Lower Moor & Clattinger Farms: Sunday, 19th March 2023

I think that this is a first: whilst I was ringing in the wildlife refuge at Lower Moor Farm, Ellie was ringing over the other side of Mallard Lake:

Whilst Ellie was working solo, I was joined for the morning by two of the attendees from last week’s ringing demonstration: Teresa and Andy. Teresa is learning both photography and wildlife and, as Andy volunteered to help me set up, and take down at the end, who was I to refuse. In addition, the rest of my team (except Ellie) were spending Mother’s Day with their respective mothers, so I was working solo and I wanted to set a decent number of nets. This is the quiet time: in this area we have lost most of the winter visitors and just a few of the summer visitors have begun to arrive, so I need to set more nets to get a reasonable catch, especially as I never have set up a regular feeding station at Lower Moor Farm to attract birds in. Once I have set one in there, in advance of a ringing demonstration, and once to ensure we had some birds to show for my (second) appearance on Countryfile!

We met at 6:30 and had the nets open by just before 8:00. This was my net setup for today. I decided to keep it all within the Wildlife Refuge, to make it easier for me to manage, and keeping the nets out of sight of the general public, assuming, correctly, that it would be busy with families and dog walkers this morning:

These nets all run between Mallard Lake and Flagham Brook. The seeming thick run of trees actually line either side of the brook, which also happens to be the Wiltshire / Gloucestershire border.

Ellie’s nets comprised 2 x 18m along the lane / tree line and 1 x 12m along the lake side.

The birds started to arrive quite quickly after the nets were open and at 8:15 I was extracting a pair of Bullfinch, two Chiffchaff and one each of Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper and Wren. I say a pair of Bullfinch: a male and a female within a metre of each other in the same net. Somewhat surprisingly, the 18m x 12m net set caught all bar the Wren on that first round. In fact, it actually caught 50% of today’s catch. So often I set these nets and catch one bird if I am lucky, so this was a welcome change.

The second round delivered another three birds, and then that was it: I did not catch another bird in four rounds between 9:15 and 10:45. I told Teresa and Andy that if the next round was also empty I would close up and we could go home. Naturally, that round produced a couple of birds, as did the following round.

Although it did go quiet for 90 minutes it was never uninteresting. The Grey Herons were busy squabbling over the nest sites in the trees between Swallow Pool and Cottage Lake. One of my usual rides used to be called, possibly still is, the Heronry Ride. Unfortunately, the heronry that refers to is no longer active but there still are a couple of nest sites in the aforementioned trees.

Somewhat surprisingly, when we did catch birds we also attracted a lot of passers-by who wanted to see what was going on. I am pleased to say that we had some very happy children and adults get to see some small birds close up. They were also pretty interested in the whole ringing process: I think I did more talking than I did at last week’s ringing demonstration. In fact, apart from one ignorant dog owner, who had three spaniels off the lead and running around, all the many dog walkers were being well-behaved (at least around me they were) this morning and were every bit as interested in what we were doing as everyone else.

My list for the day was: Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 4(1); Great Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 1(1); Wren 2; Dunnock 1; Chiffchaff 5; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 16 birds ringed from 7 species and 3 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 19 birds processed from 8 species.

Ellie’s list was a bit more titmouse heavy, probably because she was ringing rather closer to human habitation. Her list was: Blue Tit 6(3); Great Tit 6(2); Dunnock (1); Robin (2); Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest (1). Totals: 13 birds ringed from 3 species and 9 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 22 birds processed from 6 species.

My highlight had to be my first Chiffchaffs of the year. I know that there is an overwintering population in the Cotswold Water Park but we don’t often catch them in March at this site. Also, the Bullfinch pair were in lovely condition. When I processed them, I kept back the first bird until the second was done, so they could be released together. Pleasingly, they actually flew off together, into the same tree, preened themselves and then flew off together again.

Teresa’s highlight was the Treecreeper: her absolute favourite bird and she had never had the chance to see one as closely as she did today.

