Up at 4:15, on site before 5:00, nets set up by 5:45, no birds until the first at 6:30, the next at 7:15. It did seem like the morning was going to drag significantly. To be honest, it never got very busy but there were some significant catches nonetheless. It is hard to know why the catch was so low: I was surrounded by singing birds all morning. That never let up at all. There were at least two Cuckoo present as at one point they were doing a call and response act and there was at least four singing Cetti’s males in the small area where my nets were set but none were caught this morning.
The list for the day was: Great Tit 4; Dunnock 1(1); Robin 2(1); Song Thrush (2); Blackcap 5(1); Garden Warbler 1; Chiffchaff 3; Greenfinch 1. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 7 species and 4 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 22 birds processed from 8 species. Of these birds 12 from 6 species were juveniles, including first for the year:
Four of the Blackcaps and one of the Chiffchaffs were juveniles, and all had already started their post-fledging moult. The two fledgling Great Tits were caught alongside a female in the same net at the same time, so they are quite likely to have been nest-mates. They were newly out of the nest, with no sign of starting their moult. The moult they undergo is, essentially, the growing of body feathers. In the nest they are kept warm by the nest lining and by being brooded and so body feathers are pretty much the last feathers to be produced. Once they leave the nest they have to grow them to protect them from the elements. In detail it is a lot more complicated than that, with different species having different moult strategies, but that is a key driver of post-fledging moult. Some birds take it much further than others: Long-tailed Tit, House Sparrow and Nuthatch moult into full adult plumage over the summer and autumn, so by late autumn they cannot be easily separated from the parent birds on plumage. Others, like Blue and Great Tit, grow body feathers and replace some wing feathers (coverts, alula, etc) but remain easily distinguishable from their parents, many until both ages moult in the following autumn.
I hate to have a moan but the site was quite busy with visitors and, yet again, there was not a single dog owner around this morning who was prepared to follow the rules for using the nature reserve, i.e. keeping their dogs on short leads and under close control at all times. They seem to find it hard to understand that a nature reserve is a special place for wildlife and not a playground for their pet. What was particularly concerning were the owners encouraging their dogs into Mallard Lake immediately adjacent to the small reed bed in which a couple of Reed Warblers have recently established territories. I had words with a couple of them, but it is tedious and opens you up to abuse, or even assaults (personal experience). It is very frustrating just how little consideration these people have for the hard work of the Trust and the wildlife they are providing a habitat for.
I left site just before midday and was astonished at how many cars there were parked on the verges along the Spine Road through the Water Park. Every spare inch of verge seemed to have a vehicle on it.