It’s Not All a Bed of Roses: 14th – 17th July 2021

After last week’s CES trip at Lower Moor Farm, this week I had two sessions planned. On Wednesday I was joined by Ellie Jones and Michael New from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust at Ravensroost Meadows. We met at 5:30 and set my usual nets, hoping for a reasonable haul. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Three birds and three hours later we packed up, disappointed. To be fair, the breeze got up early on and the nets were very visible, the pockets blowing out and I thought it could possibly be dangerous for the birds, so we shut them and took them down. Our catch for the morning comprised adult Whitethroat and Blue Tit and a juvenile Blackcap. All were new birds.

My intention had been to check on the Stock Doves and Barn Owl brood in the Ravensroost / Avis Meadows complex afterwards, so I had brought my ladder with me. With Michael and Ellie on hand to help, we were able to do just that. The first Stock Dove we checked is very close to fledging. Its wings are almost completely full grown and its plumage was extremely well-developed:

The beak hasn’t developed its pink colouration yet but you can see it underlying the grey. The second bird, which had been naked, feathers short, when we ringed it, has grown significantly. When I weighed it it was actually much heavier than the older, more developed, bird but, as you can see from the photo, its crop was very full:

This bird doesn’t look like it will be ready to fledge for a couple of weeks. Its wing feathers still have some serious growing to do being currently only at the two-thirds stage.

Having checked that these two are making good progress, we went over to Avis Meadows to check on the Barn Owls. This time there were only 4 in the box. At my last visit, when I ringed the fifth chick, I knew it was very close to fledging. The simple fact that it was caught outside of the box, and fluttering around on three-quarter grown wings when I ringed it, I knew it was likely to be off by the time I came back – and it was. The other 4 were well developed and looking on course to fledge within the next couple of weeks.

So, a satisfying end to a slightly disappointing session. Then to Saturday at Lower Moor Farm for CES 8. It started badly when the night before I found out I would be working solo (again) as my help had to cry off (these things happen, not criticising). So I knew I would have to start 30 minutes earlier. Up at 4:00, ready to go, when this occurred:

Just came apart in my hands whilst cleaning the lenses. As a fan of “The Blues Brothers” I am not averse to wearing sunglasses and driving in the dark. Just as well, as that is the only option I had, not having a backup pair of varifocals and my new ones not arriving until next Thursday!

I set my nets as usual and was pleasantly surprised to get six birds in my first round. That’s a big improvement! Unfortunately, it soon reverted to type and I ended up with a catch of 21 birds. Comparing with CES 8 in 2019, that is one-third of what I caught back then. There were a few juveniles, and the highlight of the catch was my first juvenile Kingfisher of the year. I have attached a short video of weighing the bird: we just lay them down, on their back, on the scales, and they stay quiet. Last time I posted a photo of this process someone reported to the BTO that the bird looked dead. It wasn’t. They, being uber-cautious about social media, asked me to remove it, which I did. Just watch and you will see, as my two witnesses did (a couple who happened to turn up whilst I was processing the bird and took lots of photos, including one of it flying away at the end of the process – watch for the Lower Mill Estate Newsletter as they will be publishing them in that), that this bird was pretty laid back during this experience.

Furthermore, I actually had to extract it again, this time from the very last net as I was taking down at the end of the day. I couldn’t believe my luck when I thought I had a second for the session, soon turned out that I was right to be sceptical. That said, the net it was retrapped in was at the opposite end from where I caught it originally and, when I released it after processing, it flew off across the lake towards the farmhouse, directly away from where my nets were set.

The catch for the session was: Kingfisher [1]; Treecreeper [1]; Blue Tit [1]; Wren [3]; Dunnock 1[1]; Robin [1]; Song Thrush (1); Blackcap 2[2](1); Garden Warbler (2); Chiffchaff [2](1); Bullfinch 1. Totals: 4 adults ringed from 3 species; 12 juveniles ringed from 8 species and 5 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 21 birds processed from 11 species.

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