Jonny and I thought we would have a go at catching some migrants at Blakehill Farm this morning. We went armed with maggots, spring and Potter traps, plus the usual assortment of nets. It was our first early start of the year, meeting at 5:00, to get the nets up and open before sunrise. With the central plateau out of bounds, to protect any ground nesting birds from potential disruption, we went to the western fields at the site:
The red lines indicate where we set the nets: the red cross is where we set the walk-in traps (if you can make them out). Our main, netting, area was shared with the cattle, who are now out to grass. We never have a problem with them: they tend to stay away from us. Both Jonny and I have farming in our background (Jonny was born into it, I chose to work in it for five years) so neither of us is bothered about working around livestock. Having set the walk-in traps they proved irresistible to a small group of steers who wandered over, and proceeded to set off all of the spring traps and turn over three of the four Potter traps – so that went well then. Fortunately no damage done – but £1.85 worth of maggots freed from captivity.
To say we were not busy is a bit of an understatement: in 3 hours we caught 8 birds. We aren’t greedy but we did decide that the dead horse had not just been flogged but flayed, and so we packed up at 10:00. That said, we were pleased to catch our first Whitethroats of the year, plus two more Willow Warblers. The list for the session was: Blue Tit 1; Dunnock 2; Blackcap 1; Whitethroat 2; Willow Warbler 2. Total: 8 birds ringed from 5 species.
The first Whitethroat we had was sporting a massive pollen horn on the top of the beak, as you can see from the photograph:
The meadow we were set up in was quite damp, and there was a sprinkling of Cuckoo Flower throughout:
We don’t often have such a quiet session but it did give as plenty of time for bird watching and there were plenty of birds flying around. The entire morning was accompanied by bird song: from 2 Curlew who spent the entire time displaying and calling almost continuously, through Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat singing from the bramble hedges, along which we set our nets for most of them to ignore, to the ubiquitous Chiffchaffs singing from every relatively high vantage point.