Ringing Demonstration @ Somerford Common: Saturday, 5th March 2022

Originally scheduled for the 19th February, and postponed for obvious stormy reasons, this morning we ran the Spring ringing demonstration for the Swindon Wildlife Group. This is the first time that we have done this at a Forestry England site. Usually we hold them on Wildlife Trust premises. When I went to fill up the feeding station on Monday, I was treated to a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the trees alongside the road through the wood. On Thursday, when I went to top up the feeders, the large 8 litre feed dispenser was half empty and the trees were full of birds: Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin were all noticeable. So I was hopeful that we would have a wide range of species to show. We set lures for Siskin and Lesser Redpoll at the feeding station nets, and one for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in a net ride we set behind the tree line parallel to the road:

Somerford Common Ringing Setup

The set up was as follows: FS = Feeding Station; RS = Ringing Station; 1 = 18m net; 2 = 12m net; 3 = 18m net; 4 = 18m net; 5 = 1 x 18m net + 1 x 9m net; 6 = 1 x 18m + 1 x 12m net. Nets 1, 3 and 4 all had lures for Siskin and Lesser Redpoll playing; net 6 had the lure for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

I was joined by Ellie, Anna and David for the morning. We met at 6:30 and had all nets open by 7:30, with the birds starting to arrive immediately. The public arrived at 9:00, and we did have birds to show them. Unfortunately, the hoped for finch flocks just did not hit the nets. We were lucky enough to see both Lesser Redpoll and Siskin on site. Indeed, the Siskin were sat in the tree above the feeding station for quite a while. Unfortunately, that was a bit later in the morning, by which time the wind was getting up and the nets were just too obvious, moving in the breeze, and the Siskin were reluctant to come close until we closed the nets. Alongside these species, we could also hear Common Crossbill calling in the conifer stands that have been left within the paddock.

Obviously, as ringers working regularly in woodlands in winter, we do get to handle loads of Blue and Great Tits. When doing a ringing demonstration, we tend to forget that the general public do not have that exposure and they were actually delighted to have the chance to see both species up close.

Our bird of the morning was our third Marsh Tit of the year: one in each month so far. Ironically, the scheduled colour combination for this bird was as follows:

Marsh Tit, AEX0972, showing support for Ukraine?

Unfortunately, both this bird and the retrapped Marsh Tit were caught before the public arrived. Still, we caught birds regularly all morning. I was able to show lots of variety in terms of ageing Blue Tits and Coal Tits, ageing and sexing Great Tits and sexing Nuthatch, as we caught a stunning male, and also why we can’t age them.

Nuthatch photo courtesy Robin Griffiths

When asked if anyone would like to be shown how to safely handle and release a bird, the response was extremely enthusiastic. When that was translated into how many people want to be pecked by a Blue Tit, the enthusiasm was undimmed. That is how it went all morning. From about 11:00 people started to leave, primarily because the temperature had dropped significantly, as the northerly wind started to become a factor, and they were getting cold. However, every single one of them thanked us for a really interesting and enjoyable session so, in that respect, job done. We had, by then, closed the feeding station nets, because they were the most affected by the breeze. Once everyone had left we finished taking down and actually were away from site just before midday.

The list for the morning was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (1); Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 16(11); Great Tit 9(3), Coal Tit 2(1); Marsh Tit 1(1); Dunnock 1; Robin 1. Totals: 31 birds ringed from 7 species and 17 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 48 birds processed from 8 species.

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