Brown’s Farm: Saturday, 17th February 2018

It has been difficult getting onto Brown’s Farm over the last couple of years: the key problem has been how much windier our part of the country seems to have become. Fortunately, today’s forecast was for calm, bright weather and it played ball – at least it did until we were ready to take down, whereupon the breeze got up and put two of the rides into the blackthorn hedges. Fortunately, having learnt from past experience, we had left a big enough gap between the nets and the hedgerows to make sure it wasn’t damaging.  We were looking forward to a different catch to the woodland fare we have been working with so far this winter.

We had a big team out today: (almost certainly due to the excitement of the different location) Jonny, Ellie, Steph and Suzanne joined me on site.  Today was a big day for Suzanne: having been along for two taster sessions, and been taught how to safely handle the birds, she started her ringing career today. The first bird she ringed was one of the ten Yellowhammers we caught.

2018_02_17 Brown's Farm

(photograph courtesy of Steph)

It was also a good day for Ellie and Steph: both ringing their first Yellowhammers; Steph also extracted and ringed her first Linnet.  Ellie ringed the first Meadow Pipit caught at the site. I have seen them around the farm but great to finally catch one there.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 10(3); Coal Tit 1; Long-tailed Tit 4; Dunnock 4(2); Wren (1); Meadow Pipit 1; Robin 1; Blackbird 1; Chaffinch 3; Linnet 1; Yellowhammer 10.  Totals: 36 birds ringed from 10 species; six birds retrapped from three species, making 42 birds processed from 11 species.

Perhaps the most interesting catch of the day was a female Dunnock, which was already developing a brood patch ready for laying eggs.  Males have been singing for some time now and, in my garden at least, there has been a lot of courtship and territorial behaviour.  So, whilst this seems early for a bird of this species entering breeding condition, perhaps this is indicative of a change in breeding behaviour for this species.  BTO data shows that dates of first laying, from the nest record scheme, are towards the end of April, with the earliest proven to be 1st April.

We were joined briefly by the farmer and his two children.  They were very receptive and the children loved getting close to the birds. I think the farmer was particularly happy that we have had a decent catch and a first for the site. He took over the farm about 16 months ago and has changed some aspects of the farm. The most obvious thing he has done is to cut the hedgerows back. They certainly needed doing. It will be interesting to see what develops over the next few years.  One change that would be a concern if it was extended is the conversion of one of the fields to horse paddocks. He has converted some of the old buildings into stables, which are rented out to local horse owners. Currently, its impact on the land use is minimal, with the main focus being beef and arable. Hopefully it will remain so as, whilst carrying out our ringing activities, we were entertained by Skylarks singing all around us.  There were Buzzards, Red Kite and Kestrel hunting over the fields, plus Ravens regularly flying over and calling.  It is a super site to work at.  Hopefully the weather will allow us a few more visits this year and we will continue to be treated to the variety of farmland birds the site attracts.

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