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Boxing Day

Having checked the weather for the Christmas period I noted that boxing day was the only day the wind was predicted to be calm and the promise of a frost. I decided to try a session over on Tadworth Meadows.

I enlisted the help of my mate Dave and set a 0700 hrs start. We set a line of single panels, 45’/60’/60 for the Skylark and we put a 30′ 4 panel net across the hedge that dissects Tadworth Meadow.

The Skylarks were not really flying about the field, probably conserving energy, and only took to flight if flushed. All was not lost with a single bird eventually ending up in the net. The 30′ was a little more productive with 8 birds caught; 5 x Blue tit, 2 x Great tit and a single Blackbird.

We set down at 1000 hrs and headed home for a cuppa.

New Years Eve

I was intending to have another go for the Skylark, but having had a chat with Carl was persuaded to go over to Woolley Firs and try for Yellowhammer and Redwing.

We arrived at 0700 hrs to frost covered fields and a light freezing fog. We split into 2 teams of 2 to set-up.

It was a quiet morning bird wise with just 19 birds processed, we did however catch a Yellowhammer and Redwing.

Redwing

Redwing

 

I left early at 1000.

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with another early visit to Woolley Firs looking to catch more Redwing, a 0600 hrs start saw 4 of us in the fields setting up in the dark. The weather forecasters haven’t exactly been on top form of recent so we took a slight chance that the wind wouldn’t be as forecast. However it was and this had a big impact on our catch with only 10 birds caught, but at least we did catch a 5 Redwing! Also caught; Yellowhammer, Jay, Great tit, Blue tit and Long-tailed tit. However, I missed most of the action though due to the quick onset of a headache shortly after set-up which had me in the car popping pills (headache remedy pills!).  I was in two minds whether to go home but thought it best to let my pounding head subside first. I didn’t really want to leave because we had plans to ring Tawny and Barn owls later in the day.

Yellowhammer carefully being ringed

Yellowhammer carefully being ringed

 

Jay

Jay

 

 

The wind continued to cause issue, most of all making the nets very visible to the birds, the decision was made to set-down around 1045 hrs after a couple of rounds without birds. I was able to help with take down as my headache was finally easing, which was a relief as this meant I would be ok to ring the owls.

We left site and headed for a cafe for a spot to eat before heading over to Bisham wood and the owls, a very tasty full English was consumed which helped banish the remnant of the headache.

Over the past two years a few members of our ringing group have been taking part in the reinstating of an owl project in some of the woods in and around Berkshire. Initially we had to establish the locations of the boxes and gps them, once this was done we had to clear the boxes out, removing multiple layers of nests or old squirrel dreys, then remove the boxes we considered to be surplus to requirements and relocate in new locations. Many of the boxes have been in place for 10 years so there was also plenty of repairs to do.

So our first port of call for the owls was Bisham Wood,  a couple of Tawny owls had been seen roosting in one of the boxes the previous week and we had high hopes they would still be using the same box, it turned out that they had moved residence but fortunately only along to the next box. We carefully retrieved the Owls and checked to see if they had been ringed before, they both hadn’t so we ringed them. A thorough examination of the wing feathers had us determine they were both adult bird with both having 3 generations of feathers, a wing length was recorded and a weight taken and a few photographs of the open wing for the records before we released them back into the wood.

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The second location, Little Marlow, where we hoped to ring a couple of Barn owls, was just a short 10 minute trip from Bisham wood, a private family house with a Barn owl box in a tree in the garden. A camera was installed in this box so we where able to confirm the owls where in residence with a quick phone call before setting off. This box had had a breeding pair in the summer who had managed to fledge 5 from a brood of 6, which is a very good outcome for Barn owls, the young birds had all been ringed before they’d fledged. Now the box was being used as a roost possibly by the breeding pair. Again we carefully retrieved the birds and ringed them. These two did indeed turn out to be an adult male and female.

Barn Owl

Barn Owls

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

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It’s still hard to believe that half the farm I do my ringing and birding on is now the location for England’s First World War Centenary Wood . Today was the first planting day, the first 10,000 trees of the target 400,000.

The weather couldn’t have been better with sunny blue sky’s throughout the day, this probably helped with the turn- out.

My friend Dave a I ventured over at 1030 hrs armed with our spades and enthusiasm,  we then spent the next 2.5 hours digging small holes, planting saplings, staking and fixing protective sheaths, we managed to plant over 100 trees between us before backache finally took hold and forced us to stop.

It was amazing to see the transformation of the field in such a short period of time. We left at 1445 hrs happy with our contribution. There were still people arriving as we left and it will be interesting to see just how many trees were planted on the day.

A leisurely walk back enabled me to do a little spotting, there were plenty of thrushes about including Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbirds and Song thrush, I also spotted a Kestrel and Rook engaged in a dogfight and pushed a few Skylark up whilst crossing Tadworth Meadow.

