In this hot weather we have found, unsurprisingly, that many birds are disappearing from sites with little water. No doubt they are in need of places that can provide a drink. With Ravensroost Meadow pond being a popular spot for Swallows and Martins to take a drink, and the meadow being a favoured site for them to hawk for insects, we decided to take a chance on catching a few birds coming to the pond, and set up there this morning. We only set a few nets: less than 100 metres in total. I was joined by Jonny, Andrew and David for the session.
Being mindful that being out in this weather is not particularly good for people either, we agreed that it would be a short session. Arriving at 5:00, we had the nets open before 6:00 and the catching started straight away. The weather stayed reasonably cloudy until 9:30, and then the sun broke through and a light breeze got up. By 10:00 we were no longer catching any birds as they had moved into cooler areas but, also, our nets were now very visible. You can only watch Swallows flying vertically up the face of your net and perching on the top line for a short time before deciding to give up for the day. We had the nets down by about 10:45.
Everything went almost exactly as we wanted and it was a cracking session: 43 birds caught, only one retrap (an adult Goldfinch) and just the three Blue Tits. The list for the day was: Swallow 14; Blue Tit 3; Wren 1; Dunnock 1; Blackbird 3; Whitethroat 2; Lesser Whitethroat 1; Willow Warbler 5; Goldfinch 11(1); Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 42 ringed from 10 species, plus 1 retrap.
We caught 10 Swallows and 5 Goldfinches in our first round – which was a good start. The catch was regular and reasonable until just before 10:00. It is nice to be catching juvenile Willow Warblers at our sites, given the recent reduction in the numbers breeding in the southern parts of England.
As expected for this time of year: the majority of the birds were juveniles. Most of the Goldfinches, and one of the Swallows, were adults. Many of the Swallows had completed their post-fledging moult, as had several of the others. The juvenile Lesser Whitethroat’s tail was already looking pretty ratty.
Jonny has not yet ringed Stock Dove, and I know that they regularly nest in one of the owl boxes in the barn at Avis Meadows, so we crossed over the road to see what might be there. As we approached the barn, we couldn’t help but notice the carcasses of two juvenile Barn Owls on the field. This was clearly worrying, so I phoned Neil Pullen, the Trust’s Reserves’ Manager. Apparently, they were reported as being out of the box very late on Sunday night and were discovered dead on Monday. As we walked into the barn a Stock Dove flew out, but not from the owl box. We did find its nest but, as it was sharing the area with a busy wasps’ nest, we decided non-interference was the best strategy.
Not expecting to find anything, we thought we should check the two owl boxes in the barn, just to see if there was anything that would explain the dead chicks. As usual, the new A-frame box is showing signs of being used as a roost by an adult (pellets and poo underneath). When I opened the old, dilapidated, rotting box I was astonished to see that there were four young Barn Owls in the box. They looked to be in decent condition. Perhaps six young was two too many for the parents to raise. Hopefully these four will survive and fledge.