North Wilts Group

Bangladesh - 20th January to 11th February 2017

I have just returned from an expedition working with the Bangladesh Bird Club and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature monitoring birds in Bangladesh for Avian Influenza whilst also monitoring the birds that winter at their wetland nature reserves. Another major part of my role was to train the local ringers to improve their skills and we ringed over 60 species including some known to us European birders including Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Brown Shrike, Richards Pipit, Citrine Wagtail and Baillons Crake with the most common species being Paddyfield Warbler, Blyths Reed Warbler and Dusky Warbler.
Dusky Wrb
Dusky Warbler
Blyths Reed Wrb
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Paddyfield Wrb
Paddyfield Warbler
The team targeted wildfowl and we ringed Red Crested Pochards, Ferruginous Duck, Cotton Teal and quite a few Coot. This is really important work because domestic duck herders move their huge flocks around the lakes  mix with wildfowl and so both were tested for avian influenza.
Travelling around Bangladesh is extremely difficult and the driving conditions are terrible with basically no road laws so we were driven around to the far flung corners of the country to get to the nature reserves. My particularly favourite reserve was Tanguar Haor which is a RAMSAR site and is a massive wetland that supports tens of thousands of wildfowl. The speciality bird of Tanguar is a robin-like bird called a Firethroat that is about as secretive as a bird can be and its presence would simply not be known were it not for ringing and the knowledge gained from these expeditions is changing the status of the species from a vagrant to a winter visitor.
Baillons Crake
Baillon's Crake
Our last mission was to an island in the middle of the River Ganges to take biometrics of a range-limited bird called a White Tailed Stonechat for a professor at Bangkok University, we were very successful catching 11 of them and these were the first ringed in Bangladesh as previous efforts had failed. On the same day, we were very lucky to catch a Nightjar and we could not work out what it was based on the distribution maps in the field guide and then we worked out that it was in fact a Sykes Nightjar and thus a first for Bangladesh but it was over a thousand miles east of the previous known range. On the same afternoon we also saw a superb male Hen Harrier and this is a national rarity and so this day proved to be a true red letter day. MP
WT Stonechat
White-tailed Stonechat
Sykes Nightjar
Sykes's Nightjar - 1st Bangladesh record

10th February 2017 - Foreign Reed Bunting Control

We have just heard back from the BTO about a Swedish ringed Reed Bunting we controlled at Swindon STW last year on 29th October. It was ringed at Handolsdeltat in the region of Jämtland on 27th July 2016 and was recorded as having a flat-fly infestation which luckily it survived.

Reed Bunting 5 Nightingale Wood April 2009

The original ringing site is quite close to the Norway border in a rather remote area and is on a marshy river delta at a large lake. On the close zoomed in image you can see the net rides. Quite how you reach the ringing site would appear interesting as it only looks accessible by boat.

The bird covered a distance of 1553km in the 94 days between captures. This bird is only the 13 Swedish ringed Reed Bunting retapped in the UK.

sweeen 1



Group Ringing Totals for 2016

Group totals for 2016 now all processed. A fair total considering the poor breeding season.


