I was working solo this morning, being joined by Laura and her son Adam as observers later in the morning, so set a manageable number of nets: just 6 x 18m:
The forecast was for the wind to build throughout the morning, coming from the south. I knew that the three-net set would be sheltered but was hopeful that the sheer volume of woodland between the edge of the wood and the ringing site would mitigate any potential problems. Fortunately, the wind did not become a factor until 11:00, by which time I was happy to shut the more exposed nets.
Having woken up at 5:30 GMT (please can we have BST all year round, as has often been proposed?), I was on site by 6:00 with all nets open before it was fully daylight. I set nets to the background of male and female Tawny Owls exchanging calls. It was a very easy and pleasant start to the morning. I set lures for Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling.
The first birds hit the nets at 7:00: a retrapped Wren, a new Wren and two Redwing, responding to the lure set on the 3 x 18m ride. Another Redwing responded at 7:20, the only bird that round. There were no more and at 8:30 I changed the lure to Lesser Redpoll. Talking of which, after last year’s bumper crop of Lesser Redpoll at Webb’s Wood I am interested to see what we might catch this winter. The next round delivered two Goldcrest and the first Lesser Redpoll for Webb’s this winter. Later that was joined by another three, responding to lures on the single net and the double. Unfortunately, one other managed to get out of the net when it became stuck on a protruding twig. Vengeance was mine: that tree had a wee trim up.
At 8:30, soon after Laura and Adam had arrived came the birds of the morning:
Two juvenile male Brambling were caught immediately adjacent to the lure in the two net ride. Since we caught the first six for the Braydon Forest in February 2019 (five at Somerford Common, one at Ravensroost Wood), there were no records in 2020 and one bird ringed in Red Lodge and one recaptured in November 2011. So Brambling is still a very uncommon catch for us in the Braydon Forest, which explains why I was more than a little excited to catch another two this morning.
Whilst I was processing these birds we heard a loud bang, followed a few minutes later by another. I said that it was probably the deer stalkers and Laura said that they had passed another vehicle in the wood, which probably explained it.
After 9:00, with the weather being quite warm, I decided it would be okay to put the Goldcrest lure on the three-net ride. It did its usual trick and Goldcrest became the largest part of the catch.
It was never very busy, but every round produced a couple of birds and by the end of the morning I had processed 30 birds. The list for the morning was: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 2; Coal Tit (1); Wren 2(1); Robin 3; Redwing 3; Goldcrest 7(2); Brambling 2; Lesser Redpoll 4. Totals: 26 birds ringed from 9 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 30 birds processed from 10 species.
With the wind increasing significantly I shut the nets at 11:30. It took a fair while, with the three of us extracting hundreds of leaves from the three-net set and considerably fewer in the more exposed nets. How is it that, with the wind blowing from the south at least one third of the leaves were in the north side of the net? Having got all the nets shut and empty, I thanked Laura and Adam for their help, and said that I would finish off taking down. Five minutes later I got a call from Laura, on leaving the site the deerstalker had clearly decided to lock up after him / herself. I quickly finished clearing away and released them back into the wild and we were all away from site shortly after 12:30.