First Willow Warbler of the Year: Somerford Common, Saturday, 6th April 2019

With the forecast for the morning to be dry but a bit breezy, with the breeze coming from the east, Jonny and I had a session at Somerford Common.  The area of the site where we do the majority of our ringing has undergone some major transformation in the last year.  If you look at the plan below you will see the area bordered on the north by one ride and on the east by another. That block of land is a fenced off paddock and over the last two winters it has been extensively cropped to leave some hazel coppice stools plus a number of stands of conifers and silver birch.  It is a very open area and the way that the undergrowth is establishing itself is making us quite excited about what might turn up there later in the year.  Certainly Nightjar would not look out of place there.  When I surveyed the area for the BTO’s 2007 – 2011 Atlas that area was alive with Garden Warbler.  It is not there yet, but I would think that within two years it will be perfect for them.  I am hoping that we might find some Grasshopper Warblers on passage through there as well.  It looks as if it has just the right mix of scrub and perches for them.

We put up our nets along the main north-south ride as usual, plus one set adjacent to our ringing station in the car park:


When we arrived the place was alive with birdsong. Particularly, there was a plethora of Willow Warblers singing in the wood plus quite a few Chiffchaffs calling as well.  Our first round produced a crop of 8 birds, including our first Willow Warbler of the year:


Whilst the trees were alive with the song of summer visitors, we were also aware of several flocks of Lesser Redpoll flying around the site.  We caught a female but she wasn’t really in breeding condition yet. Having caught a male in breeding condition in Webb’s Wood last Wednesday, we are hoping that we might catch some more later this month and into May, confirming a potential breeding population.

Unfortunately, soon after the first round the temperature dropped significantly and the bird activity dropped with it.  We ended up with a catch of 18 birds: Blue Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren (1); Blackbird 1(1); Blackcap 4; Chiffchaff 3(1); Willow Warbler 1(1); Lesser Redpoll 1; Bullfinch 1.  Totals: 13 birds ringed from 7 species; 5 birds recaptured from 5 species, making 18 birds processed from 9 species.

The retrapped Willow Warbler was ringed as an adult in July 2017.  So that means that it has done the trip to and from sub-Saharan Africa on at least four occasions: that’s a lot of miles for a 10g bird.

It didn’t warm up again until we closed the nets at 11:30.  Although recent catches have been small, I have compared them with recent years and they are very much in line with the previous 5 years.  Expansion of the catch is imminent – and I can’t wait!

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