Bird spotting walk - 23rd April 2006
Event organised as part of the Sponsored Parish Birdwatch
White Hill and Turrill Hill
12 people attended on a fairly grim afternoon. Continuous grey clouding dropped rain all too frequently as the south-westerly wind dragged it across the higher stretches of farmland south of the village, though mild at 13°C, it was far more autumnal than spring-like!
The conifers of Lower Whitehill Farm held singing Blackbird and Chaffinch as we waited to start the walk, Rooks and Jackdaws passing over the nearby fields as they headed to and from feeding and nesting grounds hardly brightening the feel of the afternoon.
Heading north, a cock Pheasant was foraging in cereals and three Yellowhammers dropped on to telegraph wires, their bright colouring unfortunately almost completely masked by the dull skies and light drizzle. Blue and Great Tits were calling in adjacent woodland and scrub and the first of several Skylarks could be heard singing off over the hill. A Brown Hare was, again, the first of several to be seen during the walk, and had a few Rabbits for company as it fed in the rapidly growing fodder crops that had attracted many finches earlier in the year.
The woodland close to the top of White Hill held a singing Blackcap, though its chorus was easily drowned out by the seemingly never-ending Skylark medleys. Dunnock were also in song, unlike the Carrion Crows, can such a bird actually sing? Very much open to interpretation I feel. A doe Roe Deer was found trying to get through / over the fenced edge of a field, the adjacent safety of woodland being so near, but seemingly impossible to reach.
Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus
Dropping down off the hill Lapwings were seen wheeling about over the sheep fields and a small flock of Starlings, 15, occasionally took to the air in more dramatic manoeuvres, before settling back down amongst the sheep.
The disused De La Rue pit seemed to be attractive to Rabbits but little else, a male Blackbird atop one of the taller bushes being one of very few things noted here.
The field of black sheep between Turrill and White Hills, by the Hereford barn, had many Jackdaws and Rooks feeding amongst the Ovis, the number of white lambs with their black mothers causing some talk! A male Pied Wagtail and a Magpie in the same field were also, obviously, black and white but somewhat cleaner cut than the accompanying animals. Further corvids were in the grass to the south of the nearby, relatively newly planted, belt of trees and a pair of Red-legged Partridge mooched about like mobile mole hills. A Song Thrush could be heard distantly in song and a Blackcap joined in the choral efforts, hidden in the trees by Turrill Hill Farm.
Coming out on to the Turrill Hill road a commotion in the Wild Boar pens attracted attention to the far side of the valley, this in turn allowing three Buzzards to be found. Two of the birds were sat on fencing by the boar pens, the other on the ground - all looking suitably unimpressed by the weather! The walk north towards the 'dog field' saw another Brown Hare showing well in a nearby field, Woodpigeons coming out of the crops and staying in the deeper grassed areas to continue feeding and the weather getting as good as it was going to - the rain having stopped but the heavily clouded sky still threatening to unleash another shower or two. A male Yellowhammer sat for some time in the hedgerow and two vocal Great Tits again brought out the spectre of "So many calls from just one bird!" Greater Stitchwort was flowering along the roadside, tucked in under the shelter of the hedgerow.
Walking the perimeter of the, now ploughed and planted, 'dog field' saw corvids and Woodpigeons feeding in nearby fields, the field itself having no indication of any life in it whatsoever.
Moving back south, and car park bound, a Wren burst into song in the hedgerow and a male Bullfinch showed briefly as it moved along the higher extremities of the bud-bearing twigs. This bird brought the total of finches in one area to four - Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch also being noted. A Willow Warbler in the same area did not sing, but at least gave the opportunity for discussion as to why it was this, rather than a Chiffchaff. This path and bordering hedgerows held more flowering Greater Stitchwort as well as Lesser Celandines and White Dead-nettle.
A pair of Stock Dove flew south-east from the Turrill Hill direction and the pair of Red-legged Partridge improved as we again approached the cow barn. The birds remaining in the same area as previously but now somewhat more active, hitching up their feathery 'skirts' and galloping off across the field on realising that we were present. A male Kestrel dropped down towards the pit and did not reappear.
Lapwing in flight
The walk back over White Hill saw the Lapwings, Starlings and Skylarks still moving to and from the ground and the Roe Deer still seemingly intent on not making its way past the fence. Watching this had a pale female Pheasant then being found, the sauntering along the field edge of this bird in direct comparison to the obvious stress the deer was creating for itself.
Back at the cars and refreshments were served! A singing Goldcrest, in garden conifers, was the last addition to the 'list' on this the fourth Sponsored Parish Birdwatch monthly outing.
31 species of bird were recorded with a further one noted on the walk to the walk! (View the list of species) The power walk to the starting point had secured a Whitethroat singing in woodland / hedgerows, this being another newly arrived migrant and the 92nd species recorded in the Parish this year.Return to the list of reports
Peter E. Hutchins