Lower Moor Farm: Wednesday, 17th March 2021

The starts are getting earlier, waiting for the clock to spring forward at the end of the month. I set the alarm for 5:45 but, unfortunately, was awake by 5:30 and out of the house before 6:00. By the time I got to site, 15 minutes later, it was full daylight. Clearly, some earlier mornings are needed!

I was joined by Lucy at the agreed time of 6:30, by which time I had the first ride set and was two thirds through the second ride. These two rides and one along the lakeside were all we set.

It wasn’t a huge catch but it was a very pleasing one. 17 birds and no Blue or Great Tits is most unusual. Arriving on site there were plenty of Chiffchaffs calling from the trees and brush alongside the stream. The first round delivered our first Chiffchaff of the year, a few Long-tailed Tits, a new Blackbird and a retrapped Song Thrush.

First Chiffchaff of 2021

The Song Thrush was ringed at my last session at Lower Moor Farm, and I found it difficult to age then: even more so now. It’s plumage is absolutely pristine. Had it not had a clear cloacal protuberance today, indicating it was a breeding condition male, I would have thought that it was a recently fledged bird. All I can think is that the bird fledged late on in 2020. I would love to know what the minimum time is between fledging and sexual maturity. We know that they breed in the year following fledging, as do all (as far as I am aware) small passerines, but I wonder if anybody has managed to make that calculation?

Lucy has a thing for Lesser Redpoll and, despite joining me at least once a week, every week I have been out since she came on board, and despite our having processed 31 Lesser Redpoll in that period before today’s session, none of them were at Lower Moor Farm. In fact, we have only ever caught them previously at a feeding station in the education area on the other side of the reserve. Somewhere that I have not ringed since 2017. So at 9:30, as Lucy started extracting a Chiffchaff, I told her to leave it for me and to extract the bird I was looking at – her first Lesser Redpoll with me. It was a stunning male bird at that.

Male Lesser Redpoll

That was followed by a second at 10:00. I think it made her morning!

The list for the day was: Long-tailed Tit 2(3); Dunnock (2); Song Thrush (1); Blackbird 1; Chiffchaff 5(1); Lesser Redpoll 2. Totals: 10 birds ringed from 4 species and 7 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 17 birds processed from 6 species.

The morning kept threatening to warm up, with the sun peeking through the haze, but it was never strong enough to burn it off, the ambient temperature remained cold, and there wasn’t a lot of movement so, after two empty rounds, we packed up at just gone 11:00 and headed off to get warm.

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