Wind Stopped Play: Ravensroost Wood, Saturday, 23rd April 2022

Today we had a ringing demonstration arranged within Ravensroost Wood for the Swindon Wildlife Group, affiliated with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. We knew that there would be a good turnout, as it was sold out twice over. I was joined by Jonny, David and Anna for the morning: just as well as I am unable to walk much at the moment and they could do all the hard work whilst I sat, drank coffee and did the presentations. We set up 7 x 18m and 2 x 12m nets split between rides R28 and R38:

Coupe V was coppiced this winter, with coupe X at the 6 year growth stage, making a decent backdrop to the open land. Coupes U1 and T2 are at that stage where they are above head height but still seem a bit sparse. The other main change is that the rides were opened last year, to make them wider and drier, approximately 2m wide.

We had people arriving for 9:00, so didn’t start horribly early, meeting at 6:30 and getting the nets up and open by 7:45, when we caught the first bird. As the visitors started to arrive we were lucky enough to get a reasonable catch of birds. I always forget, because we handle so many birds and see so many close up, just how exciting it is for general members of the public to see birds up close.

When they are getting excellent views of Blue Tit, Wren, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, learning identification and ageing techniques, and how to safely hold and release birds, it becomes an exciting event for them. As, at this time of year, we can also show them how to identify the sexes of sexually monomorphic species. With Blue Tit, Robin and Blackcap showing well-developed brood patches and male Blue Tits, Blackcaps and Wrens with the well developed engorgement of their cloaca, their cloacal protuberances, to use the appropriate language, their “willies” for the children amongst the adults, the audience was extremely satisfied with what they saw,

That is just as well as, unfortunately, at 10:30 the wind really started to get up and I had to decide that the conditions were too dangerous and we shut the nets and called an early halt to the demonstration.

It was a shame, as there was so much bird song around: particularly excellent numbers of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and, with better weather conditions, we could well have had an excellent catch. In the event we caught: Blue Tit 2(1); Wren (2); Robin (1); Blackbird 1; Blackcap 6; Chiffchaff (1). Totals: 9 birds ringed from 3 species and 5 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 14 birds processed from 6 species.

So, despite the low numbers, everybody thanked us for giving them such an enjoyable, educational and exciting session. The team then spent the next hour extracting nets from foliage (thank goodness for the absence of Blackthorn, and the abundance of Hazel) and packing away. We left site at about 11:30, disappointed that we couldn’t do more, delighted that the paying public felt they had their money’s worth (the money goes to the Swindon Wildlife Group, who disburse it according to whatever their current priorities are – sometimes that is us, not today however, but I am certainly not complaining, I like working with them and they have been very generous to me and the team in the recent past.)

Just a quick update: since this session we have had more emails than ever before thanking us for giving them the experience, the detailed explanations on ageing and sexing but, particularly, for enabling the children to get hands on experience of holding and releasing those few birds where we allowed it. Chiffchaffs are off limits because they are so delicate.

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