The Firs: Wednesday, 2nd February 2022

A nice, easy session in the Firs this morning, with a decent variety of species for this small woodland. I was joined for the morning by Miranda and for the early part of the session by Rosie. We only set 7 nets: 2 x 3 x 18m along the main glade and 1 x 12m behind the feeding station. Starting at 7:00, we had the nets open by 7:45 and extracted the first couple of birds as we returned to the ringing station. The first bird out of the net was an adult, female Chaffinch.

Having the nets open early meant that Rosie got to process a few birds before leaving to get to work, some hedge laying at Lower Moor Farm. Miranda has just recently started extracting birds from the nets. This morning I let her into the wonderful world of extracting Blue Tits. From the continuous pecking, the grabbing great claws full of net, twisting, double-pocketing and exploiting any small holes left unrepaired in the nets, they are the ultimate test of whether someone is going to make it as a ringer. She acquitted herself very well.

My training philosophy on extraction is simple: it is the only part of the process that can cause harm to the bird, so all of my trainees are told to do what they are comfortable with, and if they are at all concerned or having difficulty with any particular bird, to shout for help. I don’t subscribe to macho “carry on at all costs”, as that way birds can be hurt. Nor do I subscribe to the “you must do the feet and legs first, then the wings, then the head” as was the then mantra of my first trainer (that was a long time ago, so he might have changed since then – I hope so). For so many birds it is just not appropriate. If I can ringer’s grip a bird and lift it out of the net, that’s what I will do. Most often I “unwrap” a bird: lift it out by the thighs, then clear left foot and leg, left wing, head, right wing, right foot and leg, or vice versa. We must be doing something right because extraction injuries to our birds are an extremely rare occurrence (I cannot remember the last time it happened).

It was a very decent session for a small woodland: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Nuthatch 1(2); Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 8(4); Great Tit 3(7); Long-tailed Tit 2; Dunnock 1(1); Robin 1(2); Blackbird 3; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1; Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 24 birds ringed from 12 species and 17 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 41 birds processed from 13 species.

The Lesser Redpoll was a nice surprise. Although we have been catching them in the other woodlands around the Braydon Forest, it is only the third ever caught here, and only the second occasion they have been caught in the wood: the other two were caught in November 2016. This bird was a juvenile / second year male. I took this photo to show the pink spotting on the breast that led me to identify it as a male. For the life of me, I cannot see a single one in the photo. Where did they go? No idea – hiding under other feathers presumably:

We worked out that each round involved a walk of some 800m, from the ringing station to the end of the net rides and back again. In 4 hours we will carry out a minimum of 8 rounds, plus the 2 walks erecting and then taking down the net rides: 8km per session. That’s pretty decent exercise for an old man! Today we closed the nets at 11:45, packed away and left site at about 12:30.

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