Farmland near Chippenham: Early Winter Ringing

The following blog post is by Jonny Cooper:

I have had my C permit for just over a year. However I have been studying for the final year of my degree in Bristol and had a summer filled with ringing as part of important conservation projects, such as the CES at Lower Moor Farm and the Ravensroost Coppice project. This meant that it was only as autumn came around that I was able to start finding ringing sites of my own.

Growing up on a farm has given me an inherent interest in farmland birds, something I always hoped to translate into my ringing. My first site is located on a mixed arable farm just outside Chippenham. The farmer is an old family friend, so after getting into contact we arranged a meet up to look around the site and soon after I set up a feeding station and started putting food down along a promising looking hedgerow.

So far I have done three sessions on the site (2nd & 15th November and 5th December). Four 18m, one 12m, one 6m and one 3m nets are set along the hedgerow and around the feeders. The catches have been of a good size and contained lots of variety. The list so far being:  Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 29(7), Chaffinch 26, Chiffchaff 1,  Coal Tit 1(1), Dunnock 11(1), Goldcrest 3(2), Great Tit 15(5) Long-tailed Tit 7, Pied Wagtail 1, Redwing 3, Reed Bunting 1, Robin 3(1), Song Thrush 2, Treecreeper 2, Wren 4 and Yellowhammer 8. 118 new and 17 retraps making a total 135 birds from 17 species.

The real standout bird here is the single Chiffchaff: this bird was caught during the first session on the 2nd November. Now catching a Chiffchaff on a farm in November is interesting in itself but, to top it off, this bird was recovered a week later 74km away in Barwick, Somerset. It seems this bird may be part of the relativity new wintering population of Chiffchaffs in the U.K. Maybe it had come from the continent and was on its way to spend the winter in the deep south west. Who knows? Anyway, this was my first control and I’m delighted.

The credit here must really go to the farmer for generously allowing me access and to ring on site, as well as managing the land fantastically. All the fields are bounded by large hedges and there is plenty of good habitat which provides a safe haven to help declining farmland birds thrive. I often fill up the feeders of an evening and I regularly flush up to 10 Snipe and see big flocks of Lapwing coming in to feed on the wet fields, so the future certainly holds plenty of opportunities…….


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