Ravensroost Newt Pond: Saturday, 22nd October 2022

With Covid forcing an end to my project covering the 8-year coppice regime in the south end of the wood, I am looking at covering the different parts of the entire wood, to identify whether there is any difference in the distribution of birds around the different areas. On Tuesday I did cover the 8-year coppice area but, for today, decided to have a session by the Newt Pond. It is called the Newt Pond for a very good reason: it is the best place I have found for watching the mating habits of Great Crested Newts. All three newt species can be found in the ponds around the wood, but this is the best. On Monday I went for a walk down to check on the site. It was exactly as I wanted it: space for the net rides but plenty of variable height vegetation, just what you need for a decent session. The red circle is the area around the Newt Pond:

When I arrived Monday, Rosie and another member of the estates team were busy clearing up the latest fly-tipping incident: a load of soil, some paving bricks and a fibre palette. They were also chatting to Jacqui, one of the key Ravensroost volunteers (plants and fungi her speciality). So I told them that I planned to ring at the pond this Saturday. Rosie told me that the Trust planned to clean out the pond over the winter. Guess what? It seems that on Wednesday the Ravensroost volunteers decided to clean it out then. Not only that, but they decided to clear the entire scrub area around the pond. When I turned up this morning, this is what I found:

I was gutted, but set the nets where I had always planned to. The clearance had removed all of the cover, which also made it more exposed to the breeze. I was joined by David for the session.

So, having been hugely disappointed by the change in habitat, I then found that I had forgotten my guy ropes. How stupid was that? Fortunately, I live only 6 minutes from the site, so it only held us back about 30 minutes in total. We set 3 x 18m nets in a horseshoe around the woodland side of the pond, a 12m and a 9m net on the path side of the pond and another 18m net along the other side of the main path:

Map / Diagram from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust web page

We didn’t catch a bird until 8:30: a Robin, Great Tit and Goldcrest were the first birds out of the nets. Thereafter, though, it was a slow session with very few birds.

I had agreed that Adam and his Dad, who had joined us last weekend at Somerford Common, could come along if they wished. They arrived, together with his Mum, Laura, brother Daniel and family friend Susan. So it was a little unfortunate that we had such a low catch. They still enjoyed the session, because we did catch more birds: not many, but they enjoyed what they saw and were able to hold and release.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 3; Great Tit 5; Coal Tit 1; Robin 1; Goldcrest 4: 14 birds ringed from 5 species. That all were new birds that needed ringing is not surprising, given how long it is since I ringed in the area. It does raise the question of how much movement there is around the site. Hopefully future sessions will shed more light on this.

We were briefly entertained by three Lesser Redpoll feeding at the very tops of the trees adjacent to the pond. they didn’t respond to the lure that I rapidly deployed to try to entice them down.

There was a highlight to my morning:

Bird’s Nest Orchid, Neottia nidus-avis

Not a great photo, my camera was refusing to focus down for some reason, but this is only the second time I have seen this orchid. As you can no doubt guess from its brown residual flower spike, it is parasitic. The species is classified as Near Threatened on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain. Whilst they are woodland flowers, they are usually associated with Beech trees and there is little, if any, Beech in this wood, so it is a little unusual to find them here.

The family left at 11:00 and David and I packed up at 11:30, having taken our last five birds out of the nets: the three Blue Tits and two Goldcrests. We were off site just after midday.

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