Somerford Common West: Saturday, 4th February 2023

With the Firs being unavailable until the end of March and Ravensroost Wood unavailable, probably until the end of February, due to forestry works removing, dead Ash trees, followed by woodland mitigation measures and restoration of paths and access, Lower Moor Farm being out of bounds as a precaution against HPAI, and Blakehill Farm and Brown’s Farm dependent upon it not having any wind, and the latter also dependent on it not being a shoot day, I have had a regular routine of Webb’s Wood -> Red Lodge -> Somerford Common since October. We did get out to Blakehill last weekend, and it was extremely disappointing numerically, the Bullfinches and Greenfinch notwithstanding.

For today, I decided to make a trip back to the western side of Somerford Common. Clearly I have fond memories of working there, what with the two Buzzards back in November 2019, and the Siskin in March 2022, so I don’t quite understand why I haven’t done more there, apart from the fact that the catches are fairly hit and miss, and generally need a lot of net set to ensure a good catch. Now that I tend to be working with just one additional pair of hands most sessions at the weekends, I don’t like setting more than 10 nets. I like things manageable!

On Tuesday I set up a small feeding station in the wood, in the hope that it would attract a few more birds in for today. Having woken 3o minutes before my alarm was scheduled, I arrived on site a bit earlier than intended. It did mean that I got to disturb two Woodcock as I drove onto the site. As I am surveying this site for the GWCT / BTO Woodcock survey, that was a good sign. I was also serenaded by a male Tawny Owl whilst setting up the first net line. David joined me close to the scheduled start time at 7:15. I had agreed for Laura to bring Adam and Daniel and for Claire to bring Zara and Samuel along to the session and they arrived around about 8:00. Three of the four children got an opportunity to ring a bird, and Daniel has been promised the first bird next time out. Daniel and Adam are working towards their Scouting Natural History badge and Daniel is also working towards his Duke of Edinburgh Award and these sessions are contributing to that.

We set the following nets:

I set lures for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Redwing and Brambling (ever the optimist) and, after 10:00, for Goldcrest. The Goldcrest worked!

The first round was the biggest and had the most variety, delivering three Blue Tits and two Great Tits, but also two Coal Tit, a Nuthatch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Robin. This was followed by a catch of six birds, including, much to my delight, two second year Marsh Tits, colour ringed as follows:

This takes us up to 16 ringed in the year 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023, which is a welcome return to normal after a disappointing return for the species last year. Bearing in mind that this is being achieved despite awful catches across the board in Ravensroost Wood: usually one of the most productive sites for the species in the Braydon Forest and the lack of access to the Firs since October.

The catch for the session was: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 5; Great Tit 4(2); Coal Tit 4(2); Marsh Tit 2; Robin (1); Goldcrest 3(1). Totals: 22 birds ringed from 8 species and 6 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 28 birds processed from 9 species.

So, still no finches, but I did get the extra Coal Tits and Goldcrests that I had hoped for. The retrapped Goldcrest was ringed at this site in November 2019 and has been caught once more in between. That suggests to me that it is a resident bird, rather than a winter visitor.

It was a lovely, relaxed session and I have to say that I have never laughed as much, or for as long, as I did when Adam and Daniel got into a brilliant discussion about money, with older brother (Daniel) loan-sharking to younger (Adam). It was very funny.

The three boys did lose me after a while when they started talking about Minecraft, Fortnite and some other computer-based games, whose terminology was way beyond my understanding, despite my 40 years of IT experience.

It started out remarkably mild but slowly got colder as the morning progressed and the number of birds fell away by 10:00. We started shutting the nets at 11:15 and, with many hands making light work, had the nets down and everything packed away quite quickly and were off site just after midday.

%d bloggers like this: