Taking advantage of the lovely weather forecast for today I headed for Lower Moor Farm. It was surprisingly balmy at 5:45 when I left the house. Since the onset of lockdown last year my activity at Lower Moor Farm has been restricted to the wildlife refuge area. However, having discussed it with Ellie Jones, the Reserves Manager, I have been given access to the old Heronry ride, not that the heronry exists any more by the looks of it, as that is currently designated out of bounds to the public. That is going to become a permanent exclusion as the Trust want to help the wet woodland to become wetter and see how it develops as a second potential wildlife refuge.
So today I set my primary nets in the wildlife refuge (R1 and R2 on the previous Lower Moor Farm’s post diagram) and 3 x 18m nets along the Heronry ride area outside of the woodland itself. I had the nets open and catching by 6:45. The first two birds out of the net were, entirely predictably, a Wren and a Robin. It was a long, slow morning, livened up by the arrival of Steph and toddler Beatrice at about 9:30. They stayed for a couple of hours, so Steph could ring some birds. Anyway, Steph spent most of the time chasing after Beatrice and playing catch with her. Beatrice is very good at understanding that she is not to touch the nets. I am sure we will have Beatrice ringing some birds as soon as she is old enough to understand the care that needs to be taken. Her big sister started at age 7: that seems about right.
I was hoping that we would have a few more Chiffchaff than we had last time and that we might be lucky enough to catch an early Blackcap. The only Blackcap we had caught previously in March at Lower Moor Farm was on the 23rd March 2019. The earliest date for catching a female Blackcap was on the 5th April in both 2017 and 2018. In fact, I haven’t ever caught a female Blackcap at any of my sites in March. So I was delighted to have a male Blackcap in the nets in my second round of the morning. Over the rest of the morning I caught another 4 males and the last one I took out of the net was a female:
Great though it was to catch them, neither was my bird of the morning, this was:
I love Jays, and this is the first that I have caught since one at Ravensroost Meadows in July of last year. Yes, they have sharp claws on their feet (I gave it a pen to hold, seems to occupy them) and if that beak gets you they draw blood (I bled) but they are beautiful. The Care Farm staff were out and about with their charges this morning and whilst chatting to one of the staff he said that he always thinks of Jays as the UK’s equivalent of parrots: that raucous voice and stunning plumage. He has a point. This was a second year female bird.
The list for the morning was: Jay 1; Treecreeper 1; Great Tit (1); Wren 2(4); Dunnock 1(2); Robin (2); Song Thrush 1(2); Blackbird 2; Blackcap 5(1); Chiffchaff 5(1); Bullfinch 1. 19 birds ringed from 9 species and 13 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 32 birds processed from 11 species.
I decided to pack up at 11:30 so, naturally, a couple of Chiffchaff flew into the nets whilst I was closing them up and, eventually, I got away from site at 12:45.