North Wilts Group

May 2017 - Nest Recording

Nest recording forms a major part of our work during the summer, obviously mainly focused on Tree Sparrows and we ringed 390 nestlings during the month. Occasionally we get Wrens nesting in our boxes, as open nests it is not possible to safely access most Wren nests but in boxes it is perfectly safe so we ringed two broods totalling 12 birds.
We also have some nest boxes on the Savernake estate mainly targeting the extremely scarce and local Willow Tit. In May we ringed a brood of 9 Willow Tits, two broods of Coal Tit totalling 17 nestlings, a brood of 7 Nuthatches.
Wilti fm
The Reed Warbler nest monitoring in the reed bed at Mouldon Hill Canal is going very well with 19 active nests and 4 nests with Cuckoo eggs in.
Cuckoo egg
The Mistle Thrushes in the wall successfully fledged 2 chicks which is a particularly noteworthy event because these are the first Mistle Thrush nestlings that we have ringed in 9 years. It isn't that they are scarce it's just that they do not nest where we go on our rounds of the downs.
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Owls are nesting early and sadly two of our Tawny Owl pairs failed but we did manage to ring one successful brood of 2 and we ringed a brood of 4 Little Owls. MP
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22nd May 2017 - Swindon STW CES

This was a very interesting session for Reed Warblers because we ringed 9 new birds, processed 3 controls i.e. ringed elsewhere and we retrapped 10 birds that we have previously ringed. These local or same site retraps can be very interesting, especially considering these birds have been to Africa and back each winter. The retraps included 4 from 2013, 1 from 2014 and 2 from 2015 but one of the 2015 birds was even higher value because it was ringed as a nestling in the reed bed at the canal at Mouldon Hill which is about 2km away.
The total of 47 birds processed is terrible compared with the same session last year when we processed 80 birds, the disparity seems to be in the number of resident species caught including Dunnock, Wren and Robin.
I then capped the day off with a nesting safari across the downs during which I ringed 34 Tree Sparrow and 11 Blue Tit nestlings. Nesting success is currently not very good, I guess because of the dry weather. MP, SW, TL
Reed Warbler 9 (10), Blackcap 5 (1), Whitethroat 1, Garden Warbler 1, Lesser Whitethroat 2 (1), Chiffchaff 0 (1), Willow Warbler 0 (1), Long Tailed Tit 0 (2), Wren 0 (1), Robin 1 (1), Dunnock 0 (1), Blackbird 1 (4), Greenfinch 4

13th May 2017 - Swindon STW CES

We had a big team out  today, all enthused for a good spring CES catch and it turned out to be quite a decent catch for the time of year. This session last year saw us catch 52 birds and in this session we caught 72. The big difference between the two years is that last year we ringed one Long Tailed Tit and today we caught a superb 17. MP, AF, SW, PW, GH, TL
Reed Warbler 6 (1), Sedge Warbler 3, Blackcap 3 (4), Whitethroat 5 (1), Lesser Whitethroat 3, Garden Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 1 (1), Long Tailed Tit 15 (2), Blue Tit 1 (1), Great Tit 1, Wren 0 (4), Dunnock 1 (5), Blackbird 2 (7), Greenfinch 2, Bullfinch 1, Reed Bunting 1

7th May 2017 - Mouldon Hill Canal

With Reed Warblers arriving in good numbers it was the right time to try our first session of the year at the canal. This site is under threat by the canal being dug out and eventually turned back to a navigable waterway which will devastate it from a breeding bird perspective. The main two species at this site are the Reed Warblers and the couple of pairs of Grasshopper Warbler. There were two male Grasshopper Warblers reeling and a good bit of work by Noah saw us catch and ring one, there are only a handful of pairs of Grasshopper Warblers breeding in the River Ray Parkway and they face an ever increasing threat by development and over-population. We did okay with Reed Warblers with seven ringed and two retrapped. One Reed Warbler was originally ringed at Swindon STW in the spring of 2015 and retrapped there last year,  the other one was ringed as a nestling in the canal in June 2015.
We retrapped a Willow Warbler that was ringed as a breeding male last year and another that was ringed at Purton Wood as a juvenile last summer. Both of the retrap Chiffchaffs were ringed last summer at Purton Wood, one as a breeding female and the other as a juvenile. The retrap rate of Whitethroats between sites is very low but we retrapped a female today that was originally ringed as a breeding female at Swindon STW last spring.
This was a very interesting session and shows just how important these last few remnants of good habitat are for birds. MP, AM, NW, GH
Reed Warbler 7 (2), Sedge Warbler 8, Grasshopper Warbler 1, Blackcap 7, Whitethroat 3 (1), Garden Warbler 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Chiffchaff 7 (2), Willow Warbler 5 (2), Goldcrest 2, Blackbird 2 (1), Song Thrush 3, Long Tailed Tit 3, Blue Tit 2 (1), Great Tit 6, Dunnock 7 (4), Robin 9, Wren 3, Bullfinch 4 (1), Chaffinch 1
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1st May 2017 - Swindon STW CES1

