North Wilts Group

17th March 2017 - Marlborough Downs

What finer way to spend your birthday than ring Tree Sparrows at one of the biggest Tree Sparrow sites on the Marlborough Downs. This site is an expansive garden with lots of feeders. The aim of today was to fit more Tree Sparrows with PIT tags to enable us to identify the individuals using each box and to learn more about pair relationships. We were pretty successful fitting PIT tags to 19 birds. The retrap Tree Sparrows mostly originated from the same site but the furthest movement was of 9km and the oldest bird was two years old. All of these retrap histories build up the picture that enables us to target our conservation efforts for Tree Sparrows.
Crab map 17.3.17
Surprise of the day was a Mistle Thrush which as it turns out is the first adult Mistle Thrush we have ringed since 2004. Mistle Thrushes frequent open parkland and so generally are associated with sites that are not good for ringing which is why we do not catch them. Gary was the lucky chap to ring this bird because none of the more experienced team members were present. After this initial work we then spent the rest of the day refurbishing and putting up nest boxes across the downs. MP, GH
Tree Sparrow 4 (17), House Sparrow 5 (2), Mistle Thrush 1, Song Thrush 1, Stock Dove 1, Chaffinch 7 (4), Goldfinch 14, Greenfinch 2, Dunnock 6 (1), Robin 2 (2), Wren 4, Blackbird 2 (1), Goldcrest 1 (1), Blue Tit 1 (2), Great Tit 2 (1)

12th March 2017 - Swindon STW

Whilst doing some other work one evening I noticed a reasonable Linnet roost of 50 plus going into some brambles. I told the team and they were keen to target them as we do not ring that many Linnets and people wanted to brush up their id skills.
A roost catch is great as it doesn't take that long and the results can be very good compared with the effort put in, and so tonight proved. 17 Linnets and then a control Reed Bunting was a fantastic return for two hours effort. MP, AF, NW, GH
Linnet 17, Reed Bunting 2 (1), Long Tailed Tit (1), Chifchaff 1, Dunnock  1Wren (1)

February & March 2017 - Dazzling

I have spent a lot of effort trying to catch waders at night in the past couple of winters. I have learnt an awful lot about the methods involved but there is still so much to learn. I have focused my efforts on the Salisbury Plain and the Marlborough Downs and our catches are low but the species we catch would not be caught by other methods. I have also found some Kestrels roosting in barns and have ringed a couple of them.
Highlights have been 2 Grey Partridge and a Lapwing but the most amazing record was of two Golden Plovers that were both caught in the same field as they were caught and ringed in, in January 2016. Not only is this amazing site fidelity but the chances of catching the same two birds a winter apart and not catching any other of the 200 birds is incredible.
WP 20170215 18 47 04 Rich
WP 20170215 20 26 44 Pro
WP 20170221 23 26 36 Pro 2
WP 20170221 23 41 39 Pro 2

6th March 2017 - Savernake

We are working with Forest Enterprise and one of our aims is to try to find Willow Tits in Savernake Forest. We have been walking around searching for them and another method is to set up feeding stations to see if they will come to the feeders. These are the early days of our work here and we have not found Willow Tit but we did catch a fine cast of woodland species including 6 more Marsh Tits, they do seem to be quite common in woodlands across the county. MP, SW
Blue Tit 21, Coal Tit 19, Great Tit 8, Marsh Tit 6, Nuthatch 4, Treecreeper 1, Chaffinch 6, Lesser Redpoll 6, Robin 3, Woodpigeon 1

4th March 2017 - Thames Valley

It was just Simon and I for this session.
This site used to be a superb farmland bird site but a solar farm has been installed on what was once an arable field. The hedgerows are superb but the habitat loss is still obvious and has affected the numbers of farmland birds. The solar farm company has to date not fully fulfilled its obligations and our monitoring shows that the numbers of birds are down, we are speaking with the landowner and we are now feeding more supplementary food to get the birds through this winter and then we hope that the planning obligations are met to help the birds going forward.
Our net set today was around two feeding stations in a copse surrounded by arable farmland and high quality farmland. The sparrows are happy to come into the copse but the other farmland birds stay out. As it was just the two of us we enjoyed a lovely session ringing at a leisurely pace but at the back of our minds we both knew that we should be catching more Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers and that sowed a seed in my mind.
The farmer feeds a group of feral cats to keep the rats down but Tree Sparrows are intolerant of cats and so a few years ago we moved the feeders and this seems to have worked as a flock of about 30 Tree Sparrows was present which is a good number for this site. MP, SW
Tree Sparrow 4 (3), House Sparrow 2, Reed Bunting 14 (1), Yellowhammer 12 (1), Chaffinch 32 (1), Linnet 3, Dunnock 8 (2), Robin 3 (1), Blue Tit 2 (1), Great Tit 8 (1), Goldcrest 2

