After a super week away in Pembrokeshire, I was looking forward to getting out ringing. However, my last session at Ravensroost Meadows was on the 5th August and delivered the princely catch of 6 birds, so there was a little trepidation as to what we would find there this morning. Jonny Cooper and I arrived on site at 6:00, got our nets set up quite quickly, and started catching at 7:00. By 7:30 we had more than trebled the previous catch, so all concerns disappeared.
Autumn migration is well underway and, although this is not a prime migration hot-spot, we always get a good passage of migrant birds heading south. It is our most regular site for catching Swallows. In the middle of the main ringing area is a small pond with a causeway bisecting it, and is just right for a 12 metre net. There is also a short spit of land at the east of the pond that takes a 9 metre net. These are often our best nets for catching Swallows or House Martins, as they come into the pond to grab a drink. Today the causeway net delivered our first Swallows of the year. We did watch a large flock of House Martins fly around the meadow, hawking insects, before disappearing into the distance, never coming close to the pond for a drink. Small numbers of Swallow were flying through all morning, one pair being chased, ever so optimistically, by a female Sparrowhawk. In the event we caught 3: less than we hoped but absolutely better than nothing. They were all juveniles:
It was a good day for birding, as well as ringing, with a juvenile Sparrowhawk making his presence felt on the edge of the wood: calling for food and flying back and forth quite regularly. A Kestrel was present, hunting over the meadow, for most of the morning. There was a Spotted Flycatcher moving along the hedgerow away from us: a shame it didn’t mover the other way and end up in a net.
But the ringing was very worthwhile: Swallow ; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit ; Wren (1); Dunnock 1(1); Robin 1; Blackcap ; Whitethroat ; Chiffchaff ; Willow Warbler ; Chaffinch . Totals: 3 adults ringed from 3 species, 54 juveniles ringed from 11 species and 2 birds recaptured from 2 species, making 59 birds processed from 11 species.
One of the juvenile Dunnocks had some skin tags around the eyes:
I have not seen this before. I know that Dunnocks do get avian pox and wonder if this is an early stage of it.
Jonny had to leave at 11:00, but I stayed around for another couple of hours, extracting a couple of Swallows and a few Blackcaps, Dunnocks and Wrens, enjoying the bird life. However, my most difficult extractions of the day were a Brown Hawker and several Ruddy Darters, including one copulating pair, that got entangled in the nets. Extracting dragonflies is becoming something of a speciality for me: I do get lots of practice here and at Lower Moor Farm. It isn’t easy: their heads are attached by a very thin neck and it can easily become detached. I have found that the best thing to do is to start by pushing them through the net from behind and then pull them the rest of the way through once you can get a grip on the thorax.