Somerford Common: Saturday, 3rd November 2018

With winds forecast to be gusting to over 30 mph in Wiltshire today, I had to abandon the planned visit to Brown’s Farm.  It is far too exposed, sitting atop the hills south of Marlborough. Instead, Annie Hatt and I headed to one of the more thickly wooded parts of Somerford Common.  I put up a couple of peanut feeders and put seed onto the bird table on Friday morning, to ensure that we would have a reasonable catch.

It is Annie’s first trip out for quite a while, due to pressure of work, so I decided to keep the number of nets low and easily manageable.  We had 3 x 18m nets down the main path and 1 x 12m parallel to the path and behind the feeders.  The aim being to catch birds coming in and out of the feeding station.  The strategy worked: the nets were untroubled by the wind, we had a good catch of birds and they came in a constant and manageable flow.

We know that our catches are going to be dominated by Blue Tits under these circumstances but, with a new BTO-backed study being run on this species, there is plenty of data available.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch 1; Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 10(6); Great Tit 4(1); Coal Tit 7 (4); Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren 1; Robin 1; Blackbird 2; Goldcrest 10; Chaffinch 1.  Totals:  40 birds ringed from 11 species; 12 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 52 birds processed from 12 species.

Amongst the decent haul of Coal Tits was D664806, which was a juvenile ringed in October 2013. It has been caught on four other occasions, including this.  According to BTO Bird Facts, the typical lifespan is 2 years, the oldest is 9 years and just under 3 months, so it is doing well, but has a few years to go before threatening the record.   We ringed our thirteenth Marsh Tit of 2018: we need another 11 in two months to match the excellent total of last year.

Soon after we had emptied the nets from the first round and were sat processing the catch, we had a female Sparrowhawk fly along the length of the net ride. It is a wonderful sight, watching this magnificent bird of prey flying directly towards you.  Better than that, no more than 10m away from us, it veered up and into a tree adjacent to the ringing station and sat there, had a good look at us, before flying off.

We closed the nets at 12:00 and spent the next hour removing leaves from the nets as we packed away: it is an occupational hazard of ringing att his time of year.