Bedfont Lakes Ringing – June/July

It’s time for a ringing update from Bedfont Lakes Country Park. When we visited on the 25th of June, there were still no young reed warblers around, and we were getting a little worried that the birds weren’t doing so well. We did get some tits, long-tailed, blue and great. They hang out in family groups at this time and when one becomes trapped in the net, the others often try to see what’s going on and end up in the net together. We had a little flock of long-tailed tits, blue tits and chiffchaffs in a single reedbed net. Perhaps they were foraging together. Other young birds were robins, dunnocks, and blackbirds.
Here is a juvenile blackbird, not looking black at all. The tail, not visible in the picture, was also brown, so this will be a female.
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This juvenile dunnock was ready to be released after ringing, but didn’t yet realise he was free to go. Notice the dark black tips of primary coverts. On an open wing, the contrast would be even clearer, as the tips look as if dipped in thick black ink. Not all ringing groups use this characteristic in ageing dunnocks, as the most relied on book only mentions eye colour changing from dark muddy to ruby. After the first moult, the adult type primary coverts will have less striking tips – still black, but not as sharp, more like a delicate shadow outlining the feather tips.
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While checking the nets, we also look for butterflies in the park. That’s right, flying animals of any kind attract ringers’ attention! After uploading the butterfly sightings via Butterfly Conservation’s app, I forget what we’ve seen on that particular day…unless I managed to snap some photos. This female holly blue butterfly was sunning herself among the reeds, next to an empty net, so I took the time to sneak up on her.
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And now something furry and colourful, which hangs out with its siblings spending the day happily munching leaves. Sounds adorable? To me they are. But it’s best to resist the urge to pet them. They won’t like it one bit, and you may get a rash from their hairs. Buff-tip moth caterpillars on willow:
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On the 5th of July we caught some juvenile reed warblers, at last. After many weeks of only adult males flying into our nets, the females started turning up as well. There weren’t awfully many of them, but it was a relief that “our” reed warblers have successfully fledged. The one in the picture below shows a fault line across the tips of its tail feathers, caused by lack of food when the feathers were growing. We caught another one with a fault line in exactly the same place, so it must have been its sibling.
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Next is a juvenile song thrush. Adults have heart-shaped spots on their breasts, but juveniles just have speckles like this. It still has that grumpy look of chicks.
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We caught quite a few juvenile blue tits. One was remarkable for a blue spot on its head. A few adult-type feathers, but no signs of moult anywhere else on its body.
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The young blue tits were significantly less feisty than the adults we catch. I will have to pay more attention to how aggressive they are when retrapped as adults, and to new adults, not yet ringed. It would be interesting to see if having experience of being caught makes them more vicious when trapped again, or if they simply get bolder as they mature.

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