North Wilts Group

8th October 2016 - Kennet Valley

This site is our Willow Tit site but in recent years it has been ravaged by timber extraction and it is clear that the Willow Tits have declined drastically as a result. When we ring this site we make sure that we have a large team because we catch lots of Goldcrests and being so miniscule they need to be released quickly and also this site can host large numbers of tits which can be a test to extract from the nets.
Today most of the team were out, but with the mild weather of late the number of birds visiting the feeders has been quite low and so Goldcrests aside, it was a day to sit around and have a chat and enjoy the small flocks of Crossbills that were flying overhead. Anna had to leave early to get back to her young family and typically as soon as she had left site we caught a Siskin, a species that somehow has eluded her.
We didn't catch any Willow Tits but I did hear one briefly, so at least they still persist in the wood.
Right at the end of the morning we caught a lovely male Sparrowhawk which was a first for Noah, we don't catch many and it is always good to work through raptor handling with the team to ensure that they learn the correct techniques to ensure that they handle the birds safely both for bird and ringer.
We ended up ringing 106 birds with the catch totally dominated by a very impressive 80 Goldcrests and it is testament to the quality of the team that this session was remarkably easy going. MP, AF, PW, NW, AM, GH
Sparrowhawk 1, Siskin 1, Marsh Tit 1, Goldcrest 80 (1), Chiffchaff 1, Coal Tit 13 (2), Blue Tit 4, Treecreeper 1 (1), Wren 2, Chaffinch 1, Robin 1 (1)

Norway - October 2016

I've spent my usual October week ringing in Norway 30km north-west of Bergen and have been catching some really interesting birds. The weather has been set in a record high pressure blocking anti-cyclone which has meant light easterly winds all week, the best wind direction for rare birds on the west coast of Norway.

At the few local sites we ring at we have caught over 700 birds, most of which will be migrants. Large numbers of Tit's and Goldcrest's have been on the move as well as thousand's of Thrushes and Finches.

The week started of brightly with 2 Yellow-browed Warbler's, a Little Bunting and a few Twite caught in the first few days at an exciting Shetland like island called Herldvaer which has a long history of turning up good birds.




The next day at the site produced what is likely to be only the 21st Norwegian record of Savi's Warbler which caused something of a major twitch of 6 people. It's not often you take something out of a next thinking 'what's this'.


While we were catching these good birds the islands 15km north of us were turning up White's Thrush and Red-flanked Bluetail while Utsira Bird Observatory, the Fair Isle of Norway was getting Lanceolated Warbler's and Olive-backed Pipit's so we were hoping something else interesting would turn up for us which it duly did for us in the form of a Red-throated Pipit, probably only the 3rd county record.


Another nice bird caught this week was this Jack Snipe.


18th September 2016 - Swindon STW


We had a great team lined up for Sunday and so I went in on Saturday evening to set the nets. I set a two shelf wader net as a little bonus net and it came up trumps. As I walked towards the net at dusk I could see a bird in it and that is always exciting when you have set a net for water birds, I could see it was a snipe species but it was too small. I then realised that it was a Jack Snipe. This is a great record because it is the second earliest ever recorded in Wiltshire with the earliest record a field sighting by me on 10th September 2005. This bird is over a month earlier than any other Jack Snipe that I have ringed.
WP 20160917 21 31 00 Pro 21
We all met the next day with our special guest for the day being Paul Aubrey who ringed with us until a year ago when he moved to Wales. As I was setting nets the previous evening I thought we would do well because I could hear Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps calling across the site and sure enough first thing in the morning the site was alive with birds. We were kept busy for several hours with short breaks for us to ring a Snipe and a Teal, both extracted by Anna. We had a team of six ringers and there can't be many groups in the country where only one member of the team hadn't ringed Snipe or Teal. Star bird of the day was an adult Green Sandpiper, originally ringed in August 2015 as a first-year. Special mention has to be made for Noahs mum who once again was a truly brilliant scribe and such a valuable member of the team, without a top class scribe we would not be able to have run the morning as well as we did.
At a few points during the morning I sat back and watched the team and it was fantastic to see everyone operating so professionally. After the session, Paul told me that it was brilliant to see how well everyone has improved and that we were a very slick team.
By this time of the year the species diversity falls and the catch is normally dominated by Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and so it proved today with 157 of the former and 86 of the latter. During the morning we ringed 314 birds and processed 21 retraps and a control Blackcap. MP, PA, AF, PW, NW, AM, JW
Green Sandpiper 0 (1), Teal 1, Jack Snipe 1, Snipe 1, Kingfisher 0 (1), Blackcap 157 (4), Chiffchaff 86, Sedge Warbler 13, Reed Warbler 12, Whitethroat 2, Willow Warbler 2, Goldcrest 1, Swallow 1, Robin 11 (4), Wren 7 (3), Dunnock 3 (3), Blackbird 5, Great Tit 1, Blue Tit 4 (2), Long Tailed Tit 0 (2), Reed Bunting 4 (2), Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 1

