This was my first Forestry England site session since the end of lockdown. As with the Wildlife Trust, I had to spend some time putting together updated risk assessments and having them accepted by FE before I could resume. Saturday started at Somerford Common. I had planned to go midweek but the weather put paid to that. I had set up a feeding station on Friday, 4th December, and topped it up on Tuesday and again on Friday, during a break in the rain. There are three feeders: one contained a seed and grain mix, one peanuts and one containing nyjer seed.
One of the benefits of the new risk assessment is that it is no longer a 1 + 1 basis. To ensure that social distancing can be met, I don’t plan to do more than me + 2 until the all clear is given. I was joined for the day by Jonny Cooper and Alice Edney, two of my C-permit holders. We set nets around the feeding station, within the paddock, and just along the main path:
The nets were all 18m, except on the main path where the 18m was joined with a 12m net. I played lure for Redwing on the main path until 10:30 and then Goldcrest until we packed up at 11:30. Funnily enough, all Redwing and Goldcrests were caught in those nets. Apart from a couple of Blue Tits and a Wren also in those nets, the rest of the birds were caught around the feeding station. As I had help with my 2 C-permit holders, they had their own equipment and did all of the processing, whilst I did the data recording. This is a simple way of ensuring that all appropriate Covid-19 precautions can be taken.
The session started brilliantly: two new Marsh Tits were the first birds out of the nets. This takes the year’s total to 22 ringed in the Braydon Forest so far this year, showing that the species is still doing well in our area, especially as one of the strongholds, Ravensroost Woods, has been unavailable to me to work until very recently, due to the site becoming very busy post-lockdown, restricting activity to those small areas that can be closed off from the public.
The Redwing started coming in early on, soon after dawn, and continued throughout the morning in twos and threes. Our catch ended up as follows: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1(1); Nuthatch 3; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 19(16); Great Tit 9(8); Coal Tit 2(2); Marsh Tit 2(3); Wren 2; Robin (1); Redwing 16; Goldcrest 3; Chaffinch 7; Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 66 birds ringed from 12 species and 31 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 97 birds processed from 13 species.
This is my biggest catch of the year so far, and is what happens once you set up feeding stations: fewer nets and more birds from more species, but easier to manage.
Jonny and I had arranged to meet up at Blakehill Farm at 15:00, to set a couple of net sets to try luring for Redwing and Starling coming in to roost. As usual, Jonny was late, his reason (excuse): to pass the time he had gone over to the Cotswold Water Park and seen a funny looking bird on one of the lakes. Mind, to be fair, I think if I had been with him we would both have been late: it is a while since I have had the pleasure of watching a Black-necked Grebe.
I was setting the second net set when Jonny arrived. We set the lures going and waited to see what would happen as the light went. The first incident of note: two Woodcock flew over from goodness knows where into one of the fields on the edge of the nearby industrial estate.
It wasn’t long before the Redwing started to arrive and we had a regular catch of a couple of birds each time we checked the nets over the next hour. We didn’t have a huge catch but another 9 Redwing for the day was worthwhile. Unfortunately, the Starling lure drew an absolute blank. Although we do see a lot of them flying around the site, it is clear that they are not roosting in this particular area.
Once the Redwing stopped moving we decided to take down the nets. I sent Jonny off to close them while I moved the car adjacent to them, only for him to come back with an unexpected bonus: a nice male Stonechat. A lovely bird to finish the netting sessions on.
Having cleared away the nets, Jonny got out his thermal imager and we went for a wander around the perimeter track to see if we could locate the Woodcock. We couldn’t. Then we went for a wander over the plateau to see what birdlife we might be able to find out there. I had a hand net and my dazzling torch. Apart from the abundance of Hares, signs of birdlife were very few and far between. In fact, the only bird we found was a Robin roosting in a bush out on the centre of the plateau. We left it in peace.
We then headed over to the ponds, to see if there were any Snipe or Jack Snipe over there that we might dazzle. There weren’t, and so we packed up and went home, leaving site at 18:30.