Webb’s Wood: Saturday, 15th January 2022

It is a bit weird when one of your team is welcoming starting 30 minutes earlier, because it means they might get an opportunity to ring a few birds. That is the way it was this morning when Rosie, Adam and me met at Webb’s Wood.

Rosie, bless her cottons, came to help set up once again, before heading off at 8:30 to supervise volunteers hedge laying at Blakehill Farm. At least this time she got to process a few more birds than usual: a Robin, two Great Tits and three Redwing. We changed the net setup a little from the last session, and it worked.

I changed the single 6m net to a 9m at the feeding station and reinstated the 2 x 18m net run along the trackside. I could do the latter because Forestry England have been in tidying up the trackside vegetation. We put a lure for Lesser Redpoll in the feeding station area; a lure for Redwing on the 3 x 18m run, a lure for Lesser Redpoll and Siskin on the 2 x 18m run adjacent to the feeding station and the same on the trackside nets.

Adam and I then spent a slightly chilly morning, checking the nets on a very regular basis, every 10 minutes or so, so that no birds spent any time in the nets in the cold. Frustratingly, a Great Spotted Woodpecker spent less time in the nets than any other bird because three times it got into the net, and three times extracted itself before Adam could get to it (he runs, I don’t).

With the nets opened by 7:40, the birds started to arrive pretty well straight away. Between then and 9:20 we caught 27 birds, including all seven of the Redwing that came to the lure, plus our first Lesser Redpoll of the session. The next two hours each produced another 13 birds, leading to our total catch of 53.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 11(9); Great Tit 3(6); Coal Tit 1; Marsh Tit (1); Robin 2(3); Redwing 7; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 2; Lesser Redpoll 7. Totals: 34 birds ringed from 8 species and 19 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 53 birds processed from 9 species.

Although we did catch and ring two Chaffinch, unfortunately the first one I extracted had to be released unringed, as it was badly affected by the Fringilla papillomavirus. Its legs were in pretty poor condition and extracting its legs without inflicting damage was a long and protracted operation. I have seen rather more of it in the last 6 months than I had in the previous 3 years. It is a worrying development.

The lures worked well, except the Siskin call. On a couple of occasions we had good sized flocks of Siskin fly into the trees around the feeding station, but we didn’t manage to attract a single bird down into the nets. However, what isn’t working for Siskin is definitely working for Lesser Redpoll. This winter so far has been the best so far for this species in the Braydon Forest, as the following table shows:

The definition of each column is October / November / December of the prior year and January / February / March of the following year. As you can see, with two and a half months to go, this winter has been the most productive we have ever had in the Braydon Forest. I probably shouldn’t include 2012/13, as I was still finding my way around most of the sites, having not long gained my C-permit so I could strike out into my own sites. Key to the increase this year is the improved catch in Webb’s Wood. Prior to this winter there had been just 15 Lesser Redpoll caught there, this winter there have been 33 processed so far. The thinning of the wood is the only difference that I can see.

About 11:00 a cold mist started to arrive. Adam and I started to shut the nets just after we had processed our 11:30 round, and were off site by 12:45 – heading home for some warmth!

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