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Our first late summer visit to Battlesbury saw almost the whole group on site enabling a maximum coverage of 13 nets to be managed. Unfortunately as is often the case on SPTA, the windy conditions did not help catching particularly that of the Goldfinch net.

The site is quite small and catch size very much depends on the number of birds on the move at the time and today movement was negligible!   Twenty one birds were captured.

The slow pace did however enable our two trainees Geoff and Andrew to explore the subtleties of Whitethroat and Willow Warbler ageing, as well as completing moult scores on five adults.  Two Lesser Whitethroats (a juvenile and an adult), a juvenile Reed Bunting and 2 Yellowhammers were processed along with 2 retrap Willow Warblers, one of which had been ringed as a juvenile here in July 2012, a good example of site fidelity.

The surprise bird of the day and a first for the site was a Treecreeper which also provided the opportunity to carry out extensive biometrics eliminating Short-toed....if Thrush Nightingales can turn up, why not!!!


Treecreeper Battlesbury Aug 2013 800x558Lesser Whitethroat Battlesbury Aug 2013800x544

Due to a computer that died on me at the beginning of July and then the wonder that is getting to grips with Windows 8, I have decided to put a synopsis of my July activity together.

5th July, Red Lodge Wood: I was trying out a different set of net positions in the wood as it has dried out now and you can get further into the heart of it.  Those running north to south were successful, east to west were a waste of time: yet the structure was remarkably similar.  The list was: new adult / unaged (retrapped) [young]:

Jay 1; Great Tit [1]; Blue Tit [1]; Coal Tit [1]; Treecreeper 1; Wren 1; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 3 [1]

6th July, Ravensroost Woods: Nuthatch [1]; Great Tit [1]; Blue Tit [1]; Wren 1 [2]; Robin (1) [4]; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 1 [1]; Chiffchaff [3]; Willow Warbler 1.  The Nuthatch was going through its post juvenile moult: another couple of weeks and it would be indistinguishable from the adults.

11th July, Ravensroost Meadows: This was a new position outside of the woods by the meadow pond - and was very different from other Ravensroost ringing:

Swallow 1; Blue Tit 1 [2]; Robin [1]; Song Thrush [1]; Blackbird 5; Garden Warbler 1; Whitethroat 3 [3]; Starling [3]; Goldfinch 1 [2]; Chaffinch 2; Bullfinch 1

20th July, Webb's Wood:  Great Tit [1]; Blue Tit [1]; Long-tailed Tit 2 [4]; Wren [1]; Robin 1 [1]; Blackcap 2 [3]; Chiffchaff [4]; Willow Warbler [2].  As with the Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit adults and young both go through a complete post-breeding / fledging moult and in a few weeks time age will not be determinable on plumage characteristics.

27th July, Somerford Common - trying out new net positions:

Great Tit [2]; Marsh Tit [1]; Dunnock 1; Wren 2 [1]; Robin [2]; Blackbird 1 [1]; Bloackcap 1 [1]; Willow Warbler [1]; Bullfinch 2 [1].  It might be a conceit but I think the Bullfinches were a family group.  They were all at the same height in the same net in the order juvenile, female, male which rather struck me as a foraging group.  ST

The Firs is one of the smallest of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's reserves but they have been doing a lot of work there, opening up the central glade and establishing ponds.  The results have been well worth it: the glade is alive with flying insects, the pond with skaters, water boatmen and whirligigs.  Where there are insects there tends to be birds to feed upon them.

Today I had a ringing session in the Firs.  There are a lot of young birds around now.  The list is as follows split as new adults (retrapped) [juveniles]:
Treecreeper 1; Wren 2 (3) [2]; Robin 4 (1) [2]; Blackbird [1]; Great Tit (1) [2]; Blue Tit 1 [12]; Blackcap 2; Chiffchaff 1 [1]; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1
Totals: 13 (5) [19] making 37 in all.

Juveniles: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Blackbird

Blue TitGreat Tit]


On Sunday, 9th June the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust held an Open Farm Day at their Lower Moor Farm reserve. Following on from the success of the ringing demonstration in Ravensroost on the 23rd February they asked if I would set up a few nets and give a small ringing demonstration. As it was held betweeen noon and 16:00 I was not confident of getting many birds, in the event we had just enough to satisfy 30 or more parents and some 20 children. The enthusiasm of the parents and the interest of the children made it very worthwhile. The birds trapped were all new: Blackbird 2; Song Thrush 1; Wren 1; Garden Warbler 3; Sedge Warbler 1; Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 2. The Garden Warblers were interesting: 2 juveniles plus one female who had a brood patch at stage 2: defeathered but not yet vasculated, i.e. she is probably currently laying eggs but not yet brooding. Another example of this strange Spring we have had. One of the two Chiffchaffs was a very young bird: it still had gape and many of its underwing feathers were still in pin. Hopefully the children will remember their close encounters with the birds and become WOS members of the future.

