Blakehill Farm: Saturday, 19th November 2016
Taking advantage of a weather forecast which suggested a lull in the windy weather; Jonny, Charlie, Neil and I had a session at Blakehill Farm this morning. It was a heavy ground frost and flat calm until 11:00. We had a line of 6 nets along the hedgerow of the perimeter track and four nets set between the bushes on the edge of the central plateau. The plateau nets caught the Reed Buntings; the hedgerow nets caught the Redwings and the tits. Whilst setting the nets we were treated, for the second session running, to a Barn Owl hunting in the fields between the perimeter track and the industrial estate.
Although we set 3 net rides (each of 2 x 18m nets) along the perimeter fence, the vast majority of the catch was in the furthest net ride, set between the one tree in the field the other side of the perimeter path from the hedgerow opposite. It acted as a magnet for the Redwing, helped by the use of the Latvian lure, and gave us our largest ever catch of this species in a single session. The hedgerow also provided us with a lovely catch of nine Long-tailed Tits. They have been pretty scarce in our catches so far this year, with few caught outside of the breeding season and nearly 100 fewer than caught in 2015.
The plateau edge never fails to provide some interesting birds. This time the field nets delivered an additional four Reed Buntings and our seventh Stonechat of the year. Prior to this year we had only caught one Stonechat, in 2015. Blakehill is the only site I have that is likely to produce them We are also seeing encouraging signs with Reed Buntings: from two caught in 2014, to 26 in 2015 and, so far, 52 in 2016. This increase has coincided with the Wildlife Trust's decision to leave the plateau unmown for the last two years, with the increase in seeds available for winter feeding. As you can tell from the picture below, of a female Reed Bunting with her plumage fluffed up, it was cold.
The list for the day was: Great Tit 1(1); Long-tailed Tit 9; Wren (1); Stonechat 1; Robin 1(2); Song Thrush 2; Redwing 39; Blackbird 3; Greenfinch 1; Reed Bunting 4. Totals: 61 ringed from nine species; four retrapped from three species, making 65 birds processed from 10 species.
We decided to start taking down at 11:30, just as the weather turned, the wind got up and a degree of showery, squally rain drifted in and over the site. Just time to take the final five Redwing out of the end nets before leaving site at 12:30. I have to make a special mention for Jonny. He had the misfortune to have his car skid off the road in the icy conditions. We couldn't get purchase to push it out of the ditch it was in so we left him shivering by the side of his car but, once the RAC pulled him out and checked the car was okay, he turned up on site to do his stint. That's dedication. ST/JC/CS/NS