Two Sides of Somerford Common: Friday, 5th and Sunday, 7th March 2021

Somerford Common is my favourite woodland in the winter: I have a feeding station set up in the paddock on the east of Stoppers Hill Road and that is where I do most sessions. The paddock is a coppiced area with stands of Silver Birch and the odd conifer, as well as the Hazel coppice. However, to the west of the same road is a large commercial conifer plantation. We don’t ring there often but when we do it can be surprisingly good (two Buzzards in one session, for example) and is usually an excellent site for Coal Tit and Goldcrest. Indeed, at my last session on this part of the site, last December, of 31 birds caught 13 were Coal Tits and 11 were Goldcrests and only 2 were Blue Tits. To encourage birds to congregate in an area suitable for setting our nets, I set up a feeding station on that side of the wood on Monday, 1st March. The feeding stations (stars) and relative net positions (black lines) for both sessions are marked on the diagram below:

On Friday morning, Jonny, Steph and Lillie joined me for a session in the conifer planation area. We set two 6m nets either side of the feeding station and two sets of 3 x 18m nets along the ride in front of the feeding station. Unfortunately, it seems that the birds we were after had deserted that corner of the wood. It was a very small catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 4(1); Great Tit 5; Coal Tit 4(1). Totals: 15 birds ringed from 5 species and 2 birds recaptured from 2 species, making a mere 17 birds processed from 5 species.

It was good for Lillie, who got to process her first Great Spotted Woodpecker. Apart from that the only highlight was the Ravens that were touring around the wood, hopefully looking for a nest site.

After doing some preparatory work at Blakehill Farm for the Braydon Forest Curlew project, Jonny stopped off at the coppice area to see what was still making use of the site. Although I had been out five times in the previous seven days, he having seen an unringed Brambling and a couple of unringed Marsh Tits, I let Jonny persuade me that it might be worth another go at the site today, Sunday. Jonny and I were joined by Lucy for the morning and we set up our usual nets, as described in previous posts.

The catch was not as varied as I had hoped, but it was not that the birds weren’t around: they were, but they weren’t coming down to the nets, either to the lures or the feeding station. Whilst sitting waiting, and watching, we had excellent views of a couple of flocks of Lesser Redpoll. Unfortunately, that is all we had: good views. They stayed up high and then flew off. I also had excellent views of a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Definitely a pair: a male and a female, flying into a large Oak tree and foraging together through the branches. They were the second and the third of the morning, as Jonny was busy extracting another one from the nets at the same time. Interestingly, the bird he was extracting was the female Great Spotted Woodpecker that Lillie ringed on Friday.

The list for the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Blue Tit 3(3); Great Tit 5(5); Coal Tit 1; Marsh Tit (3); Wren (1); Dunnock (1); Song Thrush 1; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 3; Bullfinch (1). Totals: 14 birds ringed from 6 species and 15 birds recaptured from 7 species, making 29 birds processed from 11 species.

Although it did warm up latterly, the activity never really warmed up in the way that it did at Red Lodge yesterday, and the birds just didn’t come in to the feeders as expected. As the catch numbers went to single figures, we did our last round at 11:30 and were away from site just after midday.

This will most likely be my last session until next weekend: tomorrow’s weather is okay but the car is off the road and it is looking wet and windy until next weekend.

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