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Bird spotting walk - 26th March 2006

Event organised as part of the Sponsored Parish Birdwatch

Court Drove - The Harroway

Seven attended on an afternoon of autumnal weather, a brisk south-westerly bringing in sporadic showers, one quite heavy, from the blanket of grey clouding that, though wetting, helped keep the temperature up to 13°C.

The hedgerows along Court Drove held singing Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Robin and Chaffinch whilst whining Greenfinch and a 'see-sawing' Great Tit were also heard. Further north a Nuthatch was also vocal, being seen only very briefly in flight as it left one of the more mature Oaks in the woodland strip. This area held just a few flowering Primrose, the green flowering of the Dog's Mercury being far less obvious though carpeting some areas.

Jackdaws were feeding in the Kale fields off the Drove, these also hosting two singing Skylarks - heard for some time but never seen. Off to the west a cock Pheasant was distant as it fed in winter wheat whilst a loose group of 16 Yellowhammers moved from close in the hedgerow as we approached them. Up to three Bullfinches were far more elusive, being heard gently calling or seen only briefly as they moved along, on the wrong side of the vegetation. A pair of Red-legged Partridge was another relatively distant sighting, these being appropriately seen as we discussed various avian introductions to the countryside.

Entering the woodland surrounding The Harroway Jays were heard off to the north, several Song Thrushes flitted about the trees and a pair of Long-tailed Tits was seen to be carrying nesting material. A Goldfinch flew south and a Wren was in song. Robin, Dunnock and Blackbird were also in territorial preparations along the pathway, the trees providing some shelter for us as well as the resident birds as the rain continued to fall.

Moving back south towards the railway line a Buzzard moved out of tree cover to soar over in a 'v' ahead of us, several Woodpigeons allowing a good size comparison to be made. A Magpie was heard chattering in the hedge where both Rook and Jackdaw moved ahead of us, the latter species 'talking' as they flew over the farmland.

After the railway line, and accompanying steps and stiles, were negotiated with some awkwardness the drop down to The Lynch took in the sewage works and adjacent woodland. A Coal Tit was vocal in the middle of the latter whilst the former held just a single Magpie. The previously seen Buzzard was relocated high on a railway side tree, before moving off northwards, whilst yet more Woodpigeons were dashing across the sky in scattering loose groupings.

The stream in The Lynch had a drake Mallard and then a pair of Gadwall was added as they flushed from the bank near Southington Mill. The garden pool here added a further drake Gadwall and a pair of actively diving Tufted Ducks, a pair of Coot, and Moorhens scouring the grassland for something a little less fishy. A Chiffchaff briefly in song near the Southington Lane junction might just have been the first local migrant this year, none having been recorded in this area over the winter months. A Grey Wagtail became another heard but not seen bird, being in flight along the river west of the bridge.

A look over the main pool off Southington Lane had a pair of Mute Swan and two pairs of Tufted Ducks on the water and a singing Goldcrest in nearby Ivy. A pair of Gadwall appeared from nowhere, heading off towards the birds seen earlier.

Time was then spent in the hospitality suite of the Mackenzies! The hot drinks and home-made cakes quickly disappearing, though the ongoing chatter surely delayed the finish of the walk by some time.

The walk back to the centre of the village, in heavier rainfall, had a pair of Black Swans, and their paler local relatives, feeding out on Town Meadow; certainly a new bird to be 'added' to the species so far seen on the monthly outings but possibly not to the list of birds for the Sponsored Parish Birdwatch!!! What do you think?

34 species were recorded (view the list of species), including one species of 'feral' origin, with the Buzzard, the singing Chiffchaff, calling Nuthatch, Gadwall and flock of Yellowhammers being most notable.

See you south of the village in April.

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Peter E. Hutchins

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