Ringing Demonstration: Saturday, 11th March 2023

At the beginning of the week it really didn’t look as if this Saturday’s ringing demonstration would go ahead: the weather forecast was diabolical. However, as the week unfolded and forecast after forecast proved to be inaccurate, we just had to hope. Wednesday’s session fell foul of the weather, so I was relieved that we made it on Saturday.

There had already been a major kerfuffle: this ringing demonstration was scheduled to take place in Ravensroost Wood. The Swindon Wildlife Group (SWG) and I completed the paperwork by the end of October last, and it was advertised on both the Wildlife Trust’s “What’s On” leaflet and the “What’s On” page on their website from the beginning of November last. Unfortunately, it seems that the reserves management and the events people at the Trust didn’t talk to each other, and reserves management don’t look at their own website, because they arranged for a contractor to come on site and carry out some Ash die-back mitigation and complete the 25 year coppice cycle in Ravensroost Wood a month before our session was scheduled. It was all supposed to be completed within a two week window, but it wasn’t. Mind the work in the Firs, that began last October, I was told was supposed to last 6 weeks: it has been five months so far. With the carpark at Ravensroost Wood still full of timber at the end of last week and, despite the contractors assurance it would be removed last Monday, and that they would be offsite by the time of the demonstration, we took the decision that, to prevent last minute confusion and give plenty of notice to the attendees, we would move the demonstration to Somerford Common. I was also concerned about the impact of the works on the distribution of the birds around the site and, with no opportunity to test this out prior to the event, and the Trust refusing to allow me to set up a feeding station for the week before, to bring some certainty to proceedings, I was very keen on moving to a potentially more reliable site.

As ever, it was a sell out: 20 adults and half-a-dozen children, and several others on a waiting list missing out. With people arriving for 9:00, I gave the team: Miranda, David and Rosie, a lie-in and we got together at 7:00. We set nets at the feeders, along the track and in a clearing down the main path:

Despite putting lures on all of the net sets, the only one that actually caught any birds was the 9m – 12m – 9m dogleg around the feeding station, so we could have saved ourselves a lot of work had we known.

We had all nets open by 8:30 and birds started arriving pretty much straight away. With all attendees on site by 9:00 it was good to have something to show them straight away. The catch was slow and steady and never too busy, a round of six birds and two four bird rounds were the biggest we had. Mind, the last ringing demonstration, at Blakehill Farm, only delivered seven birds from seven species (mind, they were all cracking birds, especially the second Tree Pipit for the site, and the attendees and organisers were delighted with what they saw) so the attendees were very happy with the 27 we managed to catch this Saturday morning.

The list for the morning was: Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 7(1); Great Tit 3(2); Coal Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit 1; Dunnock 2; Robin 3(1). Totals: 20 birds ringed from 7 species and 7 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 27 birds processed from 8 species.

It was a surprise not to catch any Goldcrest, they usually come to the lure readily. Let’s hope that the freezing weather and snow on Wednesday and Thursday hasn’t taken a toll.

Throughout the morning we had a Red Kite floating around and about our ringing station. At one point, hawk-eyed Robin Griffiths drew our attention to a Sparrowhawk display flying. It was so high up it was barely visible without your binoculars. I love their display flight: smooth glide followed by frantic wing-flapping, continued time and again. Given that it is the woodland hunter supreme, to see them displaying so high in the sky is just amazing.

We also had a Raven flying around for quite a long period: calling regularly and showing off its distinctive kite-shaped tail.

The weather took a turn for the colder at 10:30 and, with children getting chilled, the event began to break up. We did our last round just before 11:00 and, once we had processed the birds, the organisers from SWG took the remaining attendees on a walk around the site, whilst the team took down the nets and packed away. We were all off site just before 12:30.

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