In my previous blog I wrote about our rather disappointing session at the Firs on Wednesday of last week. I chose not to write about an equally dispiriting session at Ravensroost Woods on the following Saturday. Both woods were remarkably quiet, the only birds to be heard were a few Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. In sessions where we would have expected to catch 30 to 50 birds in each, we only caught 15 and 14 birds respectively. That equates approximately to 1.5 birds per net in a five hour session.
With our Constant Effort Site (CES) sessions running ahead of last year’s sessions I was concerned as to what impact this recent weather has had on the birds at Lower Moor Farm. It didn’t help that the originally scheduled date of 31st July proved impossible: with winds blowing at 20 mph and gusting to 30 mph. Fortunately, Thursday was a much better day and, although we could not double last year’s 66 birds the catch was still higher. I am sure this weather has had an adverse effect and it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the numbers of birds caught on passage, given how much worse the weather has been further north.
I was joined by Andrew, Henny and David for the session. It started well and we had regular catches throughout the morning. Because we had moved the session from Wednesday to Thursday it coincided with a Milestones session run by Rachel Bush of the Wildlife Trust. The Milestones project aims to connect vulnerable and marginalised young people aged 11-24 to their local, natural environment by offering opportunities to participate in practical activities and widen their knowledge and appreciation of local green spaces and nature reserves. This meant that we had a couple of audiences of young school children during the course of the morning. I show them the birds, explain about ringing and, if any are interested / brave enough, we will show them how to, and allow them to, hold and release a bird. The bird is only held briefly and not passed around: one child, one bird. We did have a Blue Tit for the first group. One young lad was very insistent that he should be the one to hold and release it. I warned him that they peck, and that they are very feisty, but he insisted – and was then shocked when it pecked him several times. He was a little upset – but the bird was fine!
The catch for the day was: Jay 1; Treecreeper (1); Blue Tit 1(4); Great Tit (1); Long-tailed Tit (1); Wren (3); Dunnock (1); Robin (1); Song Thrush ; Blackbird 1; Cetti’s Warbler (1); Reed Warbler ; Blackcap 1(3); Garden Warbler (2); Whitethroat ; Lesser Whitethroat (1); Chiffchaff ; Willow Warbler 2; Bullfinch 2(1). Totals 8 adults ringed from 6 species; 47 juveniles ringed from 14 species; 20 birds recaptured from 12 species, making 75 birds processed from 19 species. Of the 20 recaptured birds 13 were juveniles ringed in previous CES sessions.
Whilst putting up the nets alongside Mallard Lake we heard Reed Warblers churring away in the lakeside vegetation. In the event, the only one we caught was in the furthest ride from the lake. It was a juvenile Reed Warbler and was our first at Lower Moor Farm this year.
Bullfinches are a regular catch at Lower Moor Farm and we caught another couple of juveniles this morning:
Our last catch of the morning was a Jay: always a lovely bird to look at and can be a nightmare to handle. They have a very sharp beak and a strong, blood-drawing peck plus extremely sharp claws on strong feet. The trick is to keep the claws busy (I put a pencil between its feet) and stay away from the beak. This was a female undergoing her post-breeding moult and was surprisingly docile: