North Wilts Group

11th April 2013 - Swindon STW

A few beers last night with the wildlife trust volunteers convinced Simon and I to see if the weather would be good enough to put a few nets up at Swindon Lagoons to give them a little ringing demo before their work day. I woke up to rain and so left off for a while and then when the rain died off we went for it at the late time of 08:30. We only put two nets up (a sixty and an eighteen footer) in the feeding station and operated these for a couple of hours. Toasted Hot Cross buns and a cup of tea for breakfast made the morning even better. We had just about the perfect number of birds for the group to see all the birds really well. The morning was dominated by Redpolls with 9 new and one control actually being more than we have ringed at this site in the last 14 years, showing once again how Redpolls are adapting to feeders. A  Magpie was an unusual catch and we were surprised to see that it already had a brood patch code of 4 indicating that she is incubating eggs. One of the Redpolls was a control and with a little help from a friend we were able to inform the group that this bird had originally been ringed in November 2011 at Shooters Hill in south east London by the Dartford Ringing Group. This is another example of a Redpoll that has changed wintering area. After ringing, the team dispersed across the site to make a small heligoland trap, to clear rides and to plant elder cuttings and then reconvened for lunch including the most awesome Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake made by Mandy, the Trusts’ very own Mrs Beeton.
The retrapped birds included 2 Blue Tits and a Great Tit ringed in 2009, a Chaffinch ringed in 2010 and a Reed Bunting ringed last winter. MP
Lesser Redpoll 9 (1), Greenfinch 6 (1), Chaffinch 3 (1), Reed Bunting 3 (1) ,Great Tit 2 (3) ,Blue Tit 0 (2), Dunnock 2 (1), Magpie 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

10th April 2013 - Marlborough Downs

Three of us put up 6 nets at a very exposed farmland site near Avebury, it was a particularly cunning set with two pairs of two shelf nets amongst teasels adjacent to a hedgerow and two thirty foot nets at right angles to the hedge. This site has previously supported a flock of 150 Corn Buntings along with a similar number of Tree Sparrows but by now these flocks have started breaking up and we saw singing male Corn Buntings dotted around the wider area. The day started off grey but soon became quite sunny and without a breath of wind. We had a steady stream of Yellowhammers providing some great training on ageing and sexing of this difficult species and most of the team are now competent with all of the complexities that the species offers. The Chaffinches were carrying fat scores of 4 indicating that they are migrants probably heading back to breed on the continent. Sarah who is back from Uni ringed her first Tree Sparrow and so now counts as a proper Wiltshire ringer. The highlight of the day was a summer migrant in the form of a Willow Warbler; a real surprise in an isolated hedgerow high on the Marlborough Downs but our pleasure was further enhanced when we saw our first Swallow of the ‘summer’ swoop through. MP
Yellowhammer 24, Reed Bunting 5 (1), Chaffinch 4 (1), Blackbird 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Goldfinch ,Willow Warbler 1
Wilwa windmill

8th April - Recent Recoveries

Lesser Redpoll - Hens Wood to Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

Sedge Warbler - Swindon STW to Saint Philbert de Grande Lieu, France

Sedge Warbler - Donges, France to Haxton Down

7th April 2013 - Nightingale Wood

Still freezing cold and still no summer migrants. Usually by the first week of April I've ringed a good few Blackcap's and Willow Warbler's at this site but today these were replaced with Brambling and Redpoll's with large numbers of winter thrushes flying over and two Jack Snipe on the lake. An average mornings catch with 26 new and 31 retraps. Some of the retraps were quire interesting, a Brambling that was ringed on the 6th January and not seen since, and a Chaffinch ringed 27th January 2007 and retrapped 21st March 2009, a ripe old age of 6 years 70 days since initially ringed. PD/GD

