Lower Moor Farm: Sunday, 25th September 2022

On Saturday, 22nd September 2021 I held one of my best ringing demonstrations: the second of two held in short order at Lower Moor Farm. The second was held because the first was sold out instantly and could have been sold out twice over. The Swindon Wildlife Group asked if I was happy to do a second demo for them and the rest is history. We processed 80 birds that day, including a Kestrel and a Kingfisher. So, when I was thinking about where to go this weekend, I noticed the coincidence of dates and decided to head back to Lower Moor Farm.

I arranged a 6:30 start with David only, having awoken at 5:30, I was on site by just after 6:00 and started getting the nets set up. David arrived on time, and we had the nets set and open by 7:15. We only set the nets for our CES rides 2, 4 and 5, as I didn’t want us to be overloaded with just two of us extracting and processing. I had decided, from discussions with, and posts from, other ringers on Facebook, to lure for Blackcap. As I went to set up the lures, we found the first birds had been caught, and the first bird out of the nets was:

As I was walking back to the ringing station, I noticed a photographer paying attention to our nets. I started chatting and I asked him what he was hoping for. His answer was Kingfisher, so I told him he was in luck as I had one in the bag. That is his photo above: a juvenile female. Sean (didn’t get his second name, so British) stayed with us for the next couple of hours and took a lot of photos.

Attending the aforementioned ringing demonstration was a family group: Claire, with her son, Samuel, and daughter Zara. They had to leave before we had packed up the nets, and so missed the Kingfisher we caught at the end of the session. Subsequently Claire contacted me and asked if she and the children could come along to some other sessions. Of course, I agreed, and they have joined me on a number of occasions since. Unfortunately, most they have been able to make seems to have been at Ravensroost Woods, rather limiting their experience. Fortunately, they were able to make this anniversary session. Disappointingly for them, they arrived at 8:00, after we had processed and released the Kingfisher. One day!!

What with my ringing being restricted recently and other issues, it has been quite a while since Claire and co could join me again, so we took it slowly, reintroducing them to safely handling the birds. Zara is just eight-years old, and her handling skills are already excellent. All ringers know that Bullfinches will, on occasion, sit on your hand for quite a long time after you have released them. However, with Zara many species seem to like sitting in the palm of her hand after release. I have never seen anyone else with whom that happens. Later on in the session, I showed Zara how to take wing measurements. She then proceeded to “check” David’s wing measurements, with me being the final arbiter. I think it ended up 3-2 to Zara, much to David’s amusement / chagrin. There was only ever 1mm in it but fun for me, and ammunition to embarrass my (excellent) trainee for the foreseeable future. I have promised Zara that I will start her on her ringing career next time they can make a session. Start them young!

As expected, we had a good haul of Blackcaps. What was interesting was the sex imbalance. Of the 27 caught 22 were male. I really must check previous years and see if this is a common phenomenon.

A little less expectedly, at 10:50 we also caught a nice little flock of Long-tailed Tits. We are getting to that time of year when the Long-tailed Tits that fledged this year have completed their post-fledging moult and are now indistinguishable from adult birds, so in my list they are identified as age unknown. The actual list for the day was: Kingfisher [1]; Blue Tit [2]; Great Tit [3](3); Long-tailed Tit 7(1); Wren [2](1); Dunnock [2](2); Robin (2); Song Thrush (1); Cetti’s Warbler (1); Blackcap [26](1). Totals: 7 birds, age unknown, from 1 species; 36 juvenile birds from 6 species and 12 birds retrapped from 8 species, making 55 birds processed from 10 species.

One other bird that Sean mentioned he would love to get to photograph was Green Woodpecker. As I have blogged before, Lower Moor Farm is my most successful site for catching Green Woodpecker. Of the 20 caught in one of my sessions, 16 of them have been at Lower Moor Farm. During the same round that the Long-tailed Tit flock landed we caught a Green Woodpecker. Well, it landed in the net and sat there for a short while but, as soon as Zara said it was in the net and I made a move to extract it, it twisted itself round and got away!! You can’t win them all.

The one bird I actually felt sorry for in the session was the recaptured Song Thrush. I couldn’t help noticing that the head feathers above the cere were matted and had a huge, almost broad bean sized growth. As I took it out of the net the growth and some of the matted feathers came adrift. I collected it and took it back to the ringing station for a further look. It was the largest tick I have ever seen. So bloated with Song Thrush blood that it was huge and, I suspect, naturally disengaged from the bird as I was extracting it.

We closed the nets at 11:30, with David’s dad, Trevor, turning up in time to help us clear away. With just nine nets up it took very little time, and everything was packed away by about 30 minutes later. I actually stayed and watched and listened for another 45 minutes, just enjoying the place and the wildlife and chatting to some of the photographers.

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