This morning was the first genuine winter’s morning of the year so far. With the night before showing signs of a hard frost, I was a little concerned that it might be too cold. At 6:30 it was -1o C but it was flat calm and actually felt warmer than recent days. I had arranged to meet Rosie at Blakehill Farm for 7:00. We arrived on site to a most glorious morning: the full moon started off silver, turning to yellow as the sun appeared over the horizon. At one point we had full sun due east and the full moon due west, and it looked fantastic.
Because it was cold our strategy was simple: few nets, increased checking frequency and luring only for larger species. We set two lines of 3 x 18m nets along the perimeter track and a 3 x 12m Mipit triangle in the usual position on the plateau:
We had the nets open by 7:45 and started catching pretty well straight away. The first catch was five Redwing and a Blackbird, the next another Blackbird, Redwing and a Wren. It was a good start. Then Rosie had to head off to work (counting trees in Ravensroost Wood) leaving me to carry on.
Unfortunately, the next hour produced just two Blue Tits and a Robin. I gave it another 30 minutes and two net rounds before deciding that the next round would be the last. As is often the case, that round was the best of the session, both in number and variety.
However, there was one major disappointment: not one Meadow Pipit hit the nets. In fact, the Mipit triangle didn’t catch a single bird of any species! Very disappointing, particularly given that the habitat seems perfect for them. For the last couple of years that part of the plateau has been lightly grazed by cattle (and Roe Deer) but otherwise left to its own devices. The insect numbers in the late summer and autumn are massive, and certainly coincided with the increased numbers caught there during the autumn migration / dispersal. There are plenty of weedy, seedy plants I think they have all decamped to Jonny’s sites at East Tytherton and Sutton Benger!
Anyway, the list for the day was: Blue Tit 2; Wren 2; Dunnock 1; Robin (2); Song Thrush 1; Redwing 9; Blackbird 2; Goldfinch 1; Reed Bunting 1(1). Totals: 19 birds ringed from 8 species and 3 birds retrapped from 2 species, making 22 birds processed from 9 species. Not the busiest session but thoroughly enjoyable.
Taking down was quick and easy, although the Dunnock did insert itself just as I started the take down process. I was off site by midday.