Christmas Holiday Ringing: Naughty & Nice

The Naughty:

After the sub-zero temperatures, followed by the wind and the rain, I hadn’t managed to get out for a proper ringing session since Thursday, 15th December. Christmas Eve morning was scheduled to be dry but a bit breezy, so I decided to try out Ravensroost Wood. Given how poor the results have been in different parts of the wood this year, I decided to set up in zone 1, just along from the car park, as identified in my previous post. The zone 1 area to the east of the main path is currently being coppiced by the Ravensroost volunteers group, so we were restricted to the site to the west of the path. Not that it should be a problem: it is where I have done most of my winter ringing in Ravensroost Wood in recent years. Of course, this year we are not allowed to put up a feeding station, as part of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s response to the avian flu epidemic. I was joined by Anna, and we set up 5 x 18m nets as a line of 2 and a line of 3. Whilst we were finishing the setup, Laura and her two boys arrived. We sat down and waited, checked the empty nets and waited, and waited, occasionally taking a bird out of the nets! Between 8:00 and 11:00 we caught precisely 9 birds: Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 1; Wren 1; Robin 2; Blackbird (1); Goldcrest 1(1). Totals: 7 birds ringed from 5 species and 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 9 birds processed from 6 species.

The last time we ringed this part of Ravensroost Wood on Christmas Eve was in 2020, when we processed 48 birds from 10 species: only that time we did have a feeding station in place. Although in reality it has nothing to do with me, I always feel guilty when we have a poor session, as I am the person who has chosen the location.

The Nice:

With the rest of this week looking horribly wet and windy going into the New Year, I decided to get out again today, the 27th December. Anna clearly hadn’t learnt her lesson as she joined me again this morning. We set up our usual nets around the feeding station (Forestry England have not banned their use, so I am maintaining feeding stations at Red Lodge, Webb’s Wood and Somerford Common, which I topped up after we closed up on Christmas Eve) plus two nets I haven’t used for some considerable time: a dog-legged 18m x 9m on two sides of a pond.

The + signs are the bird feeders.

This was a far more satisfying session. We met at 7:30 and had the nets up and open by about 8:30. The birds did not arrive straight away but, when they did, they came in decent numbers. We were busy pretty much from 9:00 until 11:30. Not only were the nets by the feeding station busy, but so was the dog-leg. I put a lure for Redwing on that net set and we caught anything but, until the final bird Anna took out of the net! The other nets had lures for Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin! Always an optimist! Having heard a Marsh Tit calling when topping up the feeders on Christmas Eve, I also put on a lure for that species. It did work: we retrapped one that we ringed earlier this year and caught an unringed bird that now sports a nice colour-combination so anyone seeing it can let me know:

I do get fairly regular reports to which I respond with the bird’s history, as far as I know it.

There were plenty of Blue Tits around the feeders, as one would expect, but overall there was reasonable variety of other species: although the only finch species we caught was a couple of Chaffinch. We ringed one, but the other looked as though it might be in the early stages of Fringilla papillomavirus. Its legs were not deformed but looked as though they had been coated in an off-white powder, so we released it unringed.

The list for the day was: Treecreeper 3; Blue Tit 15(7); Great Tit 1(1); Coal Tit 2(3); Marsh Tit 1(1); Long-tailed Tit 10(1); Wren 1; Dunnock (1); Robin (2); Redwing 1; Goldcrest 1(3); Chaffinch 1. Totals: 36 birds ringed from 10 species and 19 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 55 birds processed from 12 species.

I was extremely pleased with the results that we got from the dog-leg nets: the Treecreepers, seven of the Long-tailed Tits, the Goldcrests and the Redwing all came out of there.

As we were processing the last few birds it started to spit with rain. This was at 11:30, so we shut them, took down and left site just after midday, after a very pleasing session. Fortunately, it didn’t really start to rain hard until we had left site.

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