Ellie’s highlights included her first Chiffchaff of the year, plus a Robin and a Great Tit ringed in her first couple of solo sessions at Lower Moor Farm at the end of 2019 / start of 2020.

We shut the nets at 11:45 and, with Andy’s help, has everything packed away 30 minutes later. It still took me another 15 minutes to get away from site as I became the de facto tour guide for a couple of families finding their way around the site for the first time. All in all, a pleasant and relaxed session with some good birds at a time of year that is usually quiet.

It’s oh so quiet! Wednesday, 15th March 2023

I needed a change from ringing inside a woodland, so this morning, taking advantage of a forecast for low windspeeds, I headed to Blakehill Farm. Rosie and Miranda joined me for the morning. Perhaps I should have checked my records: it is always quiet there in March!

To be honest, I had thought of going over early and setting nets for Snipe on the ponds but, as looking out the window the car was rimed with ice and I thought better of it.

We set the following nets:

We have had some large catches at this site: just last October we had our best ever catch, with 84 individuals from 14 species, only 3 individuals from 2 species that could be considered winter visitors: the rest were residents. That said, the previous fives sessions held here in March of various years has averaged fewer than 15 birds per session. Unfortunately this morning’s session fitted into the lower end of that pattern. Rosie got to process three birds before heading of to work at 8:40.

The 2 x 18m ride delivered 2 birds, the 2 x 18m + 9m didn’t catch a thing, except the breeze that got up at take down, and the T-bone delivered 4 birds, as did the 6m net.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit (1); Dunnock (3); Robin 1; Blackbird 1; Goldfinch 2; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 6 birds ringed from 4 species and 4 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 10 birds processed from 6 species.

I am never going to complain at catching a pair of Bullfinch, and I mean a pair, not two. They were a male and female in the 6m net, less than 1m apart. The female had just started developing a brood patch and the male’s cloacal protuberance was already pronounced. According to BTO nest records, the earliest egg laying date is 29th April, so this really is an early development. Both were birds that fledged last year. Once processed and released they did actually fly off together.

The other two birds in the 6m net were the two Goldfinch. So this small net was the best of the morning.

We caught these birds between 8:00 and 9:45 and then nothing. Not only that, but the breeze started to get up and, coming from the east, it was very cold. At 10:30 Miranda and I decided that things were not going to improve and so we shut the nets and took down. We were off site just after 11:30.

A Change, As Good As A Rest? Sunday, 12th March 2023

This is not a ringing blog, just some personal musings about different areas of my birding life, leading to an event yesterday, so be warned. One of the things I was told when I started ringing was that, whilst it wouldn’t necessarily become an obsession, normal, every day birding would take a back seat. I didn’t believe it, it was such a big part of my leisure time.

Having moved to my current rural location in 1997, alongside having some great new patches to go birding, I started doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I realised the limitations of that: a great snapshot of the birds coming in for the last weekend of January but saying nothing about the rest of the year. For a more rounded approach, and to give some additional purpose to looking at the birds in my garden, other than pure enjoyment, I joined the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch (GBW) scheme in 2003: recording the weekly maxima of the bird species using my garden, as well as a host of other aspects of garden wildlife. Between 2014 and 2020 I was an ambassador for the scheme, doing regular talks to Women’s Institutes, gardening clubs, the U3A and, indeed, anybody who wanted me to, drumming up members and donations for the scheme. When I stepped down in 2020, I was surprised and delighted to be given a life membership by this part of the BTO, as a thank you for the work I had done over the years.

What got me into ringing was taking part in the BTO Bird Atlas project between 2007 and 2011. I wanted to expand my activities into a more focused approach and I covered 15 of their survey squares, covering my village and what is now my ringing territories in the Braydon Forest, together with the four squares that covered the Coate Water complex on the outskirts of Swindon. That was a total of 60 surveys of those squares at different times of the year. After completing that, I wanted to do something that could provide me with a more scientific approach to my birding, having done nothing with my degree in Zoology for the previous 27 years.

