What a month! The headline has to be Jonny’s Icterine Warbler at Langford Lakes. An absolutely stunning catch: only the fourth record of the species in the county. The first was a bird heard singing back in June 1944! The second, and first one of the species ringed, was near Longbridge Deverill in August 2009. The next was ringed by Graham’s team on SPTA in August 2020 and now the first for the West Wilts group was at Langford Lakes on the 23rd July.
The results for the month were:
As you can see, the average catches were much larger but the variety was somewhat lower. Missing were Barn Owl, Carrion Crow, Grasshopper Warbler, Nuthatch, Skylark, Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit and Whinchat. Interestingly, the Carrion Crow and Nuthatches were caught and ringed in Biss Wood, the Grey Wagtails at Langford Lakes, the Coal Tits at Webb’s Wood, the Tree Pipit at New Zealand Farm and the Grasshopper Warbler, Skylarks and Whinchat were all at Ladywell in the Imber Valley. What I don’t understand is why this site is visited so rarely: just three times since 2017! In my mind there is a serious issue over the allocation and utilisation of sites on Salisbury Plain. I have asked the Defence Infrastructure Organisation on a couple of occasions what their strategy is for monitoring habitats and wildlife on the Plain. To me it is piecemeal and unstructured and pretty much worse than useless for managing the area. Their response was to complain to the BTO that I was harassing them. I won’t say any more on this other than to confirm that the BTO were not supportive and the likelihood of me ever getting the chance to carry out my usual consistent surveys, reporting and analysis to the landowners is not going to happen anywhere on Salisbury Plain any time soon.
The lack of Barn Owls is entirely down to my being out of action from the 7th of the month until I managed a small session at the Ravensroost Meadow pond on Saturday. That was a weird session: all of the Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat that were there in good number at the end of May were completely missing from the site. It is hard to understand when, given the weather, the site has excellent nesting habitat, water and insects galore to feed their young. I wonder what the cause was? Given that Lesser Whitethroat were missing from my site, it was one of the species caught this year that was not caught last July.
This year we added the aforementioned Icterine Warbler, more Canada Geese and Lesser Whitethroat. Why the massive increase in numbers? Simply: Blackcap and Chiffchaff numbers were massively improved over last year. Increased numbers of Cetti’s Warbler and twice as many Wren as last year, Amongst the retrapped birds, the key increase was in the number of Blue and Great Tit recaptures. So we averaged nearly 20 birds more per session.
As mentioned, I have been incapacitated due to spinal problems, an operation, and then a bout of sciatica, which has just about gone now, but has severely impacted on my activities and will continue to do so for a few weeks yet. So, thanks to Jonny for taking on two of my CES sessions. Hopefully enough of my team will be available to help me through the three remaining sessions.
We are also saying au revoir to Alice. I am delighted to say that she has been awarded her S-permit, and will be teaming up with Oliver Padgett to create the Oxford Ringing Group. It has been an absolute delight having her as a trainee, and I am so pleased for her achievement. Who’s next?