Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Suffolk survey

Last weekend, I went to a National Nature Reserve woodland in Suffolk:


This wood is notable for being one of the few woods left in Britain that is still managed as an active coppice, which was the regime for around a quarter of woods in the pre-war era, and probably the majority of woods in the 18th or 19th centuries.

Rides separate the compartments, and provide convenient paths...

...and the compartments themselves are dominated by hazel and ash, which is cropped on something like a 15-20 year rotation, leading to very dense stands in some compartments near the end of the cycle (with a scattering of larger 'standards', such as oak, left to mature)...

...and open compartments where the poles were recently cut:

The reason for coming was to do a playback survey of the Marsh Tits, which slots into my existing stuff in Cambs and Oxon, and also the long-running studies of others going on at this wood. And the weather was absolutely perfect - sunny and calm:

Note the sparse tree canopy, with trees emerging above the dense shrub layer, typical of active coppice-with-standards.

The survey was extremely successful, and I think that I probably found every pair in the wood during the course of the morning. Judicious playback would often bring both birds of the pair to within a couple of metres, so that I could check the legs for rings (some have been ringed to help work out the pairs).

No rings on these:

But what's this in the sallow?

There's a BTO ring, and on the other leg will be the colour rings...

That's Green/White, a male who is paired with an unringed female. Many of the Marsh Tits were feeding among the sallow catkins, getting a dusting of yellow pollen on their faces:

And there was a lot of singing too...

All in all, I found 10 or 11 pairs - can't be exactly sure due to some awkward unringed pairs (or just a pair) that might have given me the run-around. That was exactly what I was expecting, being a couple less than one of my mature Cambs woods that's the same size (70 ha), as I'd factored in some unoccupied areas in the recently-cut parts of the coppice wood.

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