North Wilts Group

29th June 2013 - Marlborough Downs


This evening I decided upon a short trial session at a small sewage works on the edge of the downs and so put up a single thirty foot net where I have previously seen some House Martins and Swallows zipping round the corner of a hedge. My fieldwork paid dividends as in just over an hour I ringed 14 House Martins, 7 Swallows, a Tree Sparrow and a bonus female Yellow Wagtail with a brood patch thus proving local breeding. There were at least two male Yellow Wagtails present and so I will definitely be following up on this trial session. MP

27th June 2013 - Swindon STW

We had the BBC on site today filming for a forthcoming series and Simon will be our star for 5 minutes. A 4am start felt bad as I didn’t get home from work until 11pm the night before. Still, the wildlife trust volunteers kept us going with tea and some of Mandys fabulous cake. After what seems to have been a poor spring, all of a sudden the juveniles have arrived and especially the warblers, the BBC Presenter actually asked us why the catch was all juveniles!
Years ago I dreaded seeing a tit flock near the nets but after last summer they are now more than welcome and it was great to see a flurry of Long Tailed Tits proving that sometimes their nests do survive.
We finished the filming by ringing two broods of Reed Warbler. The total of 80 new and 20 retraps (including a control Sedge Warbler) was the first really good session for some time. MP/JN/SW/PA 
Blackcap 12, Whitethroat 6, Reed Warbler 6 (6) + 7 nestlings, Sedge Warbler 1 (5), Chiffchaff 10, Willow Warbler 4, Long Tailed Tit 5 (2), Great Tit 7 (1), Blue Tit 6 (2), Wren 0 (1), Dunnock 2 (2), Robin 6 (1), Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 2 (1), Goldfinch 1, Greenfinch 2, Reed Bunting 1, Magpie 1

26th June 2013 - Nightingale Wood

Having not been on site other than to do nest checking and net ride strimming while being eaten alive by the abundant local horsefly population, I thought I'd give the morning a try in the hope of catching some juvenile warblers. I wasn't disappointed as the catch was mostly made up of warblers including my first juvenile Willow Warblers and Whitethroat of the year. I managed to catch 5 new Reed Warblers from the tiny reed bed on site and then another 4 as pulli from a nest I found a few weeks ago. No the way out I ringed the last brood of Blue Tits that were left which were still at the feathers small stage and so won't be leaving the nest until well into July. GD

Wren 3, Dunnock (1), Robin 3(1), Blackbird 3(1), Reed Warbler 9(1), Whitethroat 3, Blackcap 3, Chiffchaff 5(1), Willow Warbler 5(1), Blue Tit 9, Bullfinch 1



21st June 2013 - Another Nest Box Safari

When I woke up this morning I didn’t realise what date it was and then I heard on the radio that it was Summer Solstice day which means that the roads to Avebury are lined with cones, traffic slows up and the area gets invaded by some quite interesting characters. We had a car full today as I was joined by my regular sidekicks Jack and Niamh but also Paul who is not a big fan of nestlings and I think he came just to hear Jacks pearls of wisdom. After some top class disorganisation we met Niamh half an hour late but at least we got there.
We are completing the ringing of the last few Tree Sparrow first broods and second broods are laying en mass so we planned to cover nearly all of the downland sites in one day. The forecast rain once again stayed away and we enjoyed a glorious day seeing all the usual suspects including Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Yellow Wagtail, Linnets, Grey Partridge and Red Kite. Two Hobby sightings were unusual but very welcome. There was a lovely show of orchids on one of the hills that is grazed for conservation by Wiltshire Horn Sheep but better than the flowers were the stunning Adonis Blue Butterflies on them.
We monitored 55 active Tree Sparrow nests and along the way checked the nests of several other species. We thought that the Little Owl nests would be the highlight but I think that the two Lapwing chicks we ringed were not just a more impressive find but possibly even more lovely than the Little Owls but it is a close call.
Ten hours later and all shattered our results were the following:
Swallow – 2 broods – 10 nestlings ringed
Tree Sparrow – 7 broods - 25 nestlings ringed
Little Owl – 3 broods - 8 nestlings ringed
Lapwing – 1 brood of 2 nestlings ringed
Blue Tit – 1 brood of 5 nestlings ringed
Stock Dove – 2 broods - 3 nestlings ringed
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20th June 2013 - Swindon STW

