Webb’s Wood: Friday, 30th September 2022

It has been an age since I made my way into one of the Forestry England woodlands. After not getting out on Wednesday, not that I am complaining about spending time in the garden, I wanted to get into the woods. As I was going to be working solo, I decided that Webb’s Wood would be the best bet: flat and far enough away from the entrance to minimise contact with the general public: not that that has been an issue at Webb’s Wood.

The forecast for the day was that it would be dry with little wind until 11:30, when the wind would start to build, with gales by 16:00. Rain was supposed to arrive mid-afternoon, building up overnight into Saturday. So I decided I would ring until 11:00 and take down then.

I arrived on site for 6:30 only to find that I had managed to leave my guy ropes at home. It is one of those things that your younger self puts down to a moment of stupidity but when you are approaching 70 you start to worry about senility. Fortunately, it is only 10 minutes from my house to the site, so I was back on site just before 7:00 with the nets open by about 7:50.

I set just three net rides:

I put on lures for Blackcap, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin just in case. We have caught all three species at this time of year in the Braydon Forest, so I was just trying it on. The only one that delivered was Blackcap, with a single juvenile male caught. Later, at 10:00, I put on a lure for Goldcrest and got immediate results.

The first round was surprising: a small flock of five Great Tit flew in and hit the two net sets forming the open triangle. This round also delivered our single retrap, an adult male Goldcrest, and the Blackcap.

Over the next couple of hours I caught small numbers on most rounds ending up with 24 birds by the time I closed the nets at 11:00. The totals for the session were: Treecreeper 1; Great Tit 2[7]; Marsh Tit [1]; Wren [1]; Robin [1]; Blackcap [1]; Chiffchaff [1]; Goldcrest [8](1). Totals: 3 adults ringed from 2 species, 20 juveniles ringed from 7 species and 1 bird retrapped, making 24 birds processed from 8 species.

The Blackcap and the Chiffchaff were the only clear and obvious autumn migrants. However, four of the Goldcrests weighed in at less than 5 grams. Perhaps they were new arrivals who have used up fat coming to Wiltshire? As they weren’t ringed before I caught them, we will never know.

As much as I enjoyed catching the Goldcrests, my highlight was a new Marsh Tit. For whatever reason, Webb’s Wood has been the least successful site for catching Marsh Tits within the woodlands of the Braydon Forest. Apart from 2017 & 2018, with 6 ringed in each year, in the other 8 years, 5 returned a single new bird and 3 returned 2 new birds, averaging out at 2.3 per annum. Somerford Common returns 5 new birds per annum on average, Red Lodge 4.5 per annum and Ravensroost over 10 per annum.

Juvenile Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris, showing appreciation for its new bling

For anyone birding in Webb’s Wood, this bird has a metal ring above a black ring on the left leg and a yellow ring above a grey one on the right leg. If you see it, please let me know through the blog feedback.

A while ago I put up a photo showing the teardrop markings on the primary covert tips of a juvenile Treecreeper. Today we caught an adult:

Adult Treecreeper, Certhia familiaris

To give a comparison, I photographed the wing of the adult and am going to post the picture of the juvenile wing again for comparison:

Adult Treecreeper wing
Juvenile Treecreeper wing

The difference should be visible through binoculars.

As forecast, the wind started to pick up just after 11:00, so I started to shut the nets. A few “tail-end Charlies” (two Goldcrest and the Wren) held up the take down whilst I processed them, but everything was down and packed away by 12:30. As I am sitting here writing this it is blowing an absolute hooley outside and throwing it down with rain: that’s one forecast they got right.

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