This session was a rearrangement of one of our regular ringing demonstrations for the Swindon Wildlife Group, which had to be postponed from September because of bad weather. It was rescheduled for this morning at Blakehill Farm, just outside Cricklade. Because it is a big, wide open airfield, and we knew it would be breezy, we had to choose the most sheltered part of the site to set the nets: by the farm buildings and visitor centre. I was helped out by Ellie and Annie for the session. When we got to the site there was still rain in the air, despite a forecast which showed the day would be bright and sunny. Fortunately, by the time we had set the nets the moisture had cleared, although the sun did not arrive until about 10:00.
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust have implemented a new policy on bird ringing, which says that we can have a maximum of 8 visitors to each demonstrator. As I knew we would be short-handed for this session, the number of visitors was restricted to 18.
Because of the team size we only set three short net rides. It worked pretty well, with 32 birds from 10 species processed over the two hours of the demonstration. The catch for the session was: Blue Tit 2(1); Great Tit 2; Wren 2; Dunnock (1); Robin 1(1); Redwing 6; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 1; Goldfinch 5; House Sparrow 9.
However, with a fairly steady easterly breeze there was a massive movement of Fieldfare and Redwing, with a few Starling for good measure going over all morning. It was virtually constant. We caught the six Redwing, which was good for the visitors to see, but when this wind dies down we will be moving to the other side of Blakehill, which is our usual Redwing roost site, and hope that some of this massive flyover will have decided the fields and hedgerows are to their liking: as the hedges are full of sloes and haws.
The visitors thoroughly enjoyed the session and two of the youngsters have expressed an interest in taking up ringing. Funnily enough, all of my trainees have come from this route. Not one of the many that have been referred to me by the BTO has made the transition from interest to activity. Only 2 have ever turned up for a taster session. That’s not to criticise the BTO, but to question why some people even make the first step if they don’t plan to do anything about it when it is offered to them on a plate.
I have to thank Annie and Ellie for their help. At ringing demonstrations their role is almost exclusively to help set up and take down, and to check on and empty the nets. They get very little opportunity to actually ring birds, as I do the demonstrating. this is the reversal of our usual sessions. Thanks also to Robin Griffiths for volunteering to be my scribe for the morning. He did an excellent job of it.