Somerford Common: Saturday, 26th November 2022

Wow! Out two days running: I haven’t done that for a long time. Unlike yesterday’s at Red Lodge, moved from Wednesday, this session was scheduled for today. I was joined by David and Anna for the full session, and Rosie came along to help set up and ring some birds before heading off to her work at the Trust (those trees won’t survey themselves!) just before 9:00. We met at 7:00 and set just the five nets used last time.

Whilst we were setting up, we were joined by another Simon. He is the professional deer stalking contractor for the local Forestry England. His concern was that we were on site and he hadn’t known. I know I change my sessions when the weather dictates, but this session was pre-booked with Forestry England, so there must have been a bit of a communications breakdown. Personally I am confident that he can tell the difference between me and a Roe Deer or Muntjac! I just made it clear where we would be working and he made sure he avoided the area. I wouldn’t have said “No” to the offer of some free-range venison!

Just as we were finishing setting the nets, we were joined by Laura and her sons, Daniel and Adam. They were gradually incorporated into the ringing regime: started off by releasing birds that had been processed, then graduated to taking wing lengths and, finally, ringing some birds, ageing and sexing them, where possible, taking the biometrics. Hopefully, two new ringers in the making.

The first round, at 8:00, was the busiest of the day and, as expected, was Blue Tit heavy. In fact, we caught just under 50% of the day’s Blue Tits in that round (11 of 25). So, although that was a hard start to the session, it did mean that there were fewer sore fingers throughout the rest of the morning. For those of you who aren’t ringers, and aren’t aware of the nature of Blue Tits, they have two defining characteristics: firstly, they will grab huge swathes of the net with beak and claw, making them difficult to extract; secondly, they do not stop pecking at any point in the extraction or handling process. The only saving grace is that they are small: so their feistiness is irritating rather than damaging. It was also gratifying, after a five month drought broken yesterday, to catch and ring another Nuthatch. We also caught another new juvenile Marsh Tit in that round, caught a second later in the session, along with retrapping another 3 throughout the morning. This takes the total of Marsh Tits ringed in the Braydon Forest so far this year to 16, which is two more than in the whole of last year, and despite minimal bird ringing in Ravensroost Woods, the usual stronghold for the species in the Forest, so far this year.

There were several other highlights: after the complete failure to lure in any Redwing last time, in contrast to the good numbers caught at this period last year, it was pleasing to catch four of them this time. At 10:30, once things had warmed up a bit, we changed the lure to Goldcrest, which didn’t produce the same numbers as last time but our penultimate round at 11:00 produced three Goldcrest and two Long-tailed Tit in that net set.

At 9:30 we retrapped a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, ignoring the two caught in my garden, it is the first in the Braydon Forest woodlands since 5th March of this year. In the final round we caught a new male Great Spotted Woodpecker: again, the first ringed in the Forest since 5th March. This bird was well embedded in the net and both David and Anna were uncomfortable at trying to extract its wings, as it was in the double-angel position. I have one key rule on extracting for my trainees: if in doubt, give me a shout. They did, so I took it over. My two forefingers are now sporting the painful pin-prick indentations of the results of that extraction: give me a Blue Tit any day!

The other highlight has to be the three Chaffinch: all males, one juvenile and two adults. All had perfectly clean legs and so they were ringed. Our list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1(1); Nuthatch 1(1); Blue Tit 12(13); Great Tit 6(6); Coal Tit (5); Marsh Tit 2(3); Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren 1; Redwing 4; Goldcrest 3(1); Chaffinch 3. Totals: 35 birds ringed from 10 species and 30 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 65 birds processed from 11 species.

One of the benefits of setting so few nets is that packing away is quick and easy. With the breeze getting up, we closed the nets as we did the final round at 11:45. Having processed the last haul, ironically, the second largest of the day, with 12 birds, we then took down. It was too windy by then to have left the nets open any longer. The last net set, the 18m + 9m along the main path, had already become entangled in the Blackthorn and Oak that they were set alongside, so that took a little longer to get down than the others. Even so, we were away just after 12:30.

