CES 5: Lower Moor Farm, Wednesday, 16th June 2021

When I set up my CES site back in 2015 I initially thought that I would put up lots of net, but then I thought about whether that would be the sensible thing to do: I am not getting any younger and, whilst I have been spoilt by the degree of support I have had from my team, they are all getting jobs or continuing in education towards Masters, PhD’s etc, which takes them away from midweek sessions. Or else some fool (this fool) advances them to C-permit, so they have their own sites and projects that they want to work on. Today was one of those days when I was working the CES solo. Even with just 5 rides of 12 nets in total, that meant a 3:30 start, so I could get the first nets open by 4:30.

It was a fairly quiet morning on the bird front. I am pretty sure that the terrible weather in May has driven a lot of our migrants further east and away from the site. In 2019, the last time I could run the CES (i.e. pre-Covid) in the equivalent session I ringed 74 birds from 16 species and retrapped 21 birds from 10 species: making 95 birds from 17 species. Today was nothing like that.

This is not to say that it wasn’t an enjoyable session: it certainly had its highlights. Key amongst them was my first juvenile Garden Warbler of the year:

It looks very fluffy, very scruffy, just out of the nest, and its tail and wing feathers were still growing. You can see the a couple of the under-tail coverts in pin. All consistent with a bird that has just left the nest, but under those wings and along the flanks there was significant levels of body moult, which suggests it left the nest over a week ago.

The second highlight was a Green Woodpecker:

This is a female. You can sex it on the malar stripe, which is all black. The male has a red flash through the middle of it. Underlining her sex: she had a well-developed brood patch. Given where she was caught (twice), I suspect that her nest is on the island on Mallard Lake, adjacent to the Wildlife Refuge. Lower Moor Farm is the place that I catch this species most often: 4 per year in 2018 and 2019 respectively: 30% of the county total for that species for those years.

At CES 3 on the 26th May we ringed a female Blackcap, AHR8454. In CES 4, on the 5th June, we caught her again and she had just started replacing its tail. All of the new feathers were there, but all fully in pin. I caught her again today and, perhaps this helps explain why there are fewer birds around:

The feathers are about two-thirds grown now but look at the clear fault bars on the feathers. Those highlighted areas are so thin that those feathers will almost certainly break along those lines. Fault lines usually reflect issues with the weather and / or lack of food. Obviously the weather has been getting hotter since it was first retrapped this year, and the place was alive with insects this morning, from midges and mosquitoes, through horse flies (the only thing that didn’t care that I was liberally doused with Jungle Formula and got through my defences (it didn’t get away again though)) to Damselflies and Dragonflies. There does seem to be a lot of potential food around for insectivorous birds. My trickiest extraction of the day was a female Emperor Dragonfly. Fortunately she came out in one piece. In fact, they all kept their heads today: which is quite a feat when I had to extract a dozen or so, mainly Black-tailed Skimmers.

The list for the day was: Green Woodpecker 1; Wren 1(3); Dunnock [1](2); Robin 1[1]; Blackbird 1(2); Blackcap 2(1); Garden Warbler [1](3); Chiffchaff 1(2). Totals: 7 adult birds ringed from 6 species; 3 juvenile birds ringed from 3 species and 13 birds retrapped from 6 species, making 23 birds processed from 8 species.

The key differences between this session and the 2019 equivalent session is in Blackcaps: 2 adults and 13 juveniles ringed and 6 retraps; Chiffchaffs: 19 juveniles ringed and 4 retraps and, significantly given results everywhere else in my sites, Blue Tit: 1 adult and 12 juveniles ringed.

I had a very sociable morning: Colin, out photographing Dragonflies and Damselflies, was extremely chatty and we had a good long talk about a wide range of topics but, particularly, Scottish Wildcats and rare orchids in the UK. Later in the morning, I was able to do a brief ad hoc ringing demonstration to one of the slightly older Well-Being groups (usually it is to school age children, these were college age and a bit more). They were a really pleasant bunch and completely absorbed in what I was doing. Particularly, they were impressed with the story of the migratory habits of the Garden Warbler retrap that I processed whilst they were with me. They then went off to get on with what they had been brought to Lower Moor Farm for, whilst I took down and packed away. As I was leaving site they were all walking up the path ahead of me: all dressed up in their bee-keeping outfits: it looked like something out of Doctor Who!

Taking down was hard graft in the heat, which was where I missed not having any help the most. However, instead of getting away at 12:30, I got away at 13:00, so perhaps I am just making a fuss about nothing.

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