The Firs: Wednesday, 3rd October 2018

Ellie Jones, the Wildlife Trust’s Northern Reserves Manager and one of my most experienced team members, and I had a session at the Firs this morning.  It is a feature of how dry this year has been that I was able to wear ordinary walking boots for the entire morning.  The site is nicknamed the Braydon Bog and it is definitely not living up to it this year.
We were joined at about 9:30 by Christine Crookhall-Fallon, the Wildlife Trust’s Education and Wellbeing Officer, and a group from the Devizes School.  It was perfect timing, as we had just completed a very successful second extraction round.  The students were given the opportunity to see a range of species at first-hand and they all took turns being taught how to safely hold and release a bird (or two or three) and were given an introduction into how you age birds, and some information on how to sex those species that are sexually dimorphic.
I am always pleased by how interested these children, who are either excluded from school or in special measures, are in nature and wildlife. As Ellie and I discussed, it seems a shame that children have to be deemed difficult to be given the opportunities that these children get.  It would be nice to see some class trips to the wild for the other pupils.  The catch continued the trend of improvement since the central glade was opened up and the two small ponds dug.  With further works planned for the winter to thin out the wood and open up the canopy some more, we can look forward to monitoring continued improvements in the diversity in this small woodland.
Today’s catch comprised: Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 21(2); Great Tit 21(2); Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 7(1); Wren 2; Robin (1); Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest 3.  Totals: 57 birds ringed from 8 species; 6 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 63 birds processed from 9 species.
This is our second best catch of Long-tailed Tits this year. Their numbers have decreased dramatically in our Braydon Forest catches since 2015, so we are always pleased when we catch a reasonable number. Interestingly, the best catch this year was just over the road in Webb’s Wood.  We have only caught them on 7 occasions in the Braydon Forest so far this year, out of 32 sessions (22%).  Compare that with 2017, when we caught them on 30 occasions out of 53 sessions (57%): and that was a bad year for the species.   Numbers have definitely had a massive reverse over the last few years.  I will do an extended analysis on this at the end of the year, once I have the complete data set for 2018. It would be interesting to find out if other areas are finding a similar reversal in fortunes for this species.
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