Red Lodge: Friday, 25th November 2022

It has been six weeks since my last visit to Red Lodge. Every time I planned to go something got in the way. This week I planned to go on Wednesday, but there was a Met Office yellow warning for wind and rain and, indeed, it was blowing a gale for most of the day, and there was some torrential rain on and off throughout. I had thought about going Tuesday, as that was a pretty decent day weather-wise, only my car decided to play up: the starting fob battery drained. and the car failed to actually switch off the electrics. By 19:00 Monday night the battery was drained. Fortunately, having sorted all of that out, I managed to get out this morning.

I was joined by Rosie to help set up and do some ringing before heading off to work. As she was going to be doing tree surveying in Ravensroost Woods, about 5 minutes away, she managed to get considerably more ringing in than is usually the case. Miranda came for the morning session, although she had to leave before the end. Once I got my car going on Tuesday I went to Red Lodge and set up a couple of small feeding stations in the Forestry England test plot area. This meant that we could set up a minimum number of nets. We set just four:

We had the nets open just before 8:00 and the birds started arriving straight away. As expected, Blue Tit made up a sizeable proportion of the catch, 40%, but we also had a decent variety for the morning. Our first round produced 22 birds. It included two Chaffinch, but one was showing signs of possible Fringilla papillomavirus, so we released it unringed. We also had a Nuthatch and a juvenile Marsh Tit, one of two we caught and colour-ringed this morning.

Juvenile Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris, with attitude!

Nuthatch has been a source of frustration this year: prior to today our Braydon Forest catches have yielded just eight. They have been heard all over the Forest, but have not found their way into the nets. In fact, this was the first we have ringed or recaptured since June – and the last one was also in Red Lodge. That we later caught another was a bonus.

All bar three of the Blue Tits were caught between 8:00 and 10:30, with two more at 11:00 and the final one, the last bird out of the nets, at midday. We caught regularly until Miranda had to leave at 11:20. The last bird that she processed was our solitary Redwing of the morning.

As is often the case at Red Lodge, when I decided that I would empty the nets and take them down, I caught another bunch of birds: five Long-tailed Tit and three Goldcrest being the highlights. The Goldcrest were a nice surprise as I did not lure for them: it was (finally) a cold morning, with a cold north easterly breeze, so it never warmed up enough for me to want to lure them.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 19(7); Great Tit 4(3); Coal Tit 4(4); Marsh Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 5; Dunnock 2; Robin 2; Redwing 1; Goldcrest 3; Chaffinch 1. Totals: 46 birds ringed from 12 species and 14 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 60 birds processed from 12 species.

One of the benefits of setting only a few nets is that it doesn’t take long to get packed away, and I was away from site by 12:45.

Not the Finnished Article!

I took this from a Tweet by Jonny Cooper (with his permission): he seems to be on a run of good birds at the moment. To set the scene a bit, Redwing recaptures are not common in Wiltshire. For example, in 2019 there were none, in each of 2020 and 2021 there was a single Redwing recapture in each year. In total, there have been only 13 recaptures of ringed Redwing in Wiltshire since records began. So to Jonny’s Tweet:

What this? A Finnish ringed Redwing retrapped just outside Sutton Benger, Wiltshire. How exciting, I can’t wait to find out where it was ringed originally!

A Redwing (Turdus iliacus) in the hand

Editor’s notes: That is the first foreign retrap of a Redwing for the West Wilts RG since 1996! That bird was ringed just across the North Sea, in Belgium. It pre-dated the electronic records, so there is no note of who caught it. The site was Hurst Farms, between Steeple Ashton and Marston in mid-Wiltshire.

There had only been 3 others: 2 were retrapped within one month of ringing. These were RLo5915, ringed and retrapped in Nightingale Wood, near South Marston (just east of what was the Honda factory complex), ringed on the 28th November 2011 and recaptured just 4 days later on the 2nd December 2011. The other was RL05960 ringed in Coleshill on the 4th February 2012 and recaptured there a week later on the 11th February 2012.

