Another relatively benign forecast saw Nikki and I arriving at SML about 30 minutes after dawn. In reality, it felt more like September and was shockingly warm for mid-November. After our last visit, I had already made the decision not to use the main reedbed ride for the time being, unless there is some indication of an increase in wintering Reed Buntings. The number of birds trapped there decreases rapidly as the reeds die back and dry out and a break in early winter gives me the opportunity cut back encroaching vegetation and to restore the ride back to its full width. It also enables me to maintain the boards, which gradually sink into the mud over time and, if unattended, end up invisible beneath vegetation.
In contrast, Crest Ride on the edge of the willow carr in the eastern reserve becomes increasingly productive as winter progresses. I had managed to maintain the ride throughout the summer months and it took just 30 minutes to get the three nets set up from scratch with no “gardening” required. There were more fallen leaves than birds in the nets however but, despite this, 60 birds of 12 species were caught: 10 Blackbird, 6 Blue Tit, 1 Bullfinch, 1 Cetti’s Warbler, 11 Chiffchaff, 6 Dunnock, 2 Firecrest, 4 Goldcrest, 3 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Redwing, 6 Robin, 9 Wren.