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Wood Lane, 16th October 2014

This was the first session at the Wood Lane site for two months.  The expectation was for a lot of Blue and Great Tits with a smattering of other species.  In the event, Goldcrests were the star performers. The birds processed were as follows, New (Retrapped):  Blue Tit 7(3); Great Tit 5; Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren 3; Dunnock 2; Robin 2(1); Blackbird 4; Goldcrest 7; Goldfinch 1. Totals 33 new, 4 retrapped.

 The summer visitors have finally left, the winter visitors are not yet with us in large numbers (although the origin of the Goldcrests could be continental), and the titmice are still exploiting food in the woodlands and not coming to the garden feeders yet. ST

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Webb's Wood, 7th October 2014

I did a session at Webb’s Wood today: the autumn migration is almost at an end and the winter birds have not yet arrived so it was predominantly resident birds.  I was helped once again by Naomi Perry, one of the Wildlife Trust's excellent trainees.  Having somebody to help with the scribing, set up and take down, when you usually work alone, makes the whole experience much more relaxed.  When they are as enthusiastic and keen to learn as Naomi and her peers, it adds significantly to the pleasure of the occasion.

The catch wasn’t massively exciting: essentially we caught one very large tit flock, but there were some nice Goldcrests and a straggling Chiffchaff still around.  The list was as follows, New (Retrapped): Blue Tit 20(7); Great Tit 21(1); Coal Tit 9(2); Long-tailed Tit 1(3); Robin (1); Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest 5.  Totals: 57 new, 14 retrapped.

Of the retrapped birds the following were originally ringed elsewhere (admittedly close to Webb’s Wood but shows movement nonetheless).

D837263, a Blue Tit, was originally ringed in January in the Firs.

D837411, Blue Tit, ringed in February in Oaklands, Wood Lane.

Z197312, Coal Tit, ringed in the Firs less than a week ago, 1st October  ST

Ravensroost Woods, 5th October 2014

I had a cracking session in Ravensroost this morning.  There was one disappointment: I set a net and lure for Tawny Owl, as I did at the Firs last time out, and it caught another owl – only it escaped the net as I ran to grab hold of it.  Never mind – it gives me something to aim for next time.   There was a bonus: 3 Song Thrush, 2 Blackbird, 1 Dunnock and 1 Wren had chosen to mob the owl and became trapped in the net.  That takes the number of new Song Thrush caught in Ravensroost so far this year to 13 compared to just 1 in 2013 (and 1 in the 3 months I had in Ravensroost in 2012).  It is an exceptional year for them throughout the Braydon Forest

There are still a good number of Chiffchaffs around but just the one Blackcap this time.  I would not expect to see any more for a few weeks – until the German winter migrants start to arrive.  There are good numbers of Goldcrest around – they were the most numerous bird of the session (17 new and 1 retrap from earlier this year) – and they come readily to the lure.  I also caught another 2 new Nuthatch – which brings the year to date total to 7, compared to 2 in the whole of 2013.  

The complete list for the day was as follows, New (Retrapped): Treecreeper 1; Nuthatch 2(1); Blue Tit 7(1); Great Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit 2(4); Wren 2(2); Dunnock 2; Robin (4); Blackbird 2(1); Song Thrush 3; Blackcap 1; Chiffchaff 8; Goldcrest 17(1).  Totals: 50 New, 16 Retrapped.  ST

The Firs, 1st October 2014

Over the last couple of sessions around the Braydon Forest there has been a lot of Tawny Owl activity.  Recently I bought a new net, with heavier duty thread and larger holes, for waders and owls so I decided to give it a go.  It was the first net I erected at 6:00, I switched on a lure at 6:15 and immediately got answering calls and owls flying around my head, which was a great experience in itself.  By 6:30 it had a Tawny Owl sitting in it.  Although I have ringed one previously, and processed another 2 retraps, this is the first I have caught in my own nets and very exciting for me.  It was an adult female and possibly the most docile bird I have ever handled.  

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The list for the day was as follows, new (retrap): Tawny Owl 1; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 6(2); Great Tit 7(4); Coal Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 4; Wren 5(1); Robin 1; Blackbird 2; Chiffchaff 3; Goldcrest 6.  Totals 37 new, 7 retraps. The Chiffchaffs are seemingly the last hangers on of the summer migrants. ST

New Zealand Farm, 28th September 2014

This was the last summer migrant session at our new site on SPTA West.  We put up our standard set of nets, plus a triangular arrangement designed to catch Meadow Pipits.  The session was leisurely and enjoyable with a good, manageable catch of birds. The list was as follows, New (Retraps): Blue Tit 4; Great Tit 2(1); Long-tailed Tit 7; Meadow Pipit 20; Wren 5; Dunnock 4(2); Robin 8(1); Song Thrush 4; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 10; Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 9; Linnet 1; Bullfinch 1; Yellowhammer 1; Starling (1).

