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As the weather forecast for Sunday was so good: dry with very little wind I ringed one of my more open sites, in Wood Lane, backing on to Webb's Wood.  It is a site that is fed all year round with peanuts and nyjer seed and comprises two dwellings, two ponds separated by a 10 acre field and surrounded on all sides by, amongst others, mature oak and small-leafed lime trees with a newly planted stand of trees at the east end of the field.  The catch is always varied with Blue Tits being the main species, followed by Great Tit.  In an effort to increase the variety of the catch I set my nets away from the peanut feeders most often used by the Tits.  They were set in the newly planted wood along an edge between the wood and the pond, between the new wood and an established stand of mature trees and also around the nyjer feeders for finches and Goldcrests.  As one might guess from the preamble: I had the largest haul of Blue Tits I have ever had at the site.  It was a long day and the following were caught:

New (retrapped): Great Spotted Woodpecker 2(1); Blue Tit 49(7); Great Tit 15(4); Coal Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 1(1); Wren 5; Robin 1(1); Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 1; Lesser Redpoll 1(1); Chaffinch 1.

Totals: 79 New; 15 Retrapped.

The star bird of the day was a retrapped Lesser Redpoll which is not on one of my rings and is not a ring sequence that I have come across before: it will be interesting to find out where it came from.  The BTO will send a report of where it was ringed, how many days ago and what the distance is between where it was ringed and Wood Lane where it was retrapped.

I had help setting up from Geoff Carss, a trainee that is going to be working with me for a few weeks, who had the chance to extract and process a few birds.  It was a good day for working on my extraction skills: on a day when the Wrens were all well behaved the Blue Tits took on the role of double-pocketing, spinning and combinations of both, with the added disadvantage that Blue Tits are the feistiest birds you are ever likely to handle and peck continuously with one of the sharpest bills you will come across: still all were safely extracted in a timely manner and I only had to cut the net for one of them.  This is just as well, as the three pheasant sized holes in one of my 12m nets were an unwelcome finding and will give me something to do on those long wet winter nights. ST GC



I spent today ringing the Firs.  This has been the least productive of my sites so far but it is one that the Wildlife Trust are spending a lot of time on improving, particularly opening up the canopy and forming glades to encourage butterflies.  Earlier this year I suggested that, although it is a wet wood, it could benefit from having an established pond to encourage insects and therefore feed the birds, one month later there were two ponds - and very productive the wood has become already.
The catch was as follows, ringed (retrapped):
Great Tit 13(3); Blue Tit 29(9); Coal Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren 2(2); Robin 2(2); Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 9.
Totals: 59(16).
When you compare this with the autumn catch from last year which comprised 13 new and 3 retrapped you can see that the opening up of the wood would seem to have had a big impact.  How much of that is down to the improved weather this year is hard to say but Ravensroost at this time last year had 30 ringed and 16 retrapped against 39 ringed and 11 retrapped in a comparable session this year, so there must be a factor in play that has improved the numbers in the the Firs so dramatically and that is most likely the changes to the habitat.  

It is not often that I get to ring elsewhere than in my local patch but I spent the weekend at Gibraltar Point at the beginning of November.  Only the Saturday was conducive to ringing. as the wind speeds were too high for safety on the Sunday.  Nonetheless, it was productive and I did get to ring a new species: Woodcock. I also ringed my first Redwing of the autumn.  What was also interesting was just how many Greenfinches they had there.  There was no sign of the population crash that we have experienced here in Wiltshire with the Trichomonosis parasite.  The birds processed by me were as follows: New (Retrapped):

Woodcock 1; Blue Tit 1(2); Great Tit (1); Wren 2(1); Dunnock (1); Robin 2(1); Redwing 1; Goldcrest 4(2); Magpie 1; Goldfinch 8; Greenfinch 14(3); Chaffinch 6; Reed Bunting 4

Totals: 44 (11).  This was about one third of the total catch with another 24 retrapped Greenfinches taken and measured.

Woodcock Side 0411

Woodcock Top 0411

The morning of the 30th October promising to be a good clear day I went to Webb's Wood hoping for Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.  For anybody who knows the layout of the site, my nets were set down two rides either side of the left hand fork in the main track near the end of the hard core substrate.  The birds caught were as follows ringed (retrap):
Blue Tit 10(2); Great Tit 8(2); Coal Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 2; Treecreeper 1; Wren 8(1); Robin 6; Goldcrest 15(1); Lesser Redpoll 4.  A total of 56 new and 6 retrapped.

