West Wilts Ringing Group: July 2020 Results

This month has been our best July since the group split at the beginning of 2013.  The previous highest capture was in July 2015, with 688 ringed against 993 this year and 127 retrapped against 190 this year.  As you can see from figure 1, it is a significant increase on last year. 

Fig. 1 Year on Year Comparison: July 2020 vs July 2019

However, as a result of coronavirus and restrictions imposed by some landowners, forcing C-permit holders to carry out individual sessions on their sites and far fewer collaborative efforts, we also carried out a lot more sessions this year (27 versus 18). The result of that is that, on average, it is just 2.6 extra birds per session.

That is not to say that we have not had some excellent catches in July. The number of Whitethroat that has been caught is nearly double what was caught last year, and that is despite the fact that two of my regular Whitethroat sites in the north of the county (Lower Moor and Blakehill Farms) have delivered none so far this year, although the meadow pond at Ravensroost has been better than usual, with 10 Whitethroat this month.  Without doubt, the key site for them is that on the Imber Ranges on Salisbury Plain, with over 90 of them processed.

On the warbler front, there have also been significant increases in the number of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, but the really startling increases are in the number of both Sedge and Reed Warblers.  This is almost entirely down to Jonny Cooper starting work at two new sites: the Western Way Balancing Ponds in Melksham and the Wessex Water Reed Beds at Langford Lakes.   The Western Way Balancing Ponds are a flood prevention measure, designed to prevent run-off from the A350 causing problems. Who would have thought that they would provide such a productive mini nature reserve?  Langford Lakes is a well-established Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve. Permission to start a monitoring project of the reed bed area was granted last year and Jonny has started the project this year.

Of our resident species, Blue Tit numbers are well up on last year.  There has been more than twice as many adults but, more encouragingly, nearly twice as many youngsters.  Long-tailed Tit numbers are also much higher. I have to claim some responsibility for that, with 21 birds processed in my garden, not just on the same day, but at the same time! As I was extracting them from the nets, others were flying into other parts of the nets. Fortunately, none of them had time to get tangled, so the extraction was quick and efficient – but I did close the nets as I went, to ensure I could maintain control. To catch 21 out of a flock of about 25 was astonishing (and quite a fluke).

What can you say, though, about the catch of Kingfisher this year?  Again, this is almost entirely down to Jonny’s efforts.  Of eleven ringed, ten were at Jonny’s sites: 6 at Meadow Farm and 2 each at the Melksham and Langford Lakes sites.  The other one was at my Lower Moor Farm site.

There are plenty of other highlights and interesting changes to be seen in the catch but those are my highlights. One extra piece of analysis I have done is to work out the numbers of adults and juveniles as a proportion of the overall catch.

Fig 2: Adults and juveniles as a proportion of the total catch

(I must be doing something right: all of the numbers actually add up.)

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