Friday 27th November 2020

Firecrest

Unlike some other ringers in the South Hams, I had decided that, although permitted, travelling to my ringing site during the Covid crisis constituted an unnecessary journey and I have been twiddling my thumbs at home for the last few weeks. However, given a welcome break in the weather and the knowledge that other visitors to the site are few and far between, I finally succumbed to temptation and travelled to South Milton for a dawn start today. Unfortunately, the forecast of an overnight frost and low winds turned out to be woefully inaccurate with a steady force 4 NE breeze blowing down the valley, which is at the upper limit for such an exposed site. On a positive note, the wind had prevented a frost and overcast skies made the nets less obvious.

Birds waiting to be processed – different colours = different nets!

As is usual at this time of year, things started off slowly and gradually picked up as the morning progressed. Chiffchaffs dominated the catch, with two Firecrests providing the highlight. The last bird trapped was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, which got its revenge for the indignity by drilling my knuckles as I extracted it.

Woodpecker damage!

Final totals were 56 birds of which 46 were new: 5 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 33 Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrest, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker, 6 Long-tailed Tit and 6 Wren.

Wednesday 4th November 2020

After two weeks of seemingly endless gales and rain, I managed to squeeze in a morning’s ringing before the next national lockdown starts tomorrow. It was a cold start with the first frost of the autumn and the mist net poles were covered in ice when I arrived, but things gradually warmed up despite a northerly breeze blowing down the valley. Ringing was steady but not very exciting. Crests seem to be thin on the ground this year but at least there were a few Chiffchaffs about, including 3 returning wintering birds – two from 2019 and 1 from 2018. The highlight was five Cetti’s Warblers, four of which were new birds. This brings the year’s total so far up to 22 individuals, which may be a record for SML. I’ll have to check!

A couple of Sparrowhawks, which appeared to be hunting as a pair close to Marsh Ride, kept me on my toes, as did a sighting of a stoat scuttling across one of the paths in the same area but my presence kept them away from the nets. Woodpigeons were much in evidence as well with at least a thousand heading south during the morning, together with about 20 Skylark and a couple of Siskins. Final totals were 46 birds of which 29 were new: 1 Blackbird, 4 Blue Tit, 5 Cetti’s Warbler, 15 Chiffchaff, 3 Dunnock, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Great Tit, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Robin, 1 Song Thrush and 6 Wren.