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Somerford Common, 27th November 2014

This session at Somerford Common on Thursday last was at the north end of Somerford Lane in the rides either side of the lane.  It was a misty morning and very calm and, because it seems to be obligatory to make reference to the First World War this year, underfoot it was slightly reminiscent of the Somme.  It is likely that the inside of my car will be collecting mud for the next 4 months or so, as the woodlands of the Braydon Forest are particularly wet woods and do not drain at all quickly.

The catch was fairly typical for this time of year; a quiet couple of hours to start with and then a single flock of titmice turns up, producing a very busy hour or so, and then it dies off again,  The size of the catch tends to depend upon how many tit or finch flocks are caught.  The list for the day was as follows, New (Retrapped): Blue Tit 12(2); Great Tit 2(1); Coal Tit 4(1); Long-tailed Tit 10; Wren (1); Robin 1(1); Goldcrest 5(2).  Totals: 34 new, 8 retrapped.

Ravensroost Woods, 24th November 2014

After a couple of frustrating weeks with the weather, I managed to get a session in Ravensroost this morning.  The weather was perfect for ringing: dry, weak sun breaking through mid-morning and not a breath of wind.  It was something of an odd session, with a reasonable first hour, when I caught a number of Redwing, and then an absolute dead spell until 11:00, whereupon Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits started turning up. 

The list was as follows, New (retrapped): Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 1(1); Long-tailed Tit 3(1); Wren (1); Blackbird 1; Redwing 11; Goldcrest 3(4).  Totals 21 new, 7 retraps. ST

New Zealand Farm, SPTA (W), 16/11/14

Sunday morning, after a week of wild and woolly weather but with a calm window forecast, we had a session on Salisbury Plain.  Ian Grier having reconnoitred the site during the week and noticing continual movement of Redwing and Fieldfare, it seemed a good idea to see if we could catch a few.

We met before dawn and opened up 12 nets in half-a-dozen rides and put on the lures for Redwing and Fieldfare.  There was a medium sized team out, consisting Ian Grier, Rob Turner, Andy Palmer, Andrew Bray and myself.  We were also joined by Martin Cooper from the north-east Hampshire group who was undergoing assessment for his A-permit and trainer endorsement. He was put in charge of the two Andy's - trainees both.

The catch started well but fizzled out pretty quickly as unforecast rain swept in and curtailed the session at about 10:15.  Our list for the day was as follows, New (Retrapped): Dunnock 1(3); Robin 1(1); Blackbird 5(1); Song Thrush 2; Redwing 8; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 1; Bullfinch 1.  Totals 20 new, 5 retrapped,

The retrapped birds were all ringed on previous sessions at New Zealand Farm, so seemingly resident on the site.  It was probably a toss up as to who was the happier at the end of the session: Andrew Bray at his first close encounter with a Redwing or Martin on gaining Ian's support for his A-permit and trainer's endorsement.  ST 

Lower Moor Farm, 4th November 2014

Tuesday was supposed to be a dry morning, with rain arriving at about 15:00.  Unfortunately, the rain didn’t read the forecast and arrived at 10:00.  Fortunately, I had just cleared the nets when the rain started and so I closed them to prevent further catching.  Despite the shortened session it was really enjoyable.  Any session where you catch more Bullfinches and Redwing than Blue Tits is a good one.  The list was, New (Retrapped):  Blue Tit 3(1); Great Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 4(5); Wren 3(1); Robin 4(1); Blackbird 1; Redwing 8; Goldcrest 3; Chaffinch (1); Bullfinch 5; Reed Bunting 1(1).  Totals: 33 new, 10 retraps.

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One of the Redwing was undergoing moult of its secondary feathers.  This is normally a step-wise process but in this instance the bird had dropped four of them simultaneously.

