Webb’s Wood: Wednesday, 11th November 2020

Unlike the first lockdown, the BTO have allowed us to continue ringing at local sites, either solo or on the government’s 1 + 1 allowance. To be fair, this is how we have been working on Wildlife Trust and Forestry England sites since the first lockdown was lifted anyway. Fortunately, both the Trust and Forestry England have adopted the same strategy.

I had planned to go to Webb’s Wood yesterday but when I woke at 6:00 it was raining, so I went back to bed and tried again this morning. It was dull and overcast all morning with a slight breeze. There were a few drops of very light rain from time to time but this morning’s real issue I will discuss later.

I only set 6 x 18m nets in 3 rides, as I was working solo. I haven’t set up feeding stations yet, so the catch can be hit or miss. It started with a couple of Great Tits but then the regular trickle of Goldcrests that I seem to be getting at my woodland sites started up and by the end of the session they were, once again, the commonest bird in the catch.

My highlight of the session was a really well marked male Lesser Redpoll:

One of the more difficult bird species to age is the Coal Tit. It is done on differences in the greater coverts. The adult variety are darker and greyer than the juvenile feathers and are fringed grey, whereas the juvenile feathers are fringed a sort of yellow brown colour. It is not always easy to distinguish the difference (particularly for male ringers apparently). So it was good to catch one with a very obvious break between the adult and juvenile feathers:

The fringing colour difference is not obvious but the break between different generations of feathers and the difference between base colours is very obvious.

The list for the session was: Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 4(3); Great Tit 2(1); Coal Tit 1; Wren 1; Robin 1(1); Redwing 1; Goldcrest 7(4); Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 8 species and 10 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 28 birds processed from 9 species.

All in all, a decent session. However, it all went very badly wrong from about 2 hours in. Recommendation: avoid deciduous woodlands in the autumn until they have completed abscission. After weeks of high winds you would have thought it would have removed all of the leaves from the trees but, no, it chose today to drop them. Worse than that, although it is mainly a beech wood, it has a lot of oak in it. Their leaves seem to be specially designed to stick in mist nets and to stick mist net shelves together. At times the nets were in a brown blizzard, as leaves poured down and into the nets. I started taking down at 11:30. By 13:30 I had managed to clear 2 nets! I gave up: the rest have been loosely bundled up to be emptied at a later date: this weekend when it is chucking it down!

So my new resolution: leave the woods alone until the leaves have left the wood alone.