I started ringing in 2009, and it did take up most of my leisure time: usually with two sessions on each day of the weekend. Leisure birding became increasingly restricted to what I could see out of my kitchen window, outside of ringing sessions. Ever since, patch birding has taken a back seat to my ringing activities, apart from time away on holiday, when I always manage to get some birding in. As readers of the blog know, I do a lot of my ringing on Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sites so when a member of the Trust team was looking for someone to give a talk to their River Guardian volunteers on the birds they might encounter whilst carrying out their activities, and then to lead them on a birding session, I volunteered.

It was fun putting a talk together, choosing appropriate photos for the slideshow (thanks to my friend, Barry “Beaker Baz” Woodhouse, for allowing me to use his fabulous Grey Wagtail photos – check out his work, it is truly excellent) and selecting a few bird calls to test their knowledge. The talk took place at the Kingfisher Café meeting room at the Wildlife Trust’s Langford Lakes reserve. It meant that we would have a good opportunity to see some of the birds discussed. We had a rather inauspicious start: as the attendees were assembling, a Song Thrush decided to fly into the window next to the door at such a speed that there was blood on the window and a dead bird on the floor. This was despite the fact that all of the windows are adorned with bird of prey silhouettes to prevent such an accident. After a quick clean up, the attendees got their teas, coffees and biscuits and we could make a start.

The audience had quite a wide range of birding experience, from completely unskilled to a couple of experienced birders. I am pleased to say that the talk went well across the board. After an hour of the presentation and discussions we went for a walk.

I loved it: on the lake immediately outside of the visitor centre / café complex was a large flock of Tufted Duck, together with the obligatory Mallard and multiple Black-headed Gull. The appearance of two drake and one duck Gadwall excited the entire group. We saw a lot of birds from a decent number of species. The species that elicited the most excitement were, firstly, Lapwing: there was a small flock flying around the site. Several of the group had not seen them before, and certainly not the raggedy winged flappy flight they do. Secondly was the burst of sound that heralded the appearance, brief and fleeting as usual, of a Cetti’s Warbler. There were two of them singing in adjacent trees / bushes. Finally, I was excited (and I know, it was probably an escape, so I shouldn’t be) to see a drake Ruddy Shelduck. It gave excellent views and was a first for everyone, except me.

Along the walk we saw the following: Cormorant: the males in full breeding condition and looking magnificent, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Black-headed Gull, Red Kite, Buzzard, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler. We finished at about 12:30 after a great fun morning, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who came along (at least, that’s what they all told me).

Ringing Demonstration: Saturday, 11th March 2023

At the beginning of the week it really didn’t look as if this Saturday’s ringing demonstration would go ahead: the weather forecast was diabolical. However, as the week unfolded and forecast after forecast proved to be inaccurate, we just had to hope. Wednesday’s session fell foul of the weather, so I was relieved that we made it on Saturday.

There had already been a major kerfuffle: this ringing demonstration was scheduled to take place in Ravensroost Wood. The Swindon Wildlife Group (SWG) and I completed the paperwork by the end of October last, and it was advertised on both the Wildlife Trust’s “What’s On” leaflet and the “What’s On” page on their website from the beginning of November last. Unfortunately, it seems that the reserves management and the events people at the Trust didn’t talk to each other, and reserves management don’t look at their own website, because they arranged for a contractor to come on site and carry out some Ash die-back mitigation and complete the 25 year coppice cycle in Ravensroost Wood a month before our session was scheduled. It was all supposed to be completed within a two week window, but it wasn’t. Mind the work in the Firs, that began last October, I was told was supposed to last 6 weeks: it has been five months so far. With the carpark at Ravensroost Wood still full of timber at the end of last week and, despite the contractors assurance it would be removed last Monday, and that they would be offsite by the time of the demonstration, we took the decision that, to prevent last minute confusion and give plenty of notice to the attendees, we would move the demonstration to Somerford Common. I was also concerned about the impact of the works on the distribution of the birds around the site and, with no opportunity to test this out prior to the event, and the Trust refusing to allow me to set up a feeding station for the week before, to bring some certainty to proceedings, I was very keen on moving to a potentially more reliable site.

