This is the ninth year that I have been running ringing sessions in Red Lodge. The people I meet there are always very interested in what we are up to and I frequently have an audience for an impromptu ringing demonstration.
For most of that time I have had a cheery good morning and a chat with a runner who lives in the cottages adjacent to the wood. Being typically British, I only found out that his name is Tim recently. Over the last couple of years I have done several demonstrations to his grandchildren. It turns out that this was set one of his grandchildren and set two had never been around when we were in Red Lodge, so I agreed to arrange a session for the next time he had them to stay: which happened to be this week and so we went to Red Lodge (I’m all heart really, whatever anyone else might say!) so they could see some birds up close and personal.
I was joined for the morning by Ellie Jones. I find ringing is so much more enjoyable when there is a group working. We are still operating under social distancing rules, so it is still not possible to have all of my team out, particularly not the new trainees who need the most help and supervision, but Ellie has been working with me for 6.5 years and has a C-permit that allows her to work independently.
As I had ringed in the pond area within the last two weeks, I decided to set up at the crossroads that leads southwards to the farm. We didn’t set too many nets: just 6 x 18m in sets of 3, 2 and 1:
The first bird out of the net was a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. This was followed up by a small group of Robins, Great Tits, a Blue Tit and two Marsh Tits. These two Marsh Tits take our total to 11 for the year so far. Given the unavailability of one of our key Marsh Tit sites, Ravensroost Wood, this year is shaping up nicely for the species.
As luck would have it, we had just finished processing these birds, at about 8:15, when we saw the approaching family group: 5 children and 4 adults. Fortunately, we did catch several other birds to show them and get the children involved. Once the birds had been processed, Ellie managed to divert them with some little tasks (who can find the longest piece of grass was a firm favourite throughout the morning) before we let them run off to check the nets. They were extremely well-behaved, knew not to touch the nets, and called us to a couple of birds in the net.
At 8:45 they went off for breakfast, whereupon we were joined by Tim’s neighbour and his daughter. At that point we didn’t have any birds, so they went off to do some pond dipping, leaving a mobile number for when we next caught: which we did. They got to see a couple of birds, and then we were re-joined by the first group as well.
The numbers dropped off and we ended up with a small haul from a reasonable number of species. This particular net setup can be hit and miss: I have caught 80 and 95 birds on this net setup at this time of year in Red Lodge, this was not one of those sessions. The list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 4; Coal Tit 1; Marsh Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 1; Wren 2; Robin 4; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 4. Total: 21 birds ringed from 10 species. There were no retrapped birds and, with the exception of the Long-tailed Tit which, having completed its body moult, juveniles cannot be separated from adult birds, no definitely adult birds in the catch.
Apart from a thoroughly enjoyable time spent with the children (and their parents / grandparent) and the two new juvenile Marsh Tits, my highlight of the morning were at least 2, and possibly 3, Spotted Flycatchers that came and hunted from the oak trees at the corners of the crossroads. They were there for a good 30 minutes. Unfortunately, they stayed up there, despite my putting on a lure to try and tempt them down. We have caught one in Red Lodge, in exactly this net setup, back in 2016. Here’s hoping I manage a repeat at the next session!
As the heat started to build at 11:30, the families departed and we took down and left site by just gone midday.