This is the sixth year that I have been carrying out my Help4Heroes sessions at Tedworth House. As the hard work of Dave Turner and his various helpers (residents, visitors and external and corporate volunteers) has opened up the woodland and improved the habitat, so the catches have increased in both variety and number. As usual in a woodland at this time of year, Blue Tits are far and away the largest proportion of the catch but, as ever, the site continues to offer up the odd surprise. Today’s was a late arriving Redwing. Nobody has seen them around the site for a couple of months and I certainly wasn’t expecting to find one in the net directly opposite my lure for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Why a lure for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker? The site is perfect for them although, unfortunately, their numbers have dwindled nationally. My Braydon Forest sites are a known haunt for them, with them being seen annually and confirmed breeding quite regularly. One of the staff had reported a sparrow-sized woodpecker in one of the trees close to the House. He was shown some pictures of woodpecker type birds: Nuthatch; Green Wood pecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker and, finally, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and he was definite that was what he saw. Fortunately, Jack Daw who, besides being a first class bird ringer, is the maintenance man at Tedworth House, has also seen the bird since. Unfortunately, it didn’t show this morning.
Jack was a star this morning, standing in for Dave Turner, who was not on site today. He helped me get the nets up and open and, more importantly, provided the essential bacon sandwich. For someone who has ringed as many thousands of birds from as many species as Jack has, he had never ringed a Nuthatch. So, when we caught a female Nuthatch in the first round, I insisted he break his duck and ring a Nuthatch, by way of a thank you.
The catch was certainly interesting: Nuthatch 2; Blue Tit 16(13); Great Tit 1(3); Coal Tit 2; Dunnock (2); Robin 2(1); Redwing 1; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 1; Chaffinch 5; Goldfinch 1. Totals: 32 birds ringed from 10 species; 19 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 51 birds processed from 11 species. This is our largest catch at this site. The previous best was 49 birds processed from 10 species in September 2017. Most of those birds were juveniles from that year’s breeding effort, before they have had time to succumb to predation, illness and starvation, so having such a good catch at the back end of the winter is highly encouraging.
One slightly odd feature: all 5 Chaffinch caught were female. Fortunately, no sign of any FPV or mite infections.
I was joined for about 15 minutes by a small family group (mum, daughter and son) and all three got a lesson in how to safely hold and release Blue Tits and what it is like to be bitten by them (“not as bad as chickens” was the consensus opinion).