As ever, it was a sell out: 20 adults and half-a-dozen children, and several others on a waiting list missing out. With people arriving for 9:00, I gave the team: Miranda, David and Rosie, a lie-in and we got together at 7:00. We set nets at the feeders, along the track and in a clearing down the main path:

Despite putting lures on all of the net sets, the only one that actually caught any birds was the 9m – 12m – 9m dogleg around the feeding station, so we could have saved ourselves a lot of work had we known.

We had all nets open by 8:30 and birds started arriving pretty much straight away. With all attendees on site by 9:00 it was good to have something to show them straight away. The catch was slow and steady and never too busy, a round of six birds and two four bird rounds were the biggest we had. Mind, the last ringing demonstration, at Blakehill Farm, only delivered seven birds from seven species (mind, they were all cracking birds, especially the second Tree Pipit for the site, and the attendees and organisers were delighted with what they saw) so the attendees were very happy with the 27 we managed to catch this Saturday morning.

The list for the morning was: Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 7(1); Great Tit 3(2); Coal Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit 1; Dunnock 2; Robin 3(1). Totals: 20 birds ringed from 7 species and 7 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 27 birds processed from 8 species.

It was a surprise not to catch any Goldcrest, they usually come to the lure readily. Let’s hope that the freezing weather and snow on Wednesday and Thursday hasn’t taken a toll.

Throughout the morning we had a Red Kite floating around and about our ringing station. At one point, hawk-eyed Robin Griffiths drew our attention to a Sparrowhawk display flying. It was so high up it was barely visible without your binoculars. I love their display flight: smooth glide followed by frantic wing-flapping, continued time and again. Given that it is the woodland hunter supreme, to see them displaying so high in the sky is just amazing.

We also had a Raven flying around for quite a long period: calling regularly and showing off its distinctive kite-shaped tail.

The weather took a turn for the colder at 10:30 and, with children getting chilled, the event began to break up. We did our last round just before 11:00 and, once we had processed the birds, the organisers from SWG took the remaining attendees on a walk around the site, whilst the team took down the nets and packed away. We were all off site just before 12:30.

Webb’s Wood: Saturday, 4th March 2023

Third time lucky: originally we scheduled to do this on Wednesday, but it rained, then we rescheduled for Friday, but a short visit to A&E at 3:00 in the morning put paid to that, so we finally managed to get there this morning. I was joined by David and later in the morning the two families joined us again for the session.

We set a couple of extra nets up today, in the hope of enhancing the catch:

It was a decent catch, Blue and Great Tit heavy, as expected. The birds arrived regularly, never too many to make it too stressful for either the birds or the pair of us doing the extracting. Naturally, when I declared at 11:15 that we would shut the nets as we emptied them during the next round it triggered a larger catch in that round than we had in the rest of the morning. Unfortunately, three of those were same day retraps and we just had to let them go.

One of the benefits of not having a busy catch was that I could spend some time with young Adam, who was able to expand his ringing experience, adding another three to his list.

There were a number of highlights. With the exception of the landmark year of 2017, when we caught and ringed 10 Marsh Tits in Webb’s, we rarely ring more than two per annum in this wood, with four in 2022 being the only other year that has happened. This morning we caught our first for this year: equal earliest, with 2013, that we have ringed one in this wood.

Other highlights were finch based (at last). Chaffinch is another species that we rarely catch in this wood: just 33 ringed in the 10 years I have worked in Webb’s. This morning we caught another four. Unfortunately, one of them was showing possible signs of Fringilla papillomavirus: a pale dusting over the front of the leg. I couldn’t be sure but we erred on the side of caution. I know some ringers have stopped ringing Chaffinch on a “just in case” basis but, whilst I understand that position, I see it slightly differently. If it is FPV or a mite infection the result for the bird will be the same: eventually it will lose the affected limb or limbs. Putting a ring on it will not change that situation, but might give an opportunity to monitor the progress of the disease and provide some information on how it develops.

