For those of a superstitious disposition, deciding to go to the most exposed of our sites on Friday the 13th would not seem like a good idea.
So to Blakehill Farm this morning with Jonny Cooper. The initial experience was auspicious: great views of a hunting Barn Owl, that then perched on the gate post through which we had entered the plateau, preened and posed.
But then……. We set our nets by the individual bushes on the edge of the central plateau: sharing with two herds of cattle. The adults were a pleasure, i.e. they stayed well away from us and our nets. The others were steers, and proved more problematic. Intrigued by us and our nets, they would move off when we chased them away, but as soon as our backs were turned they came back. We hoped that if we put them up and moved away they would follow us and leave the nets alone. No! Fortunately there was no damage, but there was some slobber I could have done without! We had to take them down again to ensure they stayed in one piece!
Then the breeze got up, which meant that we couldn’t set up our hedgerow nets, as the breeze would have blown them straight into the vegetation: been there, done that, had to repurchase the nets. Part way through the morning a Kestrel chased a Meadow Pipit into a net and got itself stuck in the net. Jonny sprinted after it, from about 200m away. He got to within an arm’s length before it extricated itself and flew off. That doesn’t sound too good does it? The curse of Friday the 13th writ large you would think.
However, we managed to catch 73 birds, the only recapture was a control Reed Bunting: almost certainly it will have been ringed in the Water Park a couple of miles away. The catch for the day was: Blue Tit ; Great Tit ; Meadow Pipit 1; Dunnock ; Stonechat ; Whitethroat ; Chiffchaff ; Reed Bunting (1). Totals: 1 adult ringed; 71 juveniles ringed from 8 species and 1 adult recaptured, making 73 birds processed from 8 species.
We were pleased to catch our first Stonechat of the autumn – a young male bird with real attitude:
The 19 Blue Tits were all caught in and around the isolated bushes out in the middle of this huge ex-airfield. We do catch a lot of them out on the plateau: it seems counter-intuitive when there is so much hedgerow for them to travel along. Had we been able to set our hedgerow nets I am pretty confident we could have doubled the catch. There was so much bird song and movement along the hedge but it just wasn’t possible.
We really enjoyed it: looking forward to Skokholm next week!