Wessex Water Reed Beds, Langford Lakes: Tuesday 16th June 2020

This post is by Jonny Cooper:

Langford Lakes is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s flagship reserve in the south of the county, and justifiably so. The complex of lakes and wetland habitats attracts a wide variety of wildlife. Ringing has taken place on the reserve in one form or another since 1989: long before I was born. (Editor’s note: you can go off people!)

This session marked the first as part of a new project centring on the reed bed area. The reed bed is managed by Wessex Water primarily as a water storage and filtration system; however, it also provides valuable habitat for many bird species. The projects will study the number and diversity of species using the reed bed for breeding or migration. Monthly sessions (at roughly the same time each month) between April and September will allow annual monitoring of the birds and in time provide comparable data across years on changes in species and numbers of bird in the area. Such data can be used to inform the management of the reedbed. So, how did the first session go?

Being a site I had never personally ringed at before, it is fair to say I was a little apprehensive about the session. I had all the nets open by 4:30 and waited for the birds to arrive. It turned out I need not have worried, as can be seen from the totals below: Swallow 1, Blue Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Robin 1, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 3, Cetti’s Warbler 2, Sedge Warbler 2, Reed Warbler 51(8), Blackcap 1, Whitethroat 2, Chiffchaff 3, Linnet 1, Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 71 birds ringed from 14 species, 8 birds retrapped from 1 species, making 79 birds processed from 14 species.

Only 20 of the birds were juveniles: 12 Reed Warblers; 2 each of Chiffchaff and Whitethroat and one each of Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush and Blackcap.

The Cetti’s Warblers were almost certainly a pair (a male and female caught next to each other) and it’s good to get evidence of breeding in the area. The Swallow was a nice addition to the catch, being caught in the first net round, presumably after flying low over the reed bed catching insects. But the real standout is the sheer number of Reed Warblers.

59 individual birds being processed in a fairly small area shows just how good quality the habitat is. At one point the reed bed seemed to be overflowing with their calls. To get some re-trapped birds is also promising, given the ad hoc nature of ringing the site in the past. 7 of the 8 were birds processed at the site between 2016 and 2018, showing the site fidelity of this species. However, the standout bird was a Reed Warbler carrying a Spanish ring. This is the first foreign controlled bird I have had at a session I have been running. To say I was excited is an understatement. I look forward to hearing more about the origins of this bird.

Overall an incredibly good session and a great start to the project and I cant wait until next month’s session.