A little more interestingly, the third, RL61400 was ringed in Ravensroost Wood on the 28th December 2016 and recaptured in the same net, 13 months after being ringed, on the 6th January 2018. Site fidelity is something you find with breeding birds but seems somewhat less of a thing with winter visitors.

On the converse, one of the Redwing ringed by us, as an adult, at Lower Moor Farm, on 28th October 2015, RL61176, was shot by some sick individual in Barsac, part of the Gironde in France, on the 5th December 2017. What sort of person does that? It is not as though there is any meat on it worth eating.

Elves in Webb’s Wood: Saturday, 19th November 2022

Having been unable to get to Webb’s on Wednesday due to the weather, I decided to have a go today. On Thursday morning I set up a couple of feeders at the ringing site (one peanut, one mixed seed (no wheat)), on the off chance a few birds would have found them by today.

Okay, so what is this title about? Where I set up my feeders we discovered plenty of rotting wood and lots of fungi. As with last year, there were a few clumps of Yellow Stag’s Horn fungus, Calocera viscosa. However, for me, the most striking of them was this, because I have never seen it before:

Green Elf Cup, Chlorociboria aerugonescens. Not only are the fruiting bodies this fabulous turquoise colour, but the blue of the mycelium completely pervades the log upon which it is growing, as you can see on the bottom photo. Obviously, where you have elf cups you must have elves to use them! (Sorry!)

So to the real business of the day. I was joined by David for the session. The Forestry England contractor had been in during the week and tidied up the ride edges and opened up some areas. I am delighted to say that, unlike at Somerford Common last winter, the work has improved the ringing prospects. I made a small change to the net setup:

FS = Feeding Station RS = Ringing Station

It is a nice compact site when set up like this. The feeders had been found and the birds had made small inroads into the food, so I was expecting an increase in the numbers of titmice, but not an explosion in numbers. We set lures for Redwing plus a finch mix (Lesser Redpoll, Siskin & Brambling) on the 3 x 18m net set and the finch mix on each of the other net sets. The Redwing lure worked immediately and we started taking them out of the nets pretty much straight away. Whilst doing our first round Mark and his children, Daniel and Adam, arrived and, soon after that. Claire with her children, Samuel and Zara. I have arranged to do a talk on ringing, followed by a practical demonstration, at Zara’s school in January. It came about because Zara was talking about bird ringing in class and that she had been allowed to ring some birds, and her class mates were interested in learning more. The school in question, Abbey Meads Community School in Swindon, has its own little forest school, wildlife ponds and natural habitats, with lessons that make use of all of them. It will be a pleasure to show them. That said, being 8 year olds, some did originally think that ringing was about pairing the birds up for breeding, so I was told today.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. It was a decent session. Both Redwing and Lesser Redpoll responded to the lure and we caught and ringed some 46 birds: Blue Tit 12(6); Great Tit 4(6); Coal Tit 1(1); Robin 2(3); Redwing 8; Goldcrest 1; Lesser Redpoll 2. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 7 species and 16 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 46 birds processed from 7 species.

The number of Goldcrest was well down compared with previous sessions. We did catch two, but one showed signs of cold stress, so I didn’t process it. They are such small birds it is why I don’t lure for them until at least 10:00 in the morning, and once the temperature has reached a reasonable level. I have a very simply remedy for dealing with any stressed birds (don’t get too concerned, perhaps one in a thousand birds extracted might show signs of stress), particularly cold stress: I pop them in a bag and drop them down my front next to the skin. It always works: I am not sure if it is the warmth or the smell that helps, perhaps it is the combination! With this one, he wasn’t responding as well as I wanted, so I took him out of the bag and popped him back in again. Ten minutes later he was crawling all over my chest. When he reached my armpit I took him out and he flew off strongly into the top of an adjacent tree and started foraging for food. Job done!

