Somerford Common: Saturday, 12th June 2021

It has been a long time since I have managed to get onto Somerford Common again. The last session was on the 10th April, so I was pleased that the weather was perfect for this morning. I was joined by David for the session, with a 5:00 start. We set up along the rides that border our winter feeding station. The net setup was slightly different to our usual summer layout:

The green areas are now full of brush and young trees and have changed the structure of the area so, going from the left, the 18m / 12m combo was put in its usual place along the edge of the paddock / coppice area. Usually there would be another 18m / 12m combo leading up the hill to the crossroads along that same border. However, this time we started further down and on the opposite side of the path, so that it ran along the edge of the scrub area and used a 3 x 18m combo. I abandoned the 3 x 18m combo on the north side of the crossroads because it now resembles a shaded avenue, very dark and enclosed, but kept the 3 x 18m combo to the south of the crossroads.

The first round got us very excited about the possibilities for the session, with a good catch. Unfortunately, the initial round of 8 birds (4 in the new net ride) was not replicated, with just ones and twos in each round. However, of the 4 birds taken out of the new net ride we had two of these:

Our first 2 Marsh Tit juveniles of the year! Absolutely delighted, especially given the dearth of young Blue and Great Tits so far this year. In fact, I have caught as many juvenile Marsh Tits and juvenile Blue Tits and one more than I have juvenile Great Tits! The largest number of juvenile Marsh Tits we have caught in June before is a paltry 2 – so we have matched this already.

The catch was reasonably varied for the time of year in this woodland: Marsh Tit [2]; Robin 4[3]; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 1(1); Blackcap 3; Garden Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 4; Willow Warbler 4(1). Totals: 18 adult birds ringed from 7 species and 5 juvenile birds ringed from 2 species plus 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 25 birds processed from 8 species.

All of the adult birds caught were in full breeding condition but one of the male Willow Warblers was already in wing moult, which usually signals the end of their interest in breeding i.e. it is usually referred to as post-breeding moult:

The first wildlife we saw this morning was actually a dead insectivore, a Common Shrew:

There didn’t seem to be any signs of predation unless those two dark spots represent talon marks from a Tawny Owl or similar. I am told (I haven’t tried it) that shrews are not particularly good to eat – so perhaps an owl grabbed it and flew off, then recognised what it was and just dropped it – it was in the middle of a path completely out in the open.

The other find of interest was a plant, a Great Butterfly Orchid:

I first found them on the site about 5 years ago, which I think (given the reaction from both the Wildlife Trust and Forestry England) was an unusual record for the site, but I haven’t found any for the last 3, so I was really pleased to find this one this morning.

With the birds hiding in the shade from 11:00, we started taking down at 11:30 and were off site by just gone midday. A good, relaxed session, given the lack of any Blue or Great Tits. At one point we did hear a small flock of Long-tailed Tits flying around, but that was over our heads at the ringing station and didn’t translate into a catch in the nets.

Some good news: the Wildlife Trust has agreed that I can resume ringing within Ravensroost Woods, using two specified rides (R27 and R38 respectively). I cannot wait to get back in there. My agreement is that I will not work in there at weekends, theirs is that I can block off access to the rides when I am working there, to prevent interference from members of the public coming across my equipment and vandalising it and / or (more importantly) damaging birds in the nets.

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