Blakehill Farm: Wednesday, 10th June 2020

It is not often that I write up a blog post about such a small catch but this morning was significant for a lot of different reasons. I had planned to be at Blakehill yesterday morning but, unfortunately, the terrain at Somerford Common on Monday played havoc with my arthritic ankle and I decided to delay for a day, rather than hobble up and down the perimeter track.

The weather forecast was for a 10% chance of rain, with a 50% chance between 9:00 and 10:00, back to 10%, with rain setting in at lunch time. It went pretty well to form. I arrived on site at 5:30 and set up nine nets: 8 x 18m and 1 x 12m, all along the hedgerow lining the perimeter track on the eastern edge of the site. It is hard work solo, as the hardcore of the track underlines the verge, and requires a lot of hammering with a 1kg lump hammer and a piece of hardened steel to make holes deep enough to take the net poles. It took an hour to set the nets. As soon as I had them all open, the first rain came. It was very light and didn’t necessitate closing the nets.

I didn’t catch my first birds until nearly 8:00 but, fortunately, I had plenty of birding to keep me occupied. Blakehill Farm is a regular breeding ground for Curlew in north Wiltshire. How successful it is forms part of the Braydon Forest Curlew monitoring project being run by Jonny Cooper. This morning they were very active. At one point there were two flying around calling, whilst another was feeding about 40 metres in front of me, giving great views through my binoculars. Whilst this was going on, a pair of male Cuckoos were doing a call and response routine and, again, I had superb views as one flew around the area, posing in the tops of various trees. A little later in the morning I tried using a female Cuckoo bubble call, in an attempt to bring them in closer. I didn’t succeed in attracting the males but, although I didn’t manage to get it in the nets, I was bowled over by a female Cuckoo replying from the other side of the hedge. It cannot have been any more than 3 metres away, it was so loud, but I didn’t see it or catch it.

Perhaps the most exciting sight of the morning was a Wheatear seen on the paddock fence opposite the hedgerow by Neil Pullen, one of the Wildlife Trust’s Reserve Managers, who lives adjacent to the site. This is either a very late inward migrant or, more excitingly, perhaps a potential breeder for the site. It used to be a regular breeder in Wiltshire, until the agricultural intensification that has impacted so negatively on so many farmland species, ensured that they declined to the point of disappearing as a breeding species in Wiltshire, but Blakehill Farm is managed in such a way that it is perfect for Wheatear, and perhaps this could be the start of a new and exciting breeding population. Something to definitely look out for.

And to the catch: Great Tit 4(1); Robin 1; Blackcap 1; Willow Warbler 5; Reed Bunting (1). Totals: 11 birds ringed from 4 species and 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 13 birds processed from 5 species. Of these birds two each of the Great Tits and the Willow Warblers, plus the Blackcap and the Reed Bunting were adults, the rest were all fledglings.

Once again Willow Warbler was the largest catch. Interestingly, four were taken out of the same net at the same time: a female and three juveniles. They all, including the female, had brown legs. It makes me suspect the young were brood mates and the female was mum.

Juvenile Willow Warbler

To finish off an interesting morning, my car decided to pack up when I was nearly ready to do the same. Fortunately, Nobby, who owns the horse paddocks along the perimeter track on the opposite side from where we set our nets, came along while I was waiting for the breakdown service, and had a set of jump leads handy, which turned out to be the problem. I could cancel the breakdown service, but had to leave the car running whilst I took down my nets. I suspect a lot of cars that have not had a good long run during lockdown might have battery problems.

Somerford Common: Monday, 8th June 2020

Forestry England lifted the ban on volunteer activities from today and I took advantage to go over to Somerford Common. They have restricted it to groups of two, provided social distancing is able to be observed. I was joined for the session by Andrew Bray. As a C-permit holder he has his own personal equipment and, by sensibly managing how we erected the nets and organised the rounds, we managed to keep our distances.

Unfortunately, the weather was not as forecast, with a cold, gusty breeze affecting several of the nets and keeping the ambient temperature down. This had a knock-on effect on the activity levels of the birds, as there were far fewer insects on the wing than we expected. We didn’t have as large a catch as we were hoping for, but it was very different from my garden catches.

