New Zealand Farm: Wednesday, 8th August 2018

This was our first visit to New Zealand Farm this year. It is an area of scrub trees and bramble in the north eastern corner of Salisbury Plain.  We didn’t set too many nets (the yellow lines on the photograph below), as you can never be confident about the size of catch you might encounter and we are always circumspect.


The site is registered to Dr Ian Grier, one of our two founding members, and the rest of the team was Andy Palmer, Jonny Cooper and myself.  Ian and Andy now spend most of their summers working on the Wessex Stone Curlew project with the RSPB and we were joined for the day by Rob Blackler, the project coordinator.  He has ringed plenty of birds, but those have been birds the size of Lapwing and Stone Curlew, so this would be a new experience for him.

The weather was pretty decent, until the breeze got stronger at about 11:00 when we packed up. It was a Whitethroat dominated session in which we caught 45 birds, as follows: Great Tit 2; Wren 6(1); Dunnock 4(1); Robin 2; Blackbird 1; Reed Warbler 2; Whitethroat 22; Lesser Whitethroat 2; Willow Warbler 1; Yellowhammer 1. Totals: 43 birds ringed from 10 species, 2 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 45 birds processed from 10 species.  The two retrapped birds were residents of the site and were both adults.  36 of the catch were young birds: including 20 of the Whitethroat.  However, although birds on passage that breed in the UK and migrate at the end of the breeding season should not surprise you when they turn up on a site like this, the arrival of two Reed Warbler in the catch was really pleasant for those of us ringing in the north of the county without a reed bed to monitor:


After we had packed up the ringing site we took a trip across the Plain to one of the locations where Ian and Andy have been monitoring Stone Curlew. We parked a couple of hundred yards away from the plot and settled down to watch. Two Stone Curlew flew off the plot to an area of mud and water, showing well. Watching them we noticed a badger was digging into the soil, presumably searching for earthworms. Life must be hard for them at the moment: to see one foraging for food in the middle of the day is very unusual.  Careful watching of the plot and the surrounding vegetation revealed a total of six Stone Curlew.  That they are aggregating strongly suggests that breeding has finished for this year.  After we had all had our fill of watching these fascinating birds we finished our session for the day.  Very satisfying.

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