No Ravens: Never Mind. Tedworth House: Wednesday, 17th April 2019

If anybody gets that reference, I shall be impressed at your musical knowledge.  Anyway, this Wednesday we had hoped to ring the Raven chicks at Tedworth House.  We gave them a miss last year as the “Beast from the East” had affected them at the start of their breeding season and we didn’t want to add any avoidable pressures.  This year, we decided to schedule it for close to the same time we ringed the chicks in 2017.  Dave Turner had lined up an expert climber, Dougie, to do the donkey work and get to the nest.  He climbed up to within 20 metres of the nest, whereupon the youngsters made their way to the opposite side, and started to flap their wings, so he withdrew quickly and they settled back down again.  Why were they so much more advanced?  What was the difference? Back in 2017 there were 4 chicks in the nest, this year just 2.  Perhaps they are that much more advanced because the adults have been able to feed them much better with fewer bellies to fill.  Next year we will schedule the attempt for 2 weeks earlier.

I was joined for the ringing session by Dr Ian Grier.  Ian was my trainer.  He took me to my C-permit and then through to my full A-permit and I always look forward to working with him.  Most of his ringing these days is focused on the specific projects on Stone Curlew and Lapwing on Salisbury Plain.

The catch was not massive: Blue Tit (3); Coal Tit (1); Wren 1(1); Dunnock 1(1); Redwing 1; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 1(1); Blackcap 3; Goldfinch 4. Totals: 12 birds ringed from 7 species; 7 birds recaptured from 5 species, making 19 birds processed from 9 species.

Dave Turner, my principle contact at the House, was running a greenwood woodworking course for some users of the Tedworth House facilities.  When they took a tea break they came across to have a close up encounter with some of our birds.  This is the key reason for doing what we do at Tedworth: to introduce the users to our birdlife and, hopefully, spark an interest.  It always does.

This was an interesting catch. To start with, no Great Tits or Robins caught: most unusual for this site.  Then, to catch a Redwing this late on is very unusual.  This bird was actually in poor condition and I doubt its chances of making it across the North Sea to Scandinavia.  Its breast bone was very prominent, and the pectoral muscle coverage was very low.  Clearly that has implications for flight.  The tail was regrowing and was full of fault bars:

redwing tail


This is a sure sign of poor nutrition and no doubt why it isn’t as robust as one would expect for a migrating bird.  Thanks to Gemma-Louise for the photograph.  Gemma-Louise and her partner Paul had come along hoping to see the Ravens but stayed to have a look at the other birds we were catching. Gemma-Louise was once a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust trainee working at Tedworth House and is now an animal handling trainer at Sparsholt Agricultural College.  She will be bringing a group from the college with her to our June session

The highlight of the session was ringing our first newly fledged Song Thrush and Blackbird of the year.  Jack Daw, who monitors the nesting attempts at Tedworth House, took me on a little detour to look at the Mistle Thrush nest that he has kept an eye on.  We were lucky enough to see, from the ground, that the youngsters are fully feathered and ready to fledge, as they poked their heads over the edge of the nest.  Mistle Thrush are a red listed species in the UK and the fact that they are doing well at Tedworth House is excellent news.  I have ringed adult and juvenile individuals there, and recaught them on later occasions, and it is good to know they are still about and breeding successfully.


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