I have been avoiding Red Lodge since the 10th December as a large part of it is inside the 10km Avian Flu surveillance zone after an outbreak on a farm at Castle Eaton. Blakehill Farm was inside the zone and part of Red Lodge was also. Although my ringing site was actually about 400m outside of the zone, I thought to err on the side of caution. I removed my feeding station for the duration. However, there have been no further outbreaks and I am conscious that I am getting high retrap volumes at my other sites. I like retraps, that is where the science is, but I am also aware that I don’t want to visit any of my sites more than once per month. So, on that basis, I decided to reopen the feeding station at Red Lodge on Monday and ring there today.
I was joined for the session by Rosie, doing her usual of helping set up before heading off to work, and Miranda. Fortunately, this time Rosie got the chance to ring nine birds before heading off. Not only that, she didn’t have to handle a single Blue Tit. When you see the make up of the entire catch you will realise how lucky she was!
I should have realised straight away that we were in for a titmouse heavy session: both peanut feeders had been emptied in less than two days and the seed feeder had hardly been touched. I am aware that the Grey Squirrels are likely to be taking a proportion of the peanuts, but we didn’t see one at all this morning. Of 40 birds caught, 24 were Blue Tits, 7 Great Tits and 3 Coal Tits.
We were joined at 9:30 by mum Jenny and her two tiny tots George and Lily, so they could see some birds at close range. They were lovely children, and didn’t moan at all about the cold breeze that was making the adults feel much less than comfortable. They stayed with us for an hour-and-a-half, during which we managed to show them a few species other than just Blue Tits, including the solitary Lesser Redpoll we managed to catch. After they left we did our last round and I made the fatal mistake of voicing that fact. Needless to say, Miranda and I extracted another 11 Blue Tits and 2 Great Tits!
The list for the day was: Blue Tit 19(5); Great Tit 6(1); Coal Tit 1(2); Dunnock 1; Robin 1(2); Song Thrush 1; Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 7 species and 10 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 40 birds processed from 7 species.
The only unusual bird in our catch this morning was this juvenile Blue Tit:
As you can see, its left foot is badly deformed, with just one claw. I have no idea what might have caused this, but one does hear about these sorts of injuries being the result of claws getting bound by hairs used to line the nest. I will make the point, because ignorant people have tried it on before, we ring birds on the right leg, not the left, so this injury has nothing to do with our bird ringing activities. We did, however, ring it, and I hope we catch it again in the next couple of years, to see if it has survived. It was certainly at an average weight for Blue Tits at this time of year, so seems to be coping.
We packed up and left site by 12:45.