Meadows Migration: Wednesday, 22nd September 2021

As noted in my previous post, Saturday’s excursion to Ravensroost Meadows had to be postponed due to my car’s clutch failing. Thanks to my good lady wife, I was able to get out today. Given that her vehicle is a Ford Ka, I had to flatten the seats, including the passenger side front seat, and organise the poles diagonally, to get them in. So I chose to just take the bare minimum that would fit into the car. Fortunately, that meant that I could set all of my usual nets. Unfortunately, today Meadow Pipits decided to arrive en masse at the site, and I didn’t have the equipment to set up a Mipit triangle. I have caught Meadow Pipit there before, but two singles (2014 and 2015) and one double (2017), all in September. As you can see, it is not a prolific catch for this site. Today’s was the largest flock I have seen there, on a par with some of those seen at Blakehill. Hopefully they will still be around for the next week or two and I can have a proper go for them. (The car will, hopefully, be fixed tomorrow!)

Rosie, from the Wildlife Trust’s estates management team, joined me at 6:00 to help set up the nets. It was misty and a bit chilly at first, so very little bird movement. We did have a couple of Swallows flitting around in the gloom, but nothing caught until just after 8:00, by which time Rosie had to leave to get to work! She is going to join me again on Saturday to help set up for the ringing demonstration. That should enable her to actually process a few birds although, again, she will have to leave early to go to work, but not quite so early as today. Hard taskmasters!

Once the birds started moving I was getting rounds of 3 to 5 birds each time, with one round at 11:15 delivering 10 of them. As is usual at this time of the autumn, the majority of the catch were Blackcap. About 9:30 a mixed flock of 50 or so Swallow and House Martin flew over and around the site. I was playing a lure for Swallow but they were just flying down and away, rather than getting caught in the net. The difference this year, from previous where we have caught Swallows and Martins in the nets, is that the pond this year has a substantial growth of rush and reed either side of the causeway. We would catch them coming in to drink from the pond, as it was a natural flyway, in and away, that now no longer exists. Time for a rethink perhaps.

As luck would have it, one juvenile Swallow did blunder into one of the nets – the one along the bank nearest the meadow itself. My first of the year:

Swallow juvenile – being held gently before release, not being throttled (their legs are too short for a normal photo grip)

After the Swallows and Martins passed over, they didn’t hang around, I did see the previously mentioned flock of Meadow Pipits. I changed the Swallow / House Martin lure to Meadow Pipit, and watched them fly in and sit on the top line of the nets, as is par for the course. As I walked towards those particular nets they flew back out into the meadow, but two of them hadn’t been quite so clever. After I had processed them, I had a look out into the field and about 20 of the Meadow Pipits were sitting on the boundary fence between the meadow and the pond area. So I walked out into the field and then along behind them, to encourage them to fly back into the pond area, which they very obligingly did. On my next round there was another six of them in the nets. Four were in the 9m net on the spit: a net that had caught absolutely nothing all year, and I was debating with myself whether to continue to use it. Unfortunately, I had to extract a spinning, double-pocketed Wren before getting to the Pipits, and one of them had managed to extract themselves from the net by the time I got to the spit. Still, a total of seven Meadow Pipits (six juveniles and one adult) is the best catch of them that I have had at this site.

The list for the day was: Swallow [1]; Blue Tit 1[3]; Great Tit [1]; Wren [2](1); Meadow Pipit 1[6]; Song Thrush [1]; Blackcap 1[17]; Chiffchaff [2]; Goldcrest [1]. Totals: 3 adults ringed from 3 species, 34 juveniles ringed from 9 species and 1 retrap, making 38 birds processed from 9 species. The recaptured Wren was also a juvenile bird.

Sat at the ringing station before the first round, Rosie noticed a yellow moth flying around. It very obligingly sat on my knee. I slowly reached for my phone to get the camera app – only it wouldn’t accept my fingerprint (moisture) and, just after I finished entering my 4-digit security code, the moth flew off! There were several more seen throughout the morning: Sallow – a September / October flyer. Still plenty of Common Darter flying around, many in copulating pairs, but the love story of the morning was this:

Mating Slugs – tentatively Deroceras laeve – the Marsh Slug

It is clearly not a rapid process for these hermaphrodites. They remained engaged for over an hour before separating. The brown morph stayed put for another 20 minutes or so, whilst the black morph headed off into the vegetation. Eventually the brown morph headed off in the opposite direction: clearly a one-morning stand. To be clear, apart from the photo, I was not voyeuristically stood there watching them, I just took note as I passed their love nest whilst doing my net rounds.

The other very noticeable thing this morning were the number of Dog Rose plants with these stunning Bedeguar / Robin’s Pincushion galls:

Robin’s Pincushion Gall caused by Diplolepsis rosae

At about midday the breeze got up and some of the nets started billowing, so I packed up and went home. A very satisfying morning that was just a couple of steps away from a brilliant session.