After the surprise of last month’s figures being better than the previous April’s despite lockdown, guess what? The same again this month! In fact, it is our best May since the heavy-hitters split off to form the North Wilts Ringing Group!
If I was to hazard a guess as to the reason, it is because those of us who are allowed to are ringing solo. Whereas last year Ian and Andy would have been working together and I would have been working in combination with various members of my team to carry out CES visits, etc. this year we have been doing our own thing. Since the partial relaxation of lockdown we have a bit more freedom, so Salisbury Plain is open again, as are Jonny’s sites. I heard this morning from Forestry England that I can have access to their sites again from next Monday, 8th June. Currently I am restricted to two areas of my Trust sites, those that are not accessible to the public, which is, in itself, a pleasure, although it is not total isolation. I could have happily shot a couple of dog owners at Lower Moor Farm yesterday, as they let their dogs into the lake to disturb the small reed bed where a couple of Reed Warblers were busily establishing territories and that is home to a couple of Water Voles (you can’t blame the dogs). I was working in the adjacent Wildlife Refuge area and made a point of addressing the issue with them, from a properly socially distanced position, naturally.
So, not only did we have better numbers than last year but also greater variety. Jonny seems to have got himself three superb sites: Meadow Farm and Bailey’s Farm have now been joined by the balancing ponds at Melksham as providing decent numbers and good variety. All bar one of the Red Warblers came from his sites: 16 from Melksham, 11 from Meadow Farm. Andy’s significant contributions have been 21 of the Whitethroat at his Battlesbury Bowl site on Salisbury Plain and 34 of the 59 House Sparrows in his back garden.
The numbers of Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Starling are clear indicators of how much garden ringing we have been doing. 28 of those Starlings ringed and one of the retraps were in my garden. Thank goodness I bought 150 fat balls and two tubs of dried mealworms for very little money from B&M before lockdown intervened, because the Starlings and Jackdaws are going through them at a rate. A couple of Woodpigeons and, to my surprise, a Stock Dove, ended up in my garden nets. Over the last couple of months I have had a couple of Stockers, but also a couple of type plumage feral pigeons in the garden. It is amazing how much you second guess yourself, trying to persuade yourself it was a feral, and therefore not to be ringed. I knew what it was really, but you have to be careful.
My highlights of the month have been a very early juvenile Goldfinch, followed by my first two 3JJ Goldcrests and a 3JJ Greenfinch in the garden.
I was also very pleased to ring 4 Jackdaw pulli at Blakehill: they were predated last year while still at the blind and naked phase. These are well advanced and should fledge in the next couple of weeks.
All in all, a good month given all of the restrictions. I appreciate it must be very frustrating for the trainees, not being able to join sessions and not being able to work independently. Hopefully that will change soon. Fortunately, I was able to advance Alice to a C-permit, after all of the hard work she has put in since joining the team last October, with the support of Richard Brown, the warden on Skokholm, so she has started out on her solo ringing career this month.
So, very definitely a good month, despite the difficulties.