Species Full grown Pulli Retraps Total   Species Full grown Pulli Retraps Total
Eurasian Teal 14 0 0 14   Song Thrush 140 0 26 166
Sparrowhawk 5 0 0 5   Redwing 586 0 0 586
Kestrel 3 9 1 13   Mistle Thrush 1 0 0 1
Grey Partridge 6 0 0 6   Cetti's Warbler 10 0 16 26
Quail 3 0 0 3   Grasshopper Warbler 45 0 1 46
Water Rail 1 0 0 1   Sedge Warbler 425 0 25 450
Moorhen 1 0 0 1   Reed Warbler 223 70 120 413
Golden Plover 5 0 0 5   Lesser Whitethroat 65 0 16 81
Lapwing 5 4 0 9   Whitethroat 559 4 89 652
Jack Snipe 10 0 1 11   Garden Warbler 126 0 52 178
Snipe 6 0 1 7   Blackcap 2205 4 171 2380
Woodcock 5 0 0 5   Wood Warbler 1 0 0 1
Green Sandpiper 3 0 1 4   Chiffchaff 1162 0 110 1272
Black-headed Gull 1 0 0 1   Willow Warbler 331 0 49 380
Great Black-backed Gull 1 0 0 1   Goldcrest 529 0 61 590
Stock Dove 3 14 0 17   Firecrest 1 0 0 1
Woodpigeon 24 1 4 29   Spotted Flycatcher 10 24 0 34
Collared Dove 2 1 0 3   Long-tailed Tit 236 0 141 377
Barn Owl 5 12 2 19   Marsh Tit 16 0 24 40
Little Owl 1 3 2 6   Willow Tit 7 7 4 18
Tawny Owl 0 3 0 3   Coal Tit 144 8 56 208
Nightjar 3 0 0 3   Blue Tit 771 92 450 1313
Kingfisher 9 0 1 10   Great Tit 449 66 316 831
Wryneck 2 0 0 2   Nuthatch 12 5 12 29
Green Woodpecker 3 0 6 9   Treecreeper 33 0 15 48
Great Spotted Woodpecker 33 0 32 65   Jay 10 0 0 10
Skylark 9 0 0 9   Magpie 15 0 0 15
Sand Martin 2 0 0 2   Jackdaw 2 3 0 5
Swallow 451 157 7 615   Rook 1 21 0 22
House Martin 5 0 0 5   Starling 39 0 0 39
Tree Pipit 18 0 0 18   House Sparrow 106 15 9 130
Meadow Pipit 323 0 13 336   Tree Sparrow 204 1412 246 1862
Yellow Wagtail 25 0 0 25   Chaffinch 824 2 91 917
Grey Wagtail 34 3 7 44   Brambling 25 0 1 26
Pied/White Wagtail 86 15 4 105   Greenfinch 191 5 15 211
Wren 456 9 110 575   Goldfinch 181 0 24 205
Dunnock 500 0 257 757   Siskin 9 0 0 9
Robin 517 3 200 720   Linnet 306 5 13 324
Nightingale 2 0 3 5   Common Redpoll 1 0 0 1
Redstart 29 0 0 29   Lesser Redpoll 128 0 199 327
Whinchat 54 0 2 56   Bullfinch 145 0 76 221
Stonechat 12 0 0 12   Yellowhammer 680 0 80 760
Wheatear 1 0 0 1   Reed Bunting 213 8 89 310
Blackbird 384 0 121 505   Corn Bunting 23 0 1 24
Fieldfare 32 0 0 32            
            Total: 14284 1985 3373 19642

27th December 2016 - Marlborough Downs

Our winter farmland bird feeding and monitoring is well underway and today I asked for a big turn out because when feeding it has been clear that there are a lot of birds present. We were joined by Richard Creighton from the deepest south of the county who wanted to come and see how we age and sex Yellowhammers, a renowned difficult species. The forecast was accurate and we were treated to a flat calm morning which is what is required at this extremely exposed site. The team did a great net set-up and the birds came in aplenty and we had six Corn Buntings in the first round, this is an exceptional catch because we had previously only caught 17 in the rest of the year. There are very few Corn Buntings ringed in the UK and based on the annual averages, each bird is approximately 1% of the national annual total so we are really making a significant contribution to the national totals.
15672769 10202400725537651 7389164795347301992 n
This site is superb for Chaffinches and Yellowhammers and both of these species show great site fidelity and we get plenty of retraps. We controlled a Yellowhammer from last winter and two from two winters ago. Chaffinch retraps included three from last winter, one from two winters ago, three from three winters ago and one from four winters ago.
We  put up a net-set for Redwings and Fieldfares and ringed another 19 Redwings taking them past 200 for the year, along with our sixth Fieldfare for the year. A bonus net in a silage clamp caught the Pied Wagtail as we had hoped. Dunnocks seemed to be going in from every angle and once again we caught more Robins than normal, they seem to be having a very good year.
Surprise of the day was the number of Starlings that we ringed, we see them at several of our sites but we never catch them and we don't really spend any time trying to get them. For whatever reason, today they were very easy to catch and we ringed 11 which is our largest catch of them since 2010. This gave the team some valuable experience comparing the complexities of ageing and sexing of a bird that is very interesting in the hand.
Starling 001
We had a great time working through Yellowhammer ageing and sexing with Richard, using our own Yellowhammer identification guide that is more advanced than published identification guides. It was great to work with Richard as he has been ringing in Wiltshire for many years and we hope that we can team up again sometime.
The total of 207 birds ringed and 15 retraps makes for another staggering day but with a team of this size and quality it really was quite straightforward and we were able to hold quality workshops on many of the species and even go through wing formulae in preparation for upcoming permit upgrades. MP, PW, AM, NW, TW, OF, GH, JH, RC
Corn Bunting 6, Yellowhammer 39 (3), Chaffinch 55 (8), Goldfinch 13, Tree Sparrow 1, House Sparrow 1, Starling 11, Fieldfare 1, Redwing 19, Blackbird 4 (1), Song Thrush 3, Pied Wagtail 1, Meadow Pipit 1, Robin 13 (1), Dunnock 26 (1), Wren 1, Blue Tit 7, Great Tit 4 (1)

