Buzzing at Somerford Common: 30th November 2019

With Webb’s Wood being off-limits until the Forestry Commission finish clearing the conifers at the eastern end of the wood, the forecast being for it to be windy, we needed another woodland site to visit.  We have been to all of our woodland sites quite a lot recently and I really wanted to go somewhere different, so I went to check out the western side of Somerford Common. This is very different from where we have our feeding station set up. It is, essentially, a commercial conifer plantation interspersed with tongues of broad-leaved trees.  Some three years ago it is since I last ringed that part of the site.  My hope was that we might catch some Lesser Redpoll and Siskin plus guaranteed to get a decent number of Goldcrest.

I stopped going there because the Forestry Commission had blocked the entrance with large granite blocks, as they have done at the gateways to many of their properties, as theft of timber and vandalism of the wooden gateways they usually use are real problems in this area.  This just made the setting up and management of the ringing rides too onerous. So, when I turned up to find that they had put a new security gate in place, which uses the standard local Forestry Commission padlock to secure it, I thought we would give it a go.  I doubt anybody could predict what happened.  This is where we set our nets:


I was joined by Jonny, Andrew and Alice for the session.  The underfoot conditions were horrendous: I had suggested that everyone bring waterproof over-trousers.  It was the right thing to do: so muddy and wet that everything got filthy.

So to the session itself.  Ride 3 was a complete waste of time: not a single bird all morning. The first round was a couple of Coal Tit and Robin and a Long-tailed Tit.  The second round was even quieter: just one bird and then round three. Not lots of birds but, as I was checking ride 2, Andrew went to check ride 1.  He was taking his time and so I went to see if he needed any help, only to find him walking down the ride towards me with this in his arms:


He asked if I had a bag big enough to put it in, so we could weigh it.  I do, it is a pillow case with a pull cord sewn into the neck.  In over 10 years of ringing I have never seen a Buzzard in the hand. It was such a shock: you just don’t expect it!  It was so unexpected that I thought that Jonny was going to have a seizure and Alice just refused to believe her eyes!

So, to the next round and Alice picked up the big bag and I suggested that she really didn’t need it because there was no way we were ever going to catch another bird that would need a bag of that size.  Alice and Jonny went off to check rides 3 and 4.  What do I know? Jonny returned with this in his arms:


This is quite ridiculous: to catch one Buzzard in a mist net is a real surprise; to catch two? You must be joking, but we did!  I will stress: we did nothing to try to attract Buzzards into our nets. It was just because I was feeling a bit jaded with our other woodland sites and the Forestry Commission have re-instituted the access that we were there at all. Brilliant! Nobody currently active in our group has ever caught a Buzzard in Wiltshire – and we caught two by complete serendipity.

The catch was a good and varied one even without the Buzzards.  It was: Buzzard 2; Blue Tit 5; Great Tit 2(3); Coal Tit 13; Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 10; Wren 2; Robin 2; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 8; Chaffinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 1.  Totals: 48 birds ringed from 12 species and 3 birds recaptured from 1 species, making 51 birds processed from 12 species.

Apart from the obvious Buzzard highlights, I was pleased to find that our largest catch was Coal Tit, followed by Long-tailed Tit then Goldcrest: exactly as I expected.  Catching our thirtieth Marsh Tit of the year was also a bonus.

After a couple of empty rounds we packed up and were away from the site by 13:00. Very happy, very satisfied.

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