11th September 2016 - Salisbury Plain (east)

I was joined by Noah and his mum Jill the superscribe, Paul W and we were also joined by my newest trainee Jodie who has spent the summer ringing in the Seychelles and also her dad Gary who turned out to be a brilliant helper. Our CES results show that Blackcaps have fared very badly this summer and recently Graham has had a few relatively low catches at his site on the plain so I wasn't particularly hopeful for today. It was clear overnight and then at dawn a mist descended over much of the area leaving just my ringing site clear and when I opened the nets at dawn the bushes were absolutely heaving with birds. Blackcaps were moving all over the place and they kept us very busy all morning but our well-trained team were well up to the job and did magnificently well to keep on top of things. We retrapped a Blackcap from a few weeks ago and we also controlled a Blackcap ringed elsewhere in the UK, it will be interesting to see how far and fast this bird has moved. As is typical for the time of year most of the warbler numbers were down but we still ringed five Grasshopper Warblers including an adult which was great for comparison with the more frequently encountered first years. A first year male Redstart and a couple of Whinchat kept the species variety up and then we caught a Spotted Flycatcher, this is a species that we rarely ringed, in fact there was a seven year gap without me ringing a full grown bird but now we catch them annually. I wonder if this is a local increase in Wiltshire?
The final total of 257 Blackcaps is a record and the team were put through their paces but I was pleased to receive feedback from them all that they loved the day, though I would prefer to catch fewer as I am now absolutely shattered. MP, NW, PW, JH, JW, GH
Blackcap 257 (2), Whitethroat 11, Garden Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Sedge Warbler 19, Reed Warbler 1, Grasshopper Warbler 5, Chiffchaff 24 , Redstart 1, Whinchat 2, Spotted Flycatcher 1, Meadow Pipit 2, Robin 8, Wren 2, Swallow 11, Reed Bunting 2, Goldfinch 7, Linnet 5, Goldcrest 1, Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 1

Norway August 2016

Biff joined me for his first foreign ringing trip, to spend ten days with Nigel Goodgame who trained with me a few years ago. Nigel now rings in Norway ably assisted by his wife Sissel. This trip to Norway was a bit more exciting than others because we were joining them at their cabin in Finnmark about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We were ringing at Valdak Nature Reserve which is where the entire Norwegian population of Lesser White Fronted Geese gather each autumn. The place is fantastically beautiful with incredible lighting effects and the fjord changed face with each change of weather. Peregrine, Merlin, Rough Legged Buzzard and Cranes were all daily sights but we were there to monitor the birds that used the land and though migration was light following a poor breeding season we caught lots of Meadow Pipits and Meally Redpolls. During our stay we gave ringing demonstrations to three groups of school children and we assisted training of some of the local ringers along with sharing ideas which was fantastic and I have certainly learnt some new things. The Norwegians were amongst the best hosts that I have ever met and I admire their hardiness and we shared a strong mutual respect. One of my highlights was when we slept out in a Lavvo and had a wonderful campfire during which we watched the Aurora borealis or Northern Lights and I didn't realise that we were being photographed whilst watching them.
Aurora borealis Ingar J. Øien August 2016
We ringed 6 Lapland Buntings, a Red Throated Pipit, a Siberian Tit and a couple of Great Grey Shrikes. One afternoon we visited Stabbursdalen which is the northern most pine forest in the world watching flocks of Bramblings feeding on blueberries but then as we were sat ringing some Willow Tits we were joined by three Siberian Jays that glided in noiselessly. It appears that they work circuits of the forest because we then set some spring traps and about an hour later they came back and magically right as we were watching, one of them flew down and took the bait and was caught instantly. I remember when I used to read my first field guide of European birds seeing Siberian Jay and thinking that I would never see this quiet denizen of such remote northern pine woods and so to be able to ring a bird that I have previously afforded mythical status to is one of the absolute highlights of my ringing career.
Lap Bunt
Nige with shrike
Sibe Tit in hand
Sibe Jay in hand
During our stay we were thoroughly spoilt by Nigel and Sissel and we loved staying in their delightful cabin with a couple of nets set in the garden that yielded Arctic Redpoll, Bluethroats and Reed Buntings. MP, AM
Arctic Redpoll

8th September 2016 - Summer Update

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

24th August 2016 - Salisbury Plain (centre)

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.


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.


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


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

18th August 2016 - Salisbury Plain (centre)

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.


DSCF3468 001


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



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