North Wilts Group

Swallow Roosts - Water Eaton

In previous years we have enjoyed considerable success ringing Swallows at roost in a maize field by the River Thames at Water Eaton. This year the farmer has moved the crops around and the maize field is now further away from the river.
Our first effort was on 21st August when we had a really good team out, joined by Olly Fox and so we were ready for a hoped-for big catch. Swallow numbers were building really nicely with over 450 present along with quite a few Sand Martins but then we were treated to a lovely display of aerobatics by a Hobby and then it went in the net and as I ran towards the net the Hobby rolled out of the net which is a real shame. When Hobbies appear it really panics the hirundines and they often disappear completely, tonight the flock dispersed but came back into roost right at dusk. We ringed 88 Swallows and a pretty impressive 16 Sand Martins and we thought it was a good start to the Swallow roost season.
On 24th August we had another really good team out and the Swallows once again were present in good numbers and things were looking good until another Hobby appeared and scattered the flock and so we only ringed 33 Swallows, 2 Sand Martins and a Reed Warbler.
On 28th August again we had a good team out and there were lots of Swallows but tonight two Hobbies came and caused havoc and we ended up ringing 36 Swallows and a Sand Martin.
On 30th August I was joined by Olly but very few Swallows appeared and then a Sparrowhawk did us the honour of popping into the net before we ringed 18 Swallows.
On 5th September I was joined by Gary and Graham and we sat around for a few hours having a really good chat but the Swallows pretty much failed to turn up and we only ringed five so I have called the Swallow roost season to a halt, it really just did not happen this year.
Sand Martin

19th August 2017 - Swindon STW CES


This was a non-CES session so we were able to vary our net set away from the usual CES nets. We were joined by my brother so newbies Terry and Phil underwent intensive one on one training and so both made good steps forward with both extraction from mist nets and also ringing as they each ringed over twenty birds.
Blackcaps dominated the day but I was a bit disappointed with the low number of Reed Warblers. I was a bit low on energy after a late night the night before and when we were joined by my sister in law and niece I was delighted to see them but especially delighted that they had brought me a breakfast from a well known fast food chain.
Phil worked in the broadcasting industry and is a bit of a whizz with electronics and he has been a busy boy transforming my old defunct mini amplifiers into fully functioning speaker systems with much better sound quality and they will be essential for the forthcoming autumn. MP, PW, AP, PDU, TL
Reed Warbler 2 (3), Sedge Warbler 9, Blackcap 27 (6), Garden Warbler 3 (1), Whitethroat 5, Chiffchaff 15, Willow Warbler 3, Goldcrest 1, Dunnock 1 (2), Wren 9 (1), Robin 1, Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 1 (2), Long Tailed Tit 4, Bullfinch 0 (1)

13th August 2017 - Swindon STW CES


I was away for this session but I was really pleased that Anna took the lead for this session ably supported by Simon.
Unfortunately they had a very quiet session with one of our lowest CES catches ever. AF, SW
Reed Warbler 0 (1), Sedge Warbler 1, Whitethroat 4 (1), Blackcap 5 (3), Garden Warbler 2, Chiffchaff 1, Robin 2 (6), Wren 3, Blackbird 2 (1), Song Thrush 1, Blue Tit 1, Great Tit 1

6th August 2017 - Salisbury Plain (east)


The holiday season has hit in and sadly I was on my own today. It was a bit of a hard job clearing all the rides and setting everything up for the first time but it was very exciting to be back out on the plain and in perfect weather. This is peak passage time for Sedge Warblers and it is always amazing to see just how many of them pass through this dry grassland area. I could hear the Redstart calling before I caught it but it was still lovely to see such a beautiful bird. The other bonus birds of the session were a Grasshopper Warbler and a juvenile Stonechat.
There was an enormous flock of Linnets on site and it was almost a surprise to only catch 11, I reckon there must have been over 500 present. MP
Redstart 1, Stonechat 1, Sedge Warbler 39, Reed Warbler 11, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Whitethroat 41, Blackcap 2 (1), Garden Warbler 5, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Willow Warbler 10, Linnet 11, Yellowhammer 4, Dunnock 2, Robin 2, Wren 1 (1), Long Tailed Tit 8 (1)
WP 20170806 08 55 53 Pro 2

