Hail to the Emperor: Red Lodge, Tuesday, 28th July 2020

With the weather forecasting a light, gusting breeze for the morning I decided on a session at Red Lodge. As Forestry England have now allowed volunteers to work in pairs, I opened the session to the first of my team to say “Yes”. Entirely predictably, Andrew and I were on site for 5:30.

Why the headline, because of this beauty:

I am fairly certain that this is a female Emperor Dragonfly. However, the white edging to the last three abdominal segments is not an identification feature for that species. I am hoping to find out soon exactly what it is. When I extracted it from our net it was busily engaged in eating an immature Broad-bodied Chaser. There is something slightly macabre and disconcerting about watching one insect eating another, whilst the insect being eaten is still very obviously alive.

The weather turned out to be both colder and more blustery than had been forecast and that did impact on the catch. It started slowly, then we had a couple of busier rounds between 8:30 and 9:30, but the wind increased and we had to close 4 of our 7 nets, leaving just 2 x 18m nets and 1 x 12m net. Unfortunately, the 12m net caught just one bird – a same day retrap. It is unusual: this is normally one of the busiest nets.

The catch for the day was: Treecreeper 2; Blue Tit 2; Great Tit 3; Marsh Tit 1; Wren 3; Robin 7; Blackbird 5; Blackcap 4(1); Chiffchaff 1. 28 birds ringed from 9 species and one retrap. All of the birds were juveniles, with the exceptions of one of the Treecreepers and the retrapped Blackcap.

The highlight of the catch was the continuing capture of juvenile Wrens, Robins, and Blackbirds. They really do seem to have had a good year. All three species had recently fledged youngsters, i.e. those who had not yet started their post-juvenile moult. It was also good to catch our eleventh Braydon Forest Marsh Tit of the year:

If you are in the vicinity of Red Lodge and you see a Marsh Tit with a black ring above a pale blue ring on its lower right leg it is this bird.

As the wind was getting stronger we finished taking down and left site a bit early, by 11:00.

One personal footnote: the last bird I ringed today was my 15,999th fledged bird, from 103 species, since I started my ringing career in January 2009. The first bird I ringed was a Corn Bunting, at Ogborne St Andrew on the 10th January 2009. I am hopeful that my 16,000th bird ringed will be equally good. As I am at Ravensroost Meadows next, there is always the possibility of Swallow or House Martin. Fingers crossed.

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