Having not been into the woods since the 21st March, I have missed the arrival of the summer breeding migrants, so to catch 9 Willow Warblers this morning, and for them to be the largest portion of the catch, was very satisfying. Of those caught, 5 of them were this year’s juveniles. It shows how long we have been out of the wood: 3 of them were well into their post-fledging moult. Similarly, the 3 juvenile Chiffchaffs caught this morning were also in their post-fledging moult, so they have almost certainly been out of the nest for over a week. The Chiffchaff situation is not quite so spectacular as the Willow Warbler one: Chiffchaffs either over-winter here (there are always a number around on the Cotswold Water Park in the winter) and those that migrate come up from north Africa / southern Spain but our Willow Warblers spend the winter in southern Africa: a somewhat longer trek to get to the breeding grounds.

The list for the day was: Great Tit (1); Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 1; Wren 1; Dunnock 1; Robin 6; Blackbird (2); Chiffchaff 4(1); Willow Warbler 9; Goldcrest 1. Totals: 24 birds ringed from 8 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 28 birds processed from 10 species. As well as the juvenile Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs there was a juvenile Dunnock and 5 juvenile Robins. It was also good to catch another Marsh Tit on our first trip back to the woods. That is 6 for the year so far. This was an adult female who has finished breeding for the year: her brood patch was already beginning to feather over.

My most delicate extraction of the session was a Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly. It was stuck in the top of a net. Fortunately, it had not got netting wrapped around the neck between the head and the thorax, so I was able to push it through the net. It did involve getting him to stop chewing on a strand of the net, but it gave that up without a struggle and I managed to get him out without him losing his head: the usual cause of their demise when caught in nets.

Baby Blues: Thursday, 4th June 2020

I had planned to carry out a session on the perimeter track at Blakehill Farm this Thursday, but the forecast for the morning was for winds to come from the north, gusting up to 14 mph. Having spent more time of my life extracting mist nets from hedgerows at Blakehill and Brown’s Farms than is good for a person (not to mention the cost of replacement or the time spent repairing), as a result of unforecast winds, I decided to err on the side of caution with wind forecast, and restrict my activities to the garden.

With my usual 4 net setup and 4 Potter traps baited with fat balls, I was ready to go. Then things went a little awry: I woke up at gone 9:00, with a pulled muscle in my back and in pain. After a while I forced myself out of the door, opened the nets and set the traps: everything was ready to go at 11:30. Now, my garden sessions so far since lockdown have caught between 10 and 16 birds. That is with the nets open at dawn and left open until late afternoon. Thursday, with the nets open between 11:30 and 14:00, I caught 27 birds. However, they came from only 4 species, whereas previous catches have been 6 to 10 species.

The catch was: Blue Tit 9; Blackbird 4(1); Starling 8(2); Goldfinch 3. Totals: 24 birds ringed from 4 species, and 3 birds recaptured from 2 species. Of the birds ringed, 16 were juveniles: 7 Starlings, 5 Blue Tits, 3 Goldfinches and 1 Blackbird. The two recaptured Starlings were also juveniles. By contrast, the recaptured Blackbird was at least a six year old bird, ringed as an adult in April 2015.

These are my first juvenile Blue Tits of the year anywhere. Given the stories of failed broods and small clutches around the country it was a relief to catch any:

That said, all of the young Blue Tits were of low weight: less that 10g each. Hopefully the weather will be kind enough for them to get enough food to survive – and there will be plenty of food in my garden.

It was a pleasant session, interspersed with copious cups of tea and coffee, and all the better for having had a good lie in. However, with the amount of activity on the feeders this morning, had I kicked myself out of bed at the normal time, it could have been a 60 bird catch yesterday! Lots more Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird and Woodpigeon in the garden first thing today.

West Wilts Ringing Group: May Results

After the surprise of last month’s figures being better than the previous April’s despite lockdown, guess what? The same again this month! In fact, it is our best May since the heavy-hitters split off to form the North Wilts Ringing Group!

If I was to hazard a guess as to the reason, it is because those of us who are allowed to are ringing solo.  Whereas last year Ian and Andy would have been working together and I would have been working in combination with various members of my team to carry out CES visits, etc. this year we have been doing our own thing.  Since the partial relaxation of lockdown we have a bit more freedom, so Salisbury Plain is open again, as are Jonny’s sites.  I heard this morning from Forestry England that I can have access to their sites again from next Monday, 8th June.  Currently I am restricted to two areas of my Trust sites, those that are not accessible to the public, which is, in itself, a pleasure, although it is not total isolation.  I could have happily shot a couple of dog owners at Lower Moor Farm yesterday, as they let their dogs into the lake to disturb the small reed bed where a couple of Reed Warblers were busily establishing territories and that is home to a couple of Water Voles (you can’t blame the dogs).  I was working in the adjacent Wildlife Refuge area and made a point of addressing the issue with them, from a properly socially distanced position, naturally.

