Unlike Nanjizal, where a record 618 birds were ringed yesterday, I struggled to get past 40 at SML today. So much so that I even found the time to photograph one of the last few Common Darters lingering around the site. The final total was 44 new birds: 22 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 12 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Reed Warbler, 1 Wren
A clear night with a near full moon and a light NE breeze promised good things on the migrant front. The only problem being that conditions were so favourable for passage that there was little reason for birds to stop or linger. The headlands either side of South Milton Ley have always produced more migrants and greater variety in autumn than the SW facing coastline between them but I was optimistic and had 90m of nets up by 7am.
There were birds about but little sign of significant passage overhead, unlike at Portland which recorded their first big passage day of September. Meadow Pipits were most evident, having largely replaced the few tardy Tree Pipits and, together with Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, they dominated the catch. A nice bonus was the capture of a 1st year Common Redstart, the first I have ringed here since 2015.
55 new birds were ringed: 12 Blackcap, 2 Blue Tit, 14 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Great Tit, 13 Meadow Pipit, 1 Redstart, 3 Reed Warbler, 1 Robin, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Wren
I arrived at SML a little too early this morning – fifty minutes before sunrise – and it was pretty dark. However, the timing turned out to be perfect. As I pulled into the ringing area, a bright white meteorite streaked across the sky in front of me, from east to west, breaking up into several orange pieces as it descended. It looked like a plane that had been hit by a missile. Apparently, it was visible across southern England and in western France and resulted in a spate of 999 calls and police helicopters searching Dartmoor for a crashed aircraft.
That excitement aside, it felt autumnal with the temperature around 9oC. Blackcaps dominated the catch again, which also included the first Goldcrests of the season and a few tardy warblers. The final tally was 52 new birds of 14 species: 6 Blackbird, 20 Blackcap, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Bullfinch, 5 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 1 Garden Warbler, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Great Tit, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Robin, 2 Sedge Warbler, 3 Willow Warbler and 2 Wren.
A relatively benign weather forecast saw me arrive at a chilly SML at 6am. With darkish clouds building to the northwest, I switched on the rain alarm app on my phone. Unexpectedly, it worked. The ringing area is in a mobile phone black hole – not much use if I catch a rarity or, worse still (from my point of view), fall in a ditch and break my leg – but today there was one bar. It still took about 3 minutes for each radar map to load though. Consequently, I had advance warning of the arrival of a rogue shower, furled the nets and sat in the car with the ringing equipment until it passed. I’ll be glad when the English cricket season ends and the weather settles down!
There were so few migrants around that a thirty minute break is unlikely to have impacted much on my meagre totals, which panned out at just 25 birds, dominated by Blackcaps: 14 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Great Tit, 2 Reed Warbler and 1 Wren.