Because of the way that the birds were coming in, I didn’t have time to allow the children to do any ringing during the main part of the morning. However, they all took turns to release the birds once each was processed. All of the rides caught, but 2 x 18m ride was not as successful as it usually is. That is the problem with ringing birds: you cannot predict their movements. The catch died off soon after 10:30 and, with it still being pretty cold, Claire and her brood departed soon after. With things having quietened down, I could work with the other two children, Daniel and Adam, and allow them to ring a bird each. By then that was all that we had left for them to ring.

David and I started shutting the nets at 11:45, extracting the last few birds and processing them before taking down and packing away. We left site by 12:45 after a cold but fairly productive morning.

A ringing session with a magic touch: Calne, Monday, 14th November 2022

The following post is by Jonny Cooper:

Sometimes you come across a brilliant ringing site just by chance. This is what happened with the farm I ring on just outside of Calne. The landowner also owns some land adjacent to my site at Sutton Benger and, through the grapevine, heard about my ringing and asked if I wanted to give his farm a go. That was at the start of the year, in the half a dozen or so sessions since, the site has proven to be amazing.

I rolled up on site Monday morning hoping to ring some of the early winter flocks of finches coming into the cover crops put down for them alongside some Redwing. I set the nets and in the first round had a nice flock of Redwing plus a few Goldfinches. The session then ticked along nicely for a couple of hours, with each round producing a few birds, and I was content.

Things took a more exciting turn during the 10am round. The first thing to get the heart racing was a Stonechat (a lovely male). This is the first ringed at any of my sites. The spotlight was swiftly snatched from the Stonechat, as the next net produced a stunning Merlin. Safe to say at this point I was over the moon.

In Wiltshire Merlin are a reasonably widespread but uncommon winter visitor. However, this bird is only the second actually ringed in the county (the first being in 2020) so it was a real red-letter day.

After the Merlin things really took off as the day started to warm up. The session finished with 90 birds processed. The totals for the day were: Merlin 1, Blue Tit 12(2), Great Tit 3(3), Chiffchaff 1, Wren 1, Redwing 38, Robin 2(1), Stonechat 1, Dunnock 6, Meadow Pipit 2, Chaffinch 5, Goldfinch 8 and Reed Bunting 4. A total of 84 new birds from 13 species and 6 re-traps from 3 species.

Overall, a brilliant ringing session. In addition to the birds ringed there were flocs of Linnets and Yellowhammer flitting about all morning with Lapwing coming down to feed in the stubble fields. A great example of how farming and nature can work hand-in-hand.

Editor’s note: the first Merlin caught by the West Wilts RG was in July 2003. That was a retrapped bird, caught near Beckhampton, about 4km away from where Jonny caught his one. I don’t have the details of where it was ringed. The only other Group record was another retrap caught on the Imber Ranges, Salisbury Plain Training Area, in November 2019. That bird was ringed near Glenshee, Aberdeenshire.

My Purton Garden: Monday, 14th November 2022

Having realised that I cannot use Somerford Common for the BTO’s Winter Constant Effort Site trial, because it precludes the use of sound lures, and it is my best site for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling, last year it was also my best site for Redwing, all of which required the use of lures, I have decided to trial it in my back garden. Today’s weather was perfect, the nets are already set up, so I can start at 7:00, and have breakfast, tea, coffee and other essential facilities on hand: a win : win situation.

It was a decent session with the Blue Tits arriving early on, and a couple of Goldfinch soon after. One of the interesting factors is the count of birds when ringing, compared to the counts made for the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Scheme. My GBW count for Blue Tits for this morning is two: because that was the maximum I saw at any one time, whereas the session delivered 14 of them (six ringed and eight retraps). The key to the GBW figures is that the numbers are known to be inaccurate, but the inaccuracy is consistent across all counts. What is important for GBW is the proportion of counts in which the species appears, whereas ringing allows, through catch, mark, recapture, for an approximation of the population size / dynamics.

One of the things I have noticed with Blue Tits this autumn is the number of them that have moulted all bar one of their greater coverts. However, it is not the outer one that is retained, it is the second one from the distal edge:

(It looks clearer in real life!)