So, not only did we have better numbers than last year but also greater variety.  Jonny seems to have got himself three superb sites: Meadow Farm and Bailey’s Farm have now been joined by the balancing ponds at Melksham as providing decent numbers and good variety.  All bar one of the Red Warblers came from his sites: 16 from Melksham, 11 from Meadow Farm.  Andy’s significant contributions have been 21 of the Whitethroat at his Battlesbury Bowl site on Salisbury Plain and 34 of the 59 House Sparrows in his back garden. 

The numbers of Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Starling are clear indicators of how much garden ringing we have been doing.  28 of those Starlings ringed and one of the retraps were in my garden.  Thank goodness I bought 150 fat balls and two tubs of dried mealworms for very little money from B&M before lockdown intervened, because the Starlings and Jackdaws are going through them at a rate.  A couple of Woodpigeons and, to my surprise, a Stock Dove, ended up in my garden nets.  Over the last couple of months I have had a couple of Stockers, but also a couple of type plumage feral pigeons in the garden. It is amazing how much you second guess yourself, trying to persuade yourself it was a feral, and therefore not to be ringed. I knew what it was really, but you have to be careful.

My highlights of the month have been a very early juvenile Goldfinch, followed by my first two 3JJ Goldcrests and a 3JJ Greenfinch in the garden.   

I was also very pleased to ring 4 Jackdaw pulli at Blakehill: they were predated last year while still at the blind and naked phase.  These are well advanced and should fledge in the next couple of weeks.

Juvenile Greenfinch

All in all, a good month given all of the restrictions.  I appreciate it must be very frustrating for the trainees, not being able to join sessions and not being able to work independently.  Hopefully that will change soon.  Fortunately, I was able to advance Alice to a C-permit, after all of the hard work she has put in since joining the team last October, with the support of Richard Brown, the warden on Skokholm, so she has started out on her solo ringing career this month.

So, very definitely a good month, despite the difficulties.

Lower Moor Farm: Sunday, 31st May 2020

Up at 4:15, on site before 5:00, nets set up by 5:45, no birds until the first at 6:30, the next at 7:15. It did seem like the morning was going to drag significantly. To be honest, it never got very busy but there were some significant catches nonetheless. It is hard to know why the catch was so low: I was surrounded by singing birds all morning. That never let up at all. There were at least two Cuckoo present as at one point they were doing a call and response act and there was at least four singing Cetti’s males in the small area where my nets were set but none were caught this morning.

The list for the day was: Great Tit 4; Dunnock 1(1); Robin 2(1); Song Thrush (2); Blackcap 5(1); Garden Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 3; Greenfinch 1. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 7 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 22 birds processed from 8 species. Of these birds 12 from 6 species were juveniles, including first for the year:

Blackcap:

Great Tit:

Chiffchaff:

Four of the Blackcaps and one of the Chiffchaffs were juveniles, and all had already started their post-fledging moult. The two fledgling Great Tits were caught alongside a female in the same net at the same time, so they are quite likely to have been nest-mates. They were newly out of the nest, with no sign of starting their moult. The moult they undergo is, essentially, the growing of body feathers. In the nest they are kept warm by the nest lining and by being brooded and so body feathers are pretty much the last feathers to be produced. Once they leave the nest they have to grow them to protect them from the elements. In detail it is a lot more complicated than that, with different species having different moult strategies, but that is a key driver of post-fledging moult. Some birds take it much further than others: Long-tailed Tit, House Sparrow and Nuthatch moult into full adult plumage over the summer and autumn, so by late autumn they cannot be easily separated from the parent birds on plumage. Others, like Blue and Great Tit, grow body feathers and replace some wing feathers (coverts, alula, etc) but remain easily distinguishable from their parents, many until both ages moult in the following autumn.

