Jonny and I had planned a session at one of our farmland sites this morning, hoping that we might catch a few of the more esoteric migrants as they pass through. Unfortunately, the forecast was for it to be breezy and that means nets getting tangled in hedges, so we changed tack and headed for Ravensroost Woods. The weather was stunning: cool to start with but gradually warming as the sun came up. By the time we packed up at 11:30 it was getting very hot for a Spring day.
We set the nets to the north of the bridle path. and the ringing station on the bridle path away from the nets. You can see the map of the reserve at:
It was a fairly standard catch for this time of year: Blue Tit 6(1); Great Tit 1; Coal Tit 2; Marsh Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit 1(1); Song Thrush 1; Blackcap 5; Chiffchaff 6(1); Willow Warbler 1. 23 birds ringed from 8 species; 4 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 27 birds processed from 9 species.
There were a couple of non-birding wildlife highlights. At about 9:00 a Hare came wandering up the track towards our ringing station. This is the second time in two visits that I have seen a Hare in the wood. This is quite interesting, as I am also seeing Hares on the woodland rides at Somerford Common. I don’t know if this is common behaviour but I have always thought of Hares as being beasts of the fields, not the woods.
However, the absolute highlight was as we were leaving site. As I drove back to the main gate a Grass Snake moved rapidly from west to east across the main path. We had a superb view and then it disappeared into some brash on the other side of the path, far too quick to get any photographs, unfortunately. I have been visiting Ravensroost Woods for some 20 years and this is the first time I have seen Grass Snake there.
When I decided on Ravensroost I was unaware that there was a guided Spring walk organised for the same day. I had checked the “What’s On” guide but it wasn’t advertised there – probably because it was in the previous one. All it meant was that I had the opportunity to explain what ringing is all about to a group of 20 nature enthusiasts. Unfortunately, one of them was hostile, and he made his feelings known to me after the group had moved on. It happens. We didn’t actually have any birds with us when the group arrived and, as they left, we went off with them to check the nets. There was a female Blackcap in one net and so I had a large audience watching me extract it. She came out easily and I was able to explain the sexing of a Blackcap and the development of the brood patch, as this female had just started defeathering. Naturally, Mr Hostile questioned how long the bird had been in the net. They always seem to focus on that: ignoring the fact that the bird was perfectly healthy and unharmed. I explained that we had just done a round before the group arrived, and so no more than 15 minutes had passed since we last checked, well within BTO guidelines. Anyway, all bar one went away happy to have seen a female Blackcap close up and, hopefully, a lot more knowledgeable about bird ringing and why we do it.
Throughout the morning we had chats with horse riders and dog walkers using the bridle path and the nature reserve. All very pleasant and very interested in what we were doing. As a result, it seems that I am likely to be doing a ringing demonstration for one of the local Girl Guide troops in the near future. Their troop leader was out on a walk and stopped for a chat and, when she found out that I am happy to show what we do to people who are interested, she took my details.