Having missed last Wednesday’s session at Somerford Common, due to rain and wind, Steph, Andrew and I met up there at 5:30 on Monday morning. We set a few lures away, hoping for some migrants coming through. Unfortunately, none of them managed to draw in the target species. We had a reasonable catch of 35 birds, made up as follows: Blue Tit 6(1); Great Tit 2(1); Coal Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 1(2); Wren 2; Dunnock 1; Robin 3; Blackcap 5; Chiffchaff 8; Willow Warbler 1. Totals: 31 birds ringed from 10 species; 4 birds recaptured from 3 species, making 35 birds processed from 10 species. Of the birds caught, 27 were juvenile birds. The adults were 1 each of Coal Tit, Great Tit and Chiffchaff, 2 Long-tailed Tits and 3 Blue Tits.
We have seen an interesting phenomenon recently: catches have been reasonably steady from when we open the nets until 10:00 in the morning, and then it drops off dramatically to virtually zero. Our last four sessions have been the same in this respect so when we arrived at Ravensroost Woods for the August project session we did wonder what would happen. I was joined by Jonny and Andrew for the session.
We set our nets along the usual rides and started catching straight away. The catch was regular until 8:30 and then dropped off dramatically. We spent the next hour visiting empty nets – and then it got interesting. Firstly, there have been reports of Spotted Flycatcher in the wood for several years now. We have all seen them. A family group was seen earlier this week in the vicinity of the meadow pond. However, before today none had been caught. This now means that they have been caught in four of the five woods that we monitor in the Braydon Forest. We are hopeful that there is a small breeding population in the Forest: a family group has also been seen in the Firs this summer.
In addition, we had a decent fall of Chiffchaff in the same net. They have been a bit scarce over the last couple of years, compared with the previous three years, but numbers seem to be picking up again.
The list for the day was: Nuthatch 3(3); Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 6; Great Tit 2; Marsh Tit 1; Wren 1; Spotted Flycatcher 1; Robin 4(2); Blackbird (1); Blackcap 11; Chiffchaff 13(2). Totals: 43 birds ringed from 10 species; 8 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 35 birds processed from 11 species. Of the birds caught, 37 were definitely fledged this year; 8 were definitely adult and 6 (the Nuthatches) were impossible to age as either fledgling or adult as both undergo a full moult into adult plumage in the summer / early autumn. This catch compares well with the equivalent session last year (30 birds from 10 species): adding to the trend of matching or bettering the previous year’s catch this late summer / autumn.
As well as the Spotted Flycatcher and the Chiffchaff numbers, it was a relief to catch another Marsh Tit. Things are moving a bit slowly for this species this year, so we will be focusing our efforts on trying to improve the numbers caught between now and the end of December.
About 10:00 a volunteer team came along to work on the Shooters’ Hut in the middle of the wood. It has been vandalised frequently over the years. They have done a lovely job of repairing it: it looks smashing and it incorporates an owl box. Let’s hope the vandals leave it alone and the owls don’t!
At 10:30 we were surprised to find a large group of people brandishing pitchforks and scythes come down the main path towards us! Fortunately, our not having recently cobbled together and reanimated a being from parts garnered from various cadavers, they were friendly. It was a work party come to cut the verges of the path. I love the fact that the Trust is now able to eschew the tractor and flail mower they used to contract with, to cut back the vegetation along the paths, with the messy and ragged result that used to leave, and have this skilled volunteer workforce to carry out this much better, economic and eco-friendly maintenance. As they were carrying out their task one of the crew scythed apart a stand of vegetation to reveal what was either a Blackcap or Garden Warbler nest. The key thing about this is that the nest was less than 18″ from the path and a similar distance off the ground. This is why dogs must be kept on leads and not allowed to roam off the path during the breeding season. These nests are so vulnerable to even the most friendly and well-meaning dog. (Of course, the Trust rule is that should be the case all year round. Unfortunately, it is regularly ignored by those “responsible” dog owners.)
The catch fell away at 11:30 and we packed up and left site at about 12:30 – leaving the scything crew to carry on their good work.