West Wilts Ringing Group Results: August 2022

Despite my inactivity and failure to add more than 100 records to this month’s total (only 3 of my sessions got into double figures), this month registered as our largest catch in any month since the group came into its current structure at the beginning of 2013.  Most of that can be attributed to Jonny’s efforts, with 1,044 birds processed, and Langford Lakes producing 475 of them.  There was a decent amount of activity on Salisbury Plain, at two sites one in the Imber Ranges area and the other in the New Zealand Camp area, producing just under 360 birds processed.  The vast bulk of the catch, over 1300 of them, were new birds and, quite probably, already on Autumn migration.  There were some exceptional birds caught: unfortunately, despite requests, I have no photographs of them to share. Unfortunately, some members of our group are still of the opinion that the less said about bird ringing, the better. I am of the opposite view: the answer to ignorance is education, which is why I set up and run this blog and carry out so many ringing demonstrations, both formal and informal.

Regular blog readers will notice my two cheats in amongst the wild caught birds.  I was contacted through the blog by a falconer about two birds he was rehabilitating and wanted ringing.  The first was a second-year female Kestrel, that had managed to end up in a barrel that had contained some sort of resin and, unfortunately, there was enough left to make a mess of its plumage, with lots of feathers stuck together.  He has managed to separate many of the feathers, by judicious use of talcum powder, and will be keeping the bird until it has completed the moult of both body and flight feathers before releasing it back into the wild.  The second bird was this:

Second-year Female Peregrin, Falco peregrinus

A juvenile, female Peregrine. I just didn’t realise how big they are.  She had a bruised wing and swollen joint, for which she is currently being treated. A local vet x-rayed her and confirmed there is no break in the wing.  Once healed she will be trained to hunt before final release back into the wild: the way falconry used to work in medieval times.  It would be interesting to know where she fledged from.  Clearly not from any publicly known site, otherwise she would already have been ringed. One thing that was really good about both recoveries is that they were found by local farmers who handed them over to be rehabilitated.

In terms of the wild birds caught, as you can see from the list, nearly every species was up on last year.  Clearly the highlight has to be the capture of three Nightjar in a single month. Prior to this month there had been only one caught by the group: that was in August 2020 at the Imber Ranges site.  Of this month’s three, two were caught on separate occasions at the New Zealand Camp site and the most recent at the Imber Ranges site again.  However, there were some other remarkable catches: amongst Jonny’s record haul there were 19 Kingfisher (16 ringed and 3 retrapped), all 69 Greenfinch processed (65 ringed and 4 retrapped) and 149 0f the 193 Chiffchaff processed (131 ringed and 18 retrapped).  Willow Warbler numbers were not only massively up on last year but it was our best ever monthly catch of the species at 107.  The previous highest was also in August: August of 2015 at 41.  The bulk of these came from Langford Lakes. Reed Warbler numbers were a little down on last year and Garden Warbler numbers also, but otherwise it was all very positive.

It was a fantastic month in what is shaping up to be a good year.

As a footnote, as a rule I don’t count things like ad hoc garden sessions as full sessions unless they result in more than 10 birds being caught.  I haven’t usually had to make a decision about that on proper site sessions until this month.  On my second post-operation session I went to Ravensroost Wood and, with Rosie’s help, set 4 x 18m nets along a particular ride that usually delivers upwards of 20 birds. We caught 3 in the hour-and-a-bit before Rosie headed off to work: and that was it.  I gave up after another 2 hours produced no birds.

On the 20th August I carried out a ringing demonstration at Blakehill Farm.  It is always a bit of a risky business, with the site being so weather dependent. Unfortunately, on the morning the breeze got up, affecting the plateau nets quite quickly, although the hedgerow nets were largely unaffected.  We had 20 adults and 4 children attending – and we caught just 8 birds, only 7 whilst the public were there.  I have to say, I have carried out dozens of these ringing demos and none of them has sparked as many emails thanking us for the experience as this one did. Too weird for words.  The catch was two each of Wren and Whitethroat and one each of Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Tree Pipit.  The Tree Pipit delighted everybody, but especially Robin Griffiths and the rest of the Swindon Wildlife Group running it, as it was their first ever record for the site, although we did ring one previously, back in 2018.  One of the attendees, Teresa, has sent me a load of photos from the session, including this couple of the Tree Pipit: one showing its punk hairstyle and the other showing how we aged the bird:

Juvenile Tree Pipit, Anthus trivialis courtesy of Teresa Farr
Note the pale fringing to the median and greater coverts: indicating a juvenile bird – courtesy of Teresa Farr

And this is the entire bird:

juvenile Tree Pipi, Anthus trivialis courtesy of Teresa Farr
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