An excellent month for birds this September. It was our second highest catch for any month since the group gained its current structure in January 2013. The highest was October last year: there’s a challenge. I think that the key to it is how the C-permit holders, since lockdown prevented us working together, have got into working independently so more sessions are being carried out. I also found myself doing more sessions because of the weather. So often in the last couple of months my regular Saturday / Wednesday routine has become Saturday / Monday or Tuesday / Thursday or Friday. As a result we did 28 full sessions between us last month. Compare that with last year when, admittedly, the weather was rubbish, Jonny, Ellie and I were on Skokholm Island for the first week, and between us the group only managed 10 full sessions. Funnily enough, they were pretty strong sessions, averaging out at 60+ birds per session whereas this year it averages out at just 44+ birds per session.
The results were:
The variety in the catch is very clear: 41 species as opposed to 32 last year. There were huge increases in the numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the catch. This seems to have been the story across the most of the country this year as the summer visitors are leaving our shores. Pretty striking also is the increase in the Dunnocks caught: 2.5 times that of last year but, of course, that is in line with the increased number of sessions. Indisputable in their increase is the arrival of Meadow Pipits at Blakehill Farm. 109 of them caught in a single session on the 21st of the month. This was our single largest catch of the month, with a total of 137 birds caught between myself and Jonny. Meadow Pipit numbers at the coastal observatories have been absolutely huge so far this year. We estimated that there had to be at least 300 flying around Blakehill that day. They do seem to be mainly focused on the plateau which, like last year, is absolutely heaving with crane flies.
Kestrels are elusive so catching one at Blakehill Farm was a real bonus. Despite the fact that since January 2013 we have only caught 5: 3 at Blakehill, 1 at Tedworth and 1 at Battlesbury, I am just so generous, despite have only ever ringed two of them in my 11 year career to date, I let Andrew ring the bird. That didn’t stop me becoming the victim of its remarkably efficient tearing beak. The wound has finally healed!
Our most exciting catch of the month came at New Zealand Farm on the 14th. Andrew had started to utilise the site in May. It had lain dormant for 18 months, and had only been ringed 7 times since 1st January 2015, so it is an ideal site for someone with a C-permit to manage and use. As we know that the catches on the site can be pretty big, Jonny, Ellie and I tagged along to help out. It was a super morning, 103 birds caught; but what was particularly good was that I was given a lure for House Martin. Whilst Jonny and I have ringed a few at Ravensroost Meadow, neither Ellie nor Andrew had them on their list and none had previously been caught at NZF. The lure worked beautifully: we had hundreds of both Swallow and House Martin circulating over the scrub, and managed to attract down 30 of the latter and several of the former.
October of last year was our biggest ever month. Whether we will match it is debatable. Ellie and I are still working out a safe way for us to start using Ravensroost Woods again, and it probably also depends upon how many sessions we manage, and how many Meadow Pipits we catch, at Blakehill Farm. It is turning into an even better year for the group than the last, and that was stellar for us.