After the low numbers of the last two sessions I was rather hopeful that we would have a better return at our scheduled session at Ravensroost Woods. We have been asked not to take vehicles into the reserve as, with the continual wet weather, the main track has become severely rutted and there is no budget available for repairs at present. Besides, there would be little point until the area dries out sufficiently for the repairs to take and remain solid. Obviously this has an impact on the deployment of nets and the siting of our ringing station: there is a limit as to how much kit one wants to carry and how far one wants to carry it.
On Thursday morning I set up a feeding station along one of the rides. A big thank you to the Swindon Wildlife Group for a generous contribution of funds to enable me to purchase feed for Ravensroost and the Firs reserves. This meant that we could focus on a small area of the wood, limiting how much effort was needed to get set up. I decided on 4 x 18m nets along the ride and 2 x 9m and 1 x 6m nets in a triangle around the feeders. Jonny and Alice joined me for the session. The forecast was for rain until 7:00, so we arranged to meet at 7:30 and had the nets open by 8:30. Birds started arriving before we had finished setting up.
What surprised me was that, although the station had only been up for just under two days, one of the two peanut feeders was completely empty, with no sign of squirrel activity, and the seed feeder was half empty. This was clearly a good sign, and it proved to be a portent of the decent catch to come. Early on, I put on the usual lure for Redwing. There were a few about, and we quickly caught 2 of them and a Song Thrush: but that was an end to our Thrush catch for the day.
The highlight of the session was a pair (I use the word advisedly) of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. They were both adults, a male and a female, within a couple of feet of each other in the same net. I am not aware of whether they pair up seasonally or for life. Time to do some exploration.
We know that Blue Tits are going to make up the vast bulk of the catch. Survey results always have either Wren or Chaffinch as being our commonest species but certainly in our woodlands it is the Blue Tit. The list for the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 2; Blue Tit 28(20); Great Tit 1(11); Coal Tit 1(3); Marsh Tit (1); Wren 1; Redwing 2; Song Thrush 1; Goldcrest 2(2); Chaffinch 3. Totals: 41 birds ringed from 9 species; 37 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 78 birds processed from 10 species.
One of the benefits of a site like Ravensroost is that when it is windy outside the wood, and there was a strong southerly breeze today, it is sheltered in the wood itself. Anyway, the forecast was 100% correct and we had a good, sunny morning. We packed up at 12:30 and were off site by 13:15 – an upside of setting so few nets.