The last couple of weeks have been very hectic: with one CES session shunted to this week, because of work commitments (four days in a 5-star hotel in Paris: it’s a hard life) and the need to fit in two surveys for an ecological consultancy, as well as getting some bird ringing done. I think I am getting this retirement thing a bit wrong!
Ravensroost Woods: Saturday, 30th June 2018
I was joined for the session by Annie, as we carried out the June coppice project session at Ravensroost Woods. Like so many sessions this year, numbers overall were not great but we are getting good numbers of newly fledged birds.
Blue Tit 4; Great Tit 1; Wren (1); Dunnock 1; Robin 2; Blackbird 2(2); Blackcap 3(1); Garden Warbler 1(1). Totals: 14 birds ringed from 7 species; 5 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 19 birds processed from 8 species.
Compared to last year, it really is a concern: we then had a catch of 77 birds. Robin (10), Chiffchaff (12) and Blackcap (18) numbers are significantly lower and, as well as Chiffchaff, we were missing Nuthatch, Song Thrush and Marsh Tit from the catch. Definitely worrying. The only good thing you can say about it is that 12 of the 19 birds were birds fledged this year. The four Blue Tits were interesting: they were all newly-fledged juveniles, with no signs yet of post-fledging moult, which suggests that they have not been out of the nest for long. They were caught one at a time, at the same height and in the same position in the same net on separate rounds. I rather suspect that the net was set along the line from which they were leaving the nest. As there was no box nearby, it would suggest a natural hole nest.
Lower Moor Farm: CES 6 Monday, 2nd July 2018
This session, postponed from the previous Wednesday, was also down on the equivalent session last year, but not so catastrophically as above. I was helped by Jonny for the morning. We had a reasonable catch: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 3(1); Great Tit 4(1); Wren 2(1); Dunnock 2; Robin 4; Song Thrush (1); Blackbird 2; Blackcap 8(1); Chiffchaff 2(1); Willow Warbler (1); House Sparrow 1; Bullfinch 1(1); Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 31 birds ringed from 12 species, 8 birds recaptured from 8 species, making 39 birds processed from 14 species. This compares with 48 birds processed from 13 species last year. 27 of the birds processed were birds fledged this year.
As I was about to process our last bird, we were joined by a large group from Cirencester Community College, part of their support and continuing education programme that the Wildlife Trust is so active with throughout the county, with Dean from the Well-being Team as their guide. It was a shame there was only the one bird, a Blue Tit, to show them, but everyone was very interested in the process and asked lots of questions. They were particularly happy as the Blue Tit showed off its customary feistiness and pecked away at my fingers before flying off.
We also shared the area with a two-man team from the BBC’s Natural History Unit, who were filming the emergence of dragonflies. Hopefully we will get to see that on our television screens sometime soon.
There is one small oddity: we are catching the occasional House Sparrow, three so far this year, a reasonable distance away from the human habitation. There was one caught near the visitor centre in 2016 but our CES site is well away from the centre and the farm buildings. Perhaps they are nesting in a natural hole?
Lower Moor Farm: CES 7 Saturday, 7th July 2018
You are never too old to learn, they say. Well, you are never too old to do something really stupid either. As number one son was on a flying visit from China and I hadn’t seen him for a year, we arranged to meet in London on the Friday. The plan was to get an early train home, as he was horribly jet-lagged and I had a 4:00 start on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, I managed to get my bag stolen – wallet, phone, train tickets, the lot. By the time we got that sorted, revisited haunts to try and find it etc., it was midnight before I got home. I really do need more than four hours sleep to be a fully functioning human being. Fortunately, I had Ellie, Annie and Jonny with me for the session, so I could be totally useless whilst they got on and did the work (mind, I still made it to site before any of them).
Numbers were still down on last year but it was a thoroughly enjoyable session. We don’t catch many Jays and we don’t catch many Green Woodpeckers. To be fair, nobody does. On Saturday we caught three jays and our fourth Green Woodpecker of the year. All have been caught at Lower Moor Farm so far this year but we have other sites which also occasionally yield a Green Woodpecker, and Jays come to that, so the possibility of it being our best ever year for them is high.
The first two Jays were caught together in the same net. They were both juveniles and, potentially, were nest mates.
The adult Jay was a female bird in post-breeding moult. They always look quite scabby, after the hard work of rearing their young, until their moult is completed. As you can see below, she is part way through moulting her primaries:
The Green Woodpecker was our first juvenile of the species for the year. You can see from the spotty nature of its plumage that it is a young bird. It is just developing the red malar stripe below the beak, so is a male bird. I am not sure how long it had been out of the nest, but it was a couple of grams underweight, which was queried by the BTO’s recording system. However, after processing it flew off strongly.
There are some people out there who think it is wrong for ringers to enjoy the work they do, and that we should not be happy when we get to process new species because, somehow, enjoying it devalues the contribution. To be fair, they are usually the anti-science lot who just dislike ringing because it is beyond their understanding or spoils their photographs. Well, Steph got to ring two new and exciting species yesterday, and that will encourage her to keep coming along at stupid o’clock in the morning, to help add to the sum of knowledge of Wiltshire’s and the UK’s bird populations.
The list for the day was: Green Woodpecker 1; Treecreeper 1; Jay 3; Blue Tit 3(2); Great Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren 2(2); Dunnock (1); Robin 2; Blackbird 1(1); Blackcap 5; Garden Warbler 1(1); Lesser Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 4(1); Willow Warbler 1; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 26 birds ringed from 13 species; 10 birds recaptured from 8 species, making 36 birds processed from 16 species. This compares with 47 birds processed from 12 species last year. 21 of the birds caught were birds of this year.
As the temperature was really mounting and the birds, not being mad dogs or Englishmen, had disappeared into the shade, we packed up a little earlier than usual and got home in time to watch Lewis qualify on pole and England beat Sweden. Lovely day!
Photos are all courtesy / copyright of Steph Buggins.