An interesting month: our best September so far numerically, despite the number of species being six fewer than last year (our previous best September). Fewer birds were ringed this September (1217 vs 1269) so, obviously, more were recaptured (184 vs 110). Amongst those recaptures were three notable recoveries at our sites: a Reed Warbler ringed near Knutsford in August of this year, recovered at Jonny’s Melksham site on the 2nd; a Blackcap ringed by the Alderney Bird Observatory in April 2021 and recovered at Ian’s site near New Zealand Farm on Salisbury Plain on the 17th and, finally, a Meadow Pipit ringed near Edinburgh in August 2020, recovered in a test session at a new part of my Blakehill Farm site on the 21st. As Phil Deacon helpfully advised, Jonny’s Reed Warbler is a real find: the “first recovery of a Wiltshire Reed Warbler in Eastern France, indeed anywhere in Europe east of the meridian”. Essentially, most of our Reed Warblers migrate along the west coast of France and Portugal.
So, what was missing from the species list this year: Bullfinch, Collared Dove, Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, Redstart, Reed Bunting, Snipe, Tree Pipit, Wheatear and Whinchat. I am not surprised that we didn’t catch any Wheatear, given that last year’s was the first for the team. Whinchat was a far more surprising miss, as they are an absolute regular on passage at Blakehill. None in either August or September is unusual. Redstart similarly, as they are caught most years on passage at the Salisbury Plain sites. The Snipe last year was also a fortuitous catch at Ravensroost Meadows, so I am not surprised that we didn’t catch another as January is our usual catching month and at Blakehill. Equally, Ravensroost Meadow pond was very disappointing this entire summer for all species: particularly Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat.
The species caught this year, that were not caught last year were: Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling and Stonechat. The Pied Wagtails were at Andy’s Salisbury Plain site and are the first caught at either of the group’s SPTA sites. I was delighted with both the Spotted Flycatcher and Stonechats. Both were caught at Blakehill: the Spotted Flycatcher on the plateau, and a first for the site. We have now caught Spotted Flycatcher in every site in the Braydon Forest except Webb’s Wood. The Stonechats were caught in my previously mentioned test plot. This is the sparse hedgerow along the perimeter track which had previously been used as a plant test plot by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Whilst checking Barn Owl boxes at Blakehill, my companion and I had noticed that there were at least ten Stonechat in that area. Ironically, I set four nets with Stonechat lure on, and the two I caught ignored them. Both the Spotted Flycatcher and the Stonechats were actually caught amongst the Meadow Pipits in the respective Mipit triangles.
Significant changes in numbers were seen, with reductions in Blackcap and Blue Tit and increases in Goldcrest, Goldfinch and Greenfinch. The Goldcrests were mainly at Langford Lakes and, secondarily, Webb’s Wood; the vast majority of the Greenfinches and the majority of the Goldfinches were at Jonny’s East Tytherton site, but also a significant number were caught because, for the first time this year, I ran a couple of sessions in my garden, resulting in 48 of them.