This Wednesday I was joined by Jonny Cooper and Andrew Bray for a session in Red Lodge Plantation. Jonny and I having temporarily weaned ourselves off Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings to have a look at some woodland species. The site is a fairly contradictory place and you can never be sure of what you will catch. In 2015 / 16 there was some fairly extensive thinning of the Beech wood, allowing the undergrowth to thicken somewhat, but it still seems relatively clear of what I consider sustenance trees and shrubs: Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Bramble, etc. However, since the thinning, the catches have improved in both number and diversity. We now catch the odd finch species in there and, a couple of years ago, a juvenile Spotted Flycatcher. So it is certainly a site well worth the visit: even if it is always titmouse heavy.
In the winter the main track becomes impassable for all but high clearance vehicles but, at the present, I can get my vehicle past the deepest ruts and excavations and further into the wood. This enabled us yesterday to set our nets in the three best catching spots: two of which happen to be adjacent to small ponds and one by the large pond near the entrance:
We caught 80 birds at our last session in August, and we always prefer to catch a number that gives us enough time to process all of the birds and do all of the bio-metric assessments without stress to (most importantly) the birds or the team, so we restricted ourselves to just these net positions.
It was just as well: we caught 94 birds today. Both catches are quite surprising as I haven’t set up any feeding stations yet. However, there does seem to be a definite trend of improving catches at the site, since the thinning operations. The list for today was: Nuthatch (1); Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 25(4); Great Tit 13(6); Coal Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit 6(1); Wren 7(2); Robin 3(1); Blackbird 3(1); Blackcap 2; Goldcrest 12; Chaffinch 1. Totals: 76 birds ringed from 11 species, 18 birds recaptured from 9 species, making 94 birds processed from 13 species.
It is a good catch: we also heard, but did not catch, Lesser Redpoll during the session. We did have one Chaffinch that was suffering with the Fringilla Papilloma Virus, so it was released from the net without ringing it. Also, as we were packing away the nets at 12:30, several flocks of birds flew through where we had just removed the nets, so it could have been a much larger catch. I will set up the feeding stations once the temperature drops – which doesn’t look as though it is going to happen for a few weeks and one would expect some fairly heavy catches over the winter. However, that will depend very much on what other food is available in the wood to keep the birds local.
There are several highlights in the catch: good numbers of Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits, after small numbers for the last couple of years. However, the absolute stand out was the recaptured Nuthatch: it did not have one of my rings on it. Therefore, it has come in from outside the Braydon Forest area. Now, I ring all of the adjacent woodlands. The nearest potential sources for this bird are the Cotswold Water Park, possibly Swindon Sewage Works or the woodlands to the east of Swindon, as those are the only places in the local area that are ringed regularly. As soon as I know where it came from I will update the blog. The furthest recorded movement of a Nuthatch in the UK is 260km: I doubt this is in that league.