Blackcap Bonanza: Lower Moor Farm, Saturday, 12th September 2020

A lovely morning at Lower Moor Farm. You cannot complain when the first experience of the morning is a family of four Otters on Mallard Lake! Mum and three kits one would have thought.

I had decided to start slightly later, emerging from my pit at 6:00 and getting to site for 6:30. It proved a good decision: some light overnight rain had just stopped when I walked out of the door.

I set my usual 2 x 18m and 3 x 18m net rides: the 2 nets along the stream side, the 3 nets along the lake side. It was a very pleasant morning with birds occurring regularly, ending with a total catch of 38. What was surprising is that 31 of those 38 birds were Blackcaps. I appreciate that, particularly at this time of year, Blackcap numbers are high as the autumn migration is in full swing but contrast that with Thursday’s session at Blakehill Farm, my main autumn migration site, where we had good haul of Chiffchaff (19), which were completely missing from today’s catch (although I did hear plenty of contact calling around the site) but just one Blackcap. They were coming to a lure, and they do respond well to that, but I had the same lure playing at Blakehill on Thursday.

(For those who might be wondering about the “Death on the Plateau”, Jonathan, the farm manager, found the source of the smell: a deceased adult male Roe Deer, the head of which is now elsewhere to finish rotting off so Jonathan can get his hands on the antlers. Probably a casualty of the rut, which has just finished for this species.)

The list for the day was: Treecreeper 1; Wren 1; Dunnock 1; Robin (3); Blackcap 31; Bullfinch 1. Totals: 35 bird ringed from 5 species; 3 retraps from 1 species, making 38 birds processed from 6 species. All of these birds were juveniles except for the Wren, which was a female still re-feathering her brood patch.

The juvenile Bullfinch was moulting into his pink male plumage:

I love how haughty they look.

I had several ad hoc ringing demonstrations during the morning. In particular, at 10:00 I was joined by Ellie Jones, the Wildlife Trust’s northern reserves manager (and one of my most experienced C-permit holders, and all round nice person) with her brother and his family. They loved the opportunity to get close to the birds, and the children were absolutely fascinated by the whole process.

The catch died off at 11:00, so I packed up and went home, thoroughly satisfied with a lovely morning at one of my favourite places. I have to say, though, I have never had such a single species focus at the site before, and never such a small spread of species.