It is so difficult to get sessions in at Brown’s Farm. Being at the top of Postern Hill, just south of Marlborough, it is totally exposed to the elements. The only time that I can get there is when the weather forecast is for it to be more or less flat calm, with gusts remaining as far under 10mph as is possible. With Wednesday’s session being rained off (f0r 0nce they got the forecast right: it started raining at just after 9:30 am and didn’t let up until 9:30pm), and the forecast set fair for a dry day with minimal wind, I headed for Brown’s Farm.
As ever, Rosie joined me to help set up before heading off to do her day job with the Wildlife Trust. Knowing that I was going to be working solo for much of the session, we only set four rides: three of 2 x 18m nets (1,2,3) and one single 18m net (4). The multiples were set along the leeward side of the main path hedgerow and the singleton adjacent to the pond:
James, the farmer, has done his biennial hedgerow maintenance, so the hedges were a bit lower than I had anticipated. It wasn’t particularly busy. There were several reasons. For one thing, it was much windier than forecast. With the positioning of the nets, the lower shelves were protected from the breeze, but the two upper shelves were blowing out and, subsequently caught nothing and probably put off a few other potential captives. Had I known about the wind and the reduced hedgerow height I would probably have gone with 2-shelf, as opposed to 5-shelf, nets. Equally, if I had had a team out with me all morning, I would have set more nets along the hedgerow.
Whilst we were setting the nets we had fantastic views of a Hare. It just ignored us whilst we were working: we were moving towards it and it was coming towards us. Eventually it came within 50m before deciding to skedaddle. We then had great views as it disappeared across the field at a rate. Later we had another couple of Hares appear further up the field. We watched them chasing around the field and were hoping for a boxing match but no such luck.
Although it wasn’t our biggest catch, we did have a very respectable 13 Yellowhammers. This is actually our second largest single session catch of Yellowhammer at this site: the largest being 16 in September 2018. The first of this morning’s catch was Rosie’s first ever extraction and opportunity to ring the species.
The only other species caught were Dunnock and an extremely haughty looking Goldfinch:
This is only the second Goldfinch that we have caught at the site in the last 6 years, with the other one in September 2018. Over the entire time that I have worked this site, since February 2014, we have only caught 17 Goldfinch in total, so they are not a common catch here.
It took a while for the birds to start moving around and, once they did, each round did produce two or three birds. Six productive rounds produced 15 birds: Dunnock 1; Goldfinch 1; Yellowhammer 12(1).
Before we started catching, we did have some lovely views of various species: many of which were happy to come within a few feet of us, several of which were singing / advertising territory and for a mate. Among the species observed but not caught were Blackbird, Brambling, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Starling, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Wren, plus a crowd of Jackdaw, a single Carrion Crow and a wonderfully noisy foursome of Magpie.
As usual, we were also treated to some great bird of prey displays: a pair of Red Kite, two pairs of Buzzard and, best of all, a Sparrowhawk doing that fluttering, spiralling flight that they do in the Springtime.
As I was taking down, James came along in one of his tractors and, as he drove along the main path towards the farmyard, a flock of about 20 Linnets was put up from the hedgerow, just a few metres from where I had closed my last net! If only! We had a good chat, I gave him an update on what we had caught and seen, and then finished clearing away. I left site at just after 12:30 after a quiet, but thoroughly enjoyable, session.