Blakehill Farm: Tuesday, 25th October 2022

I had to move this session from Wednesday, because it was forecast to be windy and wet, and Tuesday was forecast to be somewhat less windy, and not wet until at least midday. I also wanted to move this session to Red Lodge, as that would offer some protection from the wind, but Forestry England’s permissions team were unable to confirm whether or not they had any work scheduled for today. Driving past, on my way home, I could not help but notice that there was no forestry work going on there. I am not a fan of bureaucracy.

Fortunately, the forecast had changed, with the wind not materialising until midday, and Blakehill Farm became a possibility again. I decided that the nets in the field behind the Whitworth building would be directly in the face of any wind that might spring up and, not fancying extracting nets from bramble and blackthorn, I decided to leave them out of the equation for this session.

Rosie was on hand to help me set up again, and we caught three birds in the first round: two Blackbirds and a Redwing, which she processed before heading off to work at 8:30. To say it was slow to start with would be a massive understatement. In fact, it was slow all morning, except for one round at 10:30, which delivered 17 birds.

I did rounds at 8:30, 8:50, 9:05, 9:20; 9:40, 10:05, 10:30, 10:50, 11:10 and 11:30. The rounds produced one bird at 8:50, one at 9:05, one at 9:20 and two at 11:10. Apart from that and the 10:30 round, nothing. The list comprised: Blue Tit 8(1); Long-tailed Tit 1(5); Robin 1(2); Redwing 1; Song Thrush 1; Blackbird 2; Lesser Redpoll 2 and Reed Bunting 1. Totals: 17 birds ringed from 8 species and 8 birds retrapped from 3 species, making 25 birds processed from 8 species.

The bird out of the net at 8:50 was a Lesser Redpoll: which is a nice catch for a site with minimal tree cover. That I caught another in the round at 11:10 was a very pleasant surprise. The highlight for me was a juvenile female Reed Bunting:

Juvenile female Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus

We do catch them regularly at the site, but mainly on the opposite side of the plateau. This was only the fifth for this area, and the first for 5 years, whereas our eastern site has delivered up 174 ringed in the same period.

The Long-tailed Tits were primarily recaptures of the flock caught at the last session two weeks ago, with one new bird. More surprisingly, given that they were previously caught with a flock of Blue Tits, the Blue Tits that they were caught with today were all new birds. The solitary retrapped Blue Tit was in the 11:10 round. The numbers of Blue and Long-tailed Tits are the key difference between this session and the one two weeks ago that delivered 59 birds.

All morning there were flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare flying around the site. Unfortunately, the Redwing lure (aka the Latvian love song) did not work its usual magic and the single Redwing extracted in the first round was the only one of the day.

I got to meet Nick Self, from the Wildlife Trust, and taking on the management responsibility for the northern reserves. We had a good chinwag, as I had plenty of time on my hands, and I think we are both singing from the same song sheet.

I closed the nets after the 11:30 round, and spent (a pleasant) 45 minutes removing the leaves from the nets as I was taking them down. I then packed up the ringing station and left site at 13:00.

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