There is a lot to choose from for last year. No doubt every ringer will have their own personal favourites but some things just stand out. To me, the bird of the year has to be the Icterine Warbler caught by Jonny at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Langford Lakes.
This is the only record I have found of one being caught and ringed in the county by our group.
The Merlin caught by Jonny Cooper at a farmland site near Calne was another brilliant catch. Ian processed a retrap on the Imber Ranges in 2019, a habitat that I would associate with over-wintering Merlin far more than arable farmland. Whilst I understand that there are one or two other records logged with the Swindon & Wiltshire Biological Records Centre, the only other record we have of a Merlin being ringed was back in July 2003, at a site near to Beckhampton on the Marlborough Downs.
Jonny has clearly had an absolutely stellar year. In addition to these two beauties, he also caught and colour-ringed four Dipper, as part of a new project kicked off this year:
Andy and Ian had an excellent catch of three Nightjar at their Salisbury Plain sites: two at New Zealand Farm and one on the Imber Ranges. This adds to the singleton caught on the Imber ranges in 2020.
Three Spotted Flycatcher is also something of a rarity for our group. Before this year we had caught seven in the previous nine years: all within the woodlands of the Braydon Forest, from our first two in the Firs in August 2016. This year they were shared out amongst the group: Ian at New Zealand Farm, Jonny at Langford Lakes and me at the Trust reserve at Blakehill Farm. Mine, ironically, was caught in a Mipit triangle with a lure for Meadow Pipit playing:
Although we have good numbers of them at a number of locations around our sites, all ringers know that Fieldfare are a difficult catch. The Imber Ranges have provided a few good catches but Ian seems to have found a decent catching spot in an old orchard near to Erlestoke and caught six of them in the run up to Christmas.
All in all, a good year for both variety and numbers and, whilst it is not the same as catching them in the wild, I am never going to forget my first experience of coming close to a Peregrine Falcon: what a magnificent bird:
In other news, I was delighted to be able to put Alice through for her A-permit. She was assessed by Oliver Padgett in Oxford and, as a result, was approved both for her A-permit and the upgrade to be a trainer, an S-permit. Between them they have set up the Central Oxford Ringing Group, so we have lost her from the group as a result.
I have also lost a few other personnel this year: Lucy has taken up a warden’s post at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust site at Caerlaverock; Tanya has started an ecological consultant’s post in Shropshire and so has moved to train with a ringer local to her and Annie has found working full time and being Mum to two young children just hasn’t left her enough time to continue ringing.
However, I have also gained a couple of additional trainees this year: the indomitable Rosie, who turns up to nearly every midweek, and quite a few weekend sessions, with just enough time to help me get setup and ring a few birds before heading off to her job at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust; Miranda, who is, like me, retired and is a great help with the midweek sessions and Anna, who, having changed job from ecological consultant, which had her running all over the country and reducing her availability for ringing, has joined the Swindon & Wiltshire Biological Records Centre and will now be able to fit in more ringing sessions.