The Firs: Monday, 5th October 2020

After nearly 3 days of often torrential rain, there was a weather window predicted for Monday morning, with the rain closing in again at lunchtime. It was forecast to be breezy from the west, so I chose a site in which the rides run north to south, with a good thick tree barrier to protect the nets from billowing. As I had already arranged to go to Red Lodge on Wednesday, it had to be the Firs, also known as the Braydon Bog!

I was rather interested to see what impact the rain had had on the underfoot conditions. All I can say is that the summer has clearly been exceptionally dry: the central glade just wasn’t muddy. I am told that the bottom of the site is reverting to type, so I am sure it won’t be long before we are sliding our way along the net rides.

As it was a spur of the moment decision, I worked solo. Just 7 nets: 6 x 18m and 1 x 12m set in two groups of 3 x 18m in one and the rest in the other, covers the whole of the lower part of the central glade.

It was very much typical of this time of year: a straggling summer migrant that might be staying over, a Chiffchaff, and no sign of any winter migrants yet. I played lures for Redwing, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll all to no avail!

Whilst I was setting up there were at least three Tawny Owls calling around the wood. The rest of the morning was punctuated by Nuthatches calling: an absolute, wonderful cacophony, only this time none made it into the nets!

It was good, reasonably busy, session absolutely dominated by Blue and Great Tits. I have spent a lot of time looking at moult in the last couple of years and Monday morning provided the first case of aberrant moult I have seen in a Blue Tit:

For those who aren’t ringers or know about moult, after breeding adults of most species undergo a moult. Some moult everything, others just do partial moult, but the one thing that virtually all of them do, is moult their flight feathers. They have been in place since the previous year and are pretty worn out by the time their young have fledged. Passerines generally have 10 primaries, the outer flight feathers, and they moult from the innermost outwards, as a general rule. This Blue Tit has moulted and renewed it outer 7 primary feathers before moulting the inner 3 primaries. One is actually missing, one is two-thirds grown and the other is three-quarters grown. Quite unusual.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 15(3); Great Tit 13(1); Marsh Tit (2); Long-tailed Tit 2; Wren 1(1); Blackbird 4; Chiffchaff 1; Goldcrest 6; Chaffinch 1. Totals: 43 birds ringed from 8 species and 7 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 50 birds processed from 9 species.

In order to avoid the threatened rain, I started packing up at 11:30, even though the sky was clear and blue with just a few clouds. As I was just about finished a couple of the staff members from the Wildlife Trust’s Well-being group turned up, along with a minibus full of children from one of the local schools. A shame I had nothing left to show them, as it always gets a good response.

I left the site at 12:15 and, doubly unlucky for the schoolchildren, as I got home the promised rain arrived!

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