Somerford Common: Monday, 2nd January 2023

With Monday looking to be the only day this week for which the forecast was suitable for ringing, I decided to head off to Somerford Common. On New Year’s Day I topped up the feeders at my Forestry England sites, readying Somerford for today.

I arrived on site at 7:30 and Rosie, accompanied by Rufus the Hound (a German wire-haired pointer) that she is dog-sitting for a month over Christmas. It looked hopeful: the two-litre seed feeder had been half-emptied and the peanut feeder one-third emptied since 10:45 Sunday morning. We set up the three usual nets around the feeders and set two mixed lures for Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. We set the usual three nets around the feeders and two nets on the main track.

We were joined by two family groups: Laura and her boys, Adam and Daniel, and later husband Mark. Soon after they arrived, one of my C’s, Steph, arrived with husband Stu and girls Isobel and Beatrice. I have to be honest, I have never actually run a family group ringing session before. Obviously, I have done plenty of organised ringing demonstrations for the Wildlife Trust and the Swindon Wildlife Group, but this was different.

It was fun (which is not to say that the ringing demos aren’t fun, but this was a much more relaxed affair). Poor Rufus became a bit overwhelmed by the numbers: he didn’t know who to rub up against next, so Rosie took him off for a long walk, which also brought an end to her ringing activities for the morning. Both Adam and Daniel are becoming competent ringers and their biometric measurements are usually spot on. Perhaps more importantly, I have only given them Blue or Great Tits to ring so far and they have passed that test with flying colours! If I remember correctly, they are both using their experience towards the natural history scout badge and Daniel is also using it towards his Duke of Edinburgh Award. Happy to help.

We had a decent catch: although it was very much a question of “never mind the quality, feel the width”. The list for the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker (2); Nuthatch 1(2); Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 8(5); Great Tit 7(5); Coal Tit 4(5); Marsh Tit (4); Long-tailed Tit 1; Robin 1; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 5(1); Chaffinch 1. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 10 species and 24 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 54 birds processed from 12 species.

Unfortunately, no sign of any Redwing, Lesser Redpoll or Siskin yet. The Redwing must have just moved on elsewhere: for Somerford Common in winter 20/21 we processed 29, in winter 21/22 we processed 39, so far this winter we have processed just 5. This pattern is repeated at Blakehill Farm, where we catch most of our Redwing, so I guess they have just moved on.

With respect to Lesser Redpoll, their arrival is somewhat more variable and we might yet catch reasonable numbers in January and February. As for Siskin, we just don’t catch them until February / March at this site.

Highlights of the catch for me were a Marsh Tit and a Nuthatch both of which were ringed 4 years ago, both as adults / unaged. The highlights for others were the Nuthatches, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, the Treecreeper and what is monikered as our Ukrainian Marsh Tit: because it has a yellow / blue right leg colour ring combination.

We closed the nets at 11:30 and, with many hands making light work, had everything packed away by midday. A decent session, I just hope that the forecast changes for the rest of the week so we can get out again before the children go back to school.

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