Because of the extremely windy weather recently, this was our first opportunity to get out to one of our sites in 2018. The forecast was for there still to be some wind so, given the quagmire conditions on our other woodland sites, I opted to go to Ravensroost Woods. Ellie Jones and Jonny Cooper joined me for the session. We woke up to frozen cars, no wind and excellent ringing conditions. As before, we set a minimal number of nets, being mindful that we had 101 birds in our last session there. With my two most experienced lieutenants to help, I wasn’t worried that we wouldn’t handle it but, when it is very cold, I don’t want birds sitting in nets for any length of time.
As expected, the catch was very Paridae heavy. We only caught one finch: a male Chaffinch. I took the decision not to ring it because, although its legs were normal, there were signs that it could be just starting to develop the warts caused by the Fringilla Papilloma Virus. Quite sensibly, the rules do not allow for a ring to be fitted to a diseased bird: and I am not going to fit one to a bird I suspect might be developing a disease.
There were a couple of real highlights. We set two nets along a ride edged either side by 3m high hazel coppice and put on the Latvian love song, as our favourite Redwing lure is known (to us, at least), and waited. We had our first catch within 5 minutes of setting it going and then we had another four in the net at the next round. One of this second group was the first recovery of one of our previously ringed Redwing. This bird was caught and ringed at Ravensroost on the 28th December 2016. At the very least it has flown to northern Scotland and back in the last year, more likely it has been to Scandinavia for the summer, and returned to Ravensroost for this winter. The significance of this is that it is the first record ever of a Redwing ringed and then retrapped by the West Wilts Ringing Group in consecutive winters. There have been two caught and then retrapped at the same site in the same winter, but those are the only other recaptures.
The second highlight was a Marsh Tit, D056635, retrapped for the fourteenth time since it was the second Marsh Tit colour ringed as an adult in Ravensroost Woods on 13th October 2012. For anyone birding: if you see a Marsh Tit with pale blue over dark green rings on its lower right leg, it is at least six years old. Two points: typical lifespan of a Marsh Tit is 2 years, the oldest ringed specimen was 11 years and 3 months from date of ringing, so a way to go yet for it to get the longevity record. Second point: some non-ringers are concerned about how ringing impacts on the birds. Well, this bird has been caught and handled 15 times over five-and-a-bit years and weighed in at its best ever weight today. It is clearly a healthy, thriving bird.
The list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Nuthatch 1(2); Blue Tit 10(13); Great Tit 5(6); Coal Tit (12); Marsh Tit (5); Robin (3); Redwing 4(1). Totals: 20 birds ringed from four species; 43 birds retrapped from eight species, making 63 birds processed from eight species.
After our last round at 11:00 we packed up and headed home to get some warmth back into cold bones. An excellent start to the year.