Blakehill Farm: Saturday, 12th May 2018

With another day of sunshine and low winds forecast, we decided to get out of the woods and onto the farmland.  I was joined for the session by Steph and Jonny.  Prior to going off to set up the ringing I had a quick look at the Jackdaw nests near the Whitworth Building to see how they were progressing.  The Jackdaws were all away from the nest, so none were disturbed.  One of the nests was fully developed, lined and with eggs (three, warm), the others were just jumbles of sticks with no lining.  Perhaps the successful nesters won’t tolerate having neighbours?

During the summer we stay off the central plateau of Blakehill Farm, not wanting to (potentially) disturb nesting Curlew.  However, there are plenty of alternative areas on the west of the site.  The black outline is the area within which we set our nets:

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In the photograph below the black lines show where we actually set the nets:

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To be honest, we were guessing about where the best place to put them was. You never know whether a new area will deliver or not. On farmland at this time of year, unless you are feeding the area to attract birds in, they are spread out and large catches are unlikely.  In the event we were happy with the catch we had.

The highlight of the session was the addition of a further five Lesser Whitethroat to this year’s total, taking it to 11 so far.  This compares with just four by this time in 2017 and 2016, two in 2015, one in 2014 and none in 2013.

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The list for the day was: Wren 2; Dunnock 3; Robin 1; Blackbird 4; Blackcap 1; Whitethroat 2; Lesser Whitethroat 5; Chiffchaff 2; Chaffinch 1; Goldfinch 2.  Total: 23 birds ringed from 10 species.  As this was the first ringing session in this part of the site the lack of any recaptures is not that surprising.  Perhaps what was surprising was the complete absence of any titmice in the catch.  I cannot remember even hearing any today.  We did hear a solitary Cuckoo male calling from the pond area.

There was a superb display of insect life flying around: mainly bumblebees and flies, plus this rather fabulous Downlooker Snipe Fly, Rhagio scolopaceus, that spent a good half-an-hour sitting on our ringing table:

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Whilst clearing away the nets Steph noticed this fat fly sitting on some wet grass:

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This is the Noon Fly, Mesembrina meridiana.

(wildlife photos courtesy of Steph Buggins, thanks to Marc Taylor for identifying the insects)

At the end of the session we checked the two Barn Owl boxes in Allotment and Poucher’s fields (I have a special licence to do so for this schedule 1 species).  The Allotment Field box held a solitary adult bird but a definite nest development; the Poucher’s Field box had a pair of Barn Owls and four warm eggs in the nest.