Friday 9th April 2021 – A little bit of quality

Adult male Cirl Bunting

I’m not keen on cold mornings and was not exactly overjoyed whilst clearing ice from the mist net poles and ringing table at 06:30 today. However, despite the low temperature, conditions were almost perfect for ringing with virtually no wind at all first thing. Unfortunately, there were virtually no birds either! Just 24 were trapped in a six-hour session and fourteen of these were re-traps. There was little evidence of passage of any kind apart from a solitary Grasshopper Warbler reeling away somewhere in the reedbed and a lone swallow which moved through later in the morning.

It wasn’t all bad though. Two of the re-traps were resident male Cetti’s Warblers and another four were local Chiffchaffs returning to their breeding site for the second or third year in succession. Of the new birds, the highlights were an adult male Cirl Bunting and a late Siberian Chiffchaff, both of which were trapped in nets beside the STW. There cannot be many places in the country where a ringer can trap Cetti’s Warblers, Cirl Bunting and Siberian Chiffchaff in the same ringing session.

Siberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis

The lack of birds gave me the opportunity to start spring cleaning the boards across Marsh Ride. These gradually disappear under a thatch of grass if left untended, which makes it all too easy to misjudge where their edges are. In the interests of my personal health and safety, I like to cut away the grass to expose the boards. This is a slow process, using edging shears to slice through the matted roots along both sides of the net ride, a total distance of 96 metres. Once completed, the cut material must be raked to one end of the ride for disposal. It’s surprising just how heavy wet, matted turf is! All that remains now is for me to repeat the exercise, using hand shears, and cut the remaining 48 metres between the boards along the middle of the ride. This will enable me to set the bottom of the net a little lower in future, rather than having to avoid birds in the bottom shelf potentially encountering cold damp vegetation. Final totals were: 2 Blackcap, 3 Blue Tit, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, 8 Chiffchaff, 1 Cirl Bunting, 2 Long-tailed Tit and 6 Wren.

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