Ravensroost Wood: Thursday, 15th October 2020

Anyone who read my blog post about the session on the 21st July will know that this is my first time back since then, in what in previous years has been one of my two main ringing sites. After the trouble on that occasion, I agreed with the Trust that it would be safest to stay away from public areas when working solo. Fortunately, as lockdown has eased, I am able to bring my trainees out with me and, with the Trust agreeing that I can close off specific areas from the public, using signage that they suggested (bigger, brighter than the BTO signs, much less easy to pretend you haven’t seen them) Lucy and I ventured out to Ravensroost Woods this morning. For those that know the Woods, we set just 6 nets: 4 x 18m along ride R28 and 2 x 189m along ride R38. For those who don’t know the wood, these are the first cross rides running west to east off the main path and tend to be the most productive rides. You can see where on the map of the site on the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s website.

https://www.wiltshirewildlife.org/ravensroost-wood-including-avis-distillery-and-warbler-meadows-malmesbury

As we weren’t setting much net, we had a late start, at 7:00, and started catching straight away. At 9:00 we had a large catch based around a mixed flock of titmice and Goldcrests. Thereafter the catch was slow: just 2 to 3 birds per round. Although it was a bright sunny day, the east wind dropped the temperature down and it never felt warm at all during the session. I suspect that this was a key reason why the movement was so slow. We did end up with a total of 45 birds, Lucy got to process her first Nuthatch, and we caught and processed a juvenile Marsh Tit, so it was a decent session. Once again, the largest portion of the catch was Goldcrests.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 3(3); Great Tit 6(1); Coal Tit 1; Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 4(1); Wren 2; Robin 4(1); Blackbird 1; Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest 12; Chaffinch 1. Totals: 39 birds ringed from 13 species and 6 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 45 birds processed from 13 species.

Although I did lure for them, there was no sign of any Redwing, Siskin or Lesser Redpoll this morning. Early days yet. though.

As to the previous incident, I can say more now. Not content with damaging a net that will cost me over £100 to replace, the vandals then made a malicious and vexatious complaint about me to the BTO. That is why I got the police involved: I was prepared to swallow the cost as an occupational hazard until they tried to attack my licence to practice. I am pleased to say that the police have taken the criminal damage seriously, have identified one of them, and are pursuing that person for restitution for the damage they caused. I did have independent witnesses to their activities (which they admitted to the BTO in their complaint, I have a copy of their email with their details redacted – but they lied, saying I had no signs up (how did they know to complain to the BTO if they hadn’t read it on my signs?)) and I bumped into the witnesses again this morning. I am delighted to say that they immediately agreed to make statements to the police supporting the facts of what happened. With their permission, I have passed their details on to the case officer.

I am not vindictive, and would have dropped it if they had not complained to the BTO, I would drop it now if they would pay to replace the net they damaged, which they told the BTO they would do, until they found out how expensive the equipment was that they damaged. The ramifications of their ignorant actions are significant. I have been running a project in Ravensroost Woods for over 8 years, providing data about the birdlife in the wood and charting how it has changed over time for the Trust and as part of a wider project covering the whole of the Braydon Forest for both the Trust and Forestry England. This year I have missed almost the entire breeding season’s data from Ravensroost Woods, thanks to Covid-19 and then their interference. Embedded within that is an important part of the monitoring project I am running across the whole of the Braydon Forest, studying the population of the red-listed and declining Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris. The Trust has been very supportive and helpful throughout, the police have been excellent and I am extremely grateful to both: unfortunately, I cannot say the same for all involved.