Blakehill Farm: Saturday, 30th September 2019

Since we got back from Skokholm  on the 19th September every effort we have made to get out ringing has been thwarted by the weather. Despite favourable weather forecasts for last Monday and Saturday, the reality was high winds (Monday) and pouring rain (Saturday).  The forecast for this morning was that it would rain overnight, dry up early morning and be dry by 6:00, with low winds until 11:00 and rain from 13:00.  Astonishingly, it was 100% accurate and I watched the rain roll in from the comfort of my car on the way home.

So to Blakehill Farm at 5:30 this morning. As I was going to be working solo, I decided to only set nets by the plateau bushes, and a Mipit triangle, as per the diagram below:

Blakehill

A Mipit triangle is the standard way of catching Meadow Pipits: 3 x 12m nets set as an open triangle.  They are set with the bottom shelf low to the ground, with a lure playing in the middle of the nets. Meadow Pipits fly slowly and, as a result, are very adept at flying over and around nets.  With the triangle, they are tempted in by the lure, and when ringers approach the nets, they tend to forget to fly over or around but fly into the nets.  It worked superbly today: 47 caught in 5 net rounds.  Blakehill has become our regular site for numbers of Meadow Pipits, and it seems to have coincided with massive irruptions of crane-flies.  The beauty of the site is that the only fertiliser it ever gets is from cattle and sheep. No pesticide: lots of insects, good numbers of birds!

The list from today was: Swallow [1]; Blue Tit [9]; Wren [1]; Dunnock [1](2); Meadow Pipit 5[42]; Stonechat [3]; Lesser Whitethroat [1]; Chiffchaff [1]; Goldfinch [1]; Reed Bunting 4[3](1). Totals: 9 adults ringed from 2 species; 63 juveniles ringed from 10 species and 3 birds recaptured from 2 species, making 75 birds processed from 10 species.

The highlights of the catch were the 3 Stonechat and a totally unexpected Lesser Whitethroat.  This bird is the latest ever capture of a Lesser Whitethroat by the West Wilts Ringing Group, checking all records as far back as the BTO database goes.

The only downsides at Blakehill this year have been the complete lack of Whinchat in the catch and the dearth of Swallows.  Unfortunately, still no Whinchat this session, at our most regular site for them. Also, despite having a huge fly through of Swallows for the first time this autumn, I was not set up for catching them, although one juvenile did fly into a net.  Usually we catch them flying along the perimeter track hedgerow but I had more than enough to manage without any additions.

I kept an eye out for the change in the weather but needn’t have worried: the wind got up at 11:30, so I closed the nets and took down.