Delighted to be able to get back into one of my better woodland sites. It is a funny place: I can catch anywhere between 10 and 100 birds, even without a feeding station present. Normally, i.e. with my team, we would set nets in 3 areas around the central track, over a distance of about 800m. Working solo, I decided to set up around the pond area, and only set a few nets to keep it manageable.
For the first 2 hours it was a game of opening nets between light showers, as it was an unforecast damp start to the morning. After that the weather cleared and I could leave the nets open for the rest of the session.
It was a pretty reasonable catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 4; Great Tit 9(1); Marsh Tit 1; Wren 1; Robin 2; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 5; Blackcap 2; Chiffchaff 7(1). Totals: 34 birds ringed from 11 species and 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 36 birds processed from 11 species. Of the 36 birds captured 22 were juveniles: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 3; Great Tit 9; Marsh Tit 1; Robin 2; Blackbird 4; Chiffchaff 2.
If I was surprised by anything it was the lack of juvenile Blackcap in the catch. The area where the nets were set are usually the main area for catching them and just 2 adults was a poor return. By contrast, on starting out for my final round I was hoping for 3 birds to take the total to 30 for the morning. I was delighted to see a couple of juvenile Great Tit in the pond side nets, just one more needed. As I was extracting these two another two flew in and got caught. By the time I had removed them another five had flown in. They were all birds in full juvenile plumage, all within 3m of each other in the net: I suspect they were brood mates. If I had been a little luckier the catch might have been well over 40 birds. As I was returning to the ringing station to process the Great Tits a sizeable flock of Long-tailed Tits flew over and around the ringing area. Unfortunately, as the results list shows, they didn’t drop in.
My bird highlight was the first juvenile Marsh Tit of the year:
Red Lodge is an interesting place to work: it is largely a thinned beechwood at the western end, with an oak plantation towards the eastern end. Our work has always been within the beechwood, mainly because of difficulties of access to the eastern end of the wood. There will be harvesting work going on in the oak this year. Hopefully this will result in our being able to access that part of the wood and get some comparative studies going.
Its structure does lend itself to a good variety of other wildlife – although the deer stalkers, with whom I had a good, socially distanced, chat struck out on Saturday morning. They got a bead on a couple of Roe Deer but not clean enough to take the shot: it has to be done, good to know that the people doing it are genuine professionals.
My two most fiddly extractions of the morning were of a female Four-spotted Chaser and a female Emperor dragonfly. Getting them out of the net with heads and wings intact is a matter of pushing or pulling them through gently by the thorax – the heads come off very easily. As well as the dragons, there was a good crop of butterflies in the woodland yesterday: Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper and a couple of fabulous White Admirals were on the wing.