What, no birds? Blakehill Farm, 4th and 18th December 2019

Our last three sessions at Blakehill Farm had been extremely productive with 13th and 30th September delivering 72 ringed each session, 1 and 3 recaptured respectively, 10 and 8 species respectively, and then on the 24th November, 62 ringed and 6 retrapped from 11 species, so we were looking forward to our next session there on the 4th December.

Our target for that session was to try and catch the Snipe and possible Jack Snipe at the pools on the west side of Blakehill.  I did a reconnaissance visit on the 3rd and saw 8 Snipe on their usual feeding site.  I had Ellie, Alice and Andrew join me for the session. The first issue: it froze overnight.  This meant that the feeding site was covered with sheet ice. We set the nets anyway: ironically a Woodcock flew through exactly where we were about to place our first wader net and disappeared onto the plateau.

Over the next two hours we watched as a thick, cold mist enveloped the nets and rimed them with frost. Eventually, the sun came out, the mist dissipated and the nets defrosted. It didn’t do much good: we caught a miserable total of 8 birds from 6 species, with no retrapped birds: Blue Tit 3;  Great Tit 1; Robin 1; Song Thrush 1; Redwing 1; Blackbird 1.

Today I was working solo and so I decided to have another go at Blakehill, this time along the Chelworth side perimeter track hedgerow and the Meadow Pipit triangle, where we take our largest catches.  The weather was so much better, but I think the lousy weather of the last couple of weeks has moved the large flocks on. This catch was every bit as disappointing as the previous: Blue Tit 1(1); Wren 1; Meadow Pipit 3; Redwing 4; Chaffinch 1. 10 birds ringed from 5 species and 1 bird recaptured, making 11 birds processed from 5 species.

We will be back in the woodlands over the next couple of weeks, so it will be interesting to see if they are similarly down in number.

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