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Ravensroost Woods, 28th October 2014

I was joined at Ravensroost by Andy Palmer, the newest recruit to the West Wilts Ringing Group, and we had a productive session.  The highlights were our first two Lesser Redpoll of the winter and a retrapped Treecreeper originally ringed as a newly fledged bird on 4th July 2009.  Treecreepers generally live for about 2 years, so for this bird to be still going 5 years and 4 months later is a decent feat of survival.  This is the fourth time this has been processed.  It weighed 7.6g at initial ringing, 8.4g in November 2011, 9.7g in April 2013 and 8.0g yesterday.  Perhaps old age is catching up.  The oldest ever recorded was just over 8 years old.

The total list was, new (retrapped): Treecreeper (2); Blue Tit 6(1); Great Tit 6(4); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit (5); Wren (4); Blackbird (1); Goldcrest 10(1); Chaffinch (1); Lesser Redpoll 2.  Totals: 24 new, 22 retrapped.

The photos show the two Lesser Redpoll, the first is an adult female, the second is a juvenile.LESRE1281014LESRE2281014

Somerford Common, 25th October 2014

The Forestry Commission have been doing some work on the western side of Somerford Common to improve its attractiveness to wildlife.  Recently they have thinned out some of the conifers and established a couple of new wildlife ponds.  This Saturday I set my nets in this newly managed area, to see how it compares with the eastern side of the common.  It compares very well.  I was helped out by Matt Callaway, one of the excellent Wildlife Trust trainees, whose help setting up, taking down and, most importantly, being my scribe for the data, was invaluable. The work is clearly effective, as the catch is on a par with that further east when the feeding station is active. The list for the session was as follows, new (retrapped): Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 15; Great Tit 4; Coal Tit 10; Long-tailed Tit 9(4); Wren 1; Robin 5; Blackbird 4; Redwing 1; Goldcrest 19. Totals: 70 new, 4 retrapped.

Of the 4 retrapped Long-tailed Tits, one was originally ringed in Ravensroost the others were ringed on Somerford Common.  The photos below are of the first Redwing I have caught on Somerford Common. ST

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Tedworth House, 22nd October 2014

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust have been working at Tedworth House for a couple of years now, helping to provide activities connected to nature for the recovering service personnel and the Help for Heroes staff on site.  A major part of their work is in establishing a management regime for the woodlands that surround the house and playing fields to make them more wildlife friendly.  The woodland is an old beechwood with some yew, cedar and sycamore.  The canopy is well over 60' high with little undergrowth.  Thinning of the woodland has been going on for some time now, to open up the canopy and allow a more wildlife friendly understorey to develop.  Hopefully this is beginning to bear fruit.  Ringing catches on the site have usually been small (though my second visit yielded a Firecrest) but this Wednesday, probably by hitting a tit flock, was hopefully a positive return on the work in the wood.  There is one main glade in the wood and I have suggested a wildlife pond be dug and some bramble, hawthorn and elder be introduced to further encourage the birdlife.

The list for the day was as follows, all new birds with no retraps: Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 5; Coal Tit 2; Wren 2; Dunnock 1; Robin 2; Blackbird 6; Goldcrest 4; Chaffinch 1, a total of 31 birds.

I was helped with setting up and taking down by Dave Turner and Georgina Baker from the Trust, always very helpful and good company.

Red Lodge, 19th October 2014

I was helped today by Andy Palmer (usually found on the Salisbury Plain watching Stone Curlew and Montagu's Harriers - so some prosaic woodland birds is just what he needed) and Jonathan Cooper, (who is spending time working at Slimbridge and the WBRC) who has helped me out in the past. 

Andy is just starting out on his ringing career and giving him a taste of multiple Blue and Great Tits is just the thing to test his mettle. In the event the birdlife was more extensive than that and we had a pleasant time until the wind increased, the direction changed and we had to take down. The highlights of the session were: the first Redwing of the winter (a lot flew over, so they are here in numbers already); one new and one retrapped Marsh Tit and two beautifully marked Treecreepers.

The list was as follows, New (Retrapped): Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 9(2); Great Tit 2(2); Marsh Tit 1(1); Long-tailed Tit 1; Wren 1; Robin 1; Blackbird 2; Redwing 1; Goldcrest 8.  Totals: 28 new, 5 retrapped. ST / AP /JC

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