I think that this is a first: whilst I was ringing in the wildlife refuge at Lower Moor Farm, Ellie was ringing over the other side of Mallard Lake:
Whilst Ellie was working solo, I was joined for the morning by two of the attendees from last week’s ringing demonstration: Teresa and Andy. Teresa is learning both photography and wildlife and, as Andy volunteered to help me set up, and take down at the end, who was I to refuse. In addition, the rest of my team (except Ellie) were spending Mother’s Day with their respective mothers, so I was working solo and I wanted to set a decent number of nets. This is the quiet time: in this area we have lost most of the winter visitors and just a few of the summer visitors have begun to arrive, so I need to set more nets to get a reasonable catch, especially as I never have set up a regular feeding station at Lower Moor Farm to attract birds in. Once I have set one in there, in advance of a ringing demonstration, and once to ensure we had some birds to show for my (second) appearance on Countryfile!
We met at 6:30 and had the nets open by just before 8:00. This was my net setup for today. I decided to keep it all within the Wildlife Refuge, to make it easier for me to manage, and keeping the nets out of sight of the general public, assuming, correctly, that it would be busy with families and dog walkers this morning:
These nets all run between Mallard Lake and Flagham Brook. The seeming thick run of trees actually line either side of the brook, which also happens to be the Wiltshire / Gloucestershire border.
Ellie’s nets comprised 2 x 18m along the lane / tree line and 1 x 12m along the lake side.
The birds started to arrive quite quickly after the nets were open and at 8:15 I was extracting a pair of Bullfinch, two Chiffchaff and one each of Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper and Wren. I say a pair of Bullfinch: a male and a female within a metre of each other in the same net. Somewhat surprisingly, the 18m x 12m net set caught all bar the Wren on that first round. In fact, it actually caught 50% of today’s catch. So often I set these nets and catch one bird if I am lucky, so this was a welcome change.
The second round delivered another three birds, and then that was it: I did not catch another bird in four rounds between 9:15 and 10:45. I told Teresa and Andy that if the next round was also empty I would close up and we could go home. Naturally, that round produced a couple of birds, as did the following round.
Although it did go quiet for 90 minutes it was never uninteresting. The Grey Herons were busy squabbling over the nest sites in the trees between Swallow Pool and Cottage Lake. One of my usual rides used to be called, possibly still is, the Heronry Ride. Unfortunately, the heronry that refers to is no longer active but there still are a couple of nest sites in the aforementioned trees.
Somewhat surprisingly, when we did catch birds we also attracted a lot of passers-by who wanted to see what was going on. I am pleased to say that we had some very happy children and adults get to see some small birds close up. They were also pretty interested in the whole ringing process: I think I did more talking than I did at last week’s ringing demonstration. In fact, apart from one ignorant dog owner, who had three spaniels off the lead and running around, all the many dog walkers were being well-behaved (at least around me they were) this morning and were every bit as interested in what we were doing as everyone else.
My list for the day was: Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 4(1); Great Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 1(1); Wren 2; Dunnock 1; Chiffchaff 5; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 16 birds ringed from 7 species and 3 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 19 birds processed from 8 species.
Ellie’s list was a bit more titmouse heavy, probably because she was ringing rather closer to human habitation. Her list was: Blue Tit 6(3); Great Tit 6(2); Dunnock (1); Robin (2); Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest (1). Totals: 13 birds ringed from 3 species and 9 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 22 birds processed from 6 species.
My highlight had to be my first Chiffchaffs of the year. I know that there is an overwintering population in the Cotswold Water Park but we don’t often catch them in March at this site. Also, the Bullfinch pair were in lovely condition. When I processed them, I kept back the first bird until the second was done, so they could be released together. Pleasingly, they actually flew off together, into the same tree, preened themselves and then flew off together again.
Teresa’s highlight was the Treecreeper: her absolute favourite bird and she had never had the chance to see one as closely as she did today.
Ellie’s highlights included her first Chiffchaff of the year, plus a Robin and a Great Tit ringed in her first couple of solo sessions at Lower Moor Farm at the end of 2019 / start of 2020.
We shut the nets at 11:45 and, with Andy’s help, has everything packed away 30 minutes later. It still took me another 15 minutes to get away from site as I became the de facto tour guide for a couple of families finding their way around the site for the first time. All in all, a pleasant and relaxed session with some good birds at a time of year that is usually quiet.