The last bird out of the net was a Lesser Redpoll. After the astonishing catch of the species in Webb’s in December 2021 (26 individuals), the numbers have slumped back to pre-2021 levels, so catching one in March for only the third time since records began is pleasing.

The catch for the day was: Blue Tit 16(3); Great Tit 7(6); Coal Tit 1(4); Marsh Tit 1(1); Dunnock 1; Robin (2); Chaffinch 3; Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 5 species and 16 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 46 birds processed from 8 species.

With the last birds processed just before midday, we packed away and left site by 12:30 (the benefits of having David’s dad Trevor, Mark and his son Adam all mucking in to help get things packed away).

West Wilts Ringing Group: February 2023 Results

This February had a significantly better result than any previous, although we did manage 17 sessions this February, compared to 13 last year. Incidentally, 13 sessions per month is the average for February since 2013.


Jonny’s Blackcap, caught at his Melksham site, is only the fourth caught in February by the Group.  He also caught three Linnet at his Hilmarton site: the only ones ever caught in February away from my Brown’s Farm site.  

There were significant increases in the numbers of Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Goldcrest and Great Tit. The Chiffchaff catch was quite startling: with ten caught at Langford Lakes, eight ringed and two retraps, with one additionally caught at Sutton Benger.   Prior to that we had caught just five ringed and one retrap in a February since 2013.  One each in 2013, 2015 and 2022, two in 2021.  We also ringed four Marsh Tit: three on Somerford Common and one at Red Lodge.  Our best February catch for ringing the species.

Missing from the catch this month were Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Siskin, Snipe and Starling.  Not for want of trying on the Snipe front: we were stymied by the weather on several occasions and illness on one.  

Somerford Common: Saturday, 25th February 2023

After having to abandon three sessions this week: Tuesday at Blakehill Farm, due to (unforecast) constant light drizzle (is there anything more frustrating than sitting there in the rain looking at multiple weather forecasting apps telling you that it isn’t raining, that there is <5% chance of rain and 0mm of precipitation expected for the day?); Thursday afternoon / evening due to unforecast wind and Friday morning due to overnight illness (also not forecast). We did manage to get out to Somerford Common this morning. Unfortunately, we had to curtail today’s session as unforecast wind got up at 10:00, the nets were billowing, they were getting entangled in the trees (despite being set at least 1 metre away from them) and it was clearly too dangerous to risk damaging the birds. That is not to say that it wasn’t an interesting session.

I was joined at 7:00 by David and at 7:45 by Nikki Morgans, the new Beat Forester for this area from Forestry England, and her son Oscar. A little later still we were joined by Laura, with Adam and Daniel. As there was only myself and David to do the extracting and processing, Laura took over the scribing duties, for which I was extremely grateful. Later still, we had more visitors as Laura’s husband Mark arrived with their friend Alex (who I misnamed as Susan the last time she came to a session, at Ravensroost Wood last autumn)

Unlike the last session at Somerford Common, we managed to avoid birds hitting the nets before they were fully open. However, the first round, at 8:30, was still a busy round, with 17 birds extracted and processed. The next round produced another 13 birds but we only managed one more round, with just two birds, before shutting everything down.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch (1); Blue Tit 2(4); Great Tit 1(9); Coal Tit 1(4); Marsh Tit 1(4); Robin 2(3). Totals: 7 birds ringed from 5 species and 25 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 32 birds processed from 6 species in under 2 hours!!

