Sometimes It Is Hard Work: The Firs, Tuesday, 14th December 2021

Ellie Jones and I had planned to ring in the Firs on Sunday. As I arrived on site I got a text from Jonny Cooper advising that there had been an outbreak of bird flu in the local area, so I cancelled the session just in case we were within the restricted zone. The BTO, sensibly, err on the side of caution and don’t allow ringing within the 10km surveillance zone. On checking, two of my sites: my back garden and Blakehill Farm are within the zone and Red Lodge is partially within it, although not the area that I work within.

On a whim, I decided to carry out the missed session at the Firs this morning. The Firs is rather deceptive: it looks easy, but it has a considerable slope from the car park to the central glade where I set my nets. When there is a group of you working it isn’t too bad but when you are working solo it is one heck of a cardio-vascular workout, and I am not getting any younger. Add in to that, the catch today was the third largest I have had anywhere this year, and those other two were with a team to share the load: it was a heavy session.

Having arrived on site just after 7:00, I had the nets open quite quickly and put a lure on for Redwing on the bottom nets. This gave a quick initial return of six in the net just after 8:00. That was all of them that I caught – but it is the second largest catch I have had in the Firs (although well short of the 24 caught in on the same day in 2014).

As usual, with a feeding station set up the catch was Blue and Great Tit heavy but, with 12 species in the catch, it was a decent variety: Nuthatch (1); Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 21(12); Great Tit 10(5); Coal Tit 1(1); Wren 2(3); Dunnock 1(1); Robin 1(1); Redwing 6; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 2(1); Chaffinch 1. Totals: 47 birds ringed from 11 species and 25 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 72 birds processed from 12 species.

Unexpectedly for both parties, I was joined just before 11:00 by one of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Adult Well-Being groups, so I spent the next hour-and-a-half showing the attendees a variety of species up close, explaining about the ringing scheme and what happens with all of the data. They loved watching me get pecked by the Blue and Great Tits and the tiny Goldcrests but the bird that they all showed the most appreciation for was this:


It was its demeanour: it held itself as though it was so much above our shenanigans.

I shut the nets as I emptied them, starting at just before 11:30. As is par for the course in the Firs, this last round yielded another 21 birds, mainly Blue Tits, and so I didn’t end up leaving site until 13:30.

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