The following blog piece has been written by Alice Edney, one of the group’s C-permit holders, currently carrying out her PhD in Oxford – hence the current location of her activities.
At the start of lockdown three, I was determined to attract birds to my urban garden in Oxford. I built a makeshift bird table, topped up the feeders, and waited… And waited! And waited! It was no use.
There were plenty of birds out the front of the house, overhead and in neighbouring gardens, but alas, not a single one came into mine. A combination of next door’s cat and my housemate’s new puppy were clearly more of a deterrent than I had anticipated. I left the feeders up but reluctantly resigned myself to no ringing during lockdown three. (I should note, the puppy is adorable and has done wonders for house happiness during this challenging time, so I can’t really be annoyed about the lack of birds).
When I received an email in mid-February, to say that BTO guidance on bird ringing had changed, I was surprised and excited to say the least. After being granted permission to resume ringing at my local site, Hogacre Common, I planned my first session for the 25th February. Hogacre forms part of my local patch and I have been visiting it somewhat religiously since October and recording the wildlife seen. On the 18th November, I saw my first Lesser Redpoll here, and have had two further sightings since, all being spotted in the same patch of birch trees. On the morning of the 25th, I therefore decided to set up a net amongst the birch in the hope of catching my first Lesser Redpoll at Hogacre. The day previously, I had also seen my first Chiffchaff of the spring here, so I set a net in the area it was seen, along with two others at the feeding station.
The morning started off well, with a lovely little group of Long-tailed Tits along with the usual Blue Tits and Great Tits. Quite honestly, after a two-month ringing hiatus I would have been happy with that. However, at 08:20 one Lesser Redpoll was caught and at 09:50 a Chiffchaff – both firsts for the site.
In total, the morning yielded a modest catch of 22 individuals from 6 species: Blue Tit 5(2), Great Tit 4(1), Long-tailed Tit 1(6), Robin 1, Chiffchaff 1, Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 13 birds ringed from 6 species and 9 birds retrapped from 3 species.
Overall, it was a lovely session, and I was very grateful to be able to get back out. My body, however, said otherwise. The following day every muscle seemed to ache, after a severe lack of exercise during lockdown and then suddenly asking it to lug a load of heavy equipment across a field. I guess I’ll just have to do lots more ringing over the coming weeks to get back in shape! I am excited to discover what species will visit Hogacre this spring.