The photo above shows how fantastic Horswell Ditch, which was deepened and widened in September 2017, is looking now, compared to how barren it looked 12 months ago (below). Despite the exceptionally dry summer, it held water throughout and must have helped to maintain the water table in that part of the reserve. Ten species of dragonfly have been observed and common frogs also bred. Final profiling and scalloping of the northern bank is due to take place next month.
Having had a good moan about the state of the rides, today wasn’t too bad ringing wise. 67 birds of 16 species were processed: 1 Blackbird, 20 Blackcap, 9 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Great Tit, 5 Reed Warbler, 2 Robin, 7 Sedge Warbler, 2 Tree Pipit, 1 Stonechat, 2 Whitethroat, 9 Willow Warbler and 1 Wren.
- The innovative, curved Crest Ride with the mist net poles showing the original ride!
It’s a constant struggle to keep the net rides open at South Milton but with wet ground in spring, followed by a long hot summer, plant growth has been particularly vigorous this year and it has been impractical to maintain all the rides. Consequently, I temporarily abandoned the two easternmost, Crake and Crest, in favour of concentrating on the more productive sites in the reedbed and around the sewage works. However, as autumn progresses Crake and Crest, as their names imply, will start to become increasingly fruitful so, seeing that the paths in the upper Ley were long overdue for a cut, I asked the reserve manager if our contractor could mow the rides at the same time. Jack, our regular contractor, has done a fantastic job over the years and normally uses a small tractor perfectly suited to access and cut the rides.
This time, he must have used a much larger vehicle because, when I checked the rides on my last visit, it looked like they had been cut with a combine harvester. The rides are both about 4m wide now, twice the width they should be and big enough to drive a truck down. All the wooden, tethering posts, used to keep the mist net poles secure and which took 2 days to measure out and hammer in, have been removed, presumably to enable the beast of a machine to gain access. Finally, to add insult to injury, none of the rides are straight and now run in shallow curves. Logistics were never my strong point, but I would have thought that removing the six posts on one side to gain access and using the remaining six posts on the other side as a guide could have resulted in a straight line. Given that Jack has proved unfailingly reliable in the past, I suspect he was inadequately briefed.
Never mind. A lesson learned. It will take me a day to sort out, rather than the two hours it would have required to cut them in by hand. I’ll have to hack back the vegetation on the outside of the curves to straighten them before re-measuring and hammering the tethering posts back in. Then I can set up and secure the mist net poles ready for action again. I suspect that they will end up looking like landing strips in the Amazon until some vegetation grows back next year!
Tree Pipit – South Milton Ley, 25th August 2018
I’m still struggling to get good numbers at South Milton this autumn. It seems that the bulk of passage may have already happened. Reports from the near continent and as far away as Georgia all suggest that southwards movement began early this year. For example, this year at the Loire Estuary, France, large numbers of Aquatic Warblers were recorded weeks before the normal peak, with a staggering 70 individuals trapped and ringed over a 16-day period at the end of July/early August. Batumi Raptor Count Tweeted: “Something interesting is going on this year: early Harriers, early Black Kites and just now already the first Imperial Eagle of the season. Two weeks earlier than the previous earliest bird (Sept 2nd). What’s going on up north?”.
So, just 41 birds today was not really a surprise, with a smattering of migrants amongst the resident species. Almost all were trapped in the first couple of hours and everything had dried up by mid-morning: 2 Blackbird, 9 Blackcap, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Bullfinch, 3 Dunnock, 1 Great Tit, 4 Reed Warbler, 7 Sedge Warbler, 2 Tree Pipit, 6 Willow Warbler and 2 Wren.
Tuesday 21st August 2018
Having caught your attention with the possibility of something good, I must confess that unfortunately my hands were the only things that were purple after processing a number of blackcaps that had been feasting on blackberries. An occupational hazard for ringers at this time of year. Birds were hard to come by today – particularly poor for the middle of August. Perhaps the persistent SW winds have held things up or kept birds on the other side of the Channel.
I only saw two Willow Warblers in 5 hours and not a single Tree Pipit responded to my tape lures, (I caught 16 here last August). However, there were just enough birds to keep me occupied and the first young Kingfisher of the year plus a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was a bonus.
44 birds were ringed: 1 Blackbird, 10 Blackcap, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Kingfisher, 6 Reed Warbler, 2 Robin, 18 Sedge Warbler and 2 Wren.
Male Great Green Bush Cricket 14/08/2018
A hard drive failure has prevented me from updating the blog this week. Luckily, I had suspected that it was terminally ill and almost everything except for a few recent files had been backed up. It’s still taken me a couple of days to get the new pc set up and all the files and software re-installed though. Two relatively uninspiring ringing sessions on the 14th and 17th were both terminated early due to increasing wind strength and a lack of birds. Just 71 new birds in total: 9 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 2 Dunnock, 1 Great Tit, 18 Reed Warbler, 1 Robin, 26 Sedge Warbler, 1 Tree Pipit, 11 Willow Warbler and 1 Wren.
Passage birds on the 14th included a steady trickle of hirundines down the valley c. 150 Swallow and 15 House Martin with 5 Swift. Another juvenile Marsh Harrier passed through NW at 09:30. 2 Swifts also passed through on the 17th and the first Kingfisher of the autumn flew up South Milton Stream. The main interest was a couple of additions to the insect list, both sufficiently large for me to spot and identify. The first was a Great Green Bush Cricket on the 14th, followed by a Hornet Robberfly, Britain;s largest predatory fly, on the 17th.
Hornet Robberfly Asilus crabroniformis 17/08/2018
With an ever changing weather forecast and the certainty of rain on Friday, I squeezed in another ringing session in anticipation of a few days off. There was a steady flow of birds into the nets for the first few hours dominated by Sedge and Willow Warblers. As the ringing began to tail off I noticed a large bird of prey flying low over the reeds further down the reserve. Initially, I assumed it was just another Buzzard but something didn’t quite fit. Naturally the bird then disappeared behind the only tree between me and it. Once it popped out the other side it was clear it was a young Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbed. The first I have seen here for a couple of years.
69 new birds were ringed: 3 Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Dunnock, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 11 Reed Warbler, 2 Robin, 21 Sedge Warbler, 1 Whitethroat and 24 Willow Warbler and 3 Wren.
The last hot, windless day before the weather was forecast to break found Dave Scott and I ringing by the sewage works and at the boardwalk. In the event it was surprisingly quiet compared to recent visits and I only processed 26 new birds before cutting my losses and heading for home.
6 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Garden Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Sedge Warbler, 7 Willow Warbler and 3 Wren.
Visiting birders (from up North) also reported a Treecreeper and two Spotted Flycatchers at the eastern end of the reserve.
Another busy and extremely hot day.
91 birds were processed: 4 Blackbird, 2 Blackcap, 2 Bullfinch, 3 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 2 Garden Warbler, 1 Great Tit, 7 Reed warbler, 25 Sedge Warbler, 2 Song Thrush, 4 Whitethroat and 38 Willow Warbler.
Just a few spots of rain and the threat of a shower first thing this morning were enough to drop a few birds. It was pretty hectic for the first couple of hours and I had to break out extra bird bags. Things were compounded by a netful of tits during the busiest period.
94 birds were processed: 1 Blackbird, 5 Blackcap, 10 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 6 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Great Tit, 3 Long-tailed Tit, 16 Reed warbler, 41 Sedge Warbler, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler and 1 Wren.