There were some interesting birds in amongst the catch.  The Blackbird was very likely a continental winter migrant.  The wing length was 137mm, which is the longest of the 152 Blackbirds I have processed in the last 2 years.  It was a juvenile but the black plumage areas were a dark dusty grey rather than the glossy black normal in UK birds:

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 The Starling that we caught was a retrap, but not on a West Wilts group ring.  It will be interesting to see where it was ringed originally and how far it has moved.  The last bird we caught was the Yellowhammer, the first we have caught at the site:

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The team was Ian Grier, Rob Turner, Richard Pike, Andy Palmer, Paul Wexler (from the North Wilts group) and myself. ST  

Lower Moor Farm, 23rd September 2014

It was with a little trepidation that I approached my return visit to Lower Moor Farm this morning.  At my last session I captured over 137 birds: a lot of work for a one-man band, and little time to enjoy the birds you have caught.  I set my nets exactly as last time, with one difference: following on from my incidental catch of one at Ravensroost on the 13th September, I decided to have a real go at catching Meadow Pipits today.  I copied a method used effectively by Matt Prior: set up a triangular net set with one of the angles kept open.  The bottom shelf of the net is kept close to the ground, Meadow Pipits fly low, a lure is put into the middle of the net set and you wait.  When Meadow Pipits are attracted to the lure you run at the set and they fly off into the nets: it is just a relief that there was nobody there to video my lumbering carcass trying to run at the nets.  We caught 22 – if I was faster it might have been 50.  We used 3 x 18m nets – I think that gave them too much room to take off and get over the nets, so next time I will use 12m nets.  It was fun though, watching Meadow Pipits sitting on top of the nets, one was even sat on the loudspeakers of the lure but still got away.  However, enough found their way into the nets to give a good catch.

The catch was as follows, New (Retrapped): Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 1(4); Meadow Pipit 22; Wren 1(2); Dunnock 3; Robin 3; Blackbird 1; Blackcap 14; Chiffchaff 9; Reed Bunting 1(1).  Totals 65 new, 7 retrapped.

There are still good numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcap being caught, all juveniles.  Chiffchaffs have certainly bred throughout a long summer: three of the nine were still in post-juvenile moult.

Today I had help setting up from two of the trainee conservationists that the Wildlife Trust have employed this year: Matt Calaway and Naomi Perry.  It was a great help.  Matt had to go off and do his scheduled work at 9:00 but Naomi was able to spend the whole session with me and helped (hugely) with the take down.  Naomi started by scribing for me but she was keen to have a go and so, when things slowed down after the first two rounds, she started by learning how to handle the birds, picking up the ringers' grip and extracting birds from the bags quickly and efficiently (and was not fazed by the usual nipping attentions of the Blue Tit).  Her ringing was spot on and her biometric measurements very quickly became accurate.  Definitely a potential ringer for the future.  ST

Ravensroost Woods, 20th September 2014

I had a very good session in Ravensroost Woods today.  I processed a total of 85 birds, the highlight being three new juvenile Marsh Tits. Any session where the new Chiffchaffs outnumber the new Blue Tits is a good one.

The catch was as follows, New (Retrapped): Nuthatch 2(2); Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 8(8); Great Tit 7(1); Coal Tit 3(1); Marsh Tit 3(1); Long-tailed Tit 9(6); Wren 1; Dunnock 1; Robin 3(2); Blackbird (1); Song Thrush 1; Blackcap 5; Chiffchaff 11; Goldcrest 7.  Totals: 63 New, 22 Retrapped.

The retrapped Marsh Tit was originally ringed as a juvenile on the 4th December 2011.  The newly ringed birds were all juveniles and were colour ringed as below:

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If you should happen to see a Marsh Tit anywhere in the Braydon Forest, could you please e-mail the details (location, date and colour rings on the right leg - if possible) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Goldcrests were also all juveniles, it is amazing how readily they come to the lure:

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 The new Nuthatches were a male and a female. The female is the picture on the left, she has paler colouring than the male – particularly the reddish colour under the wings and the under-tail coverts:

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Finally, a gratuitous picture of a juvenile Treecreeper:

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Ravensroost Meadows, 13th September 2014

After the excitement of the last few weeks, it was a relaxed quiet session in Ravensroost meadows today. The Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats have definitely left the area but Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are still very much in evidence.  There were a few Swallows around but no House Martins.  The catch was as follows, Ringed (Retrapped): Blue Tit 2; Meadow Pipit 1; Wren 5; Dunnock 1; Robin (1); Blackcap 8; Chiffchaff 7.  Totals: 24 ringed and 1 retrap.  Of the new birds, all were juveniles except one Wren and the Dunnock.

When taking down the nets I heard a few Meadow Pipits calling, so I left one net up over the causeway in the middle of the pond and put an MP3 of the Meadow Pipit under the net.  A few minutes later I extracted a Meadow Pipit.  I have ringed over 100 Meadow Pipits on various sites but this is the first that I have ringed at Ravensroost or on any of my own sites. ST

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