This morning’s scheduled session at the Firs coincided with a visit from Devizes School pupils, as part of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Well-Being programme. Jonny, Tony and I arrived on site for 7:00 and set up the nets, with the school party arriving shortly after 9:15. These sessions are always a pleasure: getting a small group of teenagers, who are taken out of school for some reason or other, and getting them involved in the great outdoors, always generates a positive response. It doesn’t matter how “too cool for school” they might start out, it is very rare that we cannot get them to join in with our activities. Today was no exception: every single one of them was persuaded to help out and release our birds. The challenge “Who’s brave enough to be bitten by a Blue Tit?” usually appeals to the more extrovert teen, which sparks the others to get involved. It worked for the umpteenth time this morning. Mind, the lad did keep saying that he wanted to be bitten by birds, which is a little concerning!
Our first round, at 8:00, yielded a good sized flock of 12 Long-tailed Tits, 9 Blue Tits and a couple each of Great and Coal Tits and Goldcrests and a Treecreeper. The next few rounds were not as busy, and a couple were actually empty, but we had a good number of birds overall to show to the visitors. Not that they were sitting around doing nothing whilst we were working: they were setting up a camp site, with hammocks and canopies in amongst the trees, and boiling up their billy for tea, coffee and soup: it was very cold first thing and hot beverages were definitely necessary.
We worked through until 11:00 whereupon I uttered the fateful words “We’ll make this the last round and close the nets as we go.” This guaranteed another dozen birds to the total – mainly Blue Tits, but also our only Robin of the morning. The list for the session was: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 10(9); Great Tit 1(4); Coal Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 11(1); Wren 2; Robin (1); Redwing 1; Blackbird 2; Goldcrest 8(1). Totals: 38 birds ringed from 9 species and 16 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 54 birds processed from 10 species.
This catch has taken the number of Long-tailed Tits ringed this year to 111: it will be our best year for the species since 2016, with just 77 and 79 in the last two years. As for the continuing regularity of Goldcrest catches, at 145 so far, this is our best year since I started ringing independently in 2103.
The only downside to the morning: we drew a blank on Marsh Tit during the session, despite running lures for them. Naturally, whilst we were taking down the last two nets a couple of them started calling at each other from either side of the central glade.