26th February 2017 - Woodland SSSI

A landowner who owns a woodland that is a Site of Special Scientific Interest has asked me to help them survey their woodland to assist them manage their wood because it is currently classed as being in Unfavourable condition. The strange thing with this site is that nothing has changed on site and Natural England are not specific about what the site was notified for and what needs to be done to bring it back to 'condition'.
I have promised to do some butterfly surveys in the summer but my main focus will be the birds. The great thing is that this is a wholly private estate and all the staff including the game keeper are fully on board to the point where the estate has funded the feed and the rings and the keeper is now filling the feeders in the winter. On the way in, we bumped into the deer stalker and whereas I find some deer stalkers particularly difficult, this chap was fantastic and we had a great chat and I ended up giving him a little ringing demo.
To be honest I didn't expect a lot from this session, but it did pleasantly surprise me. I was joined by Anna and Noah and we set up short nets around two feeding stations which would give us a fair sample of the birds of the wood. 80 birds was a pretty decent catch and shows that the site isn't too bad and strengthened by the presence of four Marsh Tits. Seven Goldcrests was pretty good as was seeing three Woodcock that roost in the wood undisturbed by dog walkers.
We will definitely be doing some more monitoring here and it feels worthwhile, helping an engaged landowner to try to turn their woodland into favourable condition. MP, AF, NW
Marsh Tit 4, Blue Tit 23, Coal Tit 14, Great Tit 19, Long Tailed Tit 3, Chaffinch 3, Goldcrest 7, Nuthatch 2, Treecreeper 1, Robin 3, Magpie 1

19th February 2017 - Pewsey Downs

The farm we were ringing today is the smelliest of our farms as the cows are fed with maize silage which is very rich and the arising slurry is particularly potent. However, it is also one of the best Tree Sparrow sites in the country with a flock of c300 present. The game cover has collapsed this year and the farm has been plagued by rats and so we have not fed on the ground this year resulting in a much smaller catch than we usually get at this site.
Most of the retrap Tree Sparrows were ringed as nestlings at the same site the previous summer but there was one from 2015 and then one from the summer of 2012 which is exceptional for a Tree Sparrow but we also caught this individual as a breeding female in the summers of 2015 and 2016. We also controlled five from a site 3km west and two from 2km north.
Corn Buntings have been very scarce at this site this winter and the were not many present but we managed to catch one that was originally ringed at the same site in April 2016. For most ringers a catch of 81  new and 31 retraps would be excellent but for this site, this is quite a poor catch. MP, GH, NW
Tree Sparrow 8 (24), Corn Bunting 1, Yellowhammer 37 (2), Reed Bunting 2, Linnet 1, Chaffinch 14, Great Tit 2 (1), Robin 5 (1), Dunnock 7 (3), Blackbird 2, Fieldfare 1, Woodpigeon 1

18th February 2017 - Bedwyn Common

Fresh back from the heat of Bangladesh, I was wrapped up in many layers for this session. We weren't sure if the session was going to take place due to rain being possible but thankfully it held off and we enjoyed a lovely session. I was joined on the day by Olly Fox but sadly Gary couldn't join us though he had done a superb job of keeping the feeders fed and it served us well. Coal Tits dominated the morning with 41 ringed and 22 retrapped comprised eleven from earlier this winter, seven from last winter and two from two winters ago. Any woodland ringing session includes lots of Blue Tits and we ringed 22 today but the retraps were decent with six from earlier this winter, three from last winter, one from two years ago, one from three years ago and one old timer from five years ago.
This winter has been very poor for Bramblings and we heard one today and then towards the end we caught it. The main reason that we ring at this site is because we are trying to create Willow Tit habitat here and today we were very excited because we ringed one and then we retrapped another that we ringed as a nestling in our nest box a couple of kilometres away. MP, OF
Wilti ringed as nestling
Willow Tit 1 (1), Marsh Tit 3, Coal Tit 41 (22), Blue Tit 21 (12), Great Tit 5 (10), Nuthatch 2 (3), Brambling 1, Chaffinch 9, Lesser Redpoll 6 (1), Dunnock 1, Robin 6 (7), Blackbird 6