This session was moved from a wet and windy Wednesday to a less wet and less windy Thursday. Red Lodge is one of those places where, in my mind, we get small catches and, in reality, we get excellent catches. Thursday was no exception. Unfortunately, our bird feeding station at Red Lodge has frequently been vandalised over the last couple of year, culminating with the complete disappearance of the bird table over the summer. It is hard to credit the mentality of someone doing this. I can (just about) understand someone stealing the bird feeders but the consistent and persistent efforts to prevent the supplementary feeding of the local bird population during the winter months just beggars belief. Rant over!
On Tuesday afternoon I set up some small seed and peanut feeders in out of the way locations, in the hope that they will survive the winter. Wednesday was as wet as forecast. At 6:00 Thursday morning the rain had just stopped, the cloud cover was reasonably broken and it looked positive. Jonny and I set up just four nets (2 x 18m; 1 x 12m and 1 x 9m) and put on lures for Marsh Tit and Redwing. The former worked. We took 18 birds out of the net on the first round and, as we were processing them, had to move the ringing station into the back of the car, as a fairly heavy shower passed over. Next round delivered another 22 birds, mainly Long-tailed Tits, and another brief shower whilst we were processing them. Fortunately, the showers passed over while the nets were empty, so we had no wet birds to handle. It was also the end of the rain for the morning.
As usual during these sessions, we caught mainly Blue Tits but, I am pleased to say, the second largest number ringed was 17 Long-tailed Tits. This is the largest number ringed in a session since we did 18 at Blakehill Farm on the 25th October 2015. Numbers have definitely slumped since then, not getting into double figures ringed and recaptured in the Braydon Forest since a catch in Ravensroost on 27th October 2017 but, generally, for three years we have caught just twos and threes if any at all.
The list for the day was: Treecreeper 3; Blue Tit 22 (12); Great Tit 3(7); Coal Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit (3); Long-tailed Tit 17; Wren (1); Dunnock 1; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 2. Totals: 52 ringed from 8 species; 24 birds recaptured from 5 species, making 76 birds processed from 10 species.
Of the three Marsh Tits recaptured one, D983472, was originally ringed in August 2014, so it is double the typical lifespan of this species, but way off the 11 years and 3 months of the oldest known individual.
Soon after the second rain shower, a flock of some 50 or so Lesser Redpoll flew in, settled in the tops of the trees around our feeding station, before flying on further into the wood. We didn’t catch any but this was an exciting sighting. Until the wood was thinned in 2015 / 2016 we rarely saw or caught finches in this wood. Even the commonest of finches, Chaffinch, was only caught on two separate occasions prior to 2016, once each in 2013 and 2014, but are now caught regularly. Lesser Redpoll have been even more scarce, with 7 caught in one memorable session in December 2016 and just one caught in November 2017. Hopefully we will be able to catch a few this winter.
The catch had died down by 10:30, and the wind was getting stronger and blowing the nets, so we had an early end to, what was a very satisfactory, session.