Brown’s Farm: Thursday, 13th January 2022

I don’t often kick myself out of bed early two days in a row but the forecast for this morning was perfect for a trip to Brown’s Farm. My last two planned visits were failures: firstly, David and I sat in the car for 45 minutes waiting for the cloud we were in to lift, it didn’t. Next time I was ill. Then the weather has just been too wet and windy for such an exposed site, so I jumped at the chance. Naturally, my alarm didn’t go off, so I started out later than intended, but I was determined to get there.

James, the farmer, had kindly spread some chopped maize around in his game cover to try and attract some birds in for me. As I drove up the metalled track, to turn down to the game cover area, the hedgerows were alive with birds. I should have stopped and set my nets there because, although I thoroughly enjoyed the session, the catch was quite small. It started off cold, the sky was perfectly clear and as the sun rose the air soon warmed up, but the land stayed frozen all morning: which was just as well because otherwise it would be a quagmire.

I got one of the species that I went for:

Female Yellowhammer

My first Yellowhammer of 2022. Unfortunately, the only one I caught today.

The catch was just a few birds each round but at 11:00 I was delighted, and surprised, to find this in my net:

First Winter Pied Wagtail

I catch very few of these. As a trainee, ringing at various Thames Water Sewage Treatment Works, I got to process a reasonable number of them (27 Pied Wagtails and 13 White (yes, White) Wagtails, mainly at Marlborough Sewage Works – not too far from where I was today). Since then, in 9 years, this is only the fifth that I have managed to catch. They fly slowly, have good eyesight and can generally avoid the nets.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit 5; Dunnock 2(3); Pied Wagtail 1; Robin 2(2); Blackbird 2; Yellowhammer 1. Totals: 13 birds ringed from 6 species and 5 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 18 birds processed from 6 species.

So not a huge catch but, as I say, a lovely morning. I was joined by the farmer for a good long chat. He is quite keen for me to carry out some ringing on his other farm, next door to, and west of Brown’s Farm. We spent 5 minutes watching Skylarks chasing each other in the field opposite where my nets were set. I have no idea why they should be so busy at this time of year. Surely they aren’t pairing up and establishing territories already?

As usual, I had excellent sightings of the local Buzzards and Red Kites. I suppose being adjacent to Savernake Forest this farmland is a happy hunting ground. There are plenty of rabbits and hares there. One of my favourite sights is when Sparrowhawks find a thermal and start circling up, with their short and rapid “butterfly” wing beats, so when one started doing exactly that whilst I was taking down the nets I just had to stop and watch. Eventually I managed to finish taking them down and left site at just after 13:00.

Next time I will change my net positions and hope to catch the species I didn’t get today: Linnet. There are so many of them on site. On one memorable occasion in April 2015, after 3 disappointing hours, the Linnets started to arrive and I ended up ringing 44 of them.

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