Wren 2(1), Goldcrest 2, Chiffchaff 1, Robin 2(1), Blue Tit 2(5), Great Tit 2(7), Bullfinch 1(1), Reed Bunting 4(5), Lesser Redpoll 3, Chaffinch 2(3), Greenfinch 4(2), Jay 1, Dunnock (1), Brambling (1), Blackbird (3), Long Tailed Tit (1)


6th April 2013 - Marlborough Downs

Farmland Birds Again........
The team were otherwise detained today, with one off ringing in Israel, one gone awol, one out partying and the other working so they took a risk on leaving me on my own which is when I tend to catch interesting things. However, April tends to be a time when the wintering birds have either gone or the flocks have split up for breeding and the summer migrants have only just started arriving so our catches tend to drop significantly. I chose a site on the Marlborough Downs that was sheltered from the cold northerly wind with the aim of individually colour ringing Tree Sparrows and hopefully Corn Buntings. The flock of farmland birds has decreased but there were still 80 Corn Buntings, 100 Yellowhammers, 100 Chaffinches and 35 Tree Sparrows present. 41 birds ringed and 16 birds retrapped made for a pretty successful catch for the time of year. 3 more Tree Sparrows colour ringed was very good but the 16th Corn Bunting of the year was excellent as so few are ringed nationally. The retraps were good with a Yellowhammer from 2 years ago and a Tree Sparrow from last year. MP
Yellowhammer 21 (9),Chaffinch 15 (5),Tree Sparrow 2 (1),Corn Bunting 1,Blackbird 1,Dunnock 1,Robin 0 (1)

5th April 2013 - Gambia Revisited

It's cold, it's windy, there's no sign of spring and no summer migrants. Therefore here are some more photographs of the BTO ringing expidition to The Gambia in February.

Oriole Warbler & Pygmy Kingfisher


Yellow-billed Kite & Lavender Waxbill


Blue-cheeked Bee-eater & Giant Kingfisher


30th March 2013 - Thames Valley

Two of us were out at a private site in the Thames Valley this morning. It was warmer than previous days and quite calm. We set nets around a feeding station and an area where we have been scattering grain amongst scrub. It was a really good session for the time of year with 15 species trapped giving some fantastic training experience. There was a noticeable influx of Robins which must surely be birds moving back north and east to breed. We only caught 7 Tree Sparrows of the 80 present but more birds individually colour ringed to help identify these birds when breeding. Many people think that ringing Blue Tit nestlings is pointless, well some of us disagree especially as we retrapped two birds that we originally ringed as nestlings at the same site, but one was on 30th May 2010 and the other was on 26/5/08 and so just shy of 5 years old. MP

Tree Sparrow 6 (1), House Sparrow 2, Yellowhammer 9, Reed Bunting 1 (2), Brambling 1,Robin 9 (2), Dunnock 2 (3), Blue Tit 2 (6 ), Great Tit 0 (2), Wren 1, Blackbird 5 (2), Fieldfare 1, Redwing 1, Greenfinch 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 (1)

Ringing Group Totals

Totals to the end of March:

Sparrowhawk 1   Marsh Tit 1
Water Rail 1   Willow Tit 2
Jack Snipe 5   Coal Tit 87
Snipe 16   Blue Tit 194
Woodpigeon 11   Great Tit 94
Little Owl 2   Nuthatch 3
Kingfisher 1   Treecreeper 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 8   Jackdaw 2
Skylark 6   Jay 5
Meadow Pipit 8   Starling 8
Pied Wagtail 12   House Sparrow 24
Wren 12   Tree Sparrow 58
Dunnock 65   Chaffinch 266
Robin 43   Brambling 11
Blackbird 70   Greenfinch 67
Fieldfare 7   Goldfinch 116
Mistle Thrush 1   Siskin 27
Song Thrush 4   Linnet 223
Redwing 16   Lesser Redpoll 43
Blackcap 2   Bullfinch 15
Chiffchaff 1   Yellowhammer 239
Goldcrest 14   Reed Bunting 69
Firecrest 1   Corn Bunting 12
Long-tailed Tit 43      
      TOTAL 1914