I have never had a catch that was so heavily weighted towards retrapped birds. Some ringers would conclude that the site has been “ringed out” and, if ringing them is the reason you do it, the site becomes unattractive. If you are a data nerd, like me, recaptured birds are the whole point. Take ACJ5593, a Marsh Tit ringed on the 10th October 2019. It has been recaptured on seven further occasions: twice more in 2019, twice in 2020, once in 2021, not at all in 2022, and now twice in 2023. Not bad for a bird that, according to the statistics from the BTO BirdFacts database, has a typical lifespan of just 2 years. Mind, the oldest recorded (from ringing data) is 11 years and 3 months from date of ringing to date of last recorded recapture. Perhaps more importantly, since the start of this year, at Somerford Common we have ringed three second year Marsh Tits and recaptured seven other individuals of this species. That is encouraging for the current health of the species at this site, given that we are working in a fairly small area, accepting that they are drawn in from a wider area to take advantage of the feeding station.

One could assume that we are catching the same Blue and Great Tits at the feeding station at each session but, when I looked at the Great Tit records, as per the Marsh Tit data, there have been 61 Great Tits processed, representing 46 individual birds, of which 33 have been caught only once. 25 of the Great Tits were ringed in the period, with only 7 of those having been recaptured in the subsequent sessions. With Blue Tits there have been, possibly surprisingly, only 54 birds processed (because it always feels like so many more), representing 48 individual birds, of which 41 have been caught only once in the period. 33 of those Blue Tits were ringed in the period, with only 4 of them being recaptured subsequently.

Still no finches, which is a shame. We did disturb a Chaffinch that was feeding on the spill from the seed-feeder on the ground (the bottom shelf of the nets was set at 70cm off the floor, as there are a few pheasants who weren’t stupid enough to stay where they might get shot, wandering around the site, and I don’t want pheasant sized holes in the bottom of the net and, although I would not be averse to a lead free roast pheasant for Sunday lunch, I am not sure wringing the neck thereof is something to be done in front of the children.

With everybody joining in to help take down and pack away we were off-site soon after 10:30. It was shame we had to shut up shop early but it was a reasonable session nonetheless, and the company was excellent. I am pleased to say that it left a good and positive impression on Nikki, and I am certain that we have established a decent rapport for the future.

Chiffchaffs: Wiltshire to Portugal

This February we received a report from Portugal of a Chiffchaff ringed on the outskirts of Melksham on the 7th October 2021, that was recovered 1,600km away, on the 25th November 2021, at Herdade dos Forninhos i.e. after 49 days. Unfortunately, it took 438 days for the Portuguese ringing scheme to let us know, but better late than never.

When I share recovery information with the group I always copy in Graham and Phil Deacon of the North Wilts Group. It is a mutual courtesy, so that we know what is happening with the birds in and from our area. Phil and Graham are also committee members of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society, and Phil collates all recoveries of ringed birds either ringed within Wiltshire and recovered elsewhere or ringed elsewhere and recovered in Wiltshire.

He sent me the details on the three other Chiffchaffs recovered in Portugal that were ringed in Wiltshire. The first was ringed by Graham near Sevenhampton, Swindon and also recovered at Herdades dos Forninhos. Second was a bird ringed at the Westdown Plantation on Salisbury Plain Training Area and recovered near Lisbon.

Then, this year there were two recoveries, again from Herdades dos Forninhos, for birds ringed and recovered in 2021. Jonny’s one and the other was ringed by Richard Leighton at Longbridge Deverill on the 13th July 2021 and recovered on the 5th October 2021.

It does seem unusual that, having had only four recoveries in Portugal, from the thousands of Chiffchaff ringed in Wiltshire, over the last 15 years, three of them should be recaptured at the same site:

Red Lodge: Sunday, 19th February 2023

Back to Red Lodge today. Yesterday’s high winds made any thought of ringing impossible, so the contrast with today’s weather was very welcome. I was joined for the session by Anna and Ellie and then, a little later on, by Laura with Daniel and Adam and then, a little later still, by Esmae, a young girl who lives in one the old Forestry Commission worker’s cottages (when they provided that sort of thing for their staff). Adam and Daniel got to ring a few more birds each this morning, and Esmae got to ring her first two (a Robin and a Great Tit.

