With tomorrow looking to be very windy I moved this month’s Tedworth House session forward by a day. Andrew came along to help out, and Dave Turner provided the essentials (sausage sandwich for me, bacon for Andrew). The day started with the first hard frost of the year: thank goodness for heated windscreens and a decent air-con system. It took a fair while for the frost to lift but the day stayed clear and virtually windless (until we decided to take down, when the wind got up and the trees started shedding their leaves and our nets did a great job of catching them!).
There are two reasons for doing the Tedworth House sessions: firstly, to evaluate how the Wildlife Trust’s management of the wood is impacting on the bird population and, secondly, to involve the beneficiaries, staff and volunteers with the birds and bird ringing. Today we were joined by one of those beneficiaries and his carer. Without divulging his personal details, this person suffered a traumatic brain injury whilst on active service. He has gone from being an active, intelligent, highly skilled engineer to a slow-moving, slow-responding individual in need of the support of a permanent carer. We spent about an hour and a half with him, before he became tired and his carer took him home. He was given the chance to see a decent number of species close up, and we taught him how to handle and release birds safely.
The first birds extracted were: a recaptured Wren, which flew in as we were finishing our set up and a Song Thrush. This Song Thrush was more of a rescue than a capture. We went to set up our nets by the Hero Garden feeding station and as we reached it we could hear a Song Thrush making a lot of noise, rather like they can do when you are extracting them from a mist net. The garden is surrounded by a miniature, close-cropped box hedge which is bounded on the outside by a chicken wire fence. The Thrush had evidently gone under the hedge looking for insects and could not understand why it could not get out the other side. It was continuously trying to force its way through the chicken wire instead of turning round and going back whence it came. I walked around behind it and picked it up: the easiest catch of the day.
Our first round proper was quite surprising: 10 birds in one net ride. They were all Great Tits. Usually Tit flocks are quite mixed, with a combination of at least Blue and Great Tits. I cannot remember catching a single species flock like this before. We then had a steady catch for the rest of the session, ending up with 50 birds from 14 species. It is our second largest catch at Tedworth House, the largest being 51 in February of this year, but from only 10 species. The catch was: Nuthatch 1; Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 7(3); Great Tit 8(6); Coal Tit 2(1); Long-tailed Tit 4; Wren (1); Dunnock (4); Robin 2; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird (1); Goldcrest 5; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 2. Totals: 33 birds ringed from 10 species and 17 birds retrapped from 7 species.
We started packing up at midday, taking our 50th bird out of the last net left open toward the end of the take down. I do like a nice round number!