Back In The Bog: the Firs, Wednesday, 23rd February 2022

After two weeks of ringing inactivity, due to that unprecedented run of storms, I decided to kick off our activities again with a trip to the Firs. This was because the forecasts still suggested that there would be a gusting south-westerly wind. With the rides at the Firs running north to south, the wood offers better protection from the wind, when it is coming from that direction, than any of the other sites.

I was joined for the morning by Rosie, Miranda and Jonny. We set the usual nets down the central glade. Astonishingly, at first sight there was no sign of damage from the storms in the central glade. However, as we were setting the 12m net behind the feeding station, Rosie said “Has that tree always leaned that way?”. A mature tree, which my net runs in front of, with a near 1m diameter is now only staying upright because a couple of other trees are blocking its passage to the ground. Fortunately, it is falling away from our ringing area.

I ventured into the wood yesterday to top up the feeding station, having taken the sensible pills and not headed out whilst the wind was so fierce. Having watched the local news showing a film of the spire of St Thomas’ Church in Wells falling as a result of the winds, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Unsurprisingly, after all of the rain, the Firs had reverted to its local name: the Braydon Bog. It was filthy underfoot so I advised everybody that wellies were essential.

We arrived on site at 7:00 to find that the weather was better than forecast. In fact, the wind didn’t start gusting until we started to take down at 11:00. That was a definite bonus. Rosie managed to get a good number of birds processed before heading off to work, leaving the three of us to manage the rest of the morning.

The catch was exactly as expected: lots of Blue and Great Tits and more recaptures than new birds (28 to 21). There were two highlights for me: the fourth ever Lesser Redpoll for the site. Our first two there were caught in November 2016, then we had no more until our last session in the Firs, just about the last bird out of the net that day and another singleton this morning.

The second was a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. I thought that the ring number looked old so I logged in to the on-line system and did a search on that bird. It turned out that it was ringed as a second year bird on the 18th February 2017. This makes it a bird in its seventh year. Okay, it has another 4 years 3 months and a few days to go to get to the longevity record, but it is the oldest that my team has recovered so far.

The list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (3); Nuthatch (2); Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 10(9); Great Tit 7(8); Coal Tit (3); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit 2; Dunnock (1); Lesser Redpoll 1. Totals: 21 birds ringed from 5 species and 28 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 49 birds processed from 10 species.

With the number of birds declining as the morning wore on, and the wind beginning to get up, at just before 11:00 I announced that the next round would be the last, and we would shut the nets as we emptied them. Usually at the Firs that is a signal for a large influx of birds to hit the nets. This morning it didn’t! We had another 8 birds, not as many as usual, which is normally multiples of ten. As a result, we had the nets down and everything cleaned away by just after midday.

That got me home in time to unpack the replacement Barn Owl boxes that have, finally, arrived, for me to now work hard over the next couple of weeks to get them all erected. Many thanks to my wife for her help in getting the boxes sorted out and stored ready to go.

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