That’s Better: Blakehill Farm; Wednesday, 14th September 2022.

After our ringing demonstration on the 20th August, with its massive total of eight birds from six species, we had more emails thanking us for the session than we have ever had before: almost twice as many as we had birds! Having spent the last ten days in Scotland, doing a bit of birding, and seeing loads of Swallow and House Martin, and a few Wheatear, flying about the place, I wanted to catch up with whatever migrants might still be coming through Blakehill Farm and see if we could do better than last time.

I had Miranda and Rosie joining me for the session. The forecast was a bit hit and miss, depending upon which organisation you looked at. All forecasts agreed that the rain would have finished by 7:00, so I set a start time of 6:30. It also predicted wind speeds of 6mph, gusting to 13mph, which is marginal for working there. I decided to go ahead regardless, rather than move to a woodland site. Fortunately, the wind made very little impact on our activities. We did set fewer nets than usual, as there would be just two of us for most of the morning:

Critically, we set the three x 12m nets in the “traditional” Mipit triangle and set a lure going. With the nets set by 8:00, we quickly caught a Whitethroat and two Wrens. Unfortunately, the Meadow Pipit lure had decided it didn’t like being on its back and stopped after one cycle. As Rosie had to leave at 8:40, I let her process the three birds.

Before the next round I sorted the Meadow Pipit lure and there was an immediate impact: with several of them sitting on the top of the nets to see what was going on. Then we started catching them. I had lures for Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher: none of them worked although, more on this later, we did catch one of those species elsewhere.

The rest of the morning was nicely busy, with 12 birds each at the rounds starting at 9:00 and again at 9:45. That later round delivered a surprise: two Swallows. We had watched them flying around the plateau, but I didn’t expect to catch any. Especially, I did not expect to catch one in the lowest net of the entire set, which is what happened. The other was caught in the 9m net set next along from the first Swallow net.

The next round was very busy but, fortunately, Anna Field, a member of the Gloucester Raptor Group and also of the North Wilts Ringing Group, and with whom I had spent some time (as chauffeur) at the Wash Wader Group, wandered over to say “Hello”, as she was busy doing her day job: spreading wildflower seed with a group of volunteers on parts of the reserve. Timely, as she is a skilled ringer, and helped us with extracting the 25 birds we caught that round. As well as 14 Meadow Pipit, there was a nice fall of nine Chiffchaff in the hedgerow net, all within a 2m grouping.

We had two notable catches. The first was in the Swallow round: our second ever Grasshopper Warbler for the site:

Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella naevia

The other was the last bird out of the nets: our first Spotted Flycatcher for the site.

Spotted Flycatcher, Muscicapa striata

This means that we have now caught and ringed Spotted Flycatcher in every part of the Braydon Forest except Webb’s Wood.

Our list for the session was: Swallow [2]; Great Tit [3]; Wren 2(1); Meadow Pipit 3[38]; Spotted Flycatcher [1]; Grasshopper Warbler [1]; Sedge Warbler [1]; Chiffchaff [11]. Totals: 5 adults ringed from 2 species and 57 juveniles ringed from 7 species and 1 (juvenile) retrapped, making 64 birds processed from 8 species. This is my team’s largest catch this year that did not involve feeding stations – and only two of those were larger than this catch.

We did our last round and closed the nets at 11:30. After we processed the last birds and took down, we were away from site just after 13:00.

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