Somerford Common: Saturday, 26th November 2022

Wow! Out two days running: I haven’t done that for a long time. Unlike yesterday’s at Red Lodge, moved from Wednesday, this session was scheduled for today. I was joined by David and Anna for the full session, and Rosie came along to help set up and ring some birds before heading off to her work at the Trust (those trees won’t survey themselves!) just before 9:00. We met at 7:00 and set just the five nets used last time.

Whilst we were setting up, we were joined by another Simon. He is the professional deer stalking contractor for the local Forestry England. His concern was that we were on site and he hadn’t known. I know I change my sessions when the weather dictates, but this session was pre-booked with Forestry England, so there must have been a bit of a communications breakdown. Personally I am confident that he can tell the difference between me and a Roe Deer or Muntjac! I just made it clear where we would be working and he made sure he avoided the area. I wouldn’t have said “No” to the offer of some free-range venison!

Just as we were finishing setting the nets, we were joined by Laura and her sons, Daniel and Adam. They were gradually incorporated into the ringing regime: started off by releasing birds that had been processed, then graduated to taking wing lengths and, finally, ringing some birds, ageing and sexing them, where possible, taking the biometrics. Hopefully, two new ringers in the making.

The first round, at 8:00, was the busiest of the day and, as expected, was Blue Tit heavy. In fact, we caught just under 50% of the day’s Blue Tits in that round (11 of 25). So, although that was a hard start to the session, it did mean that there were fewer sore fingers throughout the rest of the morning. For those of you who aren’t ringers, and aren’t aware of the nature of Blue Tits, they have two defining characteristics: firstly, they will grab huge swathes of the net with beak and claw, making them difficult to extract; secondly, they do not stop pecking at any point in the extraction or handling process. The only saving grace is that they are small: so their feistiness is irritating rather than damaging. It was also gratifying, after a five month drought broken yesterday, to catch and ring another Nuthatch. We also caught another new juvenile Marsh Tit in that round, caught a second later in the session, along with retrapping another 3 throughout the morning. This takes the total of Marsh Tits ringed in the Braydon Forest so far this year to 16, which is two more than in the whole of last year, and despite minimal bird ringing in Ravensroost Woods, the usual stronghold for the species in the Forest, so far this year.

There were several other highlights: after the complete failure to lure in any Redwing last time, in contrast to the good numbers caught at this period last year, it was pleasing to catch four of them this time. At 10:30, once things had warmed up a bit, we changed the lure to Goldcrest, which didn’t produce the same numbers as last time but our penultimate round at 11:00 produced three Goldcrest and two Long-tailed Tit in that net set.

At 9:30 we retrapped a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, ignoring the two caught in my garden, it is the first in the Braydon Forest woodlands since 5th March of this year. In the final round we caught a new male Great Spotted Woodpecker: again, the first ringed in the Forest since 5th March. This bird was well embedded in the net and both David and Anna were uncomfortable at trying to extract its wings, as it was in the double-angel position. I have one key rule on extracting for my trainees: if in doubt, give me a shout. They did, so I took it over. My two forefingers are now sporting the painful pin-prick indentations of the results of that extraction: give me a Blue Tit any day!

The other highlight has to be the three Chaffinch: all males, one juvenile and two adults. All had perfectly clean legs and so they were ringed. Our list for the day was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1(1); Nuthatch 1(1); Blue Tit 12(13); Great Tit 6(6); Coal Tit (5); Marsh Tit 2(3); Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren 1; Redwing 4; Goldcrest 3(1); Chaffinch 3. Totals: 35 birds ringed from 10 species and 30 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 65 birds processed from 11 species.

One of the benefits of setting so few nets is that packing away is quick and easy. With the breeze getting up, we closed the nets as we did the final round at 11:45. Having processed the last haul, ironically, the second largest of the day, with 12 birds, we then took down. It was too windy by then to have left the nets open any longer. The last net set, the 18m + 9m along the main path, had already become entangled in the Blackthorn and Oak that they were set alongside, so that took a little longer to get down than the others. Even so, we were away just after 12:30.

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