Wednesday 29th July 2020

The newly mown path along the north-eastern margin of the reserve

A cold but calm dawn greeted me today and all the nets were in place by 06:30. There had clearly been some movement overnight as the first ten birds trapped were all Sedge Warblers, which have been relatively few and far between until now. Twenty Willow Warblers throughout the morning was the highest daily total so far this year. The flow of birds was steady, gradually slowing down as the temperature rose.

Crake Ride – ready for action!

Jack, one of Devon Birds’ contractors, had managed to visit the site and mow the paths and rides at the eastern end for the first time this year. These are usually managed with a relatively small tractor as access for anything larger is difficult. However, due to mechanical problems, a bigger beast was employed to mow and flail its way through this time. I prefer the wider paths it created. They are easier to walk along and there’s no longer any risk to clothing, skin or eyesight from overhanging brambles. The broader net rides will be easier to access and to maintain as well. I’ve still got a fair bit of work to do cutting back overhanging branches and reinstating tethers but there’s no rush as these rides don’t really come into their own until the late autumn and winter months. At the moment, the ninety metres of net I use in the reedbed and beside the sewage works is more than enough for a lone ringer, especially during the early morning rush!

Crest Ride – 48 metres of rampant vegetation cleared in an instant

On an unrelated note, I have been aware of the presence of Otters on the site for some time, as they use my bridge to Marsh Ride as a latrine, but I have never seen one. Nick Townsend informed me that somebody from one of the neighbouring farms set up a trail camera under the footbridge over South Milton Stream not only confirming that there are otters there but also giving us the first definitive proof that we have water voles as well. Until now there had only been a couple of unconfirmed sightings and a number of holes spotted in the banks of Horsewell Ditch. These animals must have made their way across from another Devon Bird’s reserve at South Huish Marsh in the neighbouring valley, some 250 metres to the south, following a private reintroduction there almost 20 years ago. I will have to amend the ditching protocols to accommodate this when I update the management plan next year.

Final totals, 73 birds of which 72 were new: 3 Blackbird, 5 Blackcap, 3 Blue Tit, 1 Bullfinch, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 2 Reed Bunting, 13 Reed Warbler, 1 Robin, 16 Sedge Warbler, 20 Willow Warbler and 3 Wren.

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