Webb’s Wood: Tuesday, 18th August 2020

Although the weather forecast was not that promising, with rain forecast from mid-morning and a fairly strong gust to the wind, Andrew Bray and I headed for Webb’s Wood this morning. Blakehill and Ravensroost Meadows were out of the question, because of the forecast wind. Ravensroost Wood is still out of bounds for the time being, Somerford is scheduled for Saturday and both the Firs and Red Lodge have been done recently, so Webb’s was the right place to go. It is only our fourth visit of the year and previous catches have not been huge. I wanted to see which summer visitors were still to be found in the wood.

Apart from a solitary Wren, the first 6 birds out of the nets were Robins. It is clearly a bumper year for them in the Braydon Forest in 2020. We have ringed 106 Robins, of which 85 are juvenile birds. Compare with last year, to the end of August 2019, 58 ringed of which 42 were juveniles and 2018 with 43 ringed, of which 24 were juveniles.

Eventually the Robins allowed some other species to take a turn and we started to catch some good birds. It started with a couple of juvenile Song Thrushes and was promptly followed by two Nuthatches: a male and a female. For those who don’t know, it is easy to sex Nuthatches if you can get a glimpse of the underwing or the under-tail coverts:

The bird on the left is the female, with a pale buff hue to the under-tail coverts. By contrast, the male on the right has a more brick-red hue to the under-tail coverts. These colours are replicated on the underwing areas.

The catch improved in variety as we caught a couple of Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and, yes, a couple of Blue Tits. However, Andrew got to extract and process our bird of the day:

This is a second year male Sparrowhawk. The pronounced markings on the breast and the deep yellow iris plus, not visible on this photograph, the brown fringing to the grey feathers on the back, the wing coverts, etc help age it. The biometrics help confirm the sex of male, as the female is significantly bigger than the male, with virtually zero overlap. However, as is the way of these things, this particular bird had a tarsus measurement that was 2mm greater than the maximum expected for a male Sparrowhawk and equal to the shortest expected measurement for a female. The vagaries of statistics!

The list for the morning was: Sparrowhawk 1; Nuthatch 2; Blue Tit 1(1); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit 1(1); Wren 3; Robin 9(1); Song Thrush 2; Blackcap 2; Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest 5. Totals: 27 birds ringed from 10 species; 5 birds retrapped from 4 species making 32 birds processed from 11 species.

Both Blue Tits and one each of the Blackcap, Marsh Tit, Robin and Wren were adults. One of the Long-tailed Tits had completed its moult, so could not be identified as either a juvenile or an adult and the Sparrowhawk was a second year bird. The remaining birds were all juveniles from this year.

With the forecast rain failing to appear, we packed up at 11:30 and left site at about 12:15. It was a pleasant and rewarding session.