We have had a couple of cracking sessions at Blakehill recently but noticed that there was quite a lot of activity outside of our usual netting area; so Friday morning I decided to try out some other net positions to see if those movements would translate into catches.
Unfortunately, none of my team or the wider ringing group was available to help. It was, therefore, quite a slog getting all the nets set and I didn’t get them open until 8:00. Fortunately, the mist didn’t start burning off until just before then. The good thing is that all of the new net positions caught. The first new net delivered 3 x Whinchat and a Stonechat in the first round and nothing else – but that will do nicely.
Over the course of the next three hours I extracted 64 birds from 13 species: Swallow 2; Blue Tit 8; Great Tit 6; Coal Tit 1; Dunnock 4; Meadow Pipit 17; Stonechat 3; Whinchat 5; Blackbird 1; Chiffchaff 10; Starling 5; Reed Bunting 1 and one solitary retrapped Wren.
It was hard work but great fun and I think I fulfilled enough of the government’s new 10 minutes brisk walking target to last a month. The catch was interesting for all sorts of reasons. For example, six of the Blue Tits were caught in the small bushes on the plateau and not in the hedgerows lining the perimeter track. I caught the first Coal Tit for the site. Catching another five Whinchat brings the annual total to six: better than last year but still need another to match 2015.
The catch of three Stonechat seems to be the norm for these birds at Blakehill but, outside of the first of the species caught here, a singleton in September 2015, this is the earliest multiple catch of this species so far. Hopefully we will get similar numbers in October and November as we did in 2016. All of the Whinchat and Stonechat caught were females. The Stonechats were all juveniles whereas only one of the Whinchat was.
The remarkable run of Meadow Pipits caught continued, with another 17 finding the allure of the call on the MP3 player irresistible. That takes us to 47 for the year: quite an astonishing number given the previous annual totals. There seems to be so many more on site this year than previously.
The key thing is that we now have the possibility of using a number of alternative net positions that we can be confident will deliver a catch.