Where’s the fire? Lower Moor Farm: Wednesday, 19th January 2022

I was hoping to get to Blakehill Farm this morning but, despite the avian flu outbreak occurring on one farm on the 10th December, with no further outbreaks in the area, the restricted and surveillance zones are still in place, so no can do. Lower Moor Farm isn’t usually on my winter schedule, as I don’t go for waterfowl, and I don’t ring in the woodland there. However, I don’t want to be ringing any of my sites more than once per month, so I wasn’t left with too much choice.

I was joined for the morning by Miranda. We started at 7:00 and, after some fumbling about by yours truly (I am useless until I have my first coffee of the day), had the nets open just after 8:00. The likelihood of us having a large catch was remote, so we agreed that Miranda would start her extraction career today. I wanted to make sure that we had some suitable birds for a beginner, so I put on lures for Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling. Finches, in particular, tend to be pretty straightforward extractions, so I chose three species we find in winter and which I would like to catch.

We had a 50% success rate, with Redwing and Lesser Redpoll. The first bird of the session, a Wren, decided to get into the nets before we had even opened them.

Our first round proper only delivered a Blue Tit and the next round a pair of Bullfinch. I say pair because it was a male and female found in the same net about 12″ apart. Unfortunately, the male is suffering from Fringilla papillomavirus, so it could not be ringed. We bagged it up regardless, so it could be released with the female once she had been processed. I then put the bag into my rucksack so we didn’t use it again before I could clean it. Copious amounts of hand sanitizer was also used. Up to this point, Lower Moor Farm was living down to my expectations of it in the winter. Alongside that, the weather was dreech and dreary: occasional bursts of very light drizzle but the light was just dull, dull, dull.

It took a while longer for the weather to improve but the catching certainly did. Round three turned up a Blackbird, another Wren and a Redwing. Oh, and this stunner as well:

Male Firecrest

This is a great catch: the first that I am aware of at Lower Moor Farm. Certainly I have not caught one there before (I have at Red Lodge, Ravensroost Wood, Brown’s Farm and several at Tedworth House and, as a trainee, in Savernake Forest). I have been ringing there since 2013. I know the ringer who worked there prior to my taking it on and will find out if it is a first for the site.

The next round Miranda started her extracting career with a Lesser Redpoll: the only bird of that round. After that, we had a cracking fall of Long-tailed Tits along the Heronry Ride and two more Lesser Redpoll just adjacent to the lure, which gave Miranda plenty of opportunity to do some more extracting. It was clear that the Long-tailed Tits were a flock so as each bird was processed it was returned to its bag until we had processed the lot, and then we released them all to fly off together, which they did. That took us to 11:00, we had a couple more rounds and then closed up.

Our list for the day was: Blue Tit 1(1); Great Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 6(5); Wren 1(2); Dunnock 1(1); Robin (1); Song Thrush (1); Redwing 1; Blackbird 2(1); Goldcrest (1); Firecrest 1; Lesser Redpoll 3; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 10 species and 13 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 31 birds processed from 13 species.

We finished taking down just as the sky turned very dark and very threatening: definitely time to leave. Both were away from site at 12:30. Very satisfying! Much better than I had anticipated.

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