The real reason that I wanted to ring the garden today was that the Starlings have been gorging themselves on the fat balls in the garden, so I reckon they owe me the chance to ring a few. Three of them obliged. I was joined for coffee at 9:30 by my friend and C-permit trainee Steph. She was taking a day off from her new business (Cotswold Canine Care in Cirencester), and popped in to ring a few birds and have a chat. We were having a lovely chat when we were interrupted by a text from Jonny Cooper, with a picture of a stunning bird – but that is his story to tell in a different post and I am not going to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say that once Steph left, just after 10:30, the birds decided that they had had enough and disappeared as well.

It has been a decent session: I was delighted to catch my third Great Spotted Woodpecker for the garden (in 10 years!) and, overall, it was a reasonably varied catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit 6(8); Great Tit 2; Coal Tit (1); Wren 1; Dunnock (1); Starling 3; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 5. Totals: 19 birds ringed from 7 species and 10 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 29 birds ringed from 9 species.

I left the nets open for a few more hours but, as my wife was working in the garden, no more birds were caught, and I shut them just as the rain arrived only getting slightly wet but recognising that I need to reproof my waterproof, as rain trickled down my neck through the hood!

That’s Better: Somerford Common, Saturday, 12th November 2022

This must be the first time for years that I have gone 10 days between full sessions. Apart from the rain, it has been extremely windy in this neck of the woods. Wednesday was set to be wet and windy, so we moved the session to Thursday. On Thursday, Rosie and I tried for a session at Somerford Common, which, whilst dry, proved too exposed to the wind, so we went round to Ravensroost Wood, where it was more sheltered, but in two hours we caught one bird, so I packed up and went home. Friday looked better but I was ill, so I was delighted to be able to get out this morning.

I set up a feeding station at Somerford on Friday of last week, and was pleased, when we arrived on Thursday, to find that it had been emptied already. I refilled it on Friday afternoon ready for today. I was joined this morning by David and Anna. We only set five nets, three around the feeding station and two on the main path:

The nets were open by 7:30 and we immediately caught our first three birds at the feeding station nets: all Marsh Tits! One new and two retraps. It turned out to be a good morning for Marsh Tit: two ringed and six retrapped. All six of the retraps were adults and the ringed birds were both juveniles.

Just after 8:00 we were joined by the Childs family: dad Mark and sons Adam and Daniel. The two children spent some time refreshing on the safe handling and release of birds. Later in the session they were taught how to measure wing lengths and successfully get them into the weighing pot and, towards the end of the session, they were taught to ring their first birds. Each ringed a Blue Tit and a Great Tit, and their stoical acceptance of being pecked by both species was admirable.

Following on from the success we had catching the species in these nets at Somerford Common last year, the net set on the main ride was fitted with a lure for Redwing but, after two hours with there being no sign of them, I changed it to Goldcrest – and the effect was immediate. Within a couple of minutes we had eight of them in the net. By the end of the morning we had caught 17: 15 ringed and two retraps. The feeding station nets had lures for Brambling, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. Only the last of those were caught this morning. The list was: Blue Tit 15(10); Great Tit 5(6); Coal Tit 1; Marsh Tit 2(6); Long-tailed Tit 3; Wren 2; Robin 2(2); Goldcrest 15(2); Lesser Redpoll 3. Totals: 48 birds ringed from 9 species and 26 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 74 birds processed from 9 species.

We shut the nets at 11:30, took down and packed away and were off site at midday.

It was a really pleasant, easy session: a good number of birds and reasonable variety. What I found slightly surprising was the lack of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch: virtually nailed on certainties at Somerford Common once the feeding station is setup. Next time!

Blown Away at Blakehill: Wednesday, 2nd November 2022

I had intended to get to Blakehill Farm on Monday but, after trudging around all morning in Wellies on Sunday, my arthritic right ankle decided I wasn’t going anywhere. So, I rescheduled the session for this morning. I knew it was touch and go: the forecast was for it to be dry until after lunch, but for it to be breezy, and with it gusting to 30+mph. The wind was scheduled to come from the south-west, which meant that it would have to pass through the perimeter track hedgerow to get to the nets. I hoped that the hedges would act as a bit of a windbreak and we would be able to get something of a session. I was joined for the morning by Miranda. We met at 6:30 and had the nets open by about 7:15. As we moved up the perimeter track there must have been 100 Redwing put up by our approach.

