Dawn Chorus Walk, 29th April 2018

The morning of Sunday 29th April dawned, 15 people then to be found loitering, hopefully with some intent, outside the Community Centre as autumnal skies, grey clouded, hinting at rain and driven by persistent breezes and some of the more frequently recorded urban birds broke the early morning silence - House Sparrow were evident about the centre, Collared Dove in song about the shop fronts of Winchester Street, the many wall fixings there sure to be harbouring nests in the near future. Greenfinch and Jackdaw were vocal, the latter seen to be both carrying nest material low over the houses and to drop to chimneys, their urban equivalent of the hole-nesting carried out in the 'wild'.

Moving off up London Road a Blackbird was atop the cottages lining the southern side of the road, Starling being heard in the trees by the car park, Wren and Robin, both in song, being more distant and also out of sight. Also out of sight, but already heard by many and seen by a few, were Cuckoo. Though none were recorded on the walk it appears that all but one of those attending had caught up with these this year, so perhaps a positive sign for this species, they like so many incoming migrants appearing in ever-decreasing numbers annually.

Dropping down in to Station Road Rook put in an appearance overhead, more pointed at the front end and with more hand-like wings than their smaller cousins the Jackdaw. To the north their murmurings could be heard, the rookery in the copse off, appropriately, Copse Road already busy. The more mature trees in the pub garden held further Collared Dove, their bigger relatives, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch and House Sparrow. The finch were very vocal but remained hidden amongst the budding leaves - a further sign of a seemingly long-awaited spring. Blue Tit were scolding the early-rising locals, Wren serenading anything within hundreds of yards, including a Buzzard that moved east over the 'stute area; the only raptor to be seen during the walk. Hedge Garlic was now evident alongside the road, the weather however not yet drawing any Orange-tip on to the wing, the plant their favoured larval food source. The hedgerow flanking the filtration pools held singing Wren, Woodpigeon and the first migrant, a Blackcap. More distant a Song Thrush repeated itself, Gadwall and Moorhen calling from the hidden pools. Much talk of migrants heralded a handful overhead, northbound Swallow, with a Sand Martin and accompanying Swallow then seen heading north-east shortly afterwards. Spanish Bluebell and a comfrey sp. were flowering in the verge where the last of the daffodil were still trying hard to bring a little splash of colour to the glaucous greens of the roadside grasses. A Sparrowhawk headed west, a Canada Goose east, and then two Greylag west, the less elegant, if that's an appropriate word when describing geese, outline of the latter compared with their far commoner cousins being discerned in the still dull to hazy greyness. Ivy hid a singing Goldcrest, nearby conifers holding singing Chaffinch and calling Coal Tit.

Westwards, following The Test, in to Flashetts and another Blackcap was found in song, the first Chiffchaff of the walk also singing there, and soon to be seen overhead in near skeletal branches. A Short-tailed Vole was in the trackside vegetation where Herb Robert and White Dead-nettle were flowering, the last of the Lesser Celandine yet to wake up, no sun yet being present to encourage them in to their daily unfolding. Also yet to unfurl were the year's Bracken fronds, Hart's-tongue Fern however covering the chalk walls below Foxdown. Another hidden water bird was heard, this time Coot, before a Moorhen was seen crossing the salix-edged river.

On leaving the cover of the Flashetts trees and moving over to Little Meadow the open ground there held hundreds of flowering Cowslip, plus a more exotically coloured primula. A Mistle Thrush was in song atop Court Farm area trees and a pair of Gadwall was asleep in a paddock off the track leading to Court Drove, before heading off towards the filtration pools, their fly-by allowing the more delicate nature, compared with the more familiar Mallard, and the striking chestnut, black and white markings on the wings to be seen. A Skylark rose high above the Rape in the Great North Field, easier to see in the still grey and autumnal sky, whilst the aforementioned thrush changed its vantage point high above the village but persisted in singing on doing so. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the same area but remained concealed.

A singing Dunnock joined the House Sparrow in Court Drove hedgerows, two of the three 'sparrows' that used to be found in the Parish, Tree however having been lost some years past.

Hedgerows between Glebe Meadow and Lordsfield Gardens added many Blackbird, all but one or two being adult males, their partners presumably still tightly tied to their nests; part of a recently hatched egg having been presented at the commencement of the walk. A Goldcrest was more easily heard here, by those that had the capacity to hear it! Also in song, in one of the larger Test-side gardens, was a Blackcap, from where a Grey Heron departed eastwards.

A stop on the initial bridge on Southington Lane saw Brown Trout in the river, Moorhen on the lawn of Southington Mill and a Chiffchaff in song, both this and the earlier bird singing their names perfectly, unlike an ever-increasing number that appear every spring, their vocalisations hinting at other species or, at best, aberrations. Just what do they get up to on their wintering grounds!

Then it was to breakfast! Quite another story!!!

Post-breakfast and the return towards the village centre added a further hat-trick of species, pairs of Tufted Duck and Shelduck on the Southington Lane pools, the latter still a rare visitor to the Parish, and a singing Linnet in a Southington garden.

Peter E. Hutchins

The List!

  1. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  2. Greylag Goose, Anser anser
  3. Gadwall, Mareca strepera
  4. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
  5. Common Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  6. Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea
  7. Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus
  8. Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo
  9. Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
  10. Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra
  11. Common Wood Pigeon, Columba palumbus
  12. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  13. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major
  14. Western Jackdaw, Coloeus monedula
  15. Rook, Corvus frugilegus
  16. Coal Tit, Periparus ater
  17. Eurasian Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus
  18. Great Tit, Parus major
  19. Eurasian Skylark, Alauda arvensis
  20. Sand Martin, Riparia riparia
  21. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  22. Common Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita
  23. Eurasian Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla
  24. Goldcrest, Regulus regulus
  25. Eurasian Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes
  26. Common Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  27. Common Blackbird, Turdus merula
  28. Song Thrush, Turdus philomelos
  29. Mistle Thrush, Turdus viscivorus
  30. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  31. Dunnock, Prunella modularis
  32. Common Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs
  33. European Greenfinch, Chloris chloris
  34. European Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis
  35. Common Shelduck, Tadorna tadorna
  36. Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula
  37. Common Linnet, Linaria cannabina

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