I hate to have a moan but the site was quite busy with visitors and, yet again, there was not a single dog owner around this morning who was prepared to follow the rules for using the nature reserve, i.e. keeping their dogs on short leads and under close control at all times. They seem to find it hard to understand that a nature reserve is a special place for wildlife and not a playground for their pet. What was particularly concerning were the owners encouraging their dogs into Mallard Lake immediately adjacent to the small reed bed in which a couple of Reed Warblers have recently established territories. I had words with a couple of them, but it is tedious and opens you up to abuse, or even assaults (personal experience). It is very frustrating just how little consideration these people have for the hard work of the Trust and the wildlife they are providing a habitat for.

I left site just before midday and was astonished at how many cars there were parked on the verges along the Spine Road through the Water Park. Every spare inch of verge seemed to have a vehicle on it.

Blakehill Farm: Wednesday, 27th May 2020

This is the second site that the Wildlife Trust have allowed me to recommence ringing on. It is restricted to the field behind the Whitworth Building:

Normally I would only set nets 4,5 and 6, with other nets set elsewhere outside of this field. For today, I tried three new net rides to see what they might develop. In fact, nets 1, 2, 5 and 6 all caught and nets 3 and 4 stayed resolutely empty.

It was a reasonable session with a decent variety of birds: Woodpigeon 1; Magpie 2; Great Tit (1); Dunnock 2(1); Robin 6; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 1; Chiffchaff 2; Goldfinch 1; House Sparrow 2. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 9 species and 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 20 birds processed from 10 species.

The Magpies were both caught in net 1: and a third managed to get out before I could get to it. I don’t know why it is, but this year Woodpigeons seem to be diving into mist nets quite regularly. This is the sixth caught this year and only one of them has wandered into a Potter trap. It was caught in net 4, but not flying in from the field, but somehow dropping in from the tree behind the net.

The most surprising catch of the day was a newly fledged Goldfinch. Its beak was covered by some sort of solid resin. I tried to gently remove it, but it was absolutely solid. The bird in the photograph looks a bit odd as a result:

This is a very early record for a Goldfinch. The BTO’s Nest Record Scheme states that the mean laying date for first clutches for Goldfinch is the 25th May, with a spread from the 26th April to 19th July. As the incubation period is 13 to 15 days, and the subsequent period to fledging 14 to 17 days, this bird must be pushing that earliest first clutch date very close.

As well as my standard ringing activity, I checked the two Jackdaw nests adjacent to the field I was working in. I am not a big nest finder: I generally restrict my nest checking to my garden and to box / hole-based species, particularly Barn Owls, which I have a schedule 1 licence for. Whilst I do know how to approach a nest without leaving clues to its location, I am still a bit reticent about doing so. Jackdaws often take over Barn or Tawny Owl boxes. In this case they have taken over a Bug Hotel. Last year they had 3 naked pulli when I first checked on them. I gave it two weeks before returning to ring them, only to find that the nest was completely empty. They had almost certainly been predated: either Carrion Crow or, possibly, Stoat, as I have seen one of those wee beasties running around in the area where the nests are situated. This year there are two broods: both had 2 live nestlings, one of them also had a dead youngster. The parents had moved it out of the nest onto the edge of the box, so I completed the housekeeping for them. It was considerably smaller and less well-developed than its nest mates.

As the morning got hotter, so the activity declined, and I decided to take down the nets, packed up and was away by 12:15.

Melksham Balancing Ponds: Thursday, 21st May 2020

This is a post by Jonny Cooper:

Western Way Balancing Ponds at Melksham consist of two bodies of water fringed by a good sized reedbed and scrub. The site is owned by Wiltshire Council and its primary use is to manage water run-off from the adjacent A350/A365. However, over time the site has developed into an interesting, isolated wetland habitat.

I have been asked by Wiltshire Council to run a project to monitor the bird species using the site and record changes in populations and species over time. This will be done through the standard surveying practice of bird ringing.  The data will then be used by ecologists at Wiltshire Council as an example to show the importance of balancing ponds for birds.

Starting a new ringing project is always exciting, you never know exactly what to expect. This is only the second session at the site, following an initial, preliminary, session last September.  The forecast for the morning was for some cloud and very low wind, which generally bodes well for ringing. The session started off well with several Reed Warbler and two Reed Bunting and carried on at a steady constant pace all morning. 

The totals for the day were: Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 2; Dunnock 4; Robin 7; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 3; Reed Warbler 15; Blackcap 2; Lesser Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 1; Goldfinch 2; House Sparrow 8; Reed Bunting 2. A total of 56 birds (all new) from 13 species. Two of the Robins were newly-fledged youngsters.

