Lower Moor Farm: Saturday, 17th April 2021

Working solo at Lower Moor Farm this morning, I set up just my three main net rides: a total of 8 x 18m nets. It was a pre-CES warm up as, because of other peoples’ commitments, I expect to do quite a number of those sessions working solo. The first session will be in two weeks time. Hopefully we will have a few more birds from more species around by then. There are a few of our summer visitors on site, but no Garden Warbler, Whitethroat or Lesser Whitethroat to be seen yet.

It was an interesting morning, if for no other reason than the temperature. When I arrived on site at 5:45 it was at a bracing minus 3 degrees Celsius and by 10:00 I was slapping on the factor 30. By the time I was packing up the temperature had reached over 20 degrees Celsius in the sun. I had by then gone from four upper layers of clothing to a tee-shirt!

The first round was annoyingly of a pattern: it seems that in the first round of every solo session recently there is a badly tangled, multiply pocketed Wren. This is totally unfair: difficult Wrens are for trainees, not A-permit holders with over 25,000 extractions in their portfolio! I extracted him perfectly well but it just isn’t the way to start the day!

It was a slow morning, with three or four birds in those rounds where there were birds to be extracted. After 9:25 it went down to just one bird every other round. Fortunately, the weather was fabulous and I spent a lot of time watching reasonably good numbers of Peacock, Brimstone and Orange Tip butterflies and listening to the male Cetti’s Warblers with their song bursting out from the bushes along the side of the lake and the streams. I counted 5 territories – and then I caught one:

This bird is a male that was ringed as an adult in July of last year. They really do have the sharpest claws of any small Passerine that I have handled.

I decided to pack up at 11:30, as the numbers had died off badly and I started to close the nets, only to find in the last net ride a Jay. So I have now caught them in consecutive Lower Moor Farm sessions for the first time. I did an impromptu demonstration for a young family (Mum, Dad, babe-in-arms and toddler) to show them the noisy bird they had heard squawking the place down whilst I extracted it. They were interested in what I was doing and I am always happy to show and explain.

The list for the day was: Jay 1; Great Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren (2); Dunnock (2); Robin (1); Cetti’s Warbler (1); Blackcap 9(1); Chiffchaff 2(2); Willow Warbler 1; Goldcrest 1; Bullfinch (1). Totals: 15 birds ringed from 6 species and 11 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 26 birds processed from 12 species.

One of the interesting finds in today’s catch were a couple of Blackcaps that could be aged as last year’s birds. With partial moults over winter for both adults and juveniles it is often difficult to age birds of last year, and one usually uses the code 4, which means older than current year but unable to determine which year. This male bird in particular, as well as having retained two greater coverts from last year (a juvenile characteristic), had a lot of brown in its black cap:

One of the things to look out for on newly arrived birds are “pollen horns”. These occur where the feathers at the top of the beak become stuck together when feeding. This is an example with two small horns just behind the base of the beak:

I was away from site by 12:30. It was slightly disappointing in size but, if I had had a team with me, it would have been worse. However, if everyone in the team got to process 26 birds in a session they would all be very satisfied. It is all a matter of perspective.

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