Quality Over Quantity: Somerford Common West. Wednesday, 9th March 2022

I had planned to try for a session at Blakehill Farm this morning but the weather forecast was for it to be too windy, so I decided to take a chance on the opposite side of Somerford Common from where we were on Saturday. The key difference is that this wood, whilst still mixed to a degree, is largely a mature conifer plantation. Previous catches there have been very variable, both in number and species. From Buzzards to Goldcrests and quite a lot in between.

Having stood and looked at Siskin and Lesser Redpoll in the trees above our feeding station on Saturday, with none ending up in the nets, and Crossbill calling in the conifers, I wondered whether there would be more opportunity to catch them if we went along to that site. We are also much more likely to catch Coal Tits and Goldcrests on that side of the wood, both usually outnumbering even Blue Tits.

I was joined for the morning by Miranda, Anna and Rosie – doing her usual stint if helping set up and hoping to ring a few birds before heading off to work. We met at 6:30 and had the nets set by 7:30.

We set two rides of 3 x 18m nets and one ride of 2 x 18m nets, along two of the major paths through the wood. Lures were set for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Brambling and Goldcrest.

To say that we weren’t busy is an understatement: the first birds weren’t caught until 8:45, an hour and fifteen minutes after we had opened the nets. The first birds came out of the nets furthest west of the ringing station. They were two retrapped Goldcrests originally ringed as youngsters in December 2020. Interestingly, they were a female and a male, and they had consecutive ring numbers: LXL 880 and LXL 881, i.e. they were almost certainly caught together when ringed. To confirm that, I checked the records and found that they were processed at the same time.

Almost immediately afterwards, in the net furthest to the east of the ringing station, we watched as a small flock of five birds flew in. They proved to be two Siskin, two Treecreeper and a Blue Tit. Unfortunately, one of the Siskin managed to escape before we could extract it, but we managed to get the others without mishap. This Siskin, it turned out, is actually our first from this part of the wood. Rosie kindly forewent the offered opportunity to ring it, and gave it to Anna to ring her first ever, before heading off to work.

We then didn’t catch another bird for over an hour. By 9:45 I decided that we would give it another 30 minutes and then pack up. At 9:55 Miranda and Anna both reacted to something that was going on behind me in the western nets. When I turned to have a look there was a small flock of birds hitting the nearer set of nets. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed that they were Siskin: another six of them. They were extracted and processed.

Male Siskin, photo courtesy Miranda Shirnia

Whilst we were doing this another bird flew in: a Robin. It turned out to be our last bird of the morning. The total catch was: Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 1; Robin 1; Goldcrest 1(2); Siskin 7. Totals: 12 birds ringed from 5 species and 2 birds retrapped from 1 species, making 14 birds processed from 5 species.

As I said, not a big catch but to get our first Siskin for the site was extremely satisfying. Equally, the two Treecreeper were only the second and third for this part of the site. No Crossbill (in fact, we didn’t even hear them today) or Lesser Redpoll but still a nice quality catch.

Unfortunately, the wind began to get seriously strong after 10:30 and many of the nets started to blow out, losing their pockets for holding the birds, so we closed the nets, took down and were off site by 11:15.

%d bloggers like this: