Mixed Fortunes: 16th & 17th November 2019

I had scheduled to visit Blakehill Farm on Saturday but, due to an adverse weather forecast for that day all week leading up to it, and an excellent forecast for Sunday morning, I agreed with the Wildlife Trust to move the session to Sunday.  Waking up Saturday morning to rain, I felt justified, but it cleared by 9:00 and the rest of the day was perfect ringing weather.  I opened the nets in the garden and had a relaxing few hours ringing the following: Blue Tit 8(1); Great Tit 1(3); Starling 2; Goldfinch 7.  Totals: 18 birds ringed from 4 species and 4 birds retrapped from 2 species.

I love Starlings! They are one of my favourite birds. Their plumage is spectacular and the fact that their throat, breast and flank feathers enable you to age and sex the birds is an added bonus.

So, to Sunday morning: the perfect weather for ringing at Blakehill. Only it was damp. Never mind I thought, it will clear. So I drove over, the rain stopped, I started erecting nets.  The first one up, about to start the second: the rain started again. I took down, sat in the car for 20 minutes until the rain stopped. This time it let me set up two nets before the rain started again.  That was enough, I packed up and went home.  The rain stopped so I opened the nets in the garden for an hour: 3 more Blue Tit and 5 more Goldfinch.

Fortunately for other group members, the forecast held true for them and Jonny got out to one of his farmland sites and Ian and Andy to SPTA West. Could they repeat their mind blowing catch of last time?  Watch this space.

This is Jonny’s account of his session:

It is just over 2 years since I started ringing at Bailey’s farm. Although not that long compared to some sites it is long enough for me to get a good idea of the sort of birds and numbers to expect when I do a session there. But of course one of the great things about ringing is that you never quite know what you are going to catch.

The forecast was for calm weather all morning, there was a brief shower for about 5 minutes when I got on site but other than that it was dry.

The session kicked off nicely at 7:30 with a first round of 36 birds and stayed busy all morning. Each round providing good numbers of birds from a variety of species; never so many that I was overwhelmed but enough to keep me busy (I didn’t eat my breakfast until 10:00).

The catch for the day was as follows: Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Blue Tit 13(12), Great Tit 5(2), Long-tailed Tit 7(2), Goldcrest 3, Wren 1(1), House Sparrow 1, Dunnock 2(3), Grey Wagtail 1, Meadow Pipit 5, Robin 2(1), Redwing 44, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 12, Greenfinch 7 and Goldfinch 2.  Totals:  108 birds ringed from 17 species and 21 retraps from 6 species, giving 129 birds processed from 17 species.

There are a couple of highlights, both Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail are new birds for the site. I had seen both species a few times on previous visits but up until now they had evaded my nets, and two new species or a site in one session is always nice.

The second highlight is the sheer number of Redwing. Being November I had dutifully put on the Redwing lure we like to call Latvian love song. A catch of 44 Redwing would suggest that it worked. Oddly enough, I didn’t actually see any Redwing fly over all morning, but they must have been coming from somewhere.

Overall this was another incredibly pleasing morning, beating the site record by 9 birds (which was set last session). I’m not really sure why there are so many birds on site this winter, clearly the farmer is doing something right. Regardless, it could certainly be a busy winter is these size catches keep happening.

Ian and Andy went out onto their Salisbury Plain site and managed a decent haul of 33 birds.  They didn’t manage another first for Wiltshire (currently with the BBRC for adjudication) but they did catch this beauty:


This is only the second Merlin caught by our group.  The first was in July 2003.  Both were retrapped birds and we are looking forward to finding out where this beauty was ringed. (Photos courtesy of Ian.)

Their list for the session was: Merlin (1); Blue Tit 3; Wren 1; Robin (2); Redwing 8; Blackbird 1; Goldcrest 1; Chaffinch 2; Linnet 1; Bullfinch 3; Yellowhammer 9; Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 30 birds ringed from 10 species; 3 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 33 birds processed from 12 species.

So, as I said in the title to this blog: very much mixed fortunes: from thee cracking Merlin to Jonny’s huge solo catch, where the number of Redwing outnumbered the total catch of titmice! Oh well! I will get back there one day!

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