Blakehill Farm: Friday, 8th March 2019

A somewhat odd day today.  Because of the reports of early returning Spring migrants three of us (Andrew Bray, Ellie Jones and me) went to my migration spot at Blakehill Farm just to see if any of these early migrants had reached north Wiltshire yet.  The forecast was for very low winds from the west / west south west direction, getting stronger by the afternoon. I did a recce yesterday mid-morning and there were lots of birds around, so I was hopeful of a reasonable catch.

We got there nice and early and had the plateau nets open just after daybreak. It was a nice treat to have the Short-Eared Owl flying around the central plateau area, giving excellent views. Also, at least one Curlew has returned to the site already: fingers crossed for a successful breeding season.

The catch just wasn’t there: we caught a dozen birds between 7:00 and 9:30 but then an unforecast north-westerly wind got up and there were no more birds caught.  We decided to close the nets, as they were just blowing out completely. There is no cover on this site, We did catch a Meadow Pipit that was ringed but not by our team. One of the nice things about the new on-line data entry system at the BTO (known as Demon, being short for “Demography Online”) is that when you enter a bird, even if it is not one that you have ringed, if the data has been entered by the ring owner, you get immediate confirmation that the bird is what is should be (or not, which is why we photographed the bird and the ring for proof).

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As we were packing up the session took a definitely weird turn. I have learned to be a very careful about counting bird bags, guy ropes, spikes and matching up pairs of poles, so when Andrew Bray found the bottom two sections of a BTO pole buried in the vegetation, I was at a loss to explain it.  I have 30 sets of poles: I still have 30 sets of poles and, to my knowledge, nobody else has ever had permission to ring this site: so where did it come from? (Cue “Outer Limits” music.) If it is one of mine (I am sure it isn’t) it means a top set is also missing and I should have 31 sets – but I know I have only purchased 30. Spooky!

**I had an immediate report back on our recaptured Meadow Pipit.  This bird was ringed as a recently fledged juvenile on the 20th October 2018 on the Isle of Wight. It has flown 110 km north-north-west in 139 days.