I would not have expected to be out for three sessions, get fewer than 60 birds, but have a thoroughly enjoyable time. On Wednesday I did my monthly session at Tedworth House. Andrew Bray joined me for the morning: I am sure it is the lure of bacon sandwiches, supplied by the estimable Dave Turner of the Wildlife Trust, that is the principal reason, but all help is welcome, whatever the motivation. The catch was not large but there was some interest as well. One thing we noticed straight away was that there were still quite large groups of Goldfinch flying around – and we caught our fair share. It is really surprising that they haven’t split up by now. It is a funny year.
The list for the day was: Great Tit (1); Wren 1; Robin 1; Song Thrush (1); Blackbird 2(2); Blackcap 2; Goldfinch 3. Totals: 9 birds ringed from 5 species; 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 13 birds processed from 7 species.
One of the retrapped Blackbirds was a juvenile ringed in the nest by Jack Daw. It is the first juvenile Blackbird I have seen so far this year. Throughout the morning, we could hear the Raven chick calling, the noise getting louder and more raucous as one of the parents arrived with food for it. The consensus is that there is a single chick this year, with the cold spell arriving at just the wrong time for the breeding pair.
On Friday I decided to have a go at the eastern perimeter track at Blakehill Farm. We don’t work out on the plateau during the breeding season, particularly so we don’t disturb any Curlew attempting to breed there, but the hedgerow along the perimeter track is fair game. It had been a bit like a bird desert over the winter, after it was severely cut back in the late autumn, but it has now come into leaf and looks fantastic. Robin Griffiths told me that he had seen Linnets and Reed Buntings in good numbers along the track, so I thought I would give it a go. As I didn’t want to bring anyone along to sit and look at empty nets, I decided to go solo. I set up six net sets of 2 x 18 metre nets each, covering about 250 metres of the hedgerow. It is not often you can get a pretty accurate picture of how far you walk while ringing, but having done the walk there and back 15 times over just under five hours, that’s a good 7.5 km covered. Every net caught, which is a bonus, but they didn’t catch a lot. However, it was an interesting catch as I, finally, caught a few Whitethroat. Four were ringed but one managed to escape the net just as I got to it. I caught some Reed Buntings but no Linnets.
The list for the session was: Dunnock 1; Robin 2; Blackbird 1(2); Whitethroat 4; Chaffinch 2; House Sparrow 1; Reed Bunting 2(1). Totals: 13 birds ringed from 7 species; 3 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 16 birds processed from 7 species.
So to Saturday and CES session 2 at Lower Moor Farm. Unfortunately, none of my crew could make it so this was a second solo expedition in two days. As a trainer, I ring very few birds when the team is around, as I am scribing, checking and helping the trainees, so it is quite different having time on my own. It was a super morning, with lots of people dropping by to see what I was doing: all good and supportive. There was a group of four birders up from Norfolk who were delighted to see Blackcap and Dunnock up close. As one of them said, you see it occasionally on the television but seeing it up close and personal brings a whole different dimension.
The list for the morning was: Green Woodpecker 1; Treecreeper 1; Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren (1); Dunnock (2); Song Thrush 2(1); Blackbird 1(2); Blackcap 2(1); Garden Warbler 1(1); Whitethroat 1(1); Chiffchaff 1(1); Bullfinch 3; Reed Bunting 2. Totals: 15 birds ringed from 10 species; 11 birds retrapped from 9 species, making 26 birds processed from 13 species.
We are beginning to see juvenile birds in the catch. Song Thrush do start breeding early and the two birds ringed today were both fresh out of the nest. I would not be surprised if they had fledged this morning.
More surprising though was a juvenile Treecreeper. They take 30 days or so from the egg being laid until the young fledge, which means that these eggs were laid mid-April. The earliest lay date (according to the BTO Bird Facts) is 5th April, but the average first lay date is the 27th April. It has been a funny year so far.
My favourite catch of the day was the Green Woodpecker. It is astonishing how many of them we have caught at Lower Moor Farm. Over the last three years my team has caught 9 of them, 7 of which have been at Lower Moor Farm. This was an adult male:
So, three sessions, no Blue Tits: I cannot remember the last time that happened.