Blakehill Farm – At Last: Sunday, 24th November 2019

We last managed to get a session at Blakehill Farm on the 30th September.  Since then I have made half-a-dozen abortive attempts to run sessions there. On three occasions I have actually got to site before having to concede defeat.  With the weather forecast being for this morning to be flat calm and misty for most of the morning,  I was confident we would get there. And so it proved.

I was joined for the day by Alice, Steph, Lillie and Andrew. We set our usual nets along the hedgerow, with Redwing lure playing; a Mipit triangle, with Meadow Pipit lure playing, and the nets around the bushes on the edge of the plateau.  We might just as well have not bothered with the plateau nets.  They are normally very good for Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Linnet and the occasional Stonechat but, bar a Dunnock and  Wren or two, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and effort. However, the other nets were a different proposition.

As we finished putting up the hedgerow nets I drove along the perimeter track to the turning area and was encouraged to see good flocks of Redwing around.  I set the Redwing lure playing and within 10 minutes we started catching them.  The Meadow Pipit lure took somewhat longer to start its work: perhaps the mist was keeping them from being too active, but eventually they started to arrive and, although we didn’t catch as many as the numbers around would suggest we should, there was still a reasonable catch.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 6(3); Great Tit 4(1); Wren 2(1); Dunnock (1); Meadow Pipit 13; Robin 1; Redwing 30; Song Thrush 2; Blackbird 2; Starling 1; Goldfinch 1.  Totals: 62 birds ringed from 9 species; 6 bird retrapped from 4 species, making 68 birds processed from 11 species.

As well as the high numbers of Redwing around there were several large flocks of Fieldfare flying around. Unfortunately, and entirely predictably, they never came anywhere close to being caught in any of the nets.

On another note, Ellie had her first solo session this morning (having had an effort on Thursday spoiled by the weather).  She was as sensible as I knew she would be: opening just a single net in the garden of the farm house at Lower Moor Farm. Remarkably, the first bird she extracted and processed was a Magpie.  Apart from the scarcity of catching them (just 10 by the whole team in the last 5 years), this was her first experience of extracting and processing this species.

Her catch for the day was: Magpie 1; Blue Tit 2; Wren 1; Blackbird 3(1); Goldcrest 1(1); Bullfinch 3(1). Totals: 11 birds ringed from 6 species; 3 birds retrapped from 3 species making 14 birds processed from 6 species.

As a trainer it is always extremely gratifying when one of your trainees steps out on their own: fledging I suppose.  Ellie is the third of my trainees to take that step.