30th July 2017 - Mouldon Hill Canal, Swindon


With the dodgy weather we have missed the chance to do our first session of the autumn on the Salisbury Plain and so we opted instead for a session at Mouldon Hill which is very sheltered and closer to home so if we have to abort we haven't travelled too far. The overnight rain had cleared, leaving the vegetation very wet but the day soon became sunny. We had a large but reasonably inexperienced team out and we were joined for the first time by Phil Dunk who has been out on a couple of Tree Sparrow nesting safaris and is interested in becoming a trainee.
Our monitoring of the Reed Warblers in the area is now proving to be very effective with 14 of the 16 caught being retraps. Nine of the retraps were ringed as nestlings in the canal this summer and we also retrapped two that we originally ringed as nestlings in the canal in July 2015. Nine Sedge Warblers shows that they are starting to move now but the number of Wrens we caught was probably a record for us with 14 in one day. Recent catches are starting to suggest that Wrens have fared very well this breeding season. MP, NW, GH, JH, TL, PDU
Reed Warbler 2 (14), Sedge Warbler 9, Blackcap 3 (1), Chiffchaff 4, Willow Warbler 2, Dunnock 5 (1), Wren 13 (1), Robin 2, Blackbird 7, Sparrowhawk 1, Goldfinch 1, Bullfinch 1, Long Tailed Tit 3, Blue Tit 3 (4), Great Tit 2 (1), Treecreeper 1, Woodpigeon 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1)
WP 20170730 08 45 09 Rich 2

23rd July 2017 - Swindon STW CES

We had a good little team out today for the next CES session. As is often the case the catch was dominated by Reed Warblers and Blackcaps. Reed Warblers always provide us with interesting information and today whilst not exceptional still proved interesting with four adults originally ringed on 2015 and four juveniles all ringed this year as nestlings on site. MP, SW, NW, TL
Reed Warbler 12 (10), Blackcap 22 (2), Whitethroat 4, Garden Warbler 2, Sedge Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 6, Willow Warbler 3, Dunnock 3 (1), Robin 4 (3), Wren 8, Blackbird 3, Song Thrush 3, Blue Tit 2, Great Tit 2, Long Tailed Tit 1 (4), Treecreeper 1

22nd July 2017 - Pewsey Downs

We are right in the heart of the breeding season now and trying to time each site for it's Tree Sparrow Retrap Adults for Survival visit is really difficult. It was just Noah and me for this session and we set the nets along flight lines that we thought the sparrows would take from the boxes at first light and some others by some feeders. Typically in this situation at this time of year the feeders get swarms of young Tree Sparrows on them but this is great because we get to retrap some of the birds that we have ringed as nestlings. We caught 41 juvenile Tree Sparrows that comprised 23 retraps and 18 new so once again it shows just how many natural pairs there are. We caught 12 adults of which 3 were previously unringed, these birds contribute to the RAS and make this a very successful session. One Tree Sparrow proved to be just about the strangest one I have ever recorded; it was originally ringed in a huge wintering flock at a site 9km north, then it bred first brood at a site a further 3km north and was retrapped there on 8th July with a brood patch that was healing up. It has now appeared at this site a full 12km south, 14 days later but with a brood patch indicating that it is laying eggs again. The most probable explanation for this bizarre occurrence is that its partner had died and that it had moved until it came across another male that she then paired up with.
The adult retraps that had been originally ringed as nestlings included four from 2016, two from 2015 and one from 2014.
Surprise of the day were a pair of moulting Redstarts caught by a dung heap, it really never fails to amaze me what birds pass through the downs that I would not see if it weren't for ringing, we also ringed a Willow Warbler which will be a migrant passing through as they do not breed here. MP, NW
Tree Sparrow 41 (12), Redstart 2, Whitethroat 3, Willow Warbler 1, Great Tit 5, Blue Tit 1, Blackbird 4 (1), Robin 3, Wren 9, Linnet 1
WP 20170722 07 27 06 Rich 2

15th July - Tree Sparrow RAS


My ringing calendar was starting to get a bit jammed up with CES due and also Tree Sparrow RAS catches urgently needed so we decided to split the team to cover both options.
Gary joined me at the Tree Sparrow site which consists of feeders by a pond on the downs. The Tree Sparrows always provide such interesting information, today we ringed 22 and retrapped 22, it seems that despite the more nest boxes we put up, the split of unringed v ringed in our catches stays the same. We caught 36 juvenile Tree Sparrows, again with an exact 50/50 split of ringed v unringed. We caught a total of ten adults for the RAS project, of these, one was originally ringed 5km away last year.
The most interesting Tree Sparrows were four juveniles that we ringed as nestlings at an organic farm 2km away. This is a new site for us and it has opened up our eyes to organic farming because the breeding results have not been very good there and then to have four of the nestlings immediately disperse away tells me that organic farming may not always be beneficial to farmland birds.
Surprise of the day was the Garden Warbler that we caught as it flew through an area of stinging nettles, I don't think that I have ever seen one on the downs before. MP, GH
Tree  Sparrow 22 (22), House Sparrow 16, Greenfinch 2, Chaffinch 2, Goldfinch 3, Blackcap 4, Garden Warbler 1, Whitethroat 1, Chiffchaff 1, Swallow 1, Dunnock 5, Wren 1 (1), Blackbird 5, Great Tit 15, Blue Tit 3, Jackdaw 1