Friday 3rd July 2021

This was one of those days when I think I would have been better off staying in bed! Leaving the house at 04:30 for what, at that time of the morning, is normally about a forty-minute drive to SML I was surprised to find the A379 closed at the turn off for Holbeton. I retraced my steps back to a diversion sign and headed off into the unknown only to find two further diversion signs pointing in opposite directions at the next T-junction. With no mobile phone signal at that point, I guessed right and headed off down a series of narrow lanes past places I had never heard of until eventually I saw a sign to Aveton Gifford. I finally arrived at South Milton at 06:15, almost an hour later than planned.

Things did not improve from that point on. I erected the two nets beside the sewage works without any issues and furled them before setting off to the main reed bed net ride. A five-metre-tall willow tree had come down across the main path, but I managed to scramble through the upper branches to reach the point where Marsh Ride used to be. I say “used to be” quite deliberately as the ride and access bridge were completely blocked with vegetation. A lesson learnt! I hadn’t used the ride for about five weeks, which I now know is long enough to allow the reed and water dropwort to completely take over.

It was not a pleasant experience pushing through waist-high greenery, covered in early morning condensation, and I ended up soaked from the waist down. Forty minutes with my hedge trimmer and two rechargeable batteries later, the ride was just about clear enough to get the nets up and operational although there’s still about an hours’ work left to tidy up the margins and reveal the wooden boardwalk underneath all the cut vegetation. Time to dry off and have a hard-earned cup of coffee!

The ringing was steady until about 11am with thirty birds trapped, twenty-two of which were new. There was nothing unexpected, but the first juvenile Reed and Sedge Warblers of the year were a positive sign. With just two birds trapped in the last hour, I packed the nets away and started to clear the fallen willow tree. I carry a variety of tools including a couple of branch saws as it’s not unusual for one of the young Elms beside Blaca Ride to succumb to Dutch Elm disease and topple across the ride. However, the eight-inch diameter of the fallen willow, which was still attached to the main trunk was hard work to saw through before I could, just about, drag it off the path and out of the way.

Totals were: 5 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 7 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 1 Great Tit, 5 Reed Warbler, 4 Robin and 6 Sedge Warbler.