It is hard work putting nets up there: although the edges of the perimeter track look grassy, and supports a surprising amount of vegetation, just below the surface is hard standing that has not yet degraded. Knocking holes in it, to insert the supporting poles, is hard graft: so I had a good early morning work out.

I set lures for Redwing, Reed Bunting, Brambling and Linnet. Almost immediately we had four Redwing hit the nets adjacent to the lure: one managed to wriggle free before we could get to it. Later we caught another but, unfortunately, by 8:30 the nets were billowing and the pockets were just blown out. There was also the double whammy of the sun shining on the nets. The combination of wind and sunshine made the nets highly visible. After 8:45 we caught just two more birds: one at 9:15 and then nothing until the last at 10:15. The wind was becoming much stronger, so we shut the nets then.

It wasn’t a bad morning, in that we did catch some birds, and it bodes well for the next calm day, as there was a lot of movement around the site. Flocks of Redwing, Fieldfare, Starling and Goldfinch, plus plenty of other birds in the hedgerow. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of those birds fly out of the hedge, see the net, and fly back straight back into the hedge.

The list for the morning was: Wren 1; Robin 2; Redwing 5; Blackbird 2; Reed Bunting 3. Total: 13 birds ringed and processed from 5 species.

By the time we had taken down and packed away we left the site just before 11:00. I am sure we will do better next time.

West Wilts Ringing Group Results: October 2022

Not the easiest month, with lots of wind and rain and then other things, like restrictions to sites.  Jonny lost access to Langford Lakes and I lost access to Lower Moor Farm, as the Trust take precautions against the current avian flu epidemic.  This will stay in place presumably until the area is deemed clear of the disease.  Langford has certainly suffered with dead wildfowl but, so far and touch wood, Lower Moor Farm has not.  To be fair, neither of us tend to do much on those sites over the winter but I would have liked to get a couple more sessions in this year.  You never know when a Yellow-browed Warbler might turn up (the one I caught there was on the 26th October 2016 – gratuitous photo below).  

2016_10_26yebwa2 (2016_12_10 14_50_13 UTC).jpg

I have also lost access to the Firs, as the Trust have contractors in removing the Ash trees.  That work is expected to keep me out of there until after Christmas.  Somewhat disturbingly, one of the locals who normally uses the Firs to exercise her dogs bumped into us at Webb’s Wood on Sunday, and told me that the contractors are also felling a large number of mature Oaks, as a cost mitigation for the Ash clearance work.  It will be interesting to see what is left of the wood once they have finished and what impact it might have on the bird life.  Having had the best catch of Marsh Tits for the site in my solitary session in there this month, four ringed and one retrap, hopefully not too much.  Also, the Trust have banned the setting up of any feeding stations on their sites this winter: acting on the “precautionary principle”. Forestry England have not imposed any restrictions – yet.  Nor has the BTO suggested stopping feeding.

It hasn’t been the most stunning month, with notably lower numbers of two of the autumn / winter keynote species: Meadow Pipit and Redwing.  Meadow Pipit numbers were less than half of last year at Jonny’s East Tytherton sites and I just did not manage to get out on the plateau at Blakehill Farm, which just about makes up the shortfall.  As for Redwing: last year we caught 28 of them at Somerford Common in October, this year I caught just one there.  Whether that has anything to do with the ride clearance carried out there last winter I don’t know.  That said, the 2022 catch is very close to that of 2020.  Apart from that, Blue Tit numbers were well down.  It is certainly something that I have noticed in my own catches, particularly in the woodlands.

