Tedworth House: Tuesday, 22nd January 2019 & Ravensroost Woods: Wednesday, 23rd January 2019

Last week’s session at Tedworth House had to be postponed due to various work parties carrying out thinning exercises in the woodland, lots of chainsaws, noise and activity, so I rescheduled for this Tuesday.  It also rained a lot. Unfortunately, the feeding station which acts as the magnet for most of my catch has had to be closed, due to a problem with rats.  However, the other parts of the site did better than usual. It wasn’t a huge catch, but there was an encouraging haul of 6 Chaffinches, all healthy with no sign of FPV or mite infestations.

It is not often that the commonest species ringed is Chaffinch.  The list for the session was: Blue Tit 5(2); Great Tit 3(2); Coal Tit 1; Dunnock 1(1); Robin 1; Blackbird (1); Chaffinch 6.  Totals: 17 birds ringed from 6 species; 6 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 23 birds processed from 7 species.

There was plenty of other activity: it seems a lot of birds are reacting to the relatively mild winter by getting territorial.  There was plenty of song from Nuthatch and Great Tit, and the Ravens were in fine voice throughout the morning.

For Wednesday’s session I gave Jonny choice of venue. We were scheduled for Blakehill Farm but the forecast was for it to have low base wind speed but gusting to 20mph, which makes Blakehill impossible.   He suggested Ravensroost Woods.  Although I hadn’t topped the feeders up since last Thursday I know that it doesn’t take long for the birds to check them out, so I filled them first thing. We set just four nets, to cover the area through which the feeders are set.

The catch was as expected: mainly Blue Tits, supported by Great, Coal and Marsh Tits plus a couple of retrapped Nuthatches.  The list for the session was: Nuthatch (2); Blue Tit 11(9); Great Tit 3(3); Coal Tit 1(4); Marsh Tit (3); Wren (1); Robin (1).  Totals: 15 birds ringed from 3 species; 23 birds recaptured from 7 species, making 38 birds processed from 7 species.

Okay, not the most exciting catch in the world. However, ringing studies are often accused of not being worthwhile because of the lack of recapture information.  This might be true at migration hotspots, but in a regularly studied wood, like Ravensroost, we often get sessions were the numbers of recaptured birds is greater than the numbers ringed.  The height of the breeding season and its immediate aftermath are the sessions where we ring the highest proportion of birds, as newly fledged birds emerge.  It is always nice to recapture Marsh Tits: knowing that the individuals inhabiting this part of the wood remain in situ.

We forgot that Wednesday is the day that the Ravensroost volunteer group do their winter work.  This winter they are coppicing the south west corner of the wood.   They were, as ever, very interested to see what we were doing and to get a close up look at the birds.  As ringers, doing hundreds of birds from common species every year, we tend to switch off a bit about the beauty of birds like Blue Tits.  These encounters are a helpful way of reminding us that they really are quite special.