Not the easiest month, with lots of wind and rain and then other things, like restrictions to sites. Jonny lost access to Langford Lakes and I lost access to Lower Moor Farm, as the Trust take precautions against the current avian flu epidemic. This will stay in place presumably until the area is deemed clear of the disease. Langford has certainly suffered with dead wildfowl but, so far and touch wood, Lower Moor Farm has not. To be fair, neither of us tend to do much on those sites over the winter but I would have liked to get a couple more sessions in this year. You never know when a Yellow-browed Warbler might turn up (the one I caught there was on the 26th October 2016 – gratuitous photo below).
I have also lost access to the Firs, as the Trust have contractors in removing the Ash trees. That work is expected to keep me out of there until after Christmas. Somewhat disturbingly, one of the locals who normally uses the Firs to exercise her dogs bumped into us at Webb’s Wood on Sunday, and told me that the contractors are also felling a large number of mature Oaks, as a cost mitigation for the Ash clearance work. It will be interesting to see what is left of the wood once they have finished and what impact it might have on the bird life. Having had the best catch of Marsh Tits for the site in my solitary session in there this month, four ringed and one retrap, hopefully not too much. Also, the Trust have banned the setting up of any feeding stations on their sites this winter: acting on the “precautionary principle”. Forestry England have not imposed any restrictions – yet. Nor has the BTO suggested stopping feeding.
It hasn’t been the most stunning month, with notably lower numbers of two of the autumn / winter keynote species: Meadow Pipit and Redwing. Meadow Pipit numbers were less than half of last year at Jonny’s East Tytherton sites and I just did not manage to get out on the plateau at Blakehill Farm, which just about makes up the shortfall. As for Redwing: last year we caught 28 of them at Somerford Common in October, this year I caught just one there. Whether that has anything to do with the ride clearance carried out there last winter I don’t know. That said, the 2022 catch is very close to that of 2020. Apart from that, Blue Tit numbers were well down. It is certainly something that I have noticed in my own catches, particularly in the woodlands.
On the plus side, Goldfinch numbers were well up, with double last year’s numbers at Jonny’s Sutton Benger and East Tytherton sites, the Sutton Benger site being particularly prolific, and a good contribution from my back garden, equalling the East Tytherton sites.
However, there was one highlight for me this month: my first catch of Brambling at Webb’s Wood. Since they started arriving in the Braydon Forest, with four caught at Somerford Common and one in Ravensroost Wood in February 2019, none in 2020, they were caught again at Somerford Common and one in Red Lodge in 2021, and now these two at Webb’s Wood. Only the Firs to go now!
Also, I caught the first two Lesser Redpoll for the Blakehill Farm West site. It is such a big open space, but with good hedges and established treelines mixed in around the perimeter of the site, away from the plateau, and little by way of extensive woodland. We did catch one other, almost five years ago to the day, in the perimeter track hedgerow on the Chelworth side of the site, which was probably more surprising. It is a good start to the Lesser Redpoll season in the Braydon Forest, with birds caught at Somerford Common and Webb’s Wood, as well as Blakehill. Unfortunately, whilst we saw them in the treetops, the session in Ravensroost Wood did not catch any.