What is Happening in Ravensroost Wood? Saturday, 3rd December 2022

It was a cold and breezy morning, so Ravensroost Wood was the right choice for some sheltered net rides. This year the Wildlife Trust have banned the use of supplementary feeding at their sites, as a precaution against avian flu. On top of that, we have just had new directions from the BTO: we have to disinfect our equipment (all of our equipment: nets, bags, pliers, scales, clothing) between sessions. Each bag to be used just once per session: it’s a good job I have 80 or so bird bags!

To say that I have been worried about the drop off in catches at Ravensroost Wood is an understatement. Over the years it has been an excellent site for me. This is how the site is structured, with my various ringing areas marked up:

Area 1 is the most used part of the site. This winter the south east quadrant of that area is being coppiced, so I am avoiding it for now. Area 3 has been worked twice in the last two months: the first time delivered just two birds, the second delivered just three: which is remarkably poor for that area. I think that the issue is fairly simple: the trees have reached a height where the birds are flying over the nets rather than in to them.

Area 4 has been largely ignored since I took over ringing the site, as we were not allowed to take a vehicle down the path, and it was too much hard work to access the area, particularly when working solo. This year, with that restriction lifted, we did try a session there in October. Unfortunately, a few days before the session the volunteer group cleared the area around the pond, removing the cover needed for a successful mist netting session. I did not know until we arrived to set up and I felt it was too late to set up another set of rides. We caught just 14 birds.

My key project in the wood was covered by areas 1 and 2, as I monitored the effect of the coppicing on the distribution of birds in that area of the wood. Area 3 was used as the control site. The project lasted from 2013 to 2020 when Covid-19 disrupted the project, and negative interactions with a couple of members of the public made me decide I did not want to work in public areas. My plans for the wood going forward are to try out different areas and get a better map of the distribution of the birds within it.

I have done some analysis to see whether my concerns were justified:

As the chart shows, 2016 was the worst year for the wood. That was the result of awful weather in April and May, giving the titmice their worst breeding season since I started ringing Ravensroost and was able to monitor such things. That was repeated across my other sites, unlike this year where the others have performed as expected. Outside of that, both 2021 and 2022 are almost as bad: but without the dreadful weather as a reason. 2022’s figure is rather inflated by a single large catch of 101 birds at the feeding station in area 1 in January, otherwise things would have looked much worse. With no feeding stations set up at Wildlife Trust properties this winter, it will no doubt impact on catch sizes. It is, of course, possible that the tit and finch flocks will be larger, as they have to forage harder and further afield to find food. It is also possible that our catches at the Forestry England sites, where we continue to supplementary feed, might increase as the birds displace to those areas.

Saturday’s session was set up in area 2: along the two rides to the north of the 8-year coppice area:

I was joined by Anna and Rosie for the session and, later, by Laura and her family.

The area where we set up delivered the largest ever catch in Ravensroost Wood, almost 11 years ago to the day, on the 4th December 2011: 258 birds ringed and 59 retrapped from 18 species, including the only Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ever caught in the wood. There was a feeding station in place at the time, but you can always hope. As it was, the catch was pretty disappointing: Nuthatch 1; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit (1); Wren 1; Robin 2(1); Goldcrest 4(2). Totals 10 birds ringed from 5 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 14 birds processed from 6 species. To be fair, throughout the coppice project this areas regularly produced the lowest catches, so it wasn’t too surprising that we weren’t inundated with birds.

Part of the issue was that it stayed cold all morning, although it wasn’t wet, it felt damp as well and, by the time we packed up early, at 11:00, we were all thoroughly cold, fairly disappointed and happy to go home.

West Wilts RG Results: November 2022

A small landmark achieved this month: we passed the 10,000 bird processed mark for the year for the first time since the group came into its current structure at the beginning of 2013.  Interestingly, it is already more than double in any year between 2013 and 2016 inclusive.  The majority of the catch, 60%, is down to Jonny’s activities. His sites seem remarkably consistent in their catch totals in the 50+ bird bracket.  Particularly Langford Lakes and his Sutton Benger, Melksham and East Tytherton sites.  I will do a full analysis at the end of the year.