The 2017 CES season made a very inauspicious start from a team perspective as I was left to do it on my own. There had obviously been a passage of Sedge Warblers as I ringed 21 which is double the number of the corresponding session last year. A Kingfisher put in a very welcome appearance.
The best retraps were a Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler from 2015. MP
Kingfisher 1, Blackcap 6 (2), Whitethroat 3, Chiffchaff 1 (1), Willow Warbler 3, Reed Warbler 1 (1), Sedge Warbler 21, Wren 3 (5), Robin 1 (1), Dunnock 0 (5), Blackbird 1 (1), Song Thrush 2, Goldfinch 1, Greenfinch 0 (1), Bullfinch 1 (2), Long Tailed Tit 1 (2), Reed Bunting 2
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April Nesting Summary

The nesting season is now well underway and we had a good April with Tree Sparrows starting a week to ten days earlier than last year. Early indications are that there are more pairs than last year but it is too soon to tell. Some of our sites high on the downs do not yet have Tree Sparrows back on site yet.
Owls seem to be doing okay and we have three pairs of Tawny Owl with eggs, several pairs of Barn Owls on eggs and two pairs of Little Owl with eggs. Kestrels have also started early, we don't have many pairs but our regular birds are earlier than last year.
We have an unusual but very welcome Mistle Thrush nest with three eggs in, in a wall. We do not have many boxes in woodland but our few targeted nest boxes on the Savernake estate are doing very well with a pair of Nuthatch, two pairs of Coal Tit and best of all the pair of Willow Tits are back in our box and have 8 eggs.
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Wilti clutch 002

23rd April 2017 - Pewsey Downs

Last week I saw a fantastic loose flock of Corn Buntings at one of the sites on the downs right next to a rape crop. With the permission of the farmer I scattered some rape and barley into the tramlines and the flock concentrated into a small area. I didn't expect to catch much but if we could catch a Corn Bunting or two it would be a worthwhile session and up on the downs you never know what could turn up.
The day dawned exactly as forecast, cold and flat calm, perfect for this site. As usual the Corn Buntings largely avoided our nets but we did manage to catch three which is excellent and these birds all have darvic rings to enable us to resight them as we drive through the area during the summer. We were surprised by the number of Tree Sparrows that we caught and they contribute further to the RAS project. Right at the end we were caught that bonus bird, a Skylark so on his first ever farmland bird ringing session Terry ringed Corn Bunting, Skylark, Tree Sparrow and Linnet! MP, GH, TL
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Corn Bunting 3, Skylark 1, Linnet 9, Tree Sparrow 1 (4), Reed Bunting 1

22nd April 2017 - Swindon STW

We try not to ring Swindon STW in April because the BTO prefer us to leave the CES sites in-ringed beforehand if possible. This can be hard because we want to see what is going through at this time of year but thankfully we have enough sites to keep us occupied. For this session today we set nets as far away from the CES area as possible which affected the catch because our nets were in the less favourable areas but it was perfect for us to teach new trainee Terry. I particularly enjoyed watching Biff training Terry, looking at the photo you could be forgiven for thinking that the more senior person was teaching the younger.
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It was lovely to see our first Lesser Whitethroat of the summer, they are my favourite warbler. MP, AM, TL
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Lesser Whitethroat 1, Whitethroat 1, Blackcap 4, Chiffchaff 2, Reed Warbler 1, Long Tailed Tit 5 (1), Dunnock 5 (4), Robin 2 (1), Blackbird 0 (1), Song Thrush 0 (1), Bullfinch 2, Greenfinch 4