On the plus side, Goldfinch numbers were well up, with double last year’s numbers at Jonny’s Sutton Benger and East Tytherton sites, the Sutton Benger site being particularly prolific, and a good contribution from my back garden, equalling the East Tytherton sites. 

oct22.png

However, there was one highlight for me this month: my first catch of Brambling at Webb’s Wood.   Since they started arriving in the Braydon Forest, with four caught at Somerford Common and one in Ravensroost Wood in February 2019, none in 2020, they were caught again at Somerford Common and one in Red Lodge in 2021, and now these two at Webb’s Wood. Only the Firs to go now!

Also, I caught the first two Lesser Redpoll for the Blakehill Farm West site. It is such a big open space, but with good hedges and established treelines mixed in around the perimeter of the site, away from the plateau, and little by way of extensive woodland. We did catch one other, almost five years ago to the day, in the perimeter track hedgerow on the Chelworth side of the site, which was probably more surprising. It is a good start to the Lesser Redpoll season in the Braydon Forest, with birds caught at Somerford Common and Webb’s Wood, as well as Blakehill. Unfortunately, whilst we saw them in the treetops, the session in Ravensroost Wood did not catch any.

A First for Webb’s Wood: Sunday, 30th October 2022

I was working solo this morning, being joined by Laura and her son Adam as observers later in the morning, so set a manageable number of nets: just 6 x 18m:

The forecast was for the wind to build throughout the morning, coming from the south. I knew that the three-net set would be sheltered but was hopeful that the sheer volume of woodland between the edge of the wood and the ringing site would mitigate any potential problems. Fortunately, the wind did not become a factor until 11:00, by which time I was happy to shut the more exposed nets.

Having woken up at 5:30 GMT (please can we have BST all year round, as has often been proposed?), I was on site by 6:00 with all nets open before it was fully daylight. I set nets to the background of male and female Tawny Owls exchanging calls. It was a very easy and pleasant start to the morning. I set lures for Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling.

The first birds hit the nets at 7:00: a retrapped Wren, a new Wren and two Redwing, responding to the lure set on the 3 x 18m ride. Another Redwing responded at 7:20, the only bird that round. There were no more and at 8:30 I changed the lure to Lesser Redpoll. Talking of which, after last year’s bumper crop of Lesser Redpoll at Webb’s Wood I am interested to see what we might catch this winter. The next round delivered two Goldcrest and the first Lesser Redpoll for Webb’s this winter. Later that was joined by another three, responding to lures on the single net and the double. Unfortunately, one other managed to get out of the net when it became stuck on a protruding twig. Vengeance was mine: that tree had a wee trim up.

At 8:30, soon after Laura and Adam had arrived came the birds of the morning:

Two juvenile male Brambling were caught immediately adjacent to the lure in the two net ride. Since we caught the first six for the Braydon Forest in February 2019 (five at Somerford Common, one at Ravensroost Wood), there were no records in 2020 and one bird ringed in Red Lodge and one recaptured in November 2011. So Brambling is still a very uncommon catch for us in the Braydon Forest, which explains why I was more than a little excited to catch another two this morning.

Whilst I was processing these birds we heard a loud bang, followed a few minutes later by another. I said that it was probably the deer stalkers and Laura said that they had passed another vehicle in the wood, which probably explained it.

After 9:00, with the weather being quite warm, I decided it would be okay to put the Goldcrest lure on the three-net ride. It did its usual trick and Goldcrest became the largest part of the catch.

It was never very busy, but every round produced a couple of birds and by the end of the morning I had processed 30 birds. The list for the morning was: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit (1); Wren 2(1); Robin 3; Redwing 3; Goldcrest 7(2); Brambling 2; Lesser Redpoll 4. Totals: 26 birds ringed from 9 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 30 birds processed from 10 species.

With the wind increasing significantly I shut the nets at 11:30. It took a fair while, with the three of us extracting hundreds of leaves from the three-net set and considerably fewer in the more exposed nets. How is it that, with the wind blowing from the south at least one third of the leaves were in the north side of the net? Having got all the nets shut and empty, I thanked Laura and Adam for their help, and said that I would finish off taking down. Five minutes later I got a call from Laura, on leaving the site the deerstalker had clearly decided to lock up after him / herself. I quickly finished clearing away and released them back into the wild and we were all away from site shortly after 12:30.