After Thursday’s and Friday’s snowfall, I decided not to go ringing last weekend, as I felt the birds had enough to deal with, finding food and staying warm. I set up a new feeding station in the old paddock area at Somerford Common before the snows fell last Thursday. This large area is now going to be run on a coppicing regime by the Forestry Commission. Most of the bushes have been cleared, plus a huge number of trees. What is left is a sparse landscape with odd min-copses of either conifers or silver birch. This area was always our best spot for Lesser Redpoll, so I selected the nearest mini-copse of silver birch to where we used to set our nets and put up a few feeders and cleared the regrowth around the edge for nets.
I went out on Tuesday to fill the feeders on my sites and was pleased to see a couple of Siskin at the Somerford Common feeding station. This morning I was joined by Jonny and Andrew and we surrounded the copse with nets, hoping to catch the birds coming into or leaving the feeders. There were small groups of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin and, we are pretty confident, Brambling in the area. It was an experiment. It worked to a degree, but we did find that the Siskin and Redpoll were coming in through the treetops, dropping down and then leaving near to vertically from the feeders. Not having canopy nets we are going to have to find a better solution. At Webb’s Wood, which is my usual Siskin catching haunt, we have the nyjer seed feeder set in a narrow ride, with a net immediately adjacent to it. We will cut something similar at Somerford and, hopefully, have two Siskin catching stations. The degree to which our experiment worked was 3 Lesser Redpoll and 1 Siskin. We caught no Siskin at all last year and only 2 Lesser Redpoll, so this was a thoroughly pleasing catch. This male Redpoll was the first one caught: an absolutely stunning bird.
The Siskin was a juvenile female:
The list for the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit 5(4); Great Tit 7(3); Coal Tit 2; Marsh Tit 1; Robin 1; Chaffinch 5; Goldfinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 3; Siskin 1. Totals: 27 birds ringed from 10 species; 7 birds recaptured from 2 species, making 34 birds processed from 10 species.
Catching our second new Marsh Tit of the year was also a bit of a bonus: especially given that the habitat was completely wrong for this species. The catch died off at 10:30, so we packed up at 11:00, leaving the birds to feed in peace.