24th December 2016 - Kennet Valley

We ring this site on the banks of the Kennet a couple of times each year and it is a good consistent little site but the real beauty of it is that being in a woodland in a valley it is completely sheltered from the wind and so we can ring it when we cannot ring other sites. It also has fewer birds than our farmland sites and so suited us today as we wanted to really focus on training Gary and Jodie and we also wanted to get away early to see our families for Christmas.
This is only a small set of four nets around some feeders, so to bolster the catch we set up a T-shaped wader net set for Redwings. Paul and I did a good workshop on extracting Redwings from that net set and then a bit later on he took a bonus Kingfisher out. Jodie has been out a couple of times since being back from Uni and I think she has ringed about ten new species and Kingfisher was another new one for her. They take an unusual ring that requires considerable care to fit correctly but she did a great job.
Throughout the morning we were busy but again never hurried and this was one of the best training sessions that we have had as we had father and daughter, Gary and Jodie extracting plenty and also ringing plenty and they have both really improved and are pretty natural ringers.
We found time to cook up some bacon sandwiches, this is becoming a real fixture and we love it.
There was a lovely flock of 70 Siskins but they were feeding in the tops of some nearby alders and just would not come down. A Mistle Thrush came and inspected the Redwing set but thought better of it. 
We had finished and packed up a few minutes after noon which was perfect and we all went away really pleased with a super morning. Gary, Jodie and I then went to Ogbourne to prepare the site for our session planned for next week.
The total of 95 new and 15 retraps surprised us somewhat as it was a very evenly, easy paced session and it is testament to the team that we handled this catch with such ease. MP, NW, TW, PW, GH, JH
Kingfisher 1, Redwing 23, Blackbird 5 (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker 3, Lesser Redpoll 3, Goldfinch 2, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 8 (1), Greenfinch 2, Robin 7 (1), Dunnock 5, Marsh Tit 1, Coal Tit 3 (1), Blue Tit 25 (6), Great Tit 10 (2), Goldcrest 1, Nuthatch 0 (1), Wren 0 (2)

23rd December 2016 - Swindon STW

After the success of last weekends ringing demo, a couple of my colleagues were gutted to have missed out on seeing the wetland birds and so I thought I would have a little go before work today to see if I could maybe show them a Teal. It is really important that our staff are fully aware of the wildlife that uses our sites. I only set two pairs of wader nets so I didn't expect many birds but I was amazed that in two rounds before 0730 that I have ringed an incredible 9 Teal, 2 Snipe and then on the last check a Jack Snipe jumped up into the net. Last bird extracted was a female Cettis Warbler that quite amazingly was a control, it will be really interesting to see where this bird originated from.

