The Kindness Of Strangers: Ravensroost Wood, Thursday, 9th June 2022

It has been a long while since I have been back into Ravensroost Wood. In fact, the last date I was there was St George’s Day, when we had a fairly disappointing catch of just nine birds ringed and five recaptured. Six of those were new adult Blackcaps, so not totally disappointing. I had planned to go Wednesday but the winds were just too fierce for setting nets. Today was scheduled to be dry until the afternoon, and with little wind. They nearly got it right: the first drops of rain proper hit my head just as I was closing up the car, having packed away. There was the odd spit of rain during the morning, but it never developed into anything that could be called a shower.

Rosie joined me at 6:00 and we set up three rides: 3 x 18m and 1 x 18m + 1 x 12m to the east of the main path and 3 x 18m to the west of the main path. Given the way the catch went, the western side will have a lot more net than the east next time. Those three nets caught 75% of the catch. As Rosie didn’t have to leave until 8:40 to get to work this morning, I let her ring almost all of the birds we caught between opening and when she had to leave. Today she got to ring a dozen birds before heading off: including the opportunity to colour ring her first Marsh Tit. It also happened to be the first juvenile Marsh Tit that we have caught this year:

Juvenile Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris

As I said, I didn’t let Rosie do quite all of the birds: when we caught a second juvenile Marsh Tit I did that myself. What was nice about both catches is that they came from opposite ends of our net setup. The likelihood that there are two Marsh territories in that area is nicely underpinned by where we caught these two recently-fledged youngsters.

After Rosie left the birds kept coming and this is where the post title comes from. I was joined by a photographer, Paul, who was very interested in what I was doing. We chatted whilst I processed some birds, I told him about the ringing scheme, how it works, and the costs associated with carrying out this work. He accompanied me on a net round, so he could see how birds are caught and watched me extract a Great Tit and a Chiffchaff, which I then processed. He went on his way but, before leaving, slipped a £10 note under my weigh scales to put towards my next ring purchases. I was taken aback, and very grateful. Totally unexpected generosity from someone I didn’t know. Anyway, he will be joining me on occasion again in the future.

It was a really decent catch, as well as the first juvenile Marsh Tits of the year I also caught my first juvenile Willow Warblers of the year:

juvenile Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus

In total there were four juvenile Willow Warblers processed. Two of them had me worried, nothing to do with their health, but they had 60mm wings. Those are the shortest wing lengths that I have personally recorded on a Willow Warbler. For a short while I was wondering if they could by a Willow – Chiffchaff hybrid. However, as you can see from the photo below, the 6th primary was not emarginated, so definitely Willow Warbler. The BTO Ringers Info app came in very handy for a quick reference, backed up by both Svensson & Demongin, in which the bottom end of the wing length range for a Willow Warbler is 58mm.

Willow Warbler wing showing lack of emargination at P6

The list for today was: Treecreeper [1]; Blue Tit [2]; Great Tit [1]; Marsh Tit [2]; Long-tailed Tit [7]; Wren 1(1); Robin [10](2); Blackbird 2; Blackcap 3[3]; Garden Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 2[1](1); Willow Warbler 1[4]; Chaffinch 2; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 14 adults ringed from 8 species; 31 juveniles ringed from 9 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 49 birds processed from 14 species.

I closed the nets at 11:20 and left site an hour later, just as the rain started properly, after a thoroughly satisfying session: even the three dog walkers had their dogs on their leads!

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