One year on from the first lockdown, we have been pretty busy. The lockdown / Covid-19 requirements have certainly changed the team dynamic, with far more solo work going on. As we currently have 6 C-permit holders and 3 A-permit holders there is a lot of scope for ringing sessions. That said, we carried out only 5 more sessions than in March of last year. Looking back to last year’s records, we were confined to barracks after the 23rd March, so we had most of the month to get out to our usual sites. Last March was our best since the 2013 split, and this March was better than that. Here are the results:
Whilst the average ringed per session was down, the number of retraps were considerably higher. The significant numbers seem to be the increase in retrapped Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. Whilst I am always surprised at just how many new Blue and Great Tits we catch in the woods over winter, given how regularly those woodlands are ringed throughout the year, I noticed the change in proportion of retraps with my sessions, and particularly with Great Tits at the Firs and Red Lodge, and then Jonny’s sessions at Green Lane Wood and Meadow Farm tell the same story.
There was a significant difference in the numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcap arriving on site between last year and this. In March 2020 we had just the two Blackcaps, in March 2019 we had one and in March 2018 none at all. What was particularly pleasing was catching a female at Lower Moor Farm yesterday. That is the earliest I have caught one at any of my sites. Jonny also caught one at his Meadow Farm site the same day, and one at Green Lane Wood on the 29th. I think we can be confident that these last two birds were birds arriving (comparatively low body weights) as opposed to over-wintering birds about to leave. Andrew caught a female in his garden on 7th of this month but she weighed in at 21.2g, which suggests she was fattened up ready to leave. Similarly Jonny had one in his parent’s garden on the 24/03/2020 and that also weighed in at over 20g (20.1g). in fact, his one in Green Lane Wood weighed in at 19.8g: incoming or outgoing? His Meadow Farm bird weighed in at 15.4g and my Lower Moor Farm bird at 17.7g, which suggests arrivals for this breeding season.
As far as the Chiffchaffs go, this is also our best March catch:
Let’s hope for a decent breeding season for both of these species. Their numbers have definitely been down at Lower Moor Farm and in the Forest over recent years.
There was a nice increase in the numbers of Treecreeper and Song Thrush. On a bit of a trend: our best March for Treecreeper.
This is quite surprising given that two sites where Treecreeper is a regular catch are currently off limits: I am not working in Ravensroost Wood, because of the huge increase in footfall in the wood since people started using it for their lockdown walks, nor Webb’s Wood, because they are carrying out a massive thinning exercise and the track is only passable with a high clearance off-road vehicle.
Spring has arrived – hopefully next month will see an expansion in the number and variety of species in our sites.