A somewhat poignant day: my father would have been 101 today had he not smoked himself into lung cancer and an early grave at age 62. I always like to do something on this day as a personal marker, so I scheduled a session at Ravensroost Meadows to see what else might have arrived in the month since I was last there. It was a pleasure to be able to get out after the rain and high winds of the last week, but the catch was very small for this time of year. It isn’t that there were not lots of birds around, there were plenty, but they seem to have changed their foraging habits, so I might have to rethink my net positions.
I spent the morning with an audience: a herd of Belted Galloway steers who have been put out to grass in the meadow adjacent to the pond. As they were in the field I moved my car into the pond area so I could close the gate and keep them away from the car. The last time I left it out in the field with the Belties, apart from the using it as per Baloo the Bear singing “Bare Necessities” and rubbing themselves up against it, it took months to clean their slobber off the bodywork. I think it could be bottled as an adhesive!
The morning started well with a new Garden Warbler and a retrapped Dunnock getting caught before the nets were properly open at 6:00 (I had a bit of a lie-in, getting up at 5:00). At 6:45 I took another half-a-dozen birds out of the net, including my first Lesser Whitethroats of the year: one new one and a retrap ringed at this site as a juvenile last year.
As you can see from the photo, the feathers at the top base of the bill are sticking up. This is known as a “pollen horn” and seems to be quite common in migrant warblers. It is caused by the feathers becoming encrusted with pollen when foraging for insects on migration and comes mainly from citrus or eucalyptus plants (Laursen K.~ E. Holm & 1. S¢rensen 1997. Pollen as a marker in migratory warblers, Sylviidae. Ardea 85: 223-231). I have also found pollen horns on Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, as well as the Sylvidae.
After this, however, it went very quiet and I didn’t catch another bird until 09:15, by which time I had been joined by Jonny Cooper. He had been out monitoring Curlew at Blakehill this morning and was killing time until a scheduled meeting with a local farmer who has had some Curlew turn up on his farm this year.
The list for the day was: Long-tailed Tit 1; Dunnock (1); Blackbird 1; Garden Warbler 1; Whitethroat 1(1); Lesser Whitethroat 2(1); Chiffchaff (1); Willow Warbler (1). Totals: 6 birds ringed from 5 species and 5 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 11 birds processed from 8 species.
As well as the retrapped Lesser Whitethroat, both the retrapped Whitethroat and Willow Warbler were also ringed at the Meadow Pond last year.
So, not a big catch but there was a lot of bird song, from the male Cuckoo who started calling at about 6:30 and kept it up all morning. Try as I might, I could not get him to come close to the pond area. It seemed content to stay around the main body of the wood. There were several Swallow hunting over the meadow. As the Belties would attest, there were plenty of flies to attract their attention:
They were certainly irritated by the flies: lots of head-shaking and tail twitching – and that was just me! As there were no birds getting into the nets I started taking down at 10:45 so, naturally, I caught a final Lesser Whitethroat as I was doing so. I was away from site by midday: slightly disappointing numbers but nice variety and the site faithful recoveries were a bonus.