CES 6: Lower Moor Farm, Wrens-day, 30th June 2021

Working solo at Lower Moor Farm this morning, I was on site just after 4:00 and had the main nets open by 5:00 and all open by 5:30. Typically the first birds didn’t decide to put in an appearance until 6:15.

Apologies (not really) for the punning title but Wrens made up just under 25% of the catch, which is quite unusual for this site. It wasn’t my biggest catch of Wrens here: that was on 19th July 2019, when an astonishing catch of 14 of them went into the net (10 new, 4 retraps), but they made up only 16% of the total catch. Blackcaps (24) and Chiffchaffs (17) were the largest contributors in that 2019 catch.

It was an easy morning, as the birds came in dribs and drabs, but well rounded out with a lot of public interaction. I was joined for a while by a group from the new school set up in what was the Visitor Centre, plus one highly autistic lad from the Care Farm. The two youths from the school were fascinated by what I was doing and absolutely delighted to be shown how to safely hold and then release a wild bird. It is something I try to do whenever I get the chance: for wildlife to thrive we need future generations to be involved, not just people like me who are old enough to remember the last time England beat Germany in a tournament competition! (I am 66 – how appropriate.)

It was a good morning bird-wise as well. I have been hearing Cetti’s Warblers on and off since I started this year’s CES but catching them is very uncertain at the site, so I was delighted when I caught my first for the year at 7:15. It was an adult male – almost certainly one of those that had been declaring his territory with their explosive song all morning. Straight away after I caught another adult male in an adjacent net: possibly checking out the competition. This was a Cetti’s that I had ringed 2 years ago. Nice to know it had survived. Then, at 9:35 I caught my first juvenile Cetti’s of the year:

There were two other ringing highlights this morning: only my third ever Marsh Tit for the site. My nets are not set within the woodland, bar a 12m net on the edge of the wood, which is where I caught it.

I also got my first juvenile Whitethroat of the year for any of my sites:

This ties with the earliest catch I have had of a juvenile Whitethroat at Lower Moor Farm, matching 2016.

The list for the day was: Great Tit [3]; Marsh Tit 1; Wren [6](3); Dunnock 1[1](1); Robin [2]; Blackbird (1); Cetti’s Warbler 1[1](1); Blackcap [5](2); Garden Warbler 1[1]; Whitethroat [1]; Chiffchaff 2[2]; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 8 adults ringed from 6 species, 22 juveniles ringed from 9 species and 8 birds retrapped from 5 species, making 38 birds processed from 12 species.

The point of doing a CES (Constant Effort Site) is that it shows year on year how things are changing or otherwise. last year was a washout, due to the BTO’s restrictions on our activities in the face of the pandemic, so I have done a comparison with previous years. I had been under the impression that this year had, so far, been a disaster. The truth is a little different. The number of adults ringed in the first 6 sessions is reasonably on a par with previous years:

Not the best, but certainly not the worst and not too far away from 2019’s total. However, the real difference comes when you look at the numbers of juveniles ringed. This is clearly a reflection of the impact of May’s bad weather on breeding success so far:

Our worst year for juveniles since 2016. Again, the weather in May 2016 was comparable with this year: wet, cold and miserable for a considerable part of the month. This year we have caught 4 juvenile Great Tit in our CES sessions and no Blue Tit at all. In 2019 we had 15 Great Tit juveniles and 50 Blue Tit! That was exceptional, but that is one heck of a difference. Even in the limited catch in 2018 we caught 7 juvenile Great Tit and 10 juvenile Blue Tit. Blackcap and Chiffchaff numbers were also well down on 2019, but they will have second, and possibly, third broods and have a chance to recover numbers.

I closed the nets at 12:00 and left site about 13:30. It’s hard work, but doable, working solo.

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