Two Worrying Sessions: 8th & 9th July 2021

I was excited: back into Ravensroost Wood after 6 months away. Really looking forward to it. On Wednesday I went down to site and cleared the ride that I was going to use. There are some restrictions as to where I can work but we have agreed a number of the paths through the site where I can set my nets. One of the downsides of lockdown has been the massive increase in footfall through the nature reserve and, to avoid incidents, I have been working in areas on Wiltshire Wildlife Trust sites that are either not open to the public or where I can prevent access. This is as a result of the vandalism done to my nets back in July of last year. They got away lightly, paying £100 to replace my net in order to avoid going to court and getting a criminal record. However, their actions brought to a halt a project that had been running for 9 years, providing valuable information on the changes to the birdlife at the site as a result of the coppicing activities there. There is no compensation for that.

Whilst I will still be avoiding Ravensroost Wood at weekends, it has been agreed that I can return there on weekdays and that I can put up “No Entry” signs at either end of the net rides, to (hopefully) prevent unwanted, and unwarranted, interference. So on Thursday morning I arrived on site just after 6:00 and had my nets open by 6:30 and sat down to wait to see what would arrive. The first bird arrived at 7:25: it was a Song Thrush. Second in the nets was a Blackbird, which was caught at 8:35. Thereafter: nothing – not another bird so at 9:35 I decided to take down and go home. I am not sure what this says about the birds in Ravensroost Wood this year. We know it has been difficult for Blue and Great Tits but, to be honest, they are not the primary catch there at this time of year. It is usually Blackcap and Chiffchaff, with the odd Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker or Garden Warbler thrown in for good measure.

So to Lower Moor Farm this (Friday) morning for CES7. I was already concerned, as my last CES session there delivered only 38 birds compared to 96 in the equivalent session in 2019 (I was unable to carry out the CES last year due to restrictions on activity imposed by the BTO in response to Covid-19).

CES7 in 2019 delivered 86 birds, made up as follows: Treecreeper [1]; Blue Tit 1[3](1); Great Tit [2]; Long-tailed Tit (2); Wren [10](4); Robin [3](1); Song Thrush 1(1); Blackbird 1; Cetti’s Warbler [5](2); Blackcap [19](5); Garden Warbler [2]; Whitethroat 1[1]; Lesser Whitethroat [2]; Chiffchaff 1[14](2); Willow Warbler 1. Totals: 6 adults ringed from 6 species, 62 juveniles ringed from 11 species and 18 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 86 birds processed from 15 species.

So how did CES7 in 2021 compare? Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit [2]; Great Tit [1]; Dunnock [1](1); Robin [2]; Blackbird (1); Cetti’s Warbler [1]; Blackcap 1(1); Whitethroat (1); Chiffchaff (2); Bullfinch [1]. Totals: 1 adult ringed, 8 juveniles ringed from 6 species and 7 birds retrapped from 6 species, making a total of 16 birds processed from 11 species. These are worrying results: where are the Blackcap and Chiffchaff young? Did the adults keep moving in May, to get away from the bad weather, or did their first broods fail? Hard to know, unless we get some retrap information on Lower Moor ringed birds being caught elsewhere. Hopefully there will be an improvement with second and possibly third broods.

I hate to be unremittingly negative so let’s finish on some high notes, my first juvenile Bullfinch of 2021:

My second juvenile Cetti’s Warbler of the year:

I don’t know where that odd feather came from!

And a lovely Marsh Orchid – the only one that I found on the site:

It was a darker purple than the photo shows – I have tried to enhance it but failed. Must dump the phone and take the proper equipment!
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