The numbers of Reed Warbler and House Sparrow processed are encouraging, giving an early indication of good populations of both species in and around the site. However, the award for top bird goes to the Lesser Whitethroat (pictured below). This is the first Lesser Whitethroat that I have caught one of my sites and it is good to see that they are present here.

Overall, a pleasing session and a good start to the project. It will certainly be interesting going forward to document the bird life using the site.

Lower Moor Farm: Thursday, 21st May 2020

Lower Moor Farm is my Constant Effort Site (CES) that I have run for the last five years. We have never missed a session. Unfortunately, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s CES is not going to be comparable with previous years: we have already missed session 1 and, due to the need to isolate from the general public, my activities are restricted to the nets in the Wildlife Refuge area, which is not open to the general public. This has reduced the number of nets I use to less than half (5 as opposed to 12). They were set up in 2 rides: one of 2 x 18 metre nets running along the boundary brook side and the other of 3 x 18 metre nets running along the edge of Mallard Lake.

I had forgotten what it was like to get up quite so early (3:45, since you ask) and how much work is involved in setting up nets when working solo (social distancing has made group ringing a thing of the past for now). When you add in that my key and the padlock on the gate decided not to talk to each other, so I had to heave my equipment over the 5-bar gate and, even worse, heave my ancient, overweight carcass and arthritic right ankle over that same gate half-a-dozen times, it wasn’t the most auspicious start. To cap it all: the entire front bumper assembly of my car decided to deposit itself on the grass. It turns out that when, after an accident a couple of years ago, the front end was replaced the repairers omitted to put in the retaining screws. Two full services by a Ford main dealer also failed to pick that up so I am very lucky it dropped off when it did and not when I was speeding down the M4 to Bristol or similar! Words will be exchanged!

Despite all of that, I had a pretty decent session. Both nets caught well and I had a good variety of birds. I did a walk around the outside of the ringing area on Tuesday, just to see what was going on, and mapped four Cetti’s Warbler territories, so I was hoping to find a couple more within the refuge area. My first round delivered a male in net 4, my second round a female in net 5, my fourth round a recaptured bird, ringed as an adult last year. So three Cetti’s was a good start. From the results today and the walk on Tuesday, I am pretty confident that there are seven Cetti’s territories in that part of the reserve. That is significantly higher than in previous years.

There was a steady trickle of birds throughout the morning but by 8:30 it had quietened down a lot so I decided, rashly, to set up three more nets (one each of 9 metres, 12 metres and 18 metres) further along the boundary brook side. It always looks as if it should catch really well, it rarely does. In fact, all I got for me efforts were the exercise in putting them up, walking over to check them half-a-dozen times or so, and then taking them down again! It is amazing I manage to remain so cheerful. Fortunately, there was a late surge of catches in the other nets, with a pair of Garden Warblers (I say “pair” knowing that the connotation is not proven, but two birds of different sexes of the same species in the same net, less than 12″ apart, is pretty good circumstantial evidence) and a male Reed Bunting as my last catch of the morning.

The list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit (1); Great Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit (1); Dunnock 2(2); Robin 3(1); Blackbird (1); Cetti’s Warbler 2(1); Blackcap 6(1); Garden Warbler 2(1); Lesser Whitethroat (1); Chiffchaff 1(2); Bullfinch 1; Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 21 birds ringed from 10 species; 12 birds retrapped from 10 species, making 33 birds processed from 14 species.

There was no sign of young warblers yet but one of the Dunnocks and two of the Robins ringed were fresh out of the nest. Next session there should be a generous sprinkling of young Titmice as well as, potentially, some early Blackcap and Chiffchaff young.

Both the Bullfinch and the Reed Bunting were handsome, striking males and were almost the highlight of the session. The real highlight was something I didn’t manage to catch. At about 7:30 I started to hear this call that I couldn’t place. It sounded a bit like an animal being predated and calling out in pain. After a couple of text messages with Jonny Cooper, who was out doing his own catching, it came to me: Water Rail. This is exciting. We know that they over-winter but in the 15 years since I first visited, and the 7 years since I started ringing at, Lower Moor Farm I have never had any evidence of them being around in the summer and potentially breeding on site.

It got very hot about 10:30 so I started to pack away and cleared the site by 11:30. One of the benefits of setting only a few nets: packing up is pretty quick. So, an eventful and interesting session.

