroat 10(6), Garden Warbler 1(5), Blackcap 4(1), Chiffchaff (1), Willow Warbler 1(2), Goldcrest (1), Great Tit 1 & 9 pulli, Linnet 3, Yellowhammer 1, Reed Bunting 2

Green Hairstreak 2 Westdown June 2010