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Although the wind speeds where far from ideal for netting Skylarks, the forecast of frost and clear skies early morning did tempt me out. I set the alarm for 5am so I would be able to get set-up before sunrise. I set my normal line of nets in the field along with a 30′ 4 panel across the hedge line.

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

Frosty Sunrise on Tadworth Meadows

It certainly was a lovely morning, crisp and fresh, the golden hour just after dawn is always a special time. Again there where plenty of Skylarks up and about with some of the males displaying their song-flight and parachuting techniques, already looking to impress the females, spring is definitely in the air. It turned out to be a very slow morning both with the Skylark nets and the 4 panel, the wind making the Skylark nets just a little too visible and very few birds in the 4 panel, with a total of 5 birds ringed, all Blue tit and all new.

Blue tit

Blue tit

The wind continued to gather speed and I ended up taking down at 9am, although it was slow on the bird front it was still great to be out and about on such a lovely morning. I was back home by 10am with a nice cup of tea in hand.

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14th – Demonstration at Woolley Firs

We were over at Woolley Firs on Saturday 14th giving a ringing demonstration for the Wildlife trust. We set the nets and our ringing station up in the usual positions and created a semi-circle of various bird boxes for the public to stand behind, this gave us space to carry out our normal ringing procedures without the birds or ourselves getting overwhelmed.

We managed a respectable 55 birds processed, mostly Great tits 22 new/12 retraps and Blue tits 5 new/9 retraps , Dunnocks 3 new, Coal tit 1 new/1 retrap and singles of Long-tailed tit and Firecrest both new birds.  Carl did a great job keeping a very eager public engaged whilst the ringing process was taking place. It was really satisfying to see faces light up and huge smiles break out when someone got to hold and release a bird for the first time, it always takes me back to a frosty morning on Chobham Common and my very own first bird in the hand. The crowd dispersed at 11am and the feedback from Carl was very positive, it seems everyone enjoyed what they’d seen and heard.

Unfortunately for our visitors the highlight of the day came too late, on the last net round of the day Carl came back with a lovely Firecrest, and as you can see – an absolute cracker!

All in all the demonstration was a success and we all had a great morning, we headed off to the pub for a well-earned pint and lunch.

Firecrest

Firecrest

A further write-up can be found here on the Runnymede Ringing Group pages

15th – The farm

On Sunday I was on the farm adding 7 more nest boxes to my scheme, 6 more tit boxes and a Treecreeper box, this brings the total up to 12. Last year I ringed 24 pulli from 5 boxes so with the additional boxes added this season I would be hoping for a few more, fingers crossed!

After a few different builds and material choices I have now settled on this design, the main changes have been the materials, I now use 21mm gravel boards, purchased from Farm Fencing, a big thanks to them for the great deal they give me, I use old truck wheel inner-tubes for the roof hinges, recycled and donated for free from Tadworth Tyres, a big thanks to them too and a mixture of screw and nails for the construction, an extra coat of wildlife friendly preservative on the roof and we’re good to go!

2015-02-15 13.19.31

New design tit box


2015-02-15 11.14.03

A much better use of a golf trolley!


2015-02-15 12.54.09

Treecreeper box

 

All the boxes get GPS’d and added to my Googlemaps when I get home, obviously this is really helpful come the summer when the wood is transformed from winter bare branches to lush summer foliage.

Bring on the breeding season!

 

 

 

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I dropped in on the session at Woolley Firs on my way to Leicester on Sunday for a couple of hours of ringing and to pick up some bird boxes for repair.

Carl, Marie and Paul had set the nets up at the main house this week and where busily extracting birds when I arrived.

It was a ‘tit’ filled morning with 45 birds processed in total and all where either Blue tit or Great tit bar a Coal tit and a Treecreeper.

After setting down we retired to the local pub for lunch before I headed off to Leicester.

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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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