Redwing © David Pakes
Another squelchy day at South Milton with the water level in Marsh Ride just low enough to allow for safe access. There were far fewer midges flying and lower numbers of Chiffchaffs reflected this. 40 birds were trapped but only 25 of these were new: 6 Blue Tit, 4 Cetti’s Warbler, 12 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Redwing, 3 Reed Bunting, 1 Robin and 4 Wren.
There’s not much else to report. Water levels even higher than last time and the sluice on the new ditch has been breached at both ends with the pressure of water scouring away almost half a meter of soil from the northern end. I dropped in a barrow load of large stones, which were lying on the surface of the re-profiled access path, and shovelled soil into the gaps. Despite repeated jumping up and down to compact the material, I’m not convinced it will hold and it will need some proper engineering to rectify.
Former site of the boardwalk at South Milton Aquapark! © Nick Townsend
Earlier in the week I had been sent photos of unusually high water levels at SML, with the boardwalk and Marsh ride both underwater and inaccessible. An exceptionally high and robust sand bar at the seaward end of the reserve, combined with recent heavy rainfall has impounded a lot of freshwater, causing levels to rise and I wasn’t sure which net rides would be useable. The jet stream has been dragging a succession of depressions across the Atlantic towards the UK but today saw a welcome drop in the wind speed enabling me to visit and get a few nets up. In the event, levels had fallen sufficiently for things to operate normally, although the water in Marsh Ride was halfway up my wellies.
It was one of those days though. Temperatures were low with a frost so the priority was to get birds out of the nets quickly to avoid the risk of hypothermia. Typically, a succession of Wrens and Blue Tits, most of which were re-traps, found their way into the nets before spinning around to make sure they were thoroughly entangled. These all took time to extract allowing numbers of trapped birds to build in the other nets, meaning that net rounds ended up being pretty well continuous.
Over recent years I have mastered the art of repairing holes in mist nets and, during the winter months, check and fix each of the nets in turn. A small hole can be mended in minutes once the mesh is pinned-out, so I operate on the principal that, if there are time pressures and a bird is badly tangled and going to take longer to extract than it would take to repair a hole, I get the scissors out. Often cutting a single strand is sufficient to release the tension and free a trapped carpal for example. I have always questioned the wisdom of ringers who are proud that they have never needed to cut a net. Perhaps they only ring placid birds like swallows. For me the welfare of the bird comes first, so the scissors were used three times today, on a Wren and on a Song Thrush and Water Rail, both well caught by their carpals.
Final total for the day was 51 birds, 14 of which were re-traps plus 1 control Chiffchaff: 8 Blue Tit, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, 23 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Great Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Water Rail and 10 Wren.