The Ones That Got Away: Saturday, 22nd April 2023

It was nice to have a full team out this morning. I had Ellie, Rosie and David with me from 6:00. Laura and Adam joined us at 7:00. I moved away from our winter feeding area to the main carpark, where we set up our ringing station, and then set our nets along the main path, up the hill, and then to the left of the crossroads at the top:

Having arrived a little early for the session, I was waiting for the others when a couple of cars turned up that I didn’t recognise. It was a pair wanting to fly some drones over Somerford Common to do some aerial mapping. When I explained what we were there to do, they kindly decided to move over to the western area and do their mapping there. Not sure what they were likely to see: the mist was really quite thick.

I set lures for Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat: they all worked! The catch wasn’t huge, but on a par with recent sessions at Lower Moor Farm and in my garden. It was a nice catch though. The highlight had to be our first Whitethroat of the year:

It was very much a migrant session, with both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler making up the bulk of the catch. One point of interest was that we caught two Long-tailed Tits close together in one net. On examination, both were female, one with a well-developed brood patch, the other a developing brood patch. When released they originally flew off in different directions but then came back together. I am wondering whether it was an adult with a brood accompanied by a failed breeder from this year collaborating on rearing this year’s brood. We know it happen with this species, so why not?

The list from the morning was: Long-tailed Tit 2; Dunnock (1); Robin 3(1); Blackbird 1(1); Blackcap 2; Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 6; Willow Warbler 4(2). Totals: 19 birds ringed from 7 species and 5 birds retrapped from 4 species, making 24 birds processed from 8 species.

The two retrapped Willow Warblers were ringed as adults 3 and 4 years ago respectively: that’s a lot of miles they have covered in their migration to and from sub-Saharan Africa.

And so to the reasons for the title of this piece. As Laura and I were walking down on one of the net rounds, we both heard a grasshopper reeling – and then we heard a second one. This continued for several other net rounds. It was clear that we had two male Grasshopper Warblers in the scrub behind the 2 x 18m net set up being territorial. Unfortunately, I did not have a suitable lure for the species with me today. Adam managed to get a signal on his phone and downloaded an MP3 of Grasshopper Warbler, which he then proceeded to play close to the net. Unfortunately, whilst they showed some interest, they stayed out of the nets, but we did get some really good views of one of the birds. With a bit of luck, and a bit more preparation, I might be able to catch them next time. It all depends upon whether they are genuinely setting up territory there or just passing through.

With the catch dying off at 10:50, after the second empty net round, we closed the nets and took down and got packed away by midday. All in all, a satisfactory session, with not a Blue or Great Tit in sight to bother our fingers!

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