So to November itself: fewer birds and species than 2021 but, apart from that, more than in any other previous November.

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The key differences are in the lower numbers of Redwing (203 vs 320) and, to a lesser extent, Chiffchaff (4 vs 22).  There were increases in Long-tailed Tit (62 vs 49) and Goldfinch (60 vs 13).  The Goldfinch were largely down to Jonny’s East Tytherton site and my carrying out a couple of sessions in my garden.

The undoubted highlight has to be Jonny’s Merlin at the Sutton Benger complex I suppose it is now.  What an absolute stonker, the first ever ringed by the group, the only other two caught by members of the group being retrapped birds (Beckhampton 2003, Imber Ranges 2019).

Merlin.jpg

 Hard on the heels of that, though, has to be Jonny’s retrapped Redwing, again at his Sutton Benger site.  Ringed in Finland: it is the group’s only foreign recovery of this species since 1996!  In all there have only been five recovery records: as well as these two, two were ringed and then retrapped a week or so later in the same site, so that doesn’t really count. Another was ringed in Ravensroost in December 2016 and retrapped there, in the same net, in January 2018.  Our only other recovery was a Redwing ringed at Lower Moor Farm in October 2015 and shot by some psycho in  France in December 2017.

Another good catch was Ian’s three Fieldfare in an old orchard local to him.  Andy also caught one at his site on the Imber Ranges SPTA.  Andy’s site there has caught most of them: with 16 of the 23 caught. Two were caught at Jonny’s Sutton Benger site and I have had two: one in a Meadow Pipit triangle at Blakehill and another way back in 2014 at the Wood Lane site.  We don’t catch many, that’s for sure.  The only thrush that we catch fewer of, of those we catch (no Ring Ouzel records at all for the group at any time in our history in DemOn – I don’t know if there were any records on paper that haven’t been digitised yet), is Mistle Thrush – and I am only bringing that up because of the four we have ringed, I have done the lot!

It will be interesting to see how December shapes up: hopefully the fog will lift sometime soon!

Brown’s Farm: Wednesday, 30th November 2022

It is eight months since I last managed a session at Brown’s Farm. Once I recovered from the spinal surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation, the weather has just not been conducive to running a ringing session there. Brown’s Farm is at the top of Postern Hill,. south of Marlborough, and is even more exposed to any wind than Blakehill Farm (and that is bad enough).

It is the only site that I have that is a beef and arable farm: the only site where I can regularly catch Yellowhammer and Linnet. I was joined this morning by Rosie and, for once, by using up some of her TOIL (time off in lieu), she could stay for nearly the entire session. I was hoping that we could catch some Linnets, as Rosie hasn’t had the pleasure of extracting or ringing them yet. We met in the farmyard at 7:00, leaving Rosie’s car there, as access to the ringing area requires a 4×4 with decent ride clearance – and there is no point in getting both cars filthy!

We set three lines of net, each comprising 3 x 18m nets. Two were set on the leeward side of the hedgerow, with the third more or less at right-angles:

The ringing station was set just adjacent to the net rides. Like yesterday, the weather was misty and dull, but not quite as damp. Unfortunately, like yesterday, there were few birds hitting the nets at first. Unlike yesterday, there were large flocks flying around: Redwing, Starling and Linnet in the main.

A Wren got up to one of their usual tricks: flying into a net as we were still setting it up. They can be awkward enough at the best of times. Fortunately, I got to it before it had managed to bundle up lots of net, spin, crawl through into another pocket and extracted it without issue. We finished setting up just before 8:00. The first round, at 8:15, produced two Yellowhammer and a male Bullfinch out of the hedgerow nets. These were the only birds that came from those nets until we caught another three at 11:00.