After the failure of the nets away from the feeding station in the last two visits, I decided to try a different position for the extra nets:

They were about as successful as the ones they replaced: producing a Blackbird and a Wren.

The session was as expected: lots of Blue and Great Tits with a smattering of other species. It was pleasing to catch another Lesser Redpoll, but still no sign of any Siskin. Having seen a huge flock of Redwing when out filling the feeders on Friday, I was hoping there might have been a few around today. Unfortunately, they weren’t.

The list for the session was: Nuthatch (1); Blue Tit 21(11); Great Tit 13(4); Coal Tit (1); Marsh Tit 1; Wren 1; Robin 1(1); Blackbird 1; Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 39 birds ringed from 7 species and 18 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 57 birds processed from 9 species.

Another new Marsh Tit colour ringed this year brings it to three, which is a good start, especially as I cannot currently access two of the more productive woods for this species.

We were reasonably busy throughout the whole session, but with enough time to help the children further develop their skills. As usual, when I suggested that we would pack up at 11:30, we had eight birds in each of our last two rounds. We did finally do our last round and closed the nets at midday. With everybody pitching in to help take down and clear away, it took just 25 minutes to get everything packed up, and we were away from site in plenty of time for lunch.

I have to have another whinge about the amount of dog poo at this site. It is almost as if, after Forestry England put up the “No Fouling” signs, dog walkers are deliberately leaving piles of the stuff wherever they can. By my estimation there was approximately one pile of poo in every 1m square. It was impossible not to tread in it without focusing 100% on avoiding it. That is disgraceful. We had three children with us today, and they should not have to be spending their time watching where they are putting their feet because some people are too ignorant and too lazy to clean up after their pets.

Lower Moor Farm: Wednesday, 15th February 2023

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust lifted their HPAI precautionary ban on bird ringing at their wetland sites, Langford Lakes and Lower Moor Farm, last week. With my options limited currently, because of forestry works at the Firs and Ravensroost Woods, I decided to make a foray to the site this morning. I don’t expect big catches there at this time of year, but we did have 35 caught in February 2021, 20 in February 2016. All others have been less than 15.

I met up with Miranda and Rosie at 7:00, and we set up the following nets:

Following on from Miranda generously replacing my bird bag hanger, Rosie turned up this morning with a replacement for my ringing table, which, after 10 years of service, is very much the worse for wear. I am very lucky to have such considerate trainees. (All right the rest of you: see me for my wish list!!)

It was as quiet as expected, but Rosie did get to ring a couple of birds before heading off to work at 9:00. It helped that she was working with a couple of Trust volunteers at Lower Moor Farm this morning. I was very pleased to catch our first Lesser Redpoll since the middle of November:

We also caught a second Redwing of the year. The catch was small, just 16 birds. There were small flocks flying around, but we were catching just the odd one of each. The list for the session was: Blue Tit (2); Great Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 1; Wren (2); Dunnock 1(1); Robin 1(1); Redwing 1; Song Thrush 1; Goldcrest 2; Lesser Redpoll 1. 10 birds ringed from 8 species and 6 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 16 birds processed from 10 species.

Both Blue Tits were recaptures. One of them, ringed in 2021, was clearly having a problem with its right wing. The left wing was fine.

The tips of the greater coverts were ragged and tinged dull red, which looked like dried blood. Feather barbs were stuck to the shaft, again, by what looked like dried blood. There was no sign of feather mites or other invertebrate pests. The bird was in otherwise good condition: but slightly underweight for this time of year. It would be interesting to know what the issue was. Perhaps it had a close encounter with a predator? Or is it just a somewhat erratic moult of secondaries and associated coverts?

At 10:30 the wind got up unexpectedly and, after two empty rounds, Miranda and I decided to shut the nets and take down. We were off site by 11:15.