CES 1: Lower Moor Farm; Wednesday, 3rd May 2023

Today was the first session of the Lower Moor Farm constant effort site (CES) for 2023. This is the seventh year of this CES, and it was certainly the oddest first session I have had so far. Rosie and I met at 5:30 and got the nets open by 6:30, which immediately caught a retrapped Robin. This was the net setup:

We processed the Robin and released it: and then we caught it again and again and yet again. Unfortunately, it was a theme that ran throughout the morning. Several of the birds we caught and processed were recaptured later in the morning. The first Robin, a Dunnock and a male Blackcap were all caught multiple times: driving me to distraction. Had they not all been males I might have shut the nets: I don’t like keeping females away from the nest when they might be on eggs or brooding young.

It started out slowly: we caught nine birds before Rosie had to leave for work at just gone 8:00. On the last round before Rosie had to go we extracted a pair of Nuthatch. I use the term “pair” deliberately: a male and a female next to each other in the net, with both in breeding condition, and they flew off together upon release. Prior to these two, we have caught just three other Nuthatch at Lower Moor Farm: two in 2016, one in 2019. Not exactly a common catch at this site.

It was a frustrating morning in many ways, but particularly between 10:00 and 11:00, when I caught precisely nothing. As a result I decided to shut the nets. I checked them all before closing and, having walked past empty nets all the way to the end of 18m + 9m combination, I started to close them from that end. When I got back to the 3 x 18m setup alongside the lake, at the far end were three birds: a pair of Bullfinch and my first Garden Warbler of the year. That cheered me up a lot.

When I went to shut the separate 3 x 18m ride I extracted two male Blackbirds and a Wren: all three were recaptures.

Something that was particularly odd about this catch: not one Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler caught in the entire session. On the 8th April we caught and ringed seven Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler, but I didn’t even hear any Chiffchaff calling this morning, although there were a couple of Willow Warbler singing.

The list for the morning was: Nuthatch 2; Treecreeper (1); Great Tit (3); Wren (1); Dunnock 1(2); Robin (2); Blackbird 1(2); Blackcap 2(1); Garden Warbler 1; Bullfinch 2. Totals: 9 birds ringed from 6 species and 12 birds retrapped from 7 species, making 21 birds processed from 10 species. This is on a par with first CES sessions in previous years.

Non-ringing highlights of the morning included a very pleasant 20 minutes with Debbie: the vicar of the parish of Cricklade. Not just a very capable vicar and good company but an astonishingly good photographer: her collection of Bittern photographs were superb. That they showed an adult with well-developed recently fledged young was not something I have ever seen before.

There was also a photographer to whom I owe an apology: whilst we were chatting I noticed a falcon flying across Mallard Lake. It was my first Hobby of the year. I had excellent views as it flew away from me. Unfortunately, my brain played a trick on me and, instead of saying Hobby, it came out Merlin. I only realised my mistake when Debbie mentioned that he had told her he had seen a Merlin. By the time I got to the hide he had been in, he had left, so I wasn’t able to correct my error.

Finally, I got to hear my first Cuckoo of the year, calling from the far side of Mallard Lake. Having cleared everything away, but chatting to a succession of interested people, I finally got away from site at 13:00.

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