Although the catches haven’t been particularly good at the meadow pond recently, neither had they been at Blakehill until this Wednesday, when the migrants turned up: from 7 birds on the 20th August to 64 last Wednesday. I was hoping that we might get some of the same at this site. Blakehill is always boosted by the return of the Meadow Pipits. The hope for Ravensroost Meadows is House Martins and Swallows. We arranged to meet at 6:30, only I woke early and was on site by 6:00. Just as well: the recent change in the weather, providing a bit of rain alongside the warmth, has sparked a huge spurt in the growth of the vegetation: so, I spent a good 20 minutes doing some ride clearance. Rosie and David joined me at the agreed time, and we set up the usual nets plus one additional 18m net along the side of, what remains of, the pond. As usual, Rosie had to leave to go to work and organise a volunteer work party at 9:15, after processing four birds.
Once upon a time, the pond was a small pool and a larger pool split by a causeway on which we would set a 12m net and put on a lure for the preferred hirundine species. Unfortunately, this year the area of the larger pond in front of the causeway has sprouted a fine collection of reeds. This has broken the natural flight path and, so, despite having hundreds of House Martins and tens of Swallows swooping around the meadows and the pond all morning, we didn’t catch a single one. If I removed the Meadow Pipits from Wednesday’s catch, we would have caught 23 birds. Today at the meadow pond area we caught 24 birds: if only!
The list for the day was: Treecreeper 1; Blue Tit 3; Wren 2(3); Robin 5; Blackcap 6; Chiffchaff 3; Willow Warbler 1. Totals: 21 birds ringed from 7 species and 3 birds retrapped from a single species, making 24 birds processed from 7 species. All of the birds caught, including the retrapped birds, were juveniles.
Every session at the meadows this year we have set the 9m net on the spit in the small part of the pond. So far this year it has caught absolutely nothing. In the past it has always caught one or two birds and, occasionally, a decent haul. Today, it caught absolutely nothing until we had closed and taken down the other hedgerow nets. Our last catch comprised five birds, all in that net: two Blue Tits and three Blackcaps.
It isn’t often that I get to say this but, one of the Blue Tits was interesting:
This bird is still very much in juvenile plumage and currently undergoing its post-fledging moult. According to the BTO’s Bird Facts, the latest date of laying is 11th May. The maximum length of incubation, plus maximum length to fledging is a total of 36 days, making the latest possible fledging date the 16th June. For this bird to be still undergoing so much of its post-fledging moult three months later seems unusual.
David, his dad Trevor, and I started taking down at 11:30 and, with the interruption of the five birds to be processed, we had everything taken down and packed away by 12:30.