Otterly Brilliant! Lower Moor Farm: Tuesday, 7th July 2020

15 years ago today I woke up in a Minneapolis hotel to the news of the bombs going off in London. I was exhibiting at a Microsoft trade show. They laid on large numbers of telephone lines so UK people could phone home to check that all was okay. Their generosity and their concern was astonishing and I have had a soft spot for them ever since. I was lucky, all of my friends and family working in London were safe.

I digress, today was looking like the weather would hold for long enough to get a session in. The wind had dropped from the high speeds of the last few days, although there was a breeze forecast to get up after 9:00. So I started early and was on site for 4:15, nets open by 5:00. I used the same net setup as at my last visit. My new net was less successful this time, returning a single juvenile Dunnock. However, the session as a whole was very rewarding, if patchy. Between 5:00 and 6:30 it was steady; between 6:30 and 8:00 it was very quiet, before picking up again between 8:00 and 9:00, thereafter I caught 3 birds in 45 minutes as the wind picked up.

The reason for the punning title: as I was extracting a particularly difficult Wren: they have a knack of finding unwanted extra holes in the net, going into a pocket, through the hole, spinning, finding another pocket, getting tangled in that and spinning some more for good measure, a pair of Otters appeared on Mallard Lake. Fortunately I had a good view of the lake from where I was stood and, for the entire time I was busy with the Wren, and then extracting the other two birds (Blue Tits) from the net, I could see the two Otters playing out on the lake. They disappeared just as I managed to get down to the lakeside to take a photograph – so you will just have to put up with the ones of birds!

All of the really good stuff occurred in the 8:00 to 9:00 period. First to brighten my day was this:

Juvenile Male Kingfisher

This was closely followed by not just the star bird of the day but my bird of the year so far:

Juvenile Redstart

This is the eleventh Redstart that I have ringed and the first I have caught at Lower Moor Farm since I started ringing there in 2013. It is only the third that I have caught at my sites (the others was at Blakehill back in 2014, on passage). Others have been on Salisbury Plain or Waterhay in the Cotswold Water Park on autumn passage. What is particularly exciting about this bird, which had not yet started its post-juvenile moult, is the possibility that it is a product of the local area.

In that same round I caught a juvenile Lesser Whitethroat:

Juvenile Lesser Whitethroat

Perhaps the most poignant catch of the morning were two very, very young Blackcaps. They were so young that I suspect they have been flushed from the nest by an intruder / possible predator.

Both the wings and the tail were very short and have a lot of growing to do. Because they were so young I just fitted the ring and then returned them to the area in which they were caught and placed them safely in a bush, hopefully out of immediate danger.

One thing we have noticed this year is the continual churring of Reed Warblers from a small clump of Reed Mace and other reedy type plants in the corner of Mallard Lake, so it was nice to catch a couple of them, both males:

The list for the day was: Kingfisher 1; Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 3; Wren 4; Dunnock 3(2); Redstart 1; Robin 3; Song Thrush 1; Reed Warbler 2; Blackcap 4(4); Lesser Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 6(1); Bullfinch 1. Totals: 31 birds ringed from 13 species and 7 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 38 birds processed from 13 species. Of these 22 were juveniles, all were ringed and not retrapped and they were the Kingfisher, Treecreeper, Redstart, Song Thrush and the Lesser Whitethroat plus three each of the Wren, Dunnock, Robin and Blackcap.

With the wind getting stronger from 9:00, and the number of birds dropping to one every 20 minutes, I decided to take down and was off site by 10:30 – the beauty of only running 6 nets.

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