The Firs: Friday, 21st February 2020

After several cancelled sessions due to this horrendous weather, we finally managed to get out for a ringing session this morning.  Although wind was still forecast, it was scheduled to be lighter than of late, although still gusting to just under 30 mph.  As a result, we could only contemplate setting up in a good woodland area.  With the wind scheduled to come from the west, I chose the Firs. It is the only one of our woodland sites where the net rides run north to south, so the woodland would block the wind.  Somerford Common, Ravensroost Woods and Webb’s Wood all have the main net rides running east to west, which would have had the wind blowing along them.

Everybody who could make it came along, so the team was Jonny, Steph, Lillie (on half-term), Alice and Tony.  My only concern was whether we would catch enough birds to make it worth their while.  In the end we had a decent haul of 46 birds, but we had to shorten the session as the wind got up enough to affect the nets and, as a the birds’ welfare is paramount, we closed the nets an hour-and-a-half earlier than usual.

I had topped up the feeding station on Wednesday afternoon, so there was plenty of bird activity and the catch was: Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 14(10); Great Tit 5(7); Coal Tit (1); Marsh Tit 1(1); Wren 1; Robin 1(1); Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 1; Chaffinch 1.  Totals: 26 birds ringed from 9 species and 20 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 46 birds processed from 10 species.

There was a lot of bird song in the wood, and plenty of Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming – although they seemed to be too busy playing percussion to visit the peanut feeder, so we didn’t catch any.  Nuthatch were calling everywhere, it seemed and there were at least 3 Marsh Tits calling in the wood. For such a small wood to potentially have 3 Marsh Tit territories is a real feather in the cap of the management regime.  The new Marsh Tit was the fourth of 2020 already.   It is our best start to the year for this species since we started ringing at these sites in 2013.

A cautionary tale to all of the squirrels out there: don’t try and steal from my large seed feeder! Last week when I went to top up the feeders at my woodland sites, I left the Firs to last, as it is the muddiest, most slippery site I have – and the furthest to walk to the feeding station.  Approaching the feeder I thought “Heck and damnation, the seed has got wet and stuck in the tube”.  When I got closer I saw that the lid had been prised off and that the clump of seed was, in fact, a dead grey squirrel.  The feeder has 8 ports: 2 opposite each other and each set offset by 180º to the previous.  This squirrel had worked its way in, and bent its body around the various ports and then been unable to extricate itself.  They are clever beasts, but this one was far too clever for its own good. I had the very devil of a job getting the carcass out of the feeder, but it gave it a good clean as it came out: like a furry bottle brush!  I have replaced the lid and wired it shut, so there shouldn’t be a repeat.


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