After an eight day hiatus it was good to get back out into the woods and to do some ringing. It is that time of year when the catches are at their smallest and, often, the least varied. The winter visitors are making their way back to their breeding grounds and the summer visitors are on their way, but are only arriving in small numbers at the moment. That was the case today. Not that I am complaining.
As I was working solo, I only set 5 nets: 2 x 2 x 18m nets down the main ride in front of the feeding station and a 12m net behind it.
Whilst I was setting up I had the good fortune to hear a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming. I managed to work out which tree it was in, and then got good views of it flying to another tree and resume drumming. Even more exciting, it got an answer from the other side of the wood.
Over the course of the next couple of hours I also had excellent views of a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, as well as their persistent drumming. Interestingly, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers did not start up until after the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers had finished. Almost all morning two Green Woodpeckers were trading “yaffles” from either side of the wood. I did put on a lure for Green Woodpecker but, if I can anthropomorphise for a moment, I suspect both of them decided they were happy with what they had and couldn’t be bothered to investigate this stranger.
The first bird out of the nets this morning was a recaptured Marsh Tit. Always nice to know that they have survived the winter. This bird was ringed in February 2020. At mid-morning I met a birder, Brian Piercey, who has been fairly regularly spending time at the Firs, and we had a good chat about lots of things but Marsh Tits in this wood was a key part of that. It really has improved as a habitat for them since the Trust opened up the central glade and thinned some of the side areas. I told him about my colour ringing scheme. Brian went off for a wander and when he came back reported that he had managed to identify the colour rings on a Marsh Tit. You can guess can’t you: the same bird that I processed first thing. I am pretty confident that there are at least three territories in the Firs. Brian has expressed an interest in joining a few more sessions. He had a taste of ringing a few years ago, perhaps it is time to have another go.
There was then a steady progression of small numbers of Blue and Great Tits, broken only by a Treecreeper, a Robin, a couple of Coal Tits and some Chaffinches. The list for the day was: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 8(13); Great Tit 4(14); Coal Tit (2); Marsh Tit (1); Robin 1; Chaffinch 2(1). Totals: 16 birds ringed from 5 species and 31 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 47 birds processed from 7 species.
When Brian came back from one of his circuits of the reserve he mentioned that there were still some Redwing hanging around at the bottom of the wood. I put on a lure, to see if they could be enticed in but, as the catch shows, they weren’t interested.
The Firs is the best exercise that I get these days. Trudging up and down that hill, through the mud, a 500m round trip, fifteen or more times, is hard work. I estimate it at approximately 15,000 steps per session: not bad for an old, unfit ringer.