Somerford Blues: Saturday, 11th December 2021

With grovelling apologies to Eddie Cochran:

Not gonna raise a fuss, not gonna raise a holler
But I gotta say something, cos I’m hot under the collar!
I went to the site to do my winter CES
And what I found was this terrible mess
I don’t know what I’m a gonna do, cos there ain’t no cure for the Somerford blues

No place for birds to perch, no place for them to shelter
No place for them to hide from any avian predator
There was just this open devastation
With nothing here to hide my feeding station
I don’t know what I’m a gonna do, cos there ain’t no cure for the Somerford blues

This is what has prompted my terrible verses (and rhyming “shelter” with “predator” should be a capital offence):

This happened between my last session there on the 28th November and when I went to top up the feeding station on Thursday. I was told by Forestry England that the management plan for this area was to be coppiced on an 8 year cycle, but this has been stripped, not even 4 years since it was first done. The exceptions to the clearance being a few straggly bits of Blackthorn, which have been identified as having Brown Hairstreak eggs on them, as well as the established guard trees and the Silver Birch within which my feeding station is set up.

I notified the BTO that I might have to drop the site from the CES trial and, unfortunately, today’s results have confirmed that it cannot continue. To get any sort of decent catch there this winter I am going to have to change the net positions, to incorporate some more cover to protect the birds and make the feeding station a more attractive proposition. To be honest, though, my biggest disappointment is that the place was looking perfect for Garden Warblers next year. Way back in 2008, before I started ringing, I surveyed this site for the BTO’s revised Bird Atlas and, with the vegetation at a similar height and structure to what was in place before this week, my two summer / breeding season visits showed good numbers of Garden Warbler in that area and I was hoping for a repeat.

I was joined for the session by Anna, although she had to leave the session early, but she didn’t miss much. The list from the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Blue Tit 1(8); Great Tit 2(6); Coal Tit 1(2); Marsh Tit (3); Dunnock (1); Robin (1); Blackbird 1; Chaffinch 2. Totals: 7 birds ringed from 5 species and 22 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 29 birds processed from 9 species.

One thing that Jonny Cooper and I recently discussed was how frequently we recapture birds with consecutive ring numbers weeks, months and years after they were ringed. For example, today we caught three Blue Tits, with the ring numbers AAL0006, AAL0007 and AAL0008. They were all ringed on the 30th December 2019 at Somerford Common. Numbers 6 and 8 have been recaptured separately on 2 and 4 occasions respectively, but this is the first time they have all been recaptured together and it is almost 2 years since they were ringed. We also caught consecutively numbered Great Tits: PF36524 and PF36525. Not only were their numbers consecutive, but they were close together and in the same net. One is a male, the other a female: do Great Tits form lasting breeding pairs? I have found papers that say that male Great Tits will seek to pair bond early, prior to the breeding season but to catch two birds, ringed at the same time on the same date and recovered, as outlined above, at the same time in the same net. This suggests a multi-season pair bond.

One other interesting catch was a juvenile male Blackbird with a bald spot and a single white feather but, attached to its scalp, at the base of that feather, was a fat and well-fed tick:

I closed the nets at 11:30 and took down and left site by just gone midday – the benefit of only setting six nets.

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