Given the weather forecast for last week, it was quite remarkable that I managed to fit in all three scheduled sessions, the last by moving Saturday’s session to Sunday, the others simply because the weather was better than originally forecast.
Wednesday, 12th December saw my monthly Help4Heroes session at Tedworth House go ahead. There were two issues that restricted the catch: none of the feeding stations had been stocked up in advance and a couple of workmen were doing ground works in front of two of my net rides. The latter were not expected to have been there, as they were expected to have completed their tasks by the Tuesday. The list for the morning was: Blue Tit 5(4); Great Tit 4(1); Wren 1; Dunnock (1); Robin (1); Blackbird 1; Chaffinch 2; Goldfinch 3. Totals: 16 birds ringed from 6 species; 7 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 23 birds processed from 8 species.
The catch could have been better: a Redwing managed to extract itself from the net before I could get to it and a large flock of Lesser Redpoll flew through the area but, unfortunately, they were too busy foraging in the canopy to come down to the nets. Later in the winter, as the canopy feed becomes depleted, I am sure that they will drop down and we will catch a few.
Thursday, 13th December was a very different session to most. It took place at Lower Moor Farm and I was helped for the session by Ellie Jones, one of my senior trainees and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s northern reserves manager, which includes this site. We were joined for the morning by a team from BBC’s Countryfile programme, which included presenter Matt Baker. They were making a film about the Wildlife Trust’s Care Farm on the site. This is a local authority funded scheme to enable vulnerable, disadvantaged and disabled young people to explore nature in a safe and relaxed educational environment. The youngsters and staff are regular visitors to my ringing sessions, and I like to get them to get close to the birds and try to teach them some simple identification tips for ageing and sexing species. For this session we were joined by just one of them, who was the focus of the session.
To ensure we had some birds for filming I had set up a couple of peanut and seed feeders two weeks ago and kept them topped up on a weekly basis. However, to make sure we weren’t inundated with birds, Ellie and I only set two nets. Prior to Dan’s arrival (the youngster to be filmed), the camera and sound crew filmed me extracting some birds from the net. You don’t realise your particular foibles until a disinterested third party is with you. They asked me to stop talking to the birds whilst I was extracting them, as it would not transfer well to the television. They filmed our activity for over 2 hours. Ellie kept the nets clear whilst I carried out the ringing activities. Dan was taught how to safely hold and release a number of birds from half-a-dozen species. He was also shown how to age and sex Great Tits and age Blue Tits and was quizzed by Matt Baker on what he had learned. He thoroughly enjoyed the session. With that much filmed there might be a few minutes of bird ringing on the show to be aired on the 20th January 2019. We shut the nets once the filming stopped.
The list for the morning was: Blue Tit 2(4); Great Tit 4(4); Wren (1); Dunnock 1(4); Robin (2); Blackbird (1); Chaffinch 2. Totals: 9 birds ringed from 4 species; 16 birds recaptured from 6 species, making 25 birds processed from 7 species.
Sunday, 16th December was at Ravensroost Woods. I was joined by Jonny Cooper and also by Emmeline Williams from the Wildlife Trust’s well-being team. We set up a single net ride of 5 nets, with 84 metres of net. As expected at this time of year, the catch was dominated by titmice: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Nuthatch 1(2); Blue Tit 27(19); Great Tit 7(3); Coal Tit 8(3); Marsh Tit 1(3); Wren 1; Dunnock (3); Robin 1(1); Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 2(1). Totals: 49 birds ringed from 9 species; 36 birds recaptured from 9 species, making 85 birds processed from 11 species.
The highlight of the catch was our seventeenth Marsh Tit of the year: we still have a way to go to catch up with the 29 captured last year but it is still a strong showing and better than most years for the species in the Braydon Forest. I manage a licensed colour ringing scheme for Marsh Tits caught in the Forest in the hope that I will get reported sightings back. If you do see any please leave a comment on the blog page with date, place and colours. I will send a response with details of when and where the bird was ringed and any subsequent sightings.