CES 3: Lower Moor Farm, Wednesday, 26th May 2021

With so much torrential rain after my session at the Firs last week, I cancelled Saturday’s ringing session, as I just thought the birds didn’t need any extra pressures in their lives. However, as the weather in the last couple of days has improved, I went ahead with CES 3 at Lower Moor Farm this morning. I was joined for the session by Lucy and Jonny. This was fortuitous, as I had to bail out for an hour to have some blood taken, and the children from Malmesbury School were going to be on site again.

This will be Lucy’s last session for 3 months, as she is off to Spurn as a volunteer warden protecting the Little Tern colony next week. She has promised me some blog posts from Spurn whilst she is there.

We were on site for 4:30 and had the nets open quickly, with the first birds out of the nets at 5:30 being a couple of juvenile Robins. The session just developed from there into a thoroughly satisfying visit – particularly rewarding for Lucy, who added another two species to her ringing profile. More of which later.

I was concerned that there would be a dearth of juvenile birds, with so many reports of weather induced nest failures around the country. However, the first catches of the morning were another couple of juvenile Robins to add to those caught at our last session at Lower Moor. However, very much of note were our first juvenile Blackcaps of the year, extracted at 6:15:

We actually caught two young and a female close together in the same net. It looked to us that the two youngsters had been flushed from the nest prematurely: either avoiding a predator or possibly by hunger. Their wings were a good 20mm shorter than we would expect in a newly-fledged Blackcap. Because of that, we returned them, and what we assumed was their mother, to the bush they were heading for when they ended up in the net. It was good guess: I sat them on the bush in sunlight. Mum disappeared into the bush and immediately started calling to them. They soon followed, and we saw the three of them foraging for insects in the bushes around their rerelease site for the next three hours. Despite their short wings, I was encouraged to see how strongly they could fly. Occasionally one of the youngsters would sun itself out in the open, whilst contact calling:

This photo was taken in a different bush to the release point

At one point one of them got caught in the net again, so we closed that net for a couple of hours, until they had moved on, so they could go about unhindered. With the weather improving and the number of insects flying around at the site today, and despite the young age at which they seem to have left the nest, they have a good chance of survival in the short term, as they are clearly already able to forage for food.

We had the pleasure of Martin Eacott turning up to do some photography and have a look at our bird ringing and to have a chat. Martin mentioned that he had some excellent views of the Otters this morning. Minutes later they came back into Mallard Lake. We spent the next two hours being treated to a group of three of them swimming around Mallard Lake, in full view from our ringing station:

Photo copyright Martin Eacott

It actually corresponded to a time when the bird numbers reduced, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the spectacle. Perhaps the lack of persecution of them in this area has reduced their inhibitions and nocturnal habits. They are seen so frequently in the daytime. We were also visited by a small flock of Common Tern on a fishing expedition. It seems that the Black-headed Gulls, who are also frequenting the reserve, are using the tern raft instead.

The next bird bonus in the catch was our first juvenile Chiffchaffs of the year:

This was followed soon after by our first juvenile Dunnock of the year:

Martin left at about 9:00 and at 9:30 we were joined again by children from Malmesbury School. They stayed with us, on and off, in groups of 3 or 4 for the next hour and a half and had another opportunity to get close to some different species from those that they saw at the Firs last Wednesday. They all had the opportunity for some further instruction in safely handling and releasing wild birds. Soon after I returned from my visit to the GP surgery, they got particularly excited with the Great Spotted Woodpecker that Jonny extracted and processed. Unfortunately, this sparked a lot of boisterous behaviour, and the staff decided it was best to take them away so that they didn’t disturb the birds. It was a shame but it was the right thing to do. That meant that they missed the Jay that Lucy processed (her first), and the stunning end to the session.

At 11:30 we did a final check and shut the nets. I went to check and close the nets along the Heronry Ride and, in the very last net, having closed all of the others, were two Kingfishers: a retrapped male and an unringed female. Definitely a breeding pair. As Jonny has done plenty at his Meadow Farm site, and Lucy had never ringed a Kingfisher, she got to ring her second new species of the session. Not a bad send off for her warden role!

The list for the day was: Kingfisher 1(1); Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Jay 1; Blue Tit 1; Marsh Tit (1); Wren 1(3); Dunnock 1[1](5); Robin [3](1); Blackbird (1); Blackcap 4[2](6); Garden Warbler 1(3); Chiffchaff 2[4](4); Willow Warbler (1); Bullfinch 1. Totals: 14 adults ringed from 10 species; 10 juveniles ringed from 4 species and 26 birds retrapped from 10 species, making 50 birds processed from 14 species.

After an excellent session, with good company, and great help, we got packed away very quickly and left site just after midday.

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