Somerford Common: Saturday, 23rd June 2018

Somerford Common is close to being my favourite woodland: there is so much variety of habitat within its confines, and it almost always turns up a decent catch of birds. Not only that, you never know when you might catch a glimpse of the Somerford Wallaby.  I saw it for the second time this morning as it moved away from me off a main path into the woodland.

Sometimes Somerford can keep you guessing as to the sort of catch you might get: back in 2013, on my own, I had caught two birds by 10:30 in the morning, having had the nets open since 7:30, but had added another 90 or so by the time I shut my nets at 13:00.  With a large team out, comprising myself, Jonny, Steph and David, we put up, what is for us, a lot of net: 13 x 18 metre full height nets.  Unfortunately, we only caught an average of two birds per net.  This is not to say that it wasn’t an interesting morning: the missing birds seem to be primarily from the resident / more common species: just one Blue Tit and two Great Tit and no Long-tailed Tits at all.  Robins bucked the trend, with 9 processed but our usual strong showing of Bullfinch was completely missing.

It is our best site for Willow Warbler and yesterday was no exception: we processed 6 of them.  More importantly, 2 of them were newly-fledged juveniles, 3 were adult females in breeding condition and just one was a male, also still in breeding condition. Almost certainly there will be second broods from them.  Over the course of the next few months I expect we will catch quite a few more.  One of the recaptured birds, EXR439, was first ringed as an adult in June 2014. This means that this 9 gram bird, if it makes it back there this autumn, will have flown to and from sub-Saharan Africa at least 6 times: astonishing.

Other juveniles caught and ringed were from Blackcap (2); Chiffchaff (2); Great Tit (1) and Robin (3).  The total list from the day was: Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Robin 8(1); Blackbird 2; Blackcap 3; Chiffchaff 3; Willow Warbler 4(2).  Totals: 23 birds ringed from 7 species; 3 birds recaptured from 2 species, making 26 birds processed from 7 species.

As well as the birds caught and processed, we could hear plenty of activity, including the elusive Long-tailed Tits. There were several family groups moving through the area but they were foraging in the canopy and away from our nets.  Without doubt the most exciting bird views of the morning were a pair of Sparrowhawks, spiralling up above our heads, riding a thermal.  Always a superb sight.

There were plenty of orchids lining the paths: unfortunately the Great Butterfly Orchids are way past their best now, so this is an old photo of one of them in its prime:

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There was a lot of insect activity: plenty of dragons flying around: almost certainly Black-tailed Skimmers, plenty of butterflies, notably Small Skipper, and several moths.  One, the Lackey, was perfectly content to sit on Jonny’s hand and pose – shame we were taking down the nets and didn’t have our cameras with us. There was also what looked like an Orange Moth, the shape and colour were right but we didn’t manage to get definitive views, as it flew off before we could.