After a wet and windy week it was a relief to be able to get out for a ringing session. I had popped out on Wednesday, during a break in the rain, to set up a couple of feeding stations on site. The lock on the gate took several squirts of WD40 before the key would turn: there was a fairly hard overnight frost that wasn’t forecast. So everyone (apart from me) turned up 5 minutes later than expected, after scraping the ice from their cars. The joys of heated windscreens! I was joined by Jonny, Ellie and Alice for the morning.
We set our usual three net rides, plus an additional 6m net to sandwich one of the feeding stations.
The red circles are the feeding stations, the purple circle is the ringing station.
The nets were set and opened by 8:00, with the first round done at 8:20. It was a pretty decent haul – but almost all of the catch was at the feeding stations. In fact, we could have saved a lot of time and effort, an awful lot of walking, and reduced our catch by only 5 birds. This is nearly the exact opposite of the catch profile during the rest of the year.
We had decent catches every round until 10:30, when the numbers fell away. As expected, the catch was very much titmouse heavy: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 36(22); Great Tit 4(7); Coal Tit 6(3); Marsh Tit 1(1); Wren (1); Robin 1(1); Blackbird (1); Goldcrest 1(1); Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 52 birds ringed from 9 species; 38 birds retrapped from 9 species, making 90 birds processed from 12 species.
The catch would have been 2 birds higher but, unfortunately, we caught a male Chaffinch and a female Bullfinch, both of which were showing signs of Fringilla papillomavirus. We kept the female Bullfinch back to release with the male that we could process, as they were taken out of the same net a couple of feet apart and were quite possibly a pair. It does seem to have become far less prevalent over the last couple of years, so it is even more disappointing when we do come across it.
We regularly bump into several locals: the couple with the black Labrador, who regularly feed the birds in their garden and let me know when they have seen Marsh Tits, and the man who always goes for his morning run through Red Lodge, always stops for a chat, and then brings his grandchildren over to see us in action. This morning granny, mum and the children came across to see the birds. The children (4 and 7) were shown how to safely hold and release the birds. Both were very good at it, and the 4 year old showed rather more resilience at being bitten by Blue Tits than quite a few ringers I know!
We packed up at midday and cleared the site by one o’clock.