LBF Tree planting 01

LBF Tree planting

LBF Tree planting 02

LBF Tree planting

LBF Tree planting 03

LBF Tree planting

 

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/first-world-war/locations/england/


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http://bishambarnowlgroup.blogspot.co.uk/

A new blog dedicated to owls, owl boxes and owl ringing from my friend and fellow ringer, Paul.

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Having spotted c70 Redwing last week at Woolley Firs it was decided that we should have a go at catching some this weekend. This did mean a really early start as we needed to get the nets in place before first light. With a 0600 hrs meet time agreed and a 40 mile journey to site I set my alarm for 0420, I also factored in time to thaw the car as a -3°c frost had been forecast for Epsom Downs!

A small team of 4 arrived on site at the designated time and we set about setting up, splitting into 2 teams we soon had the nets in place.

The first round was key to our Redwing success and we weren’t disappointed with 9 caught. After we’d processed the initial catch we added some double panel nets in the hope of catching Skylark, a few had been spotted by the staff during the week.  Subsequent rounds throughout the morning didn’t yield any more Redwing, or Skylark for that matter but we did catch a good number of other thrushes, 11 Blackbird (a session record for the site beating the previous high by some margin) and a single Song thrush. Other species on the day; 4 Great tit, 3 Blue tit, a Robin, a flock of c20 Meadow pipits were seen in a tree near by late on, so with a quick change of bird call on the players we managed to encourage 6 to the nets, however the c20 Yellowhammer we also spotted couldn’t be tempted!

We ringed our last bird at 1230 hrs, bringing the total to 35, and proceeded to set down. With another successful session in the bag we retired to the local for a well earned meal and a pint.

Other birds of note spotted; Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel (sat atop one of the net poles!)

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wf 027

Meadow pipit

Redwing

Redwing

 

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Woolley Firs again this week with ringing and bird box cleaning planned.

A damp and misty start meant leaving slightly earlier to allow for the slower journey to site.  A five strong team arrived on site for the 0715hrs start.

A quieter session than of late with 35 birds processed, we did put a percentage of this down to the empty feeders which usually are kept topped up. At 1030hrs myself and Roj started the task of checking and removing this years nest material from the 40 plus bird boxes we have in the nearby wood, the task took the best part of 2 hours with all but a couple completed. The next visit we’ll be moving some of the less productive boxes and repairing a few that need a little attention.

Birds spotted, c70 Redwing, 3 Mistle thrush, 11 Lapwing and 3 Skylark, Red Kite.

We left at 1345hrs and, pub, pint, chips, home, followed.

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Having had to cancel my visit to last weeks season opener at Woolley Firs due to an alternator failure I was eager to make it this week, this was put into jeopardy on Friday morning after a massive hole appeared on the M25 following road works over-night. The road was still not open by bed time on Friday night but was due to re-open at 5am Saturday.

I confirmed the M25 had actually re-opened Saturday morning before setting off to Woolley Firs for the planned 07:00 meet. It was damp and misty throughout the morning but this didn’t seem to hamper the catch with a respectable 64 birds processed. The highlights of the day; a first year male Firecrest (a ringing tick for me) and a first year female Great spotted woodpecker.

Mistle thrush and Redwing were spotted but couldn’t be tempted down to the nets.

Firecrest

Firecrest (3M)

 

 

Firecrest Head

Firecrest (3M)

 

Great Spotted Woodpecker (3F)

Great spotted woodpecker (3F)

The now ‘traditional’ after session pint was quaffed before a remarkably traffic free trip home.

 

 

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Saturday the 25th saw a team of 8 turn out for a 0645 start.

The weather was as predicted; cloudy at first with little wind giving way to clear skies and a breeze around 1030.

64 birds processed in total with 58 new;  21 Meadow pipit, 21 Goldcrest, 7 Long-tailed tit, 5 Lesser Redpoll (first of the autumn) 2 Wren and singles of Blue tit, Coal tit, Reed Bunting and Jay. We’re still waiting for the larger flocks of Redpoll to arrive and hopefully we’ll see some Redwing & Fieldfare too, apparently there are already c1 million Redwing in the country!

We left site about 1230.

No bird pictures from the session but here’s one of a very nice egg & bacon sandwich I had on the way home, purchased from a nice little cafe I spotted last time.

2014-10-25 12.59.18

 

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I’ve now added entry-level electronics to my skill set to help with the bird ringing.

I’m now able to build my own speaker boxes, and great fun it is too!

Speaker Boxes

Speaker Boxes

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Sunday 12th.

Over to my patch with our first session of the autumn on Langley Bottom Farm. I’ve already seen plenty of skylark on the fields so far this autumn which is encouraging.  Michael, the farmer,  will be leaving Tadworth Meadows in stubble for the winter which will leave more food available which in turn will help with survival rates.

It’s still early autumn and there’s plenty of food on the fields so the Skylark are still widely distributed, they are quite hard to catch as it is so we only deployed a couple of lines on net and crossed our fingers. After an hour or so it was becoming quite apparent that our luck was not in. We did catch a single male (sexed on wing length of 115) at 0730 but that proved to be our only bird of the session. We set down at 1000.

Another visit is planned for next month.

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