My last trip to Brown’s Farm was back on the 12th July and, to be honest, I might have been better staying in bed and catching up on some sleep. Just 11 birds caught: the 3 Yellowhammer ameliorated my otherwise potentially foul mood. So today, with a weather forecast of virtually no wind until lunchtime, Andrew Bray and I headed out to the farm to see what might be around.
We set nets along hedgerows, as shown in red below:
The blue cross is where we put our ringing station.
I came hoping to get some farmland birds in our catch, and we were rewarded with Yellowhammer (2), Linnet (3) and Dunnock (9). There was a large flock of Yellowhammer put up by a tractor going down to the farmyard. Unfortunately they circled round and back into the unharvested grain in front of the hedgerow, where our nets were lurking behind! Hopefully that grain is not scheduled to be harvested and is being left as game cover / food over the winter. If the latter, I would love to put a few two-shelf nets along the tramlines to see what we can catch.
Surprisingly, the largest catch we had today was Blue Tit: a couple of recaptures ringed as juveniles on the farm last year, but also another 15 of them ringed today, 12 of which were juvenile birds. Those are the sort of figures I expect in a wood with a feeding station set up, not traversing the hedgerows on a mixed beef / arable / horse farm.
However, we were also hopeful of there being a few summer visitors around, either that bred locally or were heading south on autumn passage, and we weren’t disappointed. A single juvenile Whitethroat and Willow Warbler was backed up by two Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap and, best of all, and new for the site, 3 each of Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler.
As well as these we saw, but did not catch, a few other migrants, notably a good number of Swallow flying around the fields and a Wheatear flying across from where we had our nets along the hedgerow by the newly sown crop across to the track, and a few Yellow Wagtail were heard but not seen. We were also visited by a female Sparrowhawk, who made a spectacular crossing of the maize field, and twisted up and soared away right in front of me when she noticed our ringing station. I would have loved to have had that in the net! Bad for your fingers though.
The total list from the day was: Blue Tit 15(2); Great Tit 1; Wren 3; Dunnock 9; Robin 1; Reed Warbler 3; Sedge Warbler 3; Blackcap 5; Whitethroat 1; Chiffchaff 2; Willow Warbler 1; Linnet 3; House Sparrow 3; Yellowhammer 2. Totals: 52 birds ringed from 14 species and 2 birds retrapped from 1 species, making 54 birds processed from 14 species.
That is a decent variety of species, and to have two firsts for the site on the same day is brilliant. To put that catch into perspective: I have a wetland site on the edge of the Cotswold Water Park and so far this year I have processed 4 Sedge Warblers and 4 Reed Warblers there. These are clearly birds on passage but a great find. We had juveniles of every species caught. 42 of them were juveniles and just 12 adults.
So we had a really enjoyable session with a decent haul but, unfortunately, the wind got up early, at 10:30 and we had to close the nets.