Winter CES1: Somerford Common, Monday, 15th November 2021

For the second year running, the BTO are looking to trial the Constant Effort Site format, that is a keystone of their summer data collection, during the winter. There will be eight sessions, approximately two weeks apart, between November and the end of February. The key difference between the summer and the winter CES formats is that the winter one allows for provision of a feeding station. With the agreement of Forestry England, I have decided to trial it at Somerford Common.

This morning was my first session of the trial. For a number of reasons, not least that it is a Monday and some people have to work for a living, I ended up doing this one solo. Naturally that meant it would be the busiest session that I have had all year! A total of 85 birds were processed. I set the nets as diagrammed in my previous Somerford Common post: just 6 of them, 4 around the feeding station and two in a line along the main path (my Redwing nets).

The first round was a nice enough indicator of the morning: just four birds but one was a new Marsh Tit and another was a retrapped Marsh Tit, plus a Robin and a Blue Tit. However, the second round was crazy, with 51 birds extracted from the nets. Fortunately, they were all very accommodating, even the Wrens and the Blue Tits, and it did not take a huge amount of time to clear them. However, I did process them in batches (smallest birds first), so that I could keep a check on the nets within my preferred 15 to 20 minute timeframe.

During that second round, a decent catch of seven Redwing flew in to the main ride nets. I caught a couple more in the following two rounds and it also caught a small flock of Lesser Redpoll.

The third round brought in my bird of the day (possibly of the year) for she was the biggest female Sparrowhawk that I have handled for a long time:

She was lying in the bottom shelf of the Redwing net, with her belly facing out and when I first saw her I was somewhat dismayed, because it looked for all the world as though one of the hen pheasants, that had been conspicuous all morning, had blundered in. As I went over to remove it from my net (pheasants and mist nets do not go well together – and the net comes off the worse), I soon realised my mistake and my arthritic limbs were once again spurred into an uncommon action for them, called “running”. The extraction was not difficult, as she was just lying in the pocket of the net and could be simply picked up and out, and I managed to ring, sex, age, weigh and measure the bird without any damage to myself (or her). Without someone to hold the bird for photographs I have had to make do with this head shot.

Alongside that, it was good to catch and ring a couple of juvenile female Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Mostly this year we have been retrapping those ringed in previous years.

The list for the day was: Sparrowhawk 1; Great Spotted Woodpecker 2; Nuthatch (2); Blue Tit 20(13); Great Tit 7(10); Coal Tit (1); Marsh Tit 1(5); Wren 2(1); Robin 1(1); Redwing 9; Chaffinch 3; Lesser Redpoll 6. Totals: 52 birds ringed from 10 species and 33 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 85 birds processed from 12 species.

All in all, a very satisfying morning’s work. Any session in which we encounter 6 Marsh Tits is a good session. I closed the nets at 11:30, took down and was away by 12:30 – the benefit of only having six nets in your set up.