Meadow Farm: Saturday, 16th May 2020

The following blog piece is by Jonny Cooper.

Following changes to the UK’s lockdown restrictions, and a subsequent efficient review of these changes by the BTO with Natural England and the JNCC, ringing in England has been permitted since Wednesday. Of course, social distancing rules must be adhered to at all times, and the landowners must be happy for ringing to be undertaken at this time. This change offered me my first opportunity in nearly 2 months to undertake some ringing away from the garden, so I headed to my ever-reliable site at Meadow Farm.

Since my last session at the site in March the summer migrants have arrived across the country in force, and many resident birds are well into the breeding season, so I was optimistic about what I might find. The weather forecast was for a calm and overcast morning with temperatures reaching the mid-teens by lunchtime. The board was set, it was time to start moving the pieces.

The first round at 5:45 produced 13 birds including several summer migrants. From then on each round consistently produced 5 – 10 birds across the morning. The list for the session is as follows:

Kingfisher 1(1), Great Spotted Woodpecker (3), Treecreeper (1), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit 2(3), Long-tailed Tit 1(1), Wren 2(2), Dunnock 3(3), Robin 2(2), Song Thrush 1, Blackbird (2), Sedge Warbler 1, Reed Warbler 3(3), Blackcap 5(1), Garden Warbler 2, Whitethroat 1, Chiffchaff 2(1), Chaffinch (1), Greenfinch 3(3) and Goldfinch 1(3).  30 birds ringed from 15 species, 33 re-traps from 16 species, making a total of 63 birds processed from 20 species.

The Kingfishers are the nineteenth ringed and the eighth re-trapped birds at the site since the first was caught in August 2018. A phenomenal number given the small size of the site. However, they were trumped today by the Garden Warblers: the two birds processed represent the first records for the site. An additional highlight was the re-trapping of three Reed Warblers, one Blackcap and one Chiffchaff that were ringed on-site last year. A nice example of site fidelity amongst these migrant birds.

Aside from ringing, I was treated all morning to a Cuckoo calling in the trees around me.  At one point a second male joined him and they began to chase each other. The reason for this soon became clear when a female Cuckoo appeared and stared making the distinctive ‘bubbling call’.  Also, I heard a Cetti’s Warbler singing for the first time on the site. Two birds were ringed last year in September, so hopefully the species is starting to colonise.

I finished packing up about 1pm, I was about to leave when I was treated to a Grass Snake sliding across the path in front of me. Another first for the site. Overall, it was as good a mornings ringing as I could have hoped for, made even better by the wider cast of wildlife found on site. Well worth the wait.

Ringing in Lockdown: Adventures in a Chippenham garden (23rd March – 13th May)

The regular readers of the blog will know that between 23rd March and 13th May all ringing away from a ringer’s place of residence was suspended, as part of the effort to control the spread of Covid-19.   I have done a few reports on the activities in my Purton garden.  The following account is by Jonny Cooper whose garden is a suburban Chippenham garden and makes a nice contrast between my village location and his.  This is his account:

I, like almost all ringers, had to turn my focus onto the birds found in my garden.

Garden ringing is a rather different kettle of fish to the standard ringing session. Typically, nets are opened on a more ad hoc basis, with smaller numbers of birds being caught, over a longer period of time. Nevertheless, ringing in the garden can turn up some interesting birds. The full list of birds processed during the period can be found below:

Woodpigeon 5(1), Blue Tit 3(6), Great Tit 5(5), Coal Tit 1(2), Long-tailed Tit 4(3), Wren 1, Dunnock 5(4), Robin 1(6), Blackbird 8(15), Blackcap 2, House Sparrow 4(1), and Goldfinch 4.  A total of 43 new from 12 species,  43 re-trap birds from 9 species, making 86 birds processed from 12 species.

The Blackcaps were a particularly interesting catch: both birds were carrying substantial reserves of fat, meaning they are likely to have been on passage heading further north. The number of Woodpigeon can be explained by the deployment of walk-in Potter traps in which I placed tasty sunflower hearts; the pigeons couldn’t get enough of them.

Now this is perhaps not the most exciting list ever produced. However, it does show the numbers and diversity of birds that will use what is a very average suburban garden and, actually, these last few weeks have made me realise that going forward, maybe I should spend more time ringing in my garden.