Thursday 4th May 2018

My first visit to SML for three and a half weeks and, as expected, the vegetation in the net rides had flourished in my absence. Young reeds are easily dealt with using my rechargeable hedge trimmer but the hemlock water dropwort, which has proliferated in the nutrient rich spoil used to create the paths around the perimeter of the reserve, is a tougher proposition. If left unchecked, the stems of this poisonous plant can reach a diameter of 6cm and once mature, the dry, umbrella-shaped seed heads are a nightmare to remove from a mist net on a windy day. Luckily, almost all the emerging plants were young and tender enough to be dispatched by the hedge trimmer. It will be a constant battle to keep the greenery at bay and the net rides open throughout the summer though.

I had anticipated the vegetation issues and arrived early at 05:30. The main rides were defoliated and six nets erected by 06:30. I cleared another 66m in Crake and Crest rides at the end of the session. On the bird front, things were quiet, with little sign of visible migration other than 19 Whimbrel together with a lone Bar-tailed Godwit in an adjacent stubble field. Clear skies and favourable winds the previous night had given nocturnal migrants no reason to stop. Despite this, 28 birds were trapped including 3 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 9 Reed Warbler, 8 Sedge Warbler and 1 Reed Bunting. Of the warblers, the majority were males, presumably arriving before the females to establish territories. One of the Chiffchaffs though was clearly female with a fully developed brood patch, indicating that breeding was well underway.

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