Blakehill Farm: the Curlew are back. Wednesday, 23rd March 2022

I decided that I would have a lie-in this morning, so I arranged for us to meet at 6:30, rather than earlier. Rosie and Tanya joined me to help set up the nets, and do a bit of ringing before heading off to work. The weather was surprisingly cold at first but it soon warmed up, and the weather was perfect for the whole session: clear skies and virtually no wind.

It was Rosie who was the first to notice the bubbling call of the Curlew, but it then continued for a couple of hours as they flew around the plateau advertising their presence. We know that the Curlew leg tagged at Blakehill last year has been seen at the Water Park over the last couple of weeks and hope to see it back on the plateau pretty soon. Chiffchaffs were calling all around the site, so we were hopeful of catching a few.

We only set six nets:

To be honest, the bulk of the catch came in the three-way net setup. I set lures for Linnet on the single 18m net; Linnet and Blackcap on the double 18m net and Chiffchaff on the 3-way net. Just behind the Whitworth Building (the building to the right of the single 18m net) is a couple of concrete slabs and some additional rubble: the remains of an old out-building. As someone had seen a Wheatear on the site in the last week, I decided to have a go to see if we could add to the Wheatear we caught last autumn. I set two walk-in Potter traps, liberally baited with mealworms and with a Wheatear call lure playing. Unfortunately, there were no takers. Equally, the 18m net produced no Linnets but two Chiffchaffs and the double 18m net produced no Linnet or Blackcap but one Chiffchaff and a Song Thrush.

Anna joined us at about 8:00: after having provided the taxi service for her sister, and stayed with me for the rest of the morning. So I have help setting up and help taking down: spoilt? Moi?

The first round produced a Dunnock, a House Sparrow and a Wren. The Dunnock and the House Sparrow used up the last of my string of size B rings. In between rounds we were treated to a few early insects: a Small Tortoiseshell and a couple of Brimstone, plus a couple of Buff-tailed Bumblebees and a Common Carder Bee:

The next round produced another four House Sparrows. I went to my ring supply box to get the next string of 100 rings: nowhere to be found! I knew there were none at home. Panic stations. I phoned Johnny, but he was miles away and busy at his East Tytherton site. Then I phoned Steph, fortunately she had enough for me to steal some from her, so I raced off to her place, just over the border in Gloucestershire, and took 20 from her stock, so we could process these birds.

Rosie and Tanya had to leave just as I got back with the rings, so they missed out on ringing their first House Sparrows. Anna and I continued until 11:30. We were joined for a while by Wayne Clinch and his wife, which reminded me that I haven’t submitted my 2021 moth records yet (Wayne is the Wiltshire macro-moth recorder), so I had better pull my finger out and get them to him.

The list for the day was: Blue Tit (1); Wren 1; Dunnock 1(1); Robin 2; Song Thrush 1; Chiffchaff 4(1); House Sparrow 9. Totals: 18 birds ringed from 6 species and 3 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 21 birds processed from 7 species.

It is our equal best catch of House Sparrow at this site and our best March Chiffchaff catch at Blakehill.

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