Lower Moor Farm, CES 4: Thursday, 2nd June 2022

Unfortunately, due to bad weather on the Wednesday before yesterday and illness on Saturday, Covid apart, for the first time since I started carrying out my CES at Lower Moor Farm, I missed out on one of the twelve sessions: session 3. Determined not to miss another (they are within 10 day periods), I decided to get this one in early. It was originally scheduled for yesterday but when we arrived on site it was raining. It wasn’t heavy, but the forecast, which had been for a clear day at 10:00pm the night before, was now saying showers on and off all morning. So we abandoned the idea and rearranged for today. I was joined by Miranda, who would have to leave at 10:30, but was there to help me get set up.

We had the nets open just after 7:00 and started catching almost immediately. We were joined by Martin Easton, out trying for photographs of the Otters, but he took a lot of photos of the birds whilst we were processing, some of which will adorn this piece.

My most delicate extraction came quite early on:

Brown Hawker

Extracting dragonflies from mist nets is an art in itself. If you try and pull them out, they are likely to lose their heads, particularly if they have bitten the net. My technique is simple: let them bite my finger on one hand, as that means they let go of the net, and then push them through the net from behind. I took three out today, and all three came out intact and were able to fly off.

It was pretty clear from the off that the local Robins have fledged their first broods, as they made up the largest cohort of the catch. We also caught the group’s first juvenile Blackcaps of the year.

Juvenile Blackcap – photo by Martin Eacott

Interestingly, two of the three were already undergoing their post-fledging moult. This is established by blowing on the flanks and belly, to show whether there are new feathers growing, as evidenced by them still being in pin:

Flank feathers in pin on a juvenile Blackcap – photo by Martin Eacott, blowing by yours truly

This means that they left the nest probably more than two weeks ago. If only I had managed to do CES 3.

We also caught the Group’s first juvenile Treecreeper of the year. It is difficult to get a nice photo of a Treecreeper: they are lovely birds but have a sort of humped appearance which, when coupled with their decurved beak, makes them always look miserable:

Juvenile Treecreeper – photo by Martin Eacott

The key method for ageing is looking at the tips of the primary coverts. In adults the yellow tips are reduced to pinpoints, or even disappear altogether. Juveniles have much larger tips to their primary coverts and can sometimes be identified through bins or a scope:

Juvenile Treecreeper Primary Covert Tips – photo by Martin Eacott

The star bird of the morning was this, caught on our third round:

Female Green Woodpecker – photo by Martin Eacott

You can tell it is a female because the malar stripe is black. The male has a red centre to that stripe. This female is a bird that fledged last year. For some reason, Lower Moor Farm is our best site for catching Green Woodpeckers. Of the 14 that my team have caught and ringed, 13 of them have been at Lower Moor Farm with one at Somerford Common. Of the 3 recaptured, they have all been at Lower Moor Farm.

I had two major disappointments with the same species. The round after we caught the woodpecker, a Jay hit the net, squawked a bit and managed to extricate itself before I could even think about running to get it. My last full round, in a different net, exactly the same thing happened! Frustrating, but my fingers escaped injury.

After Miranda left at 10:30, Martin came over and offered to help to take down the nets when I was ready to pack up. We were then joined by a local birder, Simon Gathercole, who was interested to see what I was doing. I carried on extracting and processing until 11:30 and the list ended as follows: Green Woodpecker 1; Treecreeper [1](1); Blue Tit 1(1); Wren 2(1); Robin 1[6](2); Song Thrush 1; Cetti’s Warbler (2); Blackcap [3](2); Garden Warbler (1); Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff (2). Totals: 7 adults ringed from 6 species, 10 juveniles ringed from 3 species and 12 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 29 birds processed from 11 species.

I closed the nets after the 11:30 round and then took down. A huge thank you to Martin and Simon, who stepped in to help me pack everything away, making the whole process a lot quicker and easier than it would have been. I was off site by 12:45.

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