The second round produced five birds, including two Blue Tits. I have always thought of Blue Tits as woodland and garden birds, but they are regularly caught here and also at Blakehill. At Blakehill they are not just found in the hedgerows but regularly out on the plateau.

After that round things fell off, with just four birds in the next two hours. We decided that, if the 11:00 round was as bad, we would cut our losses and shut the nets. Naturally, it then produced ten birds: a flock of House Sparrows hit the nets. Most bounced off, but six of them stuck. All were male. As previously mentioned, another three Yellowhammer came out of the hedgerow nets. Like the House Sparrows, all male.

The following round produced two Starling: which gave Rosie her first extraction and ringing record for that species.

That was Rosie’s last contribution to the session, as she had to head off to work. As luck would have it, having dropped Rosie back at her car and headed back to the ringing site, the next bird I took out of the net was a Linnet!

A couple more Blue Tits and a Wren finished the session and I took down and left site at just after 13:30.

The list for the session was: Blue Tit 8; Wren 2; Dunnock 2(2); Robin (2); Chaffinch 1; Linnet 1; Bullfinch 1; House Sparrow 9; Starling 2; Yellowhammer 5. Totals: 31 birds ringed from 9 species and 4 birds retrapped from 2 species, making a total of 35 birds processed from 10 species.

Misty, Murky Conditions: Tuesday, 29th November 2022

With a couple of days of low / no wind forecast I have decided upon a trip to Brown’s Farm for Wednesday, but thought I would open the garden nets this morning. It was one of those days that just never got beyond dank and dismal. The mist hung around all day and certainly impacted on the catch: although I still managed to catch far more than in my last two visits to Ravensroost Woods (combined).

I opened the nets at 8:00 and started to catch pretty well straight away. However, it worked out at two birds every 20 minutes or so before I shut the nets before lunchtime, to give everything a chance to feed unmolested for the rest of the day. It wasn’t the most exciting list: Blue Tit 6(1); Great Tit 1; Starling 1; Goldfinch 8(1). Totals: 16 birds ringed from 4 species and 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 18 birds processed from 4 species. This compares with 29 (19 ringed, 10 retraps) in better weather back on the 14th November.

Here’s hoping for a better haul tomorrow – although the weather is looking somewhat similar to today’s!

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.

Red Lodge: Friday, 25th November 2022

It has been six weeks since my last visit to Red Lodge. Every time I planned to go something got in the way. This week I planned to go on Wednesday, but there was a Met Office yellow warning for wind and rain and, indeed, it was blowing a gale for most of the day, and there was some torrential rain on and off throughout. I had thought about going Tuesday, as that was a pretty decent day weather-wise, only my car decided to play up: the starting fob battery drained. and the car failed to actually switch off the electrics. By 19:00 Monday night the battery was drained. Fortunately, having sorted all of that out, I managed to get out this morning.

I was joined by Rosie to help set up and do some ringing before heading off to work. As she was going to be doing tree surveying in Ravensroost Woods, about 5 minutes away, she managed to get considerably more ringing in than is usually the case. Miranda came for the morning session, although she had to leave before the end. Once I got my car going on Tuesday I went to Red Lodge and set up a couple of small feeding stations in the Forestry England test plot area. This meant that we could set up a minimum number of nets. We set just four:

We had the nets open just before 8:00 and the birds started arriving straight away. As expected, Blue Tit made up a sizeable proportion of the catch, 40%, but we also had a decent variety for the morning. Our first round produced 22 birds. It included two Chaffinch, but one was showing signs of possible Fringilla papillomavirus, so we released it unringed. We also had a Nuthatch and a juvenile Marsh Tit, one of two we caught and colour-ringed this morning.

Juvenile Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris, with attitude!

