Having had a wasted trip to Brown’s Farm on Saturday when, despite a dry weather, low wind forecast, the farm was wrapped in a blanket of mizzle. We waited, but it showed no signs of lifting after 45 minutes, so we gave it up as a bad job. I then opened some nets in my garden, adjacent to the feeders, and caught virtually nothing when it should have been 20 or 30 birds, so I really needed something to lift my spirits when heading to Red Lodge this morning.
Again, the forecast was dry, but there was definitely some low level moisture in the air when I set off. Red Lodge is only one mile from my house so I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived there to find it as forecast. I was joined for the morning by Miranda, and with Rosie doing her thing of popping in first thing to help set up before heading off to work. This time, for once, she did get the chance to ring a few birds. We only set four nets: just those adjacent to the bird feeders. The damaged gate, the fallen tree and the dumped waste are still blocking the path, so we had to carry all of our ringing station equipment up the track (and back again at the end). I don’t know what is going on in the Braydon Forest but, going to Webb’s Wood on Friday to top up the feeding station, someone has chosen to smash down the gate. I have been working these sites for ten years and, before this year, there has never been any trouble of this sort.
Anyway, to what turned out to be a really good session at Red Lodge this morning. This was the first bird extracted this morning:
This is the first Brambling caught in Red Lodge. The first in the Braydon Forest were caught at Somerford Common in 2019, followed by another in Ravensroost that year. Another was caught at Somerford Common this February, but that is the sum total caught in the Forest since ringing started in 2009.
Just before Rosie had to leave to get to work we caught a couple of Lesser Redpoll. These are the first caught in Red Lodge for four years, so another bonus for the morning. We know, from ringing recoveries of birds we have ringed, that the birds of this species and of Siskin that we ring in the Braydon Forest are primarily migrants from up north, who pass through Argyll and Bute on their journeys, as opposed to the residents that inhabit the woodlands around Warminster and Longleat. One of the two caught today was ringed elsewhere, on another group’s rings. I am looking forward to finding out just where.
The morning was largely as expected: lots of Blue and Great Tits, with a sprinkling of different species. Our last, interesting bird of the morning was this:
This is the first Jay that we have caught in Red Lodge for over seven years: June 2014 being the last time.
Our list for the day was: Nuthatch 1; Jay 1; Blue Tit 17(9); Great Tit 4(3); Coal Tit (4); Marsh Tit (1); Robin 1(1); Brambling 1; Chaffinch 2; Lesser Redpoll 1(1). Totals: 28 birds ringed from 8 species and 19 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 47 birds processed from 10 species.
One of the last birds extracted was a Great Tit with a leg that had either suffered a break in the past or was born with a deformed right leg:
I had to decide whether or not to put a ring on it. Anti-ringers seeing such a bird would no doubt blame the ringing process for the damage, but I also want to know whether or not it would hamper its survival. I know that we have not damaged any birds in Red Lodge for more years than I can remember and, as this is a bird that fledged this year, I am 100% confident that the damage has nothing to do with our ringing activities. As a result, I took the decision to ring it on its left leg, and to take the photographs to show that the injury pre-dates the ringing process. Hopefully, as we get a good recovery rate on our ringed Great Tits, I will be able to follow the progress of this bird.
At 11:30 Miranda and I closed the nets. We had a couple of stragglers to process, which held us up a bit before we could start taking down. As we sat down to process the birds a flock of finches flew in and landed in the tree tops adjacent to one of the feeding stations. They were unidentifiable, as they were in silhouette and I didn’t have my optics with me. We hurried back, opened one feeding station net, and put on a lure for Lesser Redpoll and Siskin (hedging my bets) and hoped they might come down. We finished processing the stragglers, took down the closed nets and then visited the re-opened net: a solitary Blue Tit. I seem to remember that exactly the same thing happened at the end of our last session at Red Lodge. Clearly it is looking to wind us up at the end of each session! We left site by 12:45 after a very satisfying session.