We had hoped to get to Brown’s Farm on Saturday but the weather forecast was breezy, which makes the exposed fields at Brown’s impossible to work with, so we changed venue to the Firs. The weather was clear – and very cold, with a temperature of minus 2 degrees Celsius at the start. Although the sun came out, the breeze was from the north east and very cold and the ringing area just did not warm up until late morning. This rather depressed the bird movements (and didn’t do a lot for Jonny and me either).
We set our nets down the main ride as usual, plus a couple of additional net sets: one into the bottom of the wood and another off into the newly thinned ride to the east.
What you cannot see from this diagram is that the Firs has a taxing slope downwards from the gateway to the start of our net rides. At the start of the session it is fine but it does become a bit of a slog by the fourth or fifth round. The catch was light throughout the morning, with just one or two birds per round. We did a lot of net rounds.
The catch started with a few Chiffchaffs and Blue Tits, with a Blackcap and Robin. This was pretty much the way of things until the last round: when we caught 3 Goldcrests and 2 Marsh Tits. The list for the day was: Blue Tit 2(7); Great Tit (2); Marsh Tit 1(1); Wren 3(1); Robin 2(1); Blackcap 1(1); Chiffchaff 3; Goldcrest 1(2). Totals: 13 birds ringed from 7 species; 15 birds recaptured from 7 species, making 28 birds processed from 8 species.
We could identify at least 3 Marsh Tit territories from singing males. This is an encouraging development: the Firs has been the least likely of our woodland sites to produce Marsh Tits, but they are becoming more evident there with every passing year.
As the area around the ringing station warmed up the movement of birds increased (I was tempted to set an opportunistic net, but decided against) and the level of bird song increased. We had been treated to a Song Thrush and several Nuthatches singing for most of the morning, but the absolute highlight for me was when a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker sparked up in song in the trees immediately behind where I was sat. This seems to be such a regular occurrence in the Firs I am really hopeful that we might get proof of breeding in the near future.