Nuthatch has been a source of frustration this year: prior to today our Braydon Forest catches have yielded just eight. They have been heard all over the Forest, but have not found their way into the nets. In fact, this was the first we have ringed or recaptured since June – and the last one was also in Red Lodge. That we later caught another was a bonus.

All bar three of the Blue Tits were caught between 8:00 and 10:30, with two more at 11:00 and the final one, the last bird out of the nets, at midday. We caught regularly until Miranda had to leave at 11:20. The last bird that she processed was our solitary Redwing of the morning.

As is often the case at Red Lodge, when I decided that I would empty the nets and take them down, I caught another bunch of birds: five Long-tailed Tit and three Goldcrest being the highlights. The Goldcrest were a nice surprise as I did not lure for them: it was (finally) a cold morning, with a cold north easterly breeze, so it never warmed up enough for me to want to lure them.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 19(7); Great Tit 4(3); Coal Tit 4(4); Marsh Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 5; Dunnock 2; Robin 2; Redwing 1; Goldcrest 3; Chaffinch 1. Totals: 46 birds ringed from 12 species and 14 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 60 birds processed from 12 species.

One of the benefits of setting only a few nets is that it doesn’t take long to get packed away, and I was away from site by 12:45.

Not the Finnished Article!

I took this from a Tweet by Jonny Cooper (with his permission): he seems to be on a run of good birds at the moment. To set the scene a bit, Redwing recaptures are not common in Wiltshire. For example, in 2019 there were none, in each of 2020 and 2021 there was a single Redwing recapture in each year. In total, there have been only 13 recaptures of ringed Redwing in Wiltshire since records began. So to Jonny’s Tweet:

What this? A Finnish ringed Redwing retrapped just outside Sutton Benger, Wiltshire. How exciting, I can’t wait to find out where it was ringed originally!

A Redwing (Turdus iliacus) in the hand

Editor’s notes: That is the first foreign retrap of a Redwing for the West Wilts RG since 1996! That bird was ringed just across the North Sea, in Belgium. It pre-dated the electronic records, so there is no note of who caught it. The site was Hurst Farms, between Steeple Ashton and Marston in mid-Wiltshire.

There had only been 3 others: 2 were retrapped within one month of ringing. These were RLo5915, ringed and retrapped in Nightingale Wood, near South Marston (just east of what was the Honda factory complex), ringed on the 28th November 2011 and recaptured just 4 days later on the 2nd December 2011. The other was RL05960 ringed in Coleshill on the 4th February 2012 and recaptured there a week later on the 11th February 2012.

A little more interestingly, the third, RL61400 was ringed in Ravensroost Wood on the 28th December 2016 and recaptured in the same net, 13 months after being ringed, on the 6th January 2018. Site fidelity is something you find with breeding birds but seems somewhat less of a thing with winter visitors.

On the converse, one of the Redwing ringed by us, as an adult, at Lower Moor Farm, on 28th October 2015, RL61176, was shot by some sick individual in Barsac, part of the Gironde in France, on the 5th December 2017. What sort of person does that? It is not as though there is any meat on it worth eating.

Elves in Webb’s Wood: Saturday, 19th November 2022

Having been unable to get to Webb’s on Wednesday due to the weather, I decided to have a go today. On Thursday morning I set up a couple of feeders at the ringing site (one peanut, one mixed seed (no wheat)), on the off chance a few birds would have found them by today.

Okay, so what is this title about? Where I set up my feeders we discovered plenty of rotting wood and lots of fungi. As with last year, there were a few clumps of Yellow Stag’s Horn fungus, Calocera viscosa. However, for me, the most striking of them was this, because I have never seen it before:

Green Elf Cup, Chlorociboria aerugonescens. Not only are the fruiting bodies this fabulous turquoise colour, but the blue of the mycelium completely pervades the log upon which it is growing, as you can see on the bottom photo. Obviously, where you have elf cups you must have elves to use them! (Sorry!)

