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8th June 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 4

As it's now well into June the early daylight means we are currently leaving Swindon at 0300 to drive the 50 minute journey to get to the site with enough time to get all 14 nets up in time.

On arrival we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler singing from a location away from where any have been this year but as it was on the live artillery firing side of the fence we weren't able to go for it this morning. Best of all a male Nightjar was churring from close to the location where a pair has bred for the last two years so hopefully it's a returning bird rather than just a late migrant.

Catching was steady if a little slow. Warbler numbers are usually exceptionally high on this site but this year numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler Whitethroat and Blackcap are through the floor. Garden Warbler numbers appear to be stable and if anything, Lesser Whitethroat's have increased this year.

A few 3J's are now starting to be caught, including 2 Lesser Whitethroat's as the first young warblers of the year as well as a family of Linnet and a bit of numbers padding with a large family party of 14 Long-tailed Tit's. The first brood of Swallow pulli were also ringed from the artillery observation bunkers.



Totals; 47 new, 19 retraps

Swallow 5 pulli, Wren 3(1), Dunnock 2, Robin 2(1), Blackbird 1(1), Lesser Whitethroat 2(1), Whitethroat 1(2) , Garden Warbler 2(5), Blackcap 3(3), Willow Warbler 2(3), Goldcrest (2), Loing Tailed tit 14, Chaffinch 1, Linnet 6, Bullfinch 2, Yellowhammer 1


28th May 2018 - Salisbury Plain CES session 3

Nets were set under clear skies and the first net round with the rising sun saw a Spotted Flycatcher as the first bird of the morning caught, an unusual spring catch for this site. By the time the second net round started thick fog had rolled in and stayed the rest of the morning.

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A suprise catch in the second net round was a female Nightingale with an advanced brood patch in the territory where a male had been singing for several weeks. Hopefully the reason the male has been quiet the last 2 visits is because this is his mate and there's no further reason to sing seeing that he's the only male left at this site.

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The rest of the catch was fairly run of the mill stuff except for one male Whitethroat that had originally been ringed on 26th August 2013 but had not been retrapped  until today. This bird was ringed as a juvenile and so had made 10 trips migrating across the Sahara and in doing so will have travelled at least 45,000km.

The total catch was fractionally better than CES3 last year with 21 new and 43 retraps.

Wren (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (1), Nightingale (1), Blackbird (3), Song Thrush 2(1), Lesser Whitethroat 1(2), Whitethroat 7(10), Garden Warbler 1(5), Blackcap 5(10), Chiffchaff 1(1), Willow Warbler (1), Goldcrest (2), Spotted Flycatcher 1, Blue Tit (1), Great Tit 2, Bullfinch 1(1)

19th May 2018 - Salisbury Plan CES session 2

An extremely quiet session with numbers well down on the same session for the past 4 years and if it wasn't for the extra nets the total catch would have been pathetic.

The only real bird highlights of the morning were 2 Stock Dove pulli ringed in one of the artillery observation bunkers and a brood on 9 Great Tits in one of the sites nest boxes.

Most of the rest of the mornings free times between nets rounds was spent looking for butterflies but we failed to turn up any Marsh Fritillary or Duke of Burgundy but did find plent of Green Hairstreak.

41 new, 26 retrap

Stock Dove 2 pulli, Wren (2), Dunnock 3(1), Robin (2), Blackbird 2(3), Sonh Thrush 2, Lesser Whitethroat (2), Whitethroat 10(6), Garden Warbler 1(5), Blackcap 4(1), Chiffchaff (1), Willow Warbler 1(2), Goldcrest (1), Great Tit 1 & 9 pulli, Linnet 3, Yellowhammer 1, Reed Bunting 2

Green Hairstreak 2 Westdown June 2010

5th May - Salisbury Plain CES session 1

A totally cloudless night meant that any chance of catching lots of migrants wasn't going to happen. While putting up the nets we could hear Cuckoo, a single Nightingale (the only bird left of this sadly declining population) and a Grasshopper Warbler.

First net round produced a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, always a nice bird here and 4 Garden Warblers newly arrived since our last visit 2 weekends ago. What followed next was a bit of a first, the first Dartford Warbler for the site and the first new species I've ringed in the country for a good few years. It was a nice adult male and although this site has a lot of gorse, it's mainly hawthorn scrub on chalk downland so it's unlikely to be breeding and probably just a prospecting bird.

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Whitethroat numbers on site are very high with around 80 noted but as their territories are so small, sometimes just a single gorse bush, we only caught 10. The number of resident birds on site remains worringly low but we did catch some local Linnet, Yellowhammer and Goldfinch.

With the early morning mist quickly burning of it soon became very warm and all bird movement ceased.

The morning ended with 38 new, 21 retraps.

Dartford Warbler 1, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler 5(2), Blackcap 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2(1), Whitethroat 8(2), Willow Warbler 5(4), Chiffchaff 4(3), Goldfinch 2, Linnet 2, Yellowhammer 2, Song Thrush 2, Robin (2), Wren (1), Long Tailed Tit (1) Blackbird (3)

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28th October 2017 - Savernake area

This is the site where the Willow Tits nested in our box for the past two summers and I am keen to know who is nesting with who, how long they live and how Willow Tits disperse around the Kennet valley. I set up one small temporary feeding station and we only put up a couple of nets as a result.

