First winter reed cut, 20th January 2019

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A pleasant, dry morning with a gentle breeze down the valley greeted the thirty-plus volunteers who turned out for the first reed cutting and burning session of the winter at South Milton Ley today. With such a good turnout, including a few welcome new faces, the team of Devon Birds’ members, local birders and residents from South Milton parish and the surrounding area, was able to cut, clear and burn almost 6,000 square metres of reedbed in about three hours.  With cutters, stackers and pyrotechnics ably coordinated by Nick Townsend and Vic Tucker and relatively firm ground underfoot the work was completed surprisingly quickly with only the last few bonfires requiring attention in the early afternoon.

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Mowing sections of the reedbed on rotation rejuvenates it by preventing the accumulation of plant debris. If not managed, this can accelerate the drying out of the marsh and encourage colonisation by willow, alder and other trees. Cut sectors are always adjacent to established stands of mature reeds to ensure rapid recolonization of the new growth by invertebrates from the surrounding areas. In the short term, this minimises the impact on the birds breeding and feeding in the reedbed and, in the longer term, produces a diverse mosaic of healthy reeds.

Devon Birds extends its thanks to all those who took part in what was an enjoyable and sociable event today and invites even more of you to come along for the second cut starting at 09:30 on Sunday 3rd February 2019. 

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Back again! Friday 11th January 2019

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Siberian Chiffchaff 11th January 2019

The welcome arrival of a stable anticyclone over the UK and ideal weather conditions for ringing coincided almost exactly with a debilitating back injury, which also pinched the nerves to my right arm and confined me to the house for the next two and a half weeks! However, by the 11th, cabin fever had got the better of me and I felt up to driving to South Milton and getting a few nets up. The discomfort was tolerable and my worries about reduced mobility proved groundless. The birds cooperated as well, arriving in the nets in a steady trickle and managing to remain relatively straightforward to extract. 40+ birds processed in four hours is just one every 6 minutes and I can manage that pace all day.

In the event Chiffchaffs dominated the catch, making up 31 of the 41 birds trapped. This equals the previous winter Chiffchaff record set on January 26th last year. One of the birds was a classic Siberian Chiffchaff and there was at least one more, un-ringed bird present, which avoided the nets. Maybe next time! Final totals were: Blue Tit 2, Cetti’s Warbler 1, Chiffchaff 30, Goldcrest 1, Long-tailed Tit 2, Robin 2, Siberian Chiffchaff 1 and Wren 2.

In addition, there were 13 buzzards displaying over Horswell Wood, 11 Teal flushed from Ham Ditch and 3 Water Rail present. Reassuringly, after two very quiet years, at least two male Cetti’s Warblers were singing from opposite ends of the ringing area so fingers crossed for a more productive year.