November has been a bit of a challenging month. When lockdown 2 was announced most of the regional offices for Forestry England, including our own, were happy to accept the BTO / JNCC / NE decision that ringing constituted “outdoor recreational exercise” and could continue. Unfortunately, a week later the central administration decided to overturn their regional offices and ban all volunteer activities, including ringing, on their properties. Absurdly, that meant I could spend the day birding at any of their sites, but not set any nets. I just love bureaucracy! That has impacted on my activities, with sessions focused on the Wildlife Trust sites at Blakehill Farm, the Firs, Ravensroost Wood and Lower Moor Farm. The only place that I have a feeding station set up is in Ravensroost Wood.
This November was never going to compete with last year for quality of catch, what with Ian and Andy retrapping a Merlin at Battlesbury and my team mist-netting two Buzzards at Somerford Common and our first Firecrest at Red Lodge, (although the last was actually ringed by a member of the North Wilts group, who I was assessing for a C permit at the time (he passed)) and only our second in the Braydon Forest. We have averaged out at slightly more birds per session than last year, and it is our second best November catch since the split at the start of 2013.
The difference in the catch is that the numbers of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Meadow Pipit and Lesser Redpoll are up, and the numbers of Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Song Thrush are considerably down. The increase in Blue and Great Tit numbers is mainly down to Jonny’s new site at Biss Wood: large catches heavily skewed towards those two species. By contrast, the Chaffinch and Goldfinch numbers being down is almost certainly the result of my not being able to work at Somerford Common, where the winter catch at the feeding station has been good for these two species in the last couple of years. Meadow Pipit numbers are up because Jonny has started using a Mipit triangle at his farmland sites and being successful with them. Interestingly, last Thursday saw Jonny and I set a Mipit triangle at Blakehill Farm. A flock of about 20 of them came towards the lure and then flew away. Perhaps they are less inclined to seek out additional companions as winter draws on.
Sadly I will almost certainly not be doing any more work at Tedworth House. Help4Heroes has, essentially, mothballed the site, and has made 140 staff redundant! In fact, it seems the only person on site is my friend and fellow ringer, Jack Daw, doing essential maintenance.
He has been having trouble getting out to ring on his Salisbury Plain sites recently, as they seem to be favoured for the current set of military training exercises, so he asked if I would object to him doing some ringing at Tedworth. I have just handed the site over for him to use as his patch going forward. I ringed there because the Wildlife Trust and the charity asked me to, and because it might have been of some help to what they call the beneficiaries. They have cancelled their agreement with the Trust and as there are now no beneficiaries, and are unlikely to be throughout 2021, it would have been churlish to say “No”, so I have just handed it over, no strings attached.
It has always been a funny site: you never knew what you would catch. Apart from the usual woodland suspects it is where I have caught the majority of my less usual birds: Black Redstart being the stand out capture but also Firecrest, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and these beauties to name a few:
And perhaps the most unexpected catch in one of my mist nets:
Anyway, that’s it for this month except to say that last year was exceptional for us, this year we have already surpassed last year’s total. It is probably because A’s and C’s have done more individual sessions due to coronavirus but, nevertheless, the group is certainly more active now than it has been since the end of 2012.