The forecast was odd predicting sunny, calm at first and then wind later but the wind shouldn't affect us as the site is very sheltered. Just as we were taking birds out of the nets the sky went grey and a fine mist-like rain drifted in and just as I was thinking we should take down the sky went blue and it was lovely warm and sunny. Just as we were enjoying the weather, the wind did get up in the tree tops and leaves proceeded to fill our nets.

In the first round we did indeed catch two Willow Tits, one was an adult and one was a first year and as far as I was concerned that was the job done. We caught more birds than I had expected with Coal Tits again being the dominant species. We caught and ringed a Siskin which is an unusual catch for us.

Last action of the morning was a pleasant surprise with two Jays sat side by side in the net. Jay was a long overdue new bird for Paul to ring and he has waited four years for this, Phil on the other hand only had to wait a few months! MP, PW, TL, PDU

Willow Tit 2, Marsh Tit 1, Coal Tit 37, Blue Tit 24 (2), Great Tit 7, Goldcrest 17, Nuthatch 2, Treecreeper 4, Siskin 1, Chaffinch 7, Robin 4, Wren 1, Jay 2



28th October 2017 - private woodland, Swindon

The landowner at this site is very interested to learn about the birds that use the woodland on their land and has sponsored the feeding of the birds and the gamekeeper fills the feeders for us. Our work within this wood is to provide the evidence base from which the landowner can make decisions about how to best manage the woodland.

This is a really simple site to ring with two feeders set up about 150 metres apart, each with two nets set around it in dog-legs and because there are a couple of patches of conifers we again set nets for crests.

I had primed the team advising them that it is a fairly limited site and not to expect too much but I needn't have worried as we were kept busy all morning. Overnight rain had made the ground really wet and it was a bit grey and breezy but this site is very sheltered and our nets were not touched by the wind. We first ringed this site last winter and it was good to see some retraps from last year. I quite fancy our chances of getting Firecrests in the conifers here but today we had to settle for a good number of Goldcrests instead, along with a bonus Blackcap.

We ringed a steady flow of typical woodland birds but the number of Long Tailed Tits was particularly notable. MP, AM, SW, TL, PDU

Goldcrest 34, Marsh Tit 3 (2), Coal Tit 11 (7), Blue Tit 30 (2), Long Tailed Tit 24, Nuthatch 3, Treecreeper 1, Great Tit 17, Robin 4, Dunnock 4, Chaffinch 5, Blackcap 1

15th October 2017 - Savernake area

We were back in this brilliant woodland for the first session of the autumn and we were well-prepared with a big team and I was really pleased to have Graham and my brother  join us because this wood can tax the less experienced ringer. A massive area of the wood has been clear felled and I do think that this will ultimately lead to the demise of Willow Tits there which would be very sad indeed.

The first round was quiet but I need not have worried because there was a steady run of birds all morning until the last round when an enormous flock of over 70 birds went into one net set. Marsh Tits have obviously done very well and catching 11 in a morning is very good indeed. We ringed two new Willow Tits and best of all we retrapped one that we ringed in a nest box in the summer.

Goldcrests pass through in big numbers at this time of year and this is normally a big crest site and today proved no exception with one of our better days for them with 85 ringed though sadly they were not joined by any Firecrests. A few redpolls were calling overhead so we played a call for them and we ringed our first two of the autumn.The team worked very well together and the two new boys enjoyed some wonderful training from everyone else in the team. At the end of the day we did a count up and could not believe that we had processed over 300 birds because it really didn't feel like a 300 day. The truly phenomenal number of Coal Tits is completely unprecedented and it could be an effect of the large scale forestry work that has removed much of their habitat. MP, GD, PW, NW, TL, PDU, AP, TW 

Willow Tit 2 (1), Marsh Tit 11, Coal Tt 120 (1), Blue Tit 32 (1), Great Tit 32 (1), Long Tailed Tit 3, Goldcrest 85, Treecreeper 8, Nuthatch 4, Wren 3, Robin 2 (1), Dunnock 2, Lesser Redpoll 2, Chaffinch 5, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

Willow and Marsh

14th October 2017 - Salisbury Plain (east)

 It was just Paul and I today so we put up a small net set and as it was a bit breezy we didn't put the nets up that could catch the wind. It was predictably quiet for warblers but then out of the blue there was a Cettis Warbler in the net, this is quite a remarkable record because it is the first for the site but what is it doing on top of high chalk grassland? It follows the ringing of another at Westdown a few weeks earlier.

 We caught another Stonechat, our twelfth of the year making it our joint best year for them. As often happens in October Goldcrests dominated the day and we ringed a very creditable 38 and even retrapped one that we ringed this time last year. I thought this would be a fairly quiet session and it was going quite sedately until the last round when a mixed flock of tits went in and I had to get cracking so that I could get to watch my son play rugby. MP, PW

 Cettis Warbler 1, Stonechat 1, Goldcrest 38 (1), Chiffchaff 9, Blackcap 4, Meadow Pipit 4, Blackbird 1, Wren 7, Robin 0 (1), Great Tit 13, Blue Tit 16 (1), Coal Tit 6, Marsh Tit 1, Long Tailed Tit 7, Treecreeper 1 (1), Goldfinch 1, Bullfinch 2

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