Wow! is all I can say about this month. What an absolute corker! Obviously, the Booted / Sykes’ Warbler is head-and-shoulders the stand-out bird. Whichever species it turns out to be, if it can be positively determined, it will be a first ringed in Wiltshire: and the biological records centre have no records of either (or Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, for that matter) being reported in the county. Social media opinions are almost unanimous that it is Booted Warbler, Iduna calligata.
However, our “mundane, day-to-day” ringing activities have also been a record breaker. Since the split into the North and the West Wilts Ringing Groups at the end of 2012, the Great Schism as I like to call it, this is far and away our biggest ever month. We have had the expected large numbers of Blue and Great Tit, but some of the other species have just exploded in number.
The excellent number of Yellowhammer is a testament to Andy Palmers’ SPTA West site, where the bulk were caught. Brown’s Farm weighed in with a creditable catch of 12 in just a couple of nets, and Steph caught 3 in her back garden just across the border in Gloucestershire!
It is certainly gratifying to see such good numbers of Long-tailed Tit. Their numbers dropped dramatically in the Braydon Forest after the wet and cold Spring and early Summer of 2016, we are now catching good numbers there, as is Johnny Cooper in his sites near Chippenham.
The Goldcrest catch has been mainly produced by the Forestry Commission sites in the Braydon Forest, with 23 in Red Lodge, 30 in Webb’s Wood and 10 on Somerford Common. However, the star Goldcrest was our intrepid bird ringed on the Calf-of-Man and recaptured in the Firs.
Although Redwing are reportedly scarce on the ground at present, we have had a pretty decent increase on last year. Just under 50% have been caught at Jonny’s sites, with Lower Moor Farm at 25% and Battlesbury at 20%.
It is good to see a return to good numbers of Robin: they have been a bit hit-and-miss lately, and it compares very well with last year’s number.
Apart from that, notable catches for my crew in the north have been: our best month for new Marsh Tits for a long time. Astonishingly, this has happened without our being able to access Ravensroost Woods, the traditional stronghold for the species in the Braydon Forest. Apart from 1 retrap in the Firs, the catch has all been in the Forestry Commission sites, mainly Red Lodge.
I took a chance on a trip to Lower Moor Farm on 21st of the month (something to do with having caught my Yellow-browed Warbler there on the 26th October 2017 – just an eternal optimist) and was really surprised to catch our first two Siskin ever at the site. What’s more, bar one bird on Somerford Common on 30th November 2013, we have never caught an Autumn Siskin before. All of our other catches have been in Q1 of the calendar year. So well pleased with them.
Finally, catching my first Sparrowhawk in my Purton garden was an absolute stunner! I have processed a reasonable number (approximately 1 per year since I started ringing) but this was special: in my own back garden. My fingers are still recovering from safely extracting (safely for him, that is) a very feisty male who was incredibly tangled in the net, because he hit it so hard!
Just a final note: as well as this being the biggest single monthly catch, we have already exceeded the total catch for any other year since the end of 2012, with 2 months to go. This is almost all due to the activity levels of Andy Palmer, Andrew Bray, Jonny Cooper and now, Steph Buggins in addition to us old ‘uns. With Ellie Jones starting out to do her own thing in the near future, things could get even busier. Funnily enough though: there is not a huge increase in the number of sessions, but it seems Jonny cannot go to one of his sites without breaking the 100 bird barrier, and, as the averages show, the overall catch size has increased significantly.