Tedworth House: Wednesday, 20th September 2017

Before the start of this year, only twice had we caught more than 20 birds in a session at Tedworth House.  We have caught spectacular birds there: particularly Firecrest and Black Redstart; and a host of birds not often caught in mist nets: Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon and Mallard.  Since the start of 2017, however, we have seen a much higher catch level than in previous years.  This culminated in this month’s session, which produced a total of 49 birds.  The biggest catch to date.  We didn’t change the setup much from normal: I actually set fewer nets than I usually do and tried one new net position that yielded no birds, so I won’t use that again.

As I have mentioned before, the brief at Tedworth House is twofold: to inform the staff, residents, visitors and volunteers at the House and help bring them closer to nature and secondly, to monitor the impact of the management of the woodland under the auspices of Dave Turner of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.  The really encouraging thing about the increase in the catch this year is that it has been achieved largely without artificial feeding. In previous years the only way to attract numbers of birds to the catching area has been to provide feed for several days in advance of the session. This year there has been very little feeding and yet the catch has improved significantly.  Hopefully this means that the woodland management is producing increased natural food availability.

One plan for this winter is to dig a large wildlife pond.  This should produce an immediate benefit for all of the local wildlife, and can only be good news for the bird population.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 11; Great Tit 5; Coal Tit 2; Dunnock 5(1); Robin 2(2); Blackbird 3(1); Blackcap 3; Chiffchaff 5; Goldfinch 1; Greenfinch 8.  Totals: 45 birds ringed from 10 species, four birds retrapped from three species, making 49 birds processed from 10 species.

The Greenfinches make a good story.  The maintenance man at Tedworth House is the wonderfully named Jack Daw.  As befits someone with that name, he is a keen birder and ringer.  His speciality, par excellence, is nest finding and pullus ringing.  He monitors the nests found on site and this year Jack found Greenfinches nesting. When he found the nest the birds were already too advanced to ring.  That is his great skill, apart from finding nests in the first place, recognising when it is inappropriate to ring the occupants of a nest, so they don’t prematurely abandon their place of (relative) safety.  So we knew they were there, but that doesn’t mean we will catch them.

Since I started ringing at Tedworth, until the beginning of this year, I had caught just one Greenfinch on site: a juvenile bird in May 2015.  We caught two in August and, now, with another eight, ten for the year. Of those ten, three were adult birds (one male and two females).  Hopefully this could be the start of a new population establishing in the area.

The woodlands and grounds of Tedworth House are, perhaps, the most enigmatic of my sites: you just never know what will turn up.

Simon Tucker

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