Blakehill Farm: Sunday, 8th October 2017

With yesterday’s scheduled session being rained off, Jonny and I met up at Blakehill Farm this morning for a shortish session. I think Jonny was pleased to have an extra day to recover from his trip to the Shetlands, from which he returned on Friday.  All he managed to see there were a few common birds: Red-throated Pipit, Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Red-Breasted Flycatcher and Buff-bellied Pipit, his second Parrot Crossbill didn’t merit a mention. (Yes – I am joking; Yes – I am jealous).

As the central plateau is currently being grazed and there was cattle everywhere else on the site, we kept our session to the area in front of the Whitworth Centre and along the footpath to the pond area.  The session started well, with a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits in the net directly opposite the Centre. We processed them, and then set a couple of two shelf nets on the opposite side of the hedge lining the perimeter track and put on a lure for Linnet.  For the rest of the morning we watched Linnets flying up and down the hedgerow looking for this noisy con-specific. Unfortunately, only two of them managed to blunder into our nets.  Given how few have been seen at Blakehill this year, we were pleased to see quite so many this session.  This one was a little camera shy.


Soon after we had set the Linnet net, I heard the pounding of footsteps and watched Jonny haring across the field to the net on the far side of the field.  He came back with this beauty:


This is a juvenile female Kestrel.  She was extremely feisty and we both have a few wounds as a memento of the occasion.  Jonny won’t mind: it was the first Kestrel that he has processed.

As we both wanted to be away before 13:00 we did our last round at 11:15 and I was delighted to take two of these lovely birds out of the same net that previously caught the Kestrel:


Following on from the five that I took out of the plateau nets on my last session, it has been a real privilege to handle some of my absolute favourite birds.  These birds were juveniles, in the last stages of moulting out their juvenile plumage, with just a few buffy feathers on the head and neck area.

The list for the session was: Kestrel 1; Blue Tit 1; Great Tit 2; Long-tailed Tit 6; Wren 4(1); Robin 5; Goldcrest 3; Starling 2; Goldfinch 1; Linnet 2.  Totals: 27 ringed from 10 species and one retrapped bird.  Unusual for Blakehill Farm, we caught no Dunnocks or Reed Buntings.  These are generally the most regularly caught birds on the site.

Whilst I was looking at the figures for this blog, I had a particular look at retrapped birds, as catching just one at a regular site is unusual.  Since I started ringing independently, me and my team have ringed 13,283 birds and retrapped 3,899. So our retrap rate is running at a pretty good 22.7%.  Resident species are, obviously, the most likely to be retrapped and that proves to be the case:

retrap ringed total % retrap
Marsh Tit 125 91 216 137.4%
Coal Tit 239 336 575 71.1%
Long-tailed Tit 338 650 988 52.0%
Dunnock 171 349 520 49.0%
Great Tit 589 1261 1850 46.7%
Robin 346 849 1195 40.8%
Wren 190 506 696 37.5%
Blue Tit 850 2372 3222 35.8%
Blackbird 151 467 618 32.3%
Bullfinch 59 230 289 25.7%
Song Thrush 37 153 190 24.2%
Reed Bunting 22 118 140 18.6%
Chiffchaff 165 933 1098 17.7%
Blackcap 166 965 1131 17.2%
Willow Warbler 35 253 288 13.8%

Obviously a bird is ringed only once, but a ringed bird can be retrapped on multiple occasions.  The Marsh Tits are so sedentary, and as we tend to set our nets in the same places in our sites, there is a much higher incidence of repeat captures of the same individuals in the same place on different occasions, hence the slightly odd statistic. What surprised me most was that Blue Tits are only eighth in the list.  Being the most commonly caught bird, and we always seem to be picking up retrapped Blue Tits, I assumed that they would have the highest proportion of recaptures.  Evidently not.

Migrant warblers, quite naturally, are the least frequently retrapped but two out of every eleven is not a bad return.

Simon  Tucker

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