6 May 2015

A welcome return to Foxglove Covert LNR

QIts always a pleasure to visit Tony Crease and his ringing team at Foxglove Covert lnr based at Catterick Garrison in N Yorkshire. I try and get across to help with their CES (Constant effort site) ringing at least once per year. For details of the CES scheme see here.

Catterick is one of the biggest schemes and the ringing room is always busy with both ringers and visiting members of the public. The set up is fantastic with a purpose built visitors centre incorporating a bunk room, kitchen and ringing room.

04.00 am the ringing room at Catterick before anyone else arrived!

For the CES is the nets are erected for 10.5 hours so it meant an early 05.30 start on the Bank Holiday Monday. Consequently I agreed with Tony I'd drive up Sunday evening and grab a few hours sleep in the bunk room. 

Arriving at the garrison I had to sign in at the guardhouse before making my way through the camp to the nature reserve which is accessed through locked gates.  Roe Deer leapt away from my headlights and a Hedgehog scuttled across the track   whilst a roding Woodcock grunted and squealed overhead. Somewhere deep within the woods a Tawny Owl called as I made myself a drink and settled down to try and sleep. No chance I was awake at 02.00 and again at 04.00 so decided to get up and open up for the arrival of the troops.

A busy day ensued as we ended up catching over 230 birds of 19 species. One of the many special things about this site is they have both breeding marsh & Willow Tits. We were lucky enough to catch both including this venerable old bird that has just claimed the longevity record for Marsh Tit in the UK. Ringed as a youngster on July 10th 2004 it has been re-trapped 42 times over the subsequent 11 years. 

The close up photo above shows the distinctive white spot at the base of the bill that helps separate this species from the closely related Willow Tit. In fact Willow Tits were only identified in the UK in 1897 which show how similar they are. The previous record was 10 years 4 months and 25 days.

As well as this bird we also caught a female Redstart which was a new species for some of the trainees present.

Other interesting species caught were Jay, Woodpigeon and my 1st (in hand) Garden Warbler of the year.

With so many visitors and birds there wasn't time for a lunch break (or breakfast) but we were kept well fortified with sausage rolls tea and copious amounts of cake!

A thoroughly enjoyable but knackering day ended at 16.00 when the nets were taken down but by the time we'd done this and tidied up and had a debrief from Tony it was 17.30 before I left site knackered and dirty but ultimately happy. 

An uneventful drive home saw me arrive at 20.00 grab a shower and a cold beer and collapse in front of the television where I fell asleep........

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