Unfortunately, none of the rest of the group were available to give me a hand for this session, so I knew it would be hard work. As it has been a while since I was last there, I paid a quick visit to the site Friday, to do a bit of a reconnaissance mission, to decide where to put the nets. It was a worthwhile visit: a couple of Wheatear were seen flying along the hedgerow lining the main path (you can see the details of the farm on the Sites page), there was also a Mistle Thrush and lots of Meadow Pipit in the first field on the left out of the farmyard. We had only ever caught a single Meadow Pipit previously at Brown’s Farm so I was quite keen to try for them on Saturday.
This morning I set my nets in the first two fields both left and right of the track. I only set 5 short rides, as I didn’t want to tempt fate and potentially get swamped. The first two hours delivered just two birds: a Robin and a Goldfinch. Our last visit, at the height of the drought, delivered only 9 birds. I was really hoping we wouldn’t have a repeat! As a bit of a hedge against that, I opened up another short ride just off the farmyard itself, as there had been a few House Sparrows larking about in that area. As is typical, the next round was significantly busier and I extracted over 30 birds. The following round produced another 20, so I shut all of the nets to the right of the track, so that I could process the birds I had without worrying about them being kept too long in the bag and, certainly, to ensure that they were in the nets for the minimum possible time. Even so, I extracted another 17 birds in the next round, and shut the rest of the nets, as I felt that was enough (and it was 11:30 by then, the breeze was beginning to get up, and I was going to be taking down single-handedly, which can be a nightmare at this site once the wind starts pushing the nets into the hedgerows).
It was a really decent catch: Blue Tit 3; Meadow Pipit 19; Dunnock 6; Robin 4; Blackcap 1; Chiffchaff 3; Chaffinch 3; Goldfinch 1; House Sparrow 11(2); Yellowhammer 16. Totals: 67 birds ringed from 10 species; 2 birds recaptured from 1 species, making 69 birds processed from 10 species. The recaptured House Sparrows were a nice find: one was ringed last year, the other was ringed as a juvenile in August 2015.
There are three notable things about this catch:
- we have now caught 20 Meadow Pipits at Brown’s Farm, 19 in this session;
- this is the largest catch of Yellowhammer I have had at any of my sites, bear in mind that there is no supplementary / bait feeding at this site to attract them in;
- no Linnets: that is perhaps the most remarkable thing, as this is the first time we have drawn a blank with this species at the site.
All in all, a very satisfying session. Under the previous tenants we could not ring the site in the late autumn / winter months as they ran a pheasant and partridge shoot. The new tenant, who also owns the farm next door, has moved the cattle onto that farm, and converted the cattle byres into stables, fenced off a couple of fields as paddocks, and rented them out to a number of owners. Perhaps thoroughbreds and shooting don’t mix. Regardless of that, it means that we can ring the site over the winter months, which will give us a chance to compare the avi-fauna throughout the entire year.