Jonny Cooper, David Williams and I had a session at Webb’s Wood on the Wednesday before Christmas. It wasn’t as large a catch as we had hoped for, which was bit strange, given that the feeding station had been set up for a couple of weeks, and was being emptied regularly by the local birdlife. They certainly didn’t turn up in the expected numbers that morning. Unfortunately, it was dank and misty with no wind – so the mist never dissipated and the birds just didn’t start moving around.
This wasn’t a particularly bad situation: David is a fairly new trainee and has just spent 12 weeks away on his first term at university. Unfortunately, we have so far failed to find a trainer near to his university who he can work with during term time. With a small catch it meant that there was plenty of time for David to re-establish his skills at extracting and processing the birds, which he did very impressively.
The catch was: Nuthatch 2; Blue Tit 6(7); Great Tit (4); Marsh Tit (1); Coal Tit 5(3); Robin (2); Goldcrest 1(1); Chaffinch 4; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 19 birds ringed from six species, 18 birds retrapped from six species, making 37 birds processed from nine species. This really doesn’t reflect the diversity of this wood. It usually improves afer the New Year with the arrival of Redpoll and Siskin during January and February.
Because of the high winds and snow on Wednesday, I had to put the session at Red Lodge back to Thursday. Thursday was a super day for ringing: no wind, dry and not a lot of sunshine. David and Jonny joined me for this session also. With the weather being cold, hovering around zero, we didn’t want birds in the net for any length of time, and so I chose to set just two net rides: 2 x 18m, in a straight line between the seed and peanut feeders and 1x 18m and 1 x 12m in a dog-leg around the bird table. We certainly weren’t short of birds.
The list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 2(1); Nuthatch 2; Blue Tit 18(14); Great Tit 4(14); Coal Tit 4(6); Marsh Tit 1(2); Wren 1(1); Dunnock 2; Robin 1(3); Blackbird (1); Chaffinch 5; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 42 birds ringed from 11 species, 42 birds retrapped from eight species, making 84 birds processed from 12 species.
This is turning into a record year for Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit in the Braydon Forest, and I am looking forward to doing a comprehensive analysis of what has happened in the Forest this year.
One of the benefits of ringing consistently at the same places is that, over time, it builds a picture of how changes affect the woodland. As you might have noticed from these reports: we are getting between 40% to 60% of our catch as retrapped individuals. This is where the science comes from and helps inform the conservation strategies of the landowners.
Regarding changes to habitat and its impact on particular species, Red Lodge has been very poor for Chaffinch since I started ringing there. In 2013 we ringed just one, in 2014 two, in 2015 the Forestry Commission started a thinning of the beechwood. That year we caught no Chaffinch at all in the wood. We didn’t get to do a lot of ringing there during 2015, because of the disturbance from the thinning. In 2016 we ringed four and this year we have ringed eight. Hopefully this growth trend will continue in coming years. We will be there to monitor it.
Another benefit is that you build up a picture of how individual birds fare and population changes overall. By concentrating on local areas, like the Braydon Forest, ringing and retrapping builds up a picture of what is happening, which birds move around the local area and which are increasing or decreasing, enabling the landowners to make decisions about how they manage their holdings.