So to the real business of the day. I was joined by David for the session. The Forestry England contractor had been in during the week and tidied up the ride edges and opened up some areas. I am delighted to say that, unlike at Somerford Common last winter, the work has improved the ringing prospects. I made a small change to the net setup:

FS = Feeding Station RS = Ringing Station

It is a nice compact site when set up like this. The feeders had been found and the birds had made small inroads into the food, so I was expecting an increase in the numbers of titmice, but not an explosion in numbers. We set lures for Redwing plus a finch mix (Lesser Redpoll, Siskin & Brambling) on the 3 x 18m net set and the finch mix on each of the other net sets. The Redwing lure worked immediately and we started taking them out of the nets pretty much straight away. Whilst doing our first round Mark and his children, Daniel and Adam, arrived and, soon after that. Claire with her children, Samuel and Zara. I have arranged to do a talk on ringing, followed by a practical demonstration, at Zara’s school in January. It came about because Zara was talking about bird ringing in class and that she had been allowed to ring some birds, and her class mates were interested in learning more. The school in question, Abbey Meads Community School in Swindon, has its own little forest school, wildlife ponds and natural habitats, with lessons that make use of all of them. It will be a pleasure to show them. That said, being 8 year olds, some did originally think that ringing was about pairing the birds up for breeding, so I was told today.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. It was a decent session. Both Redwing and Lesser Redpoll responded to the lure and we caught and ringed some 46 birds: Blue Tit 12(6); Great Tit 4(6); Coal Tit 1(1); Robin 2(3); Redwing 8; Goldcrest 1; Lesser Redpoll 2. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 7 species and 16 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 46 birds processed from 7 species.

The number of Goldcrest was well down compared with previous sessions. We did catch two, but one showed signs of cold stress, so I didn’t process it. They are such small birds it is why I don’t lure for them until at least 10:00 in the morning, and once the temperature has reached a reasonable level. I have a very simply remedy for dealing with any stressed birds (don’t get too concerned, perhaps one in a thousand birds extracted might show signs of stress), particularly cold stress: I pop them in a bag and drop them down my front next to the skin. It always works: I am not sure if it is the warmth or the smell that helps, perhaps it is the combination! With this one, he wasn’t responding as well as I wanted, so I took him out of the bag and popped him back in again. Ten minutes later he was crawling all over my chest. When he reached my armpit I took him out and he flew off strongly into the top of an adjacent tree and started foraging for food. Job done!

Because of the way that the birds were coming in, I didn’t have time to allow the children to do any ringing during the main part of the morning. However, they all took turns to release the birds once each was processed. All of the rides caught, but 2 x 18m ride was not as successful as it usually is. That is the problem with ringing birds: you cannot predict their movements. The catch died off soon after 10:30 and, with it still being pretty cold, Claire and her brood departed soon after. With things having quietened down, I could work with the other two children, Daniel and Adam, and allow them to ring a bird each. By then that was all that we had left for them to ring.

David and I started shutting the nets at 11:45, extracting the last few birds and processing them before taking down and packing away. We left site by 12:45 after a cold but fairly productive morning.

A ringing session with a magic touch: Calne, Monday, 14th November 2022

The following post is by Jonny Cooper:

Sometimes you come across a brilliant ringing site just by chance. This is what happened with the farm I ring on just outside of Calne. The landowner also owns some land adjacent to my site at Sutton Benger and, through the grapevine, heard about my ringing and asked if I wanted to give his farm a go. That was at the start of the year, in the half a dozen or so sessions since, the site has proven to be amazing.

I rolled up on site Monday morning hoping to ring some of the early winter flocks of finches coming into the cover crops put down for them alongside some Redwing. I set the nets and in the first round had a nice flock of Redwing plus a few Goldfinches. The session then ticked along nicely for a couple of hours, with each round producing a few birds, and I was content.

