A Lack of Blackcaps: Lower Moor Farm, Saturday, 5th June 2021

I was delighted to be joined by Annie and David at Lower Moor Farm this morning for CES 4. For different reasons, neither has been able to make as many sessions as they would like, so it was good to have the two of them out again. Despite the improvement in the weather it was still pretty cold at 4:30 this morning and the air temperature really did not warm up until 10:00. It was okay in the sun from about 8:00, but it didn’t really get above the treeline until gone 9:00 and it was cold in the shade. Naturally, by the time we were taking down at 11:30 it was stonkingly hot! Martin Eacott was back on site continuing his photographic odyssey.

It was a reasonable session, but very different to any other CES session I have done there: we caught only one Blackcap, a recaptured female, all morning. I have never caught so few Blackcaps here in the CES months since I started ringing at Lower Moor. Even this year in sessions 1 and 2 we caught 7 in each and in our last session we caught 12. I fully expected similar numbers today. It is that which kept the numbers down to below what I had expected.

The first two birds out of the nets were our first juvenile Wrens of the year. We ended up with three of them in total. As well as the Wrens we also ringed more juvenile Robins and Dunnocks. Nearly last out of the nets was our first Great Tit juvenile of the year.

Given the reports of high mortality in Blue and Great Tit youngsters from all over the country prior to fledging , I was pleased to find this one. However, the fact that it is only one is concerning: we would expect to catch small groups of them, before brood mates disperse, as we have done in previous years.

The highlight of the session was my first Reed Warbler at the site this year. Unlike Jonny Cooper’s site at Langford Lakes, there is no established reed bed at Lower Moor Farm. There is some small marginal incursion of reedmace on Mallard Lake and in other small areas but nothing that would really encourage Reed Warblers to attempt to nest there. (Not that I am hinting or anything.)

When I released it he chose to perch on my finger:

The list for today’s session was: Great Tit [1]; Wren [3]; Dunnock 2[3](5); Robin [4]; Song Thrush 2; Reed Warbler 1; Blackcap (1); Garden Warbler 3(4); Whitethroat 1(3); Chiffchaff [1](2); Willow Warbler (1). Totals: 9 adults ringed from 5 species; 12 juveniles ringed from 5 species and 16 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 37 birds processed from 11 species.

Over the course of the morning we had a Blackbird and Great Spotted Woodpecker escape from the nets – which is rather unusual.

Other sightings during the session included a single Otter swimming around in Mallard Lake. It did hang around for a while but in the aforementioned area of the Typha and Yellow Flag Irises. The dragons and damsels were out in force, with a particularly impressive number of Black-tailed Skimmer:

Whilst walking across the bridge over the Swill Brook, after checking the Heronry ride nets, I noticed this fellow shumbling his way across the bridge:

After his photo-session I released him into a damp, sheltered area.

The photos of the perched Reed Warbler and the Black-tailed Skimmer are courtesy (and copyright) of Martin Eacott.

All in all, a very enjoyable session with good variety and interest. I was really pleased at how quickly both David and Annie got their skills back up to the mark with reliable ageing and biometric measuring during the session.

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