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Dawn Chorus Walk, 23rd April 2017

Birds & Breakfast!

OBS Dawn Chorus poster Continued passage of migrants from the south, perhaps even including a Nightingale or two; we can but hope! A cool, calm and misted morning saw 11 attending the annual 'Birds & Breakfast' dawn chorus event.

A Blackcap in ornamental trees by the Community Centre commenced the 'list' of birds in song, an unusual place to find one, so perhaps this was a bird moving through on passage.

House Sparrow and Starling, perhaps the birds perceived as being the most urban, were soon added but there was no sign of the House Martin pair that had been present the previous day - the cooler conditions ensuring that there was still very little in the air for them to feed on.

Other 'garden birds' were added as the group moved off up London Road and down in to Station Road, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Robin and Blue Tit amongst these, with the thrush now quietening, their dawn chorus having started and all but finished before the group assembled.

The conifers alongside Station Road and the lagoons held singing Goldcrest, the smallest of British birds and available at about four to the ounce! An occasional sighting of these was made, as they moved from one pine / song post to the next. Wren were far more vociferous, and showy, one trembling on song atop another conifer. Goldfinch and Greenfinch moved over, Chaffinch again using the conifers to assert their dominance over neighbouring birds. Further hints of spring came in the form of flowering Greater Celandine and, close to the lagoons entrance, Green Alkanet and a patriotic comfrey sp. - the more subtle shades of blue and red only really evident on close inspection of the creamy-white trumpets.

With spring in mind, a pair of birds that performed well and I'm sure were the first of the year for some alighted on wires over the road - Swallows! The pair busied themselves with preening, perhaps after having been on the wing since dawn, perhaps even crossing over in to the country earlier that morning. They lingered, as did the all-encompassing fog, from which a Red Kite lumbered northwards low over the lagoons.

View of field at Quidhampton
The field north of The Test, south of Quidhampton Farm

On nearing Flashetts a Chiffchaff was heard in song, as was a further Blackcap and a Stock Dove - the latter's chant of a song coming from within the woodland by Quidhampton Mill and notable due to few of these more delicate pigeon being encouraged to take up territory about the village.

Bog at Flashetts

A Treecreeper scaled trees within Flashetts, under which Herb Robert flowered and the fronds of both Heart's-tongue and Bracken were unfurling. The bank overlooking the river added Red Campion, the water there Coot and Moorhen. A briefly singing Willow Warbler added itself to the summer visitants towards the western end of the track, additional Blackcap and Chiffchaff being added en route.

Moving over to Little Meadow / The Great North Field Jackdaw were foraging amongst the paddock-grazing sheep, the lambs there providing their own dawn chorus.

Court Farm paddocks
Court Farm paddocks
Note the white sheep in this flock, and fog!

Not so obvious was a single Rabbit, the only early riser seen during the walk. Cowslip were however evident in the meadow, a blaze of yellow in the increasing spring greens. The continuing grey of the sky made the sun and people-powered sundial in the meadow superfluous.

Cowslip at Little Meadow
Cowslip in Little Meadow
With the currently nugatory sundial

Walking the track towards the school added further Woodpigeon, both on the wing and settled on the paddock fencing, though there were no further signs of raptors with the unspring like weather keeping these safely grounded. The Great North Field remained unfortunately devoid of life!

Greenfinch were vocal about the school's thick vegetation where Chaffinch were in song, the adjacent hedgerows of Court Drove adding further birds in song, Robin again being evident, as were House Sparrow, out for their morning constitutional from Lordsfield Gardens.

A pair of Long-tailed Tit was collecting nest material at the top of Silk Mill Lane, one however showing just part of its tail being present, so not so long-tailed! The conifers flanking the lane / Glebe Meadow gardens held singing Goldcrest. A Cormorant moving over was unexpected and presumed to have come in from the lake in Laverstoke Park, the most regular area locally at which these are seen. Pulmonaria spilling out of the Lordsfield Gardens gardens were flowering on the northern bank of the lane. Further down the lane a pair of Red-legged Partridge was alongside the burgeoning Oilseed Rape, the cottage gardens there often playing host to these, as well as a further display of meadow-filling Cowslip. Songsters in the hedgerows and flanking Town Meadow included further Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Dunnock, Great Tit and Song Thrush.

The recently refurbished gardens bankside of The Test held a Grey Heron and a Canada Goose, the latter perhaps of a resident pair, though the partner bird could not be located. The plant growth there had now all but hidden the signs of work carried out in recent times. The river itself held Tufted Duck, two pairs, but no trout were to be seen; the Bridge Street bridge remaining by far the best place to see them in the Parish. Moorhen, Coot and Mallard were also about the river, as might have been anticipated.

The Test at Southington
The Test
Looking east from the Southington Lane bridge

As the group turned in to Southington Lane a Skylark broke the relative silence, heading skywards in song over the fields that had eventually been allowed to see a hint of spring, the sun breaking through at last; just in time for everybody to go indoors!

The 'event' finished with a very sociable and much appreciated gathering in the conservatory of the OBS Chairman and Secretary, the breakfast provided surely more than enough to keep the attendees replete for the remainder of the day!

Southington Lane
Southington Lane
... and breakfasting sanctuary!
  1. Blackbird
  2. Blackcap - seven were in song.
  3. Canada Goose - several were heard with one being present on the newly shaped 'island' at Southington House.
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Chiffchaff - four were in song.
  7. Collared Dove
  8. Coot
  9. Cormorant - one moved low north-east over Silk Mill Lane; possibly the first to be recorded on an OBS 'Birds & Breakfast' event.
  10. Dunnock
  11. Gadwall
  12. Goldcrest
  13. Goldfinch
  14. Great Tit
  15. Green Woodpecker - a singleton was heard.
  16. Greenfinch
  17. Grey Heron - one was seen in the newly 'renovated' garden of Southington House.
  18. House Sparrow
  19. Jackdaw
  20. Long-tailed Tit
  21. Mallard
  22. Moorhen
  23. Pheasant
  24. Red Kite - at 06:29 one moved low north over Overton Lagoons, being briefly seen in the persistent fog / mist.
  25. Red-legged Partridge - a pair was in the field by 3 Silk Mill Lane; the garden there often being visited by this species.
  26. Robin
  27. Rook
  28. Skylark - one was in song as the walk finished, to the north of Southington Lane.
  29. Song Thrush
  30. Starling
  31. Stock Dove - one was in song in Flashetts; a very rare resident about the village.
  32. Swallow - a pair dropped on to wires in Station Road, where they lingered in the fog above the event attendees.
  33. Treecreeper - one was seen in Flashetts, tree-creeping!
  34. Tufted Duck - two pairs were on The Test east of Southington Lane.
  35. Willow Warbler - one was briefly in song at the western end of Flashetts.
  36. Woodpigeon
  37. Wren

Thanks must be made, once again, to Jane and Ken MacKenzie for allowing those attending to relax in the comfort of their conservatory for the latter part of the event, both this and the then grand breakfast provided being much appreciated by all those attending.

Peter E. Hutchins.

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