It is the first time ever that I have caught more Goldcrest than any of the tit species.  This was also the largest catch of Wrens I have ever been involved with - even on sites where they had up 3 times as many nets as I did.  Six of the nine Wrens were caught in just 48 metres of net, which is a pretty high density: Birds of the Western Palearctic give their territory sizes as between 0.48 and 3.00ha with flocking only seen at food sources in very hard winters - which we certainly don't have yet.

However, the best catch for me were the 4 Lesser Redpoll: the first of the Autumn.  Lovely birds:

LESRE frontLESRE side

I had a cracking session at Somerford Common this morning.  The highlights were catching 5 Treecreepers in one session, 2 new Marsh Tits for more data for my project, and a Long-tailed Tit ringed in Ravensroost on Thursday and caught on Somerford on Saturday. I put up two net rides with a total of 147m, either side of Somerford Common Lane at the north end of the wood anticipating a slow morning - and caught loads.  The list is as follows: New adults / not aged (Retrapped)[New Juveniles]:

Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper 1[4]; Blue Tit 3(1[19]); Great Tit 3(1)[4]; Coal Tit 1[11]; Marsh Tit (1)[2]; Long-tailed Tit 5(2); Wren 3[1]; Robin 2(1)[1]; Goldcrest 8(1)
Total 71 new; 7 retrapped.
The key points are that the 2 new Marsh Tits were birds of this year, showing that it is highly probable that Somerford is supporting a breeding population, supported by retrapping a Marsh Tit ringed on the 8th December last year in the same locality. The two new birds were colour ringed as follows: both had Left: Metal over Dark Blue; the Right legs were ringed: Yellow over Grey and the other Yellow over White.
Marsh Tit
Being on an extended sabbatical from working for a living I had been looking forward to filling my boots with a lot of ringing sessions: just as the weather decided not to play ball.  When I got up yesterday and saw that the weather was still I did a quick run down to Ravensroost to see what was about.  I was very glad that I did: lots of Long-tailed Tits plus new Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.  The list was as follows: Adults / unaged (Re-traps) [Juveniles]
Blue Tits (7)[7]; Great Tit 1(2); Coal Tit (1)2; Marsh Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 17; Nuthatch 1; Treecreeper 1; Dunnock [1]; Wren 2(1); Robin 1(2); Goldcrest [3]; Chaffinch 1.
It was good to get another Marsh Tit colour ringed: that is 22 in just over 12 months of which 8 were in Ravensroost which, alongside the 4 birds ringed prior to the start of the project, indicates a small but sustained population within Ravensroost Woods.
All of the Blue Tits, including the retrapped birds, were juveniles. This is becoming something of a feature and I am putting an article together comparing the presence of Blue Tits in this wood over the course of the year.  Initial findings are interesting but I am looking to add in more data before evaluating the trend.  It would be interesting to see whether other ringers in similar habitats are seeing the same pattern.
Blue Tits

I am working alongside the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and the landowners at Tedworth House in the south of the county.  The Trust are taking on management of the woodland, which has not been managed for decades, to make it a highly productive woodland for a wide variety of nature.  My interest being very much the bird side of things I have run a couple of ringing sessions there for the benefit of the landowner to see what they have.  Because the canopy is so high and there is currently little under-storey the ringing catches are small but the variety of birdlife heard and seen is pretty decent.

I was on site on the 17th with a few nets up to see what I could catch.  One area has a coupe of conifers fronted by a few yew trees so I put a Goldcrest tape on the net to see what I could attract in as I could hear them in the trees around me.  This was the first bird I caught yesterdayFirecrest small:

A fabulous Firecrest.  I also managed to catch 3 x Goldcrest; 2 x Wren; 3 x Robin and 1 each of Blackbird and Dunnock in 3 nets.  The landowner is going to set up a feeding station before my next visit so I expect to see the numbers rise significantly.

Other birds observed and heard on site were: Tawny Owl, Raven, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Buzzard.


After being away for a week or so and then with a wet and windy weekend it was a relief to get a bit of ringing done today.  However, this is possibly the laziest bit of ringing I have ever done: arriving on site at 10:00, putting up 5 nets in new positions just to test out whether they might be useful alternatives this winter.  The good news was that 2 of them look very promising: one delivering the 2 Goldcrests that I caught, the other delivering the bulk (!) of the rest.  The birds caught were all birds of this year: New Birds (Retraps); Blue Tit 4 (1); Great Tit 6; Coal Tit 1 (1); Goldcrest 2.

Coal TitGoldcrest


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Wiltshire Ornithological Society was formed on November 30th, 1974, and has grown in recent years to more than 500 members.

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