Things took a more exciting turn during the 10am round. The first thing to get the heart racing was a Stonechat (a lovely male). This is the first ringed at any of my sites. The spotlight was swiftly snatched from the Stonechat, as the next net produced a stunning Merlin. Safe to say at this point I was over the moon.

In Wiltshire Merlin are a reasonably widespread but uncommon winter visitor. However, this bird is only the second actually ringed in the county (the first being in 2020) so it was a real red-letter day.

After the Merlin things really took off as the day started to warm up. The session finished with 90 birds processed. The totals for the day were: Merlin 1, Blue Tit 12(2), Great Tit 3(3), Chiffchaff 1, Wren 1, Redwing 38, Robin 2(1), Stonechat 1, Dunnock 6, Meadow Pipit 2, Chaffinch 5, Goldfinch 8 and Reed Bunting 4. A total of 84 new birds from 13 species and 6 re-traps from 3 species.

Overall, a brilliant ringing session. In addition to the birds ringed there were flocs of Linnets and Yellowhammer flitting about all morning with Lapwing coming down to feed in the stubble fields. A great example of how farming and nature can work hand-in-hand.

Editor’s note: the first Merlin caught by the West Wilts RG was in July 2003. That was a retrapped bird, caught near Beckhampton, about 4km away from where Jonny caught his one. I don’t have the details of where it was ringed. The only other Group record was another retrap caught on the Imber Ranges, Salisbury Plain Training Area, in November 2019. That bird was ringed near Glenshee, Aberdeenshire.

My Purton Garden: Monday, 14th November 2022

Having realised that I cannot use Somerford Common for the BTO’s Winter Constant Effort Site trial, because it precludes the use of sound lures, and it is my best site for Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling, last year it was also my best site for Redwing, all of which required the use of lures, I have decided to trial it in my back garden. Today’s weather was perfect, the nets are already set up, so I can start at 7:00, and have breakfast, tea, coffee and other essential facilities on hand: a win : win situation.

It was a decent session with the Blue Tits arriving early on, and a couple of Goldfinch soon after. One of the interesting factors is the count of birds when ringing, compared to the counts made for the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Scheme. My GBW count for Blue Tits for this morning is two: because that was the maximum I saw at any one time, whereas the session delivered 14 of them (six ringed and eight retraps). The key to the GBW figures is that the numbers are known to be inaccurate, but the inaccuracy is consistent across all counts. What is important for GBW is the proportion of counts in which the species appears, whereas ringing allows, through catch, mark, recapture, for an approximation of the population size / dynamics.

One of the things I have noticed with Blue Tits this autumn is the number of them that have moulted all bar one of their greater coverts. However, it is not the outer one that is retained, it is the second one from the distal edge:

(It looks clearer in real life!)

The real reason that I wanted to ring the garden today was that the Starlings have been gorging themselves on the fat balls in the garden, so I reckon they owe me the chance to ring a few. Three of them obliged. I was joined for coffee at 9:30 by my friend and C-permit trainee Steph. She was taking a day off from her new business (Cotswold Canine Care in Cirencester), and popped in to ring a few birds and have a chat. We were having a lovely chat when we were interrupted by a text from Jonny Cooper, with a picture of a stunning bird – but that is his story to tell in a different post and I am not going to spoil the surprise. Suffice to say that once Steph left, just after 10:30, the birds decided that they had had enough and disappeared as well.

It has been a decent session: I was delighted to catch my third Great Spotted Woodpecker for the garden (in 10 years!) and, overall, it was a reasonably varied catch: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Blue Tit 6(8); Great Tit 2; Coal Tit (1); Wren 1; Dunnock (1); Starling 3; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 5. Totals: 19 birds ringed from 7 species and 10 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 29 birds ringed from 9 species.

I left the nets open for a few more hours but, as my wife was working in the garden, no more birds were caught, and I shut them just as the rain arrived only getting slightly wet but recognising that I need to reproof my waterproof, as rain trickled down my neck through the hood!