18th December 2016 - Swindon STW

Since being allowed to bring visitors back onto site I have been looking forward to the chance to give a winter ringing demonstration so that we may have the chance to show people the special birds that spend the winter on the wetlands. I deliberately advertised the demo at short notice to try to restrict numbers and it worked pretty well with 15 people coming.
I met Noah on site way before dawn to set some wader nets to try to target Snipe and Teal. Many ringers do not get the opportunity to set such nets and it does make one a better ringer in setting nets in different situations. We then met the rest of the team, including Graham who came across to help teach the new trainees, and set some normal nets by two feeding stations, one of them targeting a range of passerines and the other specifically targeting Reed Buntings.
One of our wader nets did a great job and we were able to show our visitors Four Teal, this is a terrific catch because we have ringed 119 over the years which is just about all of the entire Wiltshire total but this year has been poor for them and so these have rather turned our year round for them. We also caught two Jack Snipe but almost unbelievably, one of them was a retrap. A winter to winter retrap would be absolutely fantastic but this bird was even better and was in fact originally ringed on 28th December 2016 on a day when we were joined by a pal of mine from the BTO. Some of our visitors were very experienced birders and seeing their faces and hearing their gasps when they saw the Jack Snipe up so close was brilliant.
Teal 2016 12 18 Swindon17
Jack Snipe 2016 12 18 Swindon22
Noah then came back with a superb male Sparrowhawk and I think it was the first he has taken out of a net and he did well though he did feel the effects of the birds talons. It was great watching Paul taking Gary through the correct way to handle and ring such a raptor so that both ringer and bird were safe through the process.
The rest of the morning was good but it could only ever have been a bit like after the lord mayors show as we showed our visitors a steady stream of tits and other common passerines, dominated by Blue Tits but one of them was seven and a half years old which is a very good effort indeed. We put up a net for Redwing and this only caught a few but birders don't often get close to these wary thrushes and so they proved very popular. We also ringed a couple of Goldcrests and a few Chiffchaffs. We did retrap a Chiffchaff and this bird has challenged our previously held views whereby we think that Chiffchaffs migrate through our area in August and September and then winter visitors arrive in late October but we ringed this bird on 18th September and it has remained.
Reed Buntings have always been a bit of a favourite of mine and we run a feeding station specifically for them. The wintering flock has been smaller this year but we still managed to catch 16. Retrap Reed Buntings so often provide high quality information and today was no exception with two controls, two retraps from two winters ago and a retrap from last winter.
The morning total of 63 new birds and 55 retraps is excellent for this site at this time of year but my lasting memory is of the fantastic retrap Jack Snipe that justifies all the hard work we do to create habitat for them.
This really was one of the best ringing demonstrations that we have ever done, with some fantastic training, fantastic birds and a knowledgeable and appreciative audience. The feedback after the morning has  been brilliant and ensures that we will definitely do more demonstrations at this site. MP, GD, PW, NW, GH, JH, AP, TW
Jack Snipe 1 (1), Teal 4, Sparrowhawk 1, Chiffchaff 3 (1), Goldcrest 5 (1), Treecreeper 1 (1), Reed Bunting 9 (7), Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 2, Redwing 5, Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 7 (16), Great Tit 11 (9), Long Tailed Tit 0 (2), Robin 5 (4), Dunnock 6 (11), Wren 1 (2)

11th December 2016 - Marlborough Downs

We have been conducting our usual programme of feeding farmland birds, well supported by the farmers of the Marlborough Downs and we then ring these sites a few times each year to monitor the birds that use the sites and to track the Tree Sparrows that we ringed during the summer. Today was our first farmland session of the winter and as it was so calm we chose this fantastic but exposed site just north of Avebury.
We arrived on site well before light so that we could try to catch Skylarks just before dawn in a bonus net. We set the other couple of nets round the hedgerow. We then set one net for Redwing because they were calling in good numbers but we didn't want to catch too many as farmland birds are our priority.
Yellowhammers and Chaffinches appeared en mass and Redwings filled that net and so we were instantly busy. Not long after dawn we had a visit from the Police checking that we weren't hare coursers. Coursers have been a real problem across Wiltshire and it is good to see the Police on the case. There was a massive flock of Linnets flying over the adjacent cover crop, it must have numbered about 400 birds. We had set a couple of home-made two-shelf nets for them and we managed to catch 29 during the morning which is pretty good.
The caught one Skylark in that net set and a Corn Bunting in the main set. Corn Buntings are so hard to catch and every one caught and then colour ringed is a real success and we ring the majority of them in the country so each one is about two percent of the national total!
The five Yellowhammer retraps were all from the same site, the previous year and the one retrap Tree Sparrow was from a nest box 1.5km away but the lack of other retraps shows that we can put more boxes up locally and we have identified an adjacent farm that we have not approached yet. This farm could be strategically important because I checked it ten years ago and there were no Tree Sparrows there and if we can build a colony there then it would be a great stepping stone towards getting Tree Sparrows to recolonise a wider range like they did twenty years ago.
When we ring at this site we base ourselves by a public footpath and we met a couple of groups who were very interested in what we were doing. The first group were a group of friends over from Australia and the second were two families with a bunch of very enthusiastic young children. We gave an impromptu ringing demonstration and the kids absolutely loved it.
Finishing with 180 birds ringed and 9 retraps this really was an exceptional start to our farmland bird monitoring for the winter and we can't wait to get out again. MP, AF, PW, NW
Corn Bunting 1, Yellowhammer 61 (5), Tree Sparrow 11 (1), Skylark 1, Fieldfare 2, Redwing 29, Song Thrush 4m, Blackbird 2, Chaffinch 32 (2), Linnet 29
Goldfinch 1, Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 3 (1), Robin 1