After a cracking week birding on Dartmoor I was really looking forward to getting some ringing done at my Wood Lane site.  Sunday morning started magnificently with 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers in one net.  The catch was as follows, ringed / (retrapped)

Great Spotted Woodpecker 3/(2); Nuthatch (1); Blackbird 2/(1);Robin 2/(1); Great Tit 2/(2); Blue Tit 3/(2); Blackcap 2; Chiffchaff 2; Goldfinch 3/(1); Greenfinch 1.  Totals: 20/(10)

The Greenfinch was a very handsome adult male (picture below) and the first caught on this site.  Sadly their numbers are still very low.  There were some good birds around that I didn't manage to catch, not using tape lures druing the breeding season: a pair each of Mistle Thrush; Spotted Flycatcher and Bullfinch.  I was lucky enough to be treated to a lesson on newts by Lysana Robinson: her woodland pond holding all three species (Smooth, Palmate and Great Crested), all of which very obligingly came to her traps for counting.

DSCN6567 Greenfinch male Oaklands 2 June 13 for Simon reduced 


I am carrying out a project in Ravensroost Woods looking at the impact of the coppice cycle on bird distribution in the breeding season: a combination of birding and ringing.  The south end of Ravensroost Woods is coppiced on an 8 year cycle. On the 12th May birds were ringed in the control area which is the north of the wood, where coppicing is either not carried out or else is on a 25 year rotation.  Yesterday was the first session ringing birds in the different coppiced areas in the south of the wood. I am studying 4 areas:

Site 1: Hazel coppice >3m average height; Site 2: 2m to <3m; Site 3: 1m to <2m; Site 4 <1m. Sites 1,2 and 3 were ringed yesterday.  The results were as follows: ringed / (retrapped):
Site 1: Great Tit (1); Blue Tit (2); Blackbird 1; Robin (1); Blackcap 1/(1); Garden Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 3/(1)
Site 2: Great Tit (1); Wren (1); Robin 1; Blackcap 3/(1); Chiffchaff 1; Willow Warbler (1)
Site 3: Blackcap (1); Chiffchaff 2
Total: 13/(11)

As the focus on ringing in the wood previously and over winter has primarily been driven by the position of feeding stations, this year I will be looking for the best net rides away from those areas, so will be testing different rides within each area to establish where the best catching sites are.

I didn't ring site 4 this time, as I have to be able to manage the nets safely.  What was interesting whilst observing it though was the amount of movement from the trees lining the coppiced area into the open space and then back out again.  It was mainly robins and wrens with the odd great tit and willowchiff moving in and out.  The question is why? They are all basically gleaners, and the tits are hole nesters, so what are they finding out there? There are great piles of brash left as pseudo hedges in the area and I could see wrens, willowchiffs, robins even, finding places to nest in the brash. Hopefully I will be able to answer that question when the young start to fledge (I am not big on nest finding myself although I know it is a valuable tool in many circumstances).  If they are using these long brash piles as nesting areas, or they are attracting enough insects to be a major feeding resource that could be a good indicator for managing cleared woodland areas in the future to limit the impact on the birdlife

I had a session in the northern end of Ravensroost on the 12th May and caught the following new / (retrapped) birds:
Blue Tit 3 / (1); Great Tit (1); Marsh Tit 1/(1); Long-tailed Tit 1/(1); Wren 1; Robin 1;Chiffchaff 1/(1); Blackcap 3; Garden Warbler 1.  A total of 12 new and 5 retrapped birds.
Three of the Blue Tits were female, all had brood patches.  One had a brood patch indicative of a bird currently laying eggs, two had brood patches indicative of birds already brooding eggs.  Blue Tits do not start brooding until all eggs in the clutch are laid.  The retrapped Marsh Tit, the Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit were all females with the Marsh Tit showing a more developed brood patch than the Great or Long-tailed.  All birds were released in the vicinity of the net that they had been captured in and in the direction in which they had been heading when they were captured.  This was to make sure that they were not away from their nests from any length of time (about 10 minutes tops). 
The new Marsh Tit was ring number D276320 and the colour ring scheme was: Left Leg - Metal over Dark Blue; Right Leg - Yellow over Dark Green.  If you see it or any colour ringed Marsh Tits in the Braydon Forest please let me know by e-mailing me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  ST

A short session this morning, curtailed by frequent showers and the wind getting too strong to risk leaving the nets open, so only 8 birds processed: ringed / (retrapped):

Song Thrush 1; Wren 2; Blue Tit (2); Blackcap 2; Chiffchaff 1.

All birds were showing signs of breeding activity: the two's were all caught as pairs, each was a male and female and the males all had CP's (cloacal protuberances for those not au fait with the terminology), all the females had brood patches - the blue tit had the most advanced BP with obvious vascularisation.

The Song Thrush was a special bird for me: it was the 4,659th that I have personally ringed since I started in January 2009 - but the 1,000th I have ringed since gaining my C-permit and I started ringing independently on my own sites in August 2012.  Here's to many thousands more.  ST

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Wiltshire Ornithological Society was formed on November 30th, 1974, and has grown in recent years to more than 500 members.

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