Ravensroost Woods: Sunday, 22nd November 202

With Forestry England’s central body having overridden their regional offices and imposed a blanket ban on volunteer activities on all of their sites during this second lockdown, I am rather restricted to the sites available. Thankfully the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust have followed the decision of the BTO / JNCC / Natural England and continued to allow access to their sites on a 1 + 1 basis.

This morning I went back to Ravensroost Woods. I was expecting a titmouse heavy session, as I set up a feeding station on Thursday. It will boost the number of birds caught, and attract in some other species that are less frequently caught during the rest of the year. My plus one for the session was David, one of my T-permit holders. A word in praise of the BTO. T-permit holders are the lowest level of permit and are not allowed to ring without supervision. The next level up are C-permit holders, who are still trainees but can manage their own sites and ring independently, whilst remaining the responsibility of their trainer. Lockdown 1 clearly hit T-permit holders very hard. The interval between lockdowns has allowed 1 + 1 working, as is the case in lockdown two. This has severely reduced the ability of trainees to get out and ring, so the BTO has agreed that they will waive next year’s renewal charge for those trainees genuinely affected by this. David is one of those so affected.

One benefit of a feeding station is that you can cut down on the number of nets set. We set 7: 4 x 18m in the main ride and then one each of 6m, 9m and 12m set around the feeders. The feeder nets caught most of the birds, the ride nets caught most of the more “interesting” birds.

We started with the obligatory Blue and Great Tits, and then, as the session went on, we had a few Coal Tits and a couple of Marsh Tits turn up, together with a couple of Chaffinches and Nuthatches, all in the vicinity of the feeders.

The ride nets produced a couple of Redwing, a recaptured Bullfinch and, during our last round, 3 more Lesser Redpoll.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch 2(1); Blue Tit 13(9); Great Tit 6(2); Coal Tit 4(1); Marsh Tit 1(1); Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren 1(1); Robin (3); Redwing 2; Goldcrest (1); Chaffinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 3; Bullfinch (1). Totals: 33 birds ringed from 9 species and 21 birds recaptured from 10 species, making 54 birds processed from 13 species.

In amongst the Blue Tits was this poor beastie:

The little grey dots around its eyes are ticks. I have never seen as many as there were on this bird. Not just around the eyes but under its feathers all around the face. There had to be 100 or more of them. It is a frequent point of argument amongst ringers as to whether or not we should interfere and remove ticks or let nature take its course. The BTO’s position is that they have no position, but if you are competent to remove them they won’t object. I have been removing ticks from various animals since I was 20 years old and working with livestock (a very long time ago) and I usually do so. In this case the load was so great that I thought the bird was unlikely to survive without a large reduction in its burden, so I set to and removed as many as I could. What always amazes me about removing ticks from Blue or Great Tits is that throughout the ringing process, from extraction to ringing, measuring and weighing, they will peck at you at every opportunity but when you start to remove ticks they stop. It is almost (he said anthropomorphically) as if they know you are helping.

We had a very sociable morning. Since lockdown this site has become a big favourite with families looking for exercise in the great outdoors and today was no exception. When people stop and ask about what we are doing it is very rare for anyone to express any reservation about the process or the value of ringing. I make a point of explaining the whys and wherefores and people rarely object to getting a close look at our birds. There was a dozen or so groups who stopped for a chat. One young girl (6 years old) has expressed a wish to train to become a ringer!

Of course, readers of this blog will be aware that those that don’t bother to find out, and take things into their own hands, can be a problem. Pleased to say that on Thursday of last week I received a cheque for £100 from one of the two joggers who damaged one of my nets. They had the choice of paying to replace the net they damaged or get a criminal record, as the police tracked them down. I have thanked the police for their help.

Fortunately, for the future the Wildlife Trust have provided me with No Entry signs, and the authority to use them to close off rides when I am actively working on their sites. Personally, I think a Go-Pro will be at the top of my letter to Santa!

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