After an evening out with the Wildlife Trust volunteers I overslept a little and arrived at the sewage works to find Jack waiting for me. Rain had been forecast but we took a chance and went for it and we were well rewarded as we ringed a steady stream of birds. We were joined by Simon, Nick and Mandy the wildlife trust volunteers and also Lindsay who works for Wiltshire County Council. No sooner had they arrived when I ringed a ‘Reed Warbler’ then measured its wing at 73mm which is very long indeed and at the top end for Reed Warbler but right in the middle of Marsh Warbler. I measured the notch on the second primary and it was 10mm which is too short for for adult Reed Warbler but band central for adult Marsh Warbler. A few other biometric tests and a close look at plumage confirmed that it was a Marsh Warbler. Graham works two minutes away and came to take a second set of biometrics as a double check. The photo shows the Marsh Warbler on the left compared to a Reed Warbler, the greenish/olive on the mantle and the whitish tips of the inner primaries are the field plumage characters of note. MP/JN
Greenfinch 5, Blue Tit 3, Goldcrest 2, Marsh Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 4 (3), Sedge Warbler (3), Whitethroat 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 3 (1), Willow Warbler 1 (2), Chiffchaff 1, Dunnock 3 (4), Bullfinch 2 (1), Robin 1, Wren (1), Blackbird (1)
marsh w1-003

19th June 2013 - Salisbury Plain (centre)

With little wind forcast for the first time in weeks and with me having work commitments it was up to my Dad any Olly to have a go with a limited number of nets this morning as the Army wanted us off the range by 0830 so they could blow stuff up.

The first juvenile warblers of the year were caught, a family of 4 3J Chiffchaffs along with 2 retrap Nightingales that we'd not already trapped this year. One of these was originally ringed in 2008 as an adult meaning this bird is at least 6 years old. Otherwise its still very low numbers for this site as last years non event of a breeding season seems to have badly effected this site more than any of my others. OF/PD

Willow Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 4, Blue Tit 1, Linnet 1, Dunnock 1(1), Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 2(2), Blackcap 3, Robin 1, Swallow 2, Blackbird 2, Garden Warbler (2), Nightingale (2) 

IMG 3847

19th June 2013 - Mouldon Hill

As part of an ongoing survey of the reedbeds that have colonised the redundant canal at Mouldon Hill I put up four x 6 metre nets across the canal at various points along the 500 metre stretch. The whole area is alive with birds including Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Whitethtroats, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers but for the purposes of the survey I concentrated solely on what is using the reedbeds.
As expected Reed Warbler is the dominant species and there are probably about 15-20 pairs on site making it very important for the species on a county scale. Today saw the first juvenile warblers of the year with a Reed Warbler and a Chiffchaff. Kingfishers are very prominent along the River Ray but whizz around all over the place and today a male whizzed into the nets which was a jolly decent thing to do. The morning was rounded off nicely with a control male Blackcap.
Note the fresh wings of the juvenile Reed Warbler, characterised by the shiny feathers and unworn feather tips, this bird is very young and still has a prominent gape. MP
Reed Warbler 13 (2), Sedge Warbler 3 (1), Chiffchaff 2, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Wren 1 (1), Long Tailed Tit 1, Blackbird 1, Bullfinch 2, Kingfisher 1, Blackcap 0 (1) 
juv reewa

17th June - Savernake Forest

Jack and I ringed a brood of Marsh Tits in a nestbox at a private site yesterday and we thought that the male of the pair could be a seriously old bird so we decided to trap the parents as well. Sadly, the male was not a really old bird but the pair were quite interesting because the male was ringed as a first year bird on 8th October 2010 and the female was ringed as a first year on 5th November 2011. So the male is 3 and the female is 2 which makes them a pretty experienced pair and they are proving it as we ringed 7 nestlings. MP/JN
Marti male-001