Oakenclough is very much an autumn and winter ringing site where nothing much happens in the summer except for nest boxes containing Pied Flycatchers. But the autumn/winter and early spring of 2017/18 was so wet and miserable that we never managed to get here until today, our first ringing at the site since November 2017.
In the meantime we enjoyed our hottest, driest summer for 50+ years with very little rainfall. The nearby reservoir is about one third full and where the typical water level is near the top of the brick towers and covering the immediate bank of stones.
Low Level Water
I met Andy at 0630 and we hoped to catch up a little on our lack of visits. We packed in at about 10.30 when the early minimal breeze wind increased to unmanageable levels. But we had a nice mix in the catch of 8 Willow Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler, 3 Goldfinch, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Treecreeper and 1 Blue Tit.
The two Garden Warblers, Sylvia borin, were the first ringed here since 2014, when I ringed a nest full of four youngsters. It was soon after that we were forced to abandon the site when out of control rhododendron took over the plantation and made it impossible to work as a ringing site. About four years ago United Utilities employed contractors to clear the site and to then replant in the hope of restoring its former glory.
Both of the Garden Warblers proved to be adults, one male, one female, with feathering growing over their bellies, a sign of recent breeding. But as we caught only the two adults, there is no way of knowing if they bred on the now suitable site. The plantation now resembles how it looked in the 1980 and 1990s and hopefully some of the missing breeding species like Garden Warbler, Tree Pipit and Lesser Redpoll may reappear.
All eight Willow Warblers were birds of the year, with six of them caught together in the same net – a flock of Willow Warblers!
There was no doubt about age and sex of the single Lesser Redpoll caught - adult male.
We don’t catch too many Treecreepers, here or anywhere else. They often accompany roving flocks of titmice and small warblers but not today.
Birding in between ringing was very quiet. Highlights were 3 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Kestrel, 35 Goldfinch and a thin but noticeable movement of Swallows – about twenty heading due south in three hours.