Melksham Balancing Ponds: Thursday, 21st May 2020

This is a post by Jonny Cooper:

Western Way Balancing Ponds at Melksham consist of two bodies of water fringed by a good sized reedbed and scrub. The site is owned by Wiltshire Council and its primary use is to manage water run-off from the adjacent A350/A365. However, over time the site has developed into an interesting, isolated wetland habitat.

I have been asked by Wiltshire Council to run a project to monitor the bird species using the site and record changes in populations and species over time. This will be done through the standard surveying practice of bird ringing.  The data will then be used by ecologists at Wiltshire Council as an example to show the importance of balancing ponds for birds.

Starting a new ringing project is always exciting, you never know exactly what to expect. This is only the second session at the site, following an initial, preliminary, session last September.  The forecast for the morning was for some cloud and very low wind, which generally bodes well for ringing. The session started off well with several Reed Warbler and two Reed Bunting and carried on at a steady constant pace all morning. 

The totals for the day were: Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 2; Dunnock 4; Robin 7; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 3; Reed Warbler 15; Blackcap 2; Lesser Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 1; Goldfinch 2; House Sparrow 8; Reed Bunting 2. A total of 56 birds (all new) from 13 species. Two of the Robins were newly-fledged youngsters.

The numbers of Reed Warbler and House Sparrow processed are encouraging, giving an early indication of good populations of both species in and around the site. However, the award for top bird goes to the Lesser Whitethroat (pictured below). This is the first Lesser Whitethroat that I have caught one of my sites and it is good to see that they are present here.

Overall, a pleasing session and a good start to the project. It will certainly be interesting going forward to document the bird life using the site.