Redstart Blues: Blakehill Farm, Friday, 24th July 2020

It is not often that I get more wasp stings than I do birds in a session. Let me explain:

The red line is where I usually set my nets. Today I thought that I would try out the area that underwent hedge laying a couple of years ago and has grown up nicely since then. You will notice that the yellow line of nets has a gap in it. As I was setting up for the net to go there I suddenly heard this storm of buzzing and then the pain started. It was at least a dozen stings in short order: the worst being a couple in my ear! Not a pleasant start to the morning.

After I finished setting those nets there was a solitary Goldfinch in the short net ride. At the second net round there was another Goldfinch, a Wren and a Dunnock. That was it for that entire net set for the morning.

To pass the time, while the birds avoided the nets, I took a run up to where I usually set my nets. It was fabulous: at least 6 Redstarts were flitting in and out of the hedgerow, popping across the path, chasing Gatekeeper butterflies. I had great views and the huge pang of regret! Never mind, I thought, I will just set a few more nets in that area, so I did. Needless to say the Redstarts moved away to a different area. I did see them again, specifically as I was about to pack up those nets for the morning. There were two of them: one flew into the hedgerow just to the east of the setup and the other into the hedgerow to the west of the setup. Still, I did manage to extract a Blackbird, Great Tit and Chiffchaff from there, so I ended up with 7 birds from 6 species and some lovely views of Redstart.

There was also a significant presence of both Swallows and House Martins flying over the plateau and the fields outside the reserve. Another week and I will be able to start using lures to attract them in.

So, the experiment was a failure, but the question is answered: where I usually set up is the best part of that side of the reserve to use. I was home in time for elevenses!