Local sightings

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January 2018

Robin singing Robin pre-dawn started the year off for one, perhaps the same bird then heard again on them returning home towards dusk. An active flock of Long-tailed Tit was seen about the Overton Hill dog-walking area - are you aware of a collective name for these? Further inclement weather occurred, several heavy showers again evident, as was flooding along the B3400.
Right: Robin, Erithacus rubecula — Picture: Deb Heath. This in a typically territorial stance - they may well be perceived as our 'friends', but they're certainly not that way inclined to other Robin!
Red Kite were seen over Town Mill, two, Overton Hill, Poyntz Road, Kingsclere Road and Highfields. The white of Snowberry berries brightened some hedgerows, the black berries of Tutsan however failing to do so.
Daisy were to be seen in flower, the first blooms reported this year. 15 Teal were on the disused cressbeds at Polhampton, two Little Grebe being nearby on The Test. At least two Red Kite lingered about the Town Meadow area, often over the adjacent housing, another being seen over Highfields. A Buzzard perched on the southern edge of Hyde Hill Plantation remained in situ for some time mid- / late morning. A Grey Heron was heard moving over the village late evening.
a male Peregrine was hunting over fields north of Southington late morning, three+ Red Kite, a male Kestrel and a Buzzard being nearby. A further Kestrel was seen, atop Straight Lane fencing. Both Herb Bennett and Groundsel were seen in flower, as were snowdrop and cyclamen at Court Farmhouse. A White-tailed Bumble-bee was seen nectaring on garden Hebe. Gadwall numbers on The Test at Southington had increased to four. Nearby the Peregrine flushed two Mistle Thrush from a field, along with many other foraging birds. The battering of the Parish by strong winds continued.
Snowdrop hybrid snowdrop were beginning to bloom in the churchyard at Ashe, a pair of Stock Dove being seen by the farm. The Test was beginning to fill between Ashe and Polhampton. Two Red Kite were seen over Polhampton, a Mistle Thrush heard in the trees there, with another of the raptor again seen over Highfields Also heard, both early and late in the day, were Tawny Owl.
Right: snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis x plicatus — Picture: Nicholas Montegriffo. "The base of the leaves appear flat and opposite (aplanate) rather than curled around each other (convolute), which would make it plicatus or nivialis. The size of the leaves and the leaf edges more than hint at this being G. nivalis x plicatus, the most common one sold and escaping these days"
the flock of Teal on the Polhampton 'beds had increased to 24. Nearby small numbers of Redwing and Meadow Pipit were the only other signs of winter visitants. Rook were amongst the garden visitors noted. Tawny Owl were again heard, late in the evening once again.
a Red Kite was seen over Highfields gardens. Bullfinch brightened winter trees in Polhampton.
three Teal, a Little Grebe and four Gadwall joined the Coot, Moorhen and Mallard on the pools off Southington Lane, both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldcrest being found in nearby trees and a Kestrel seen hunting over stubble-filled fields, north of David's Wood. A Buzzard was roadside at Southley Farm late afternoon. Bullfinch seen in Two Gate Meadow gardens were expected to be making the most of the anticipated cherry blossom.
Nuthatch two Red Kite, two Buzzard, a Nuthatch, several Redwing and a charm of 45+ Goldfinch were the best of the birdlife noted between Lower Ashe Farm and Polhampton Farm late morning. A female Bullfinch was again visiting gardens in Two Gate Meadow.
Right: Nuthatch, Sitta europaea. Most easily located by their piping "whit, whit, whit, whit" calls
a butterfly in the village remained just that, the silhouette not allowing specific identification, though perhaps Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral were the most likely to be seen in the milder weather. Two Red Kite were lingering over the village late morning. Small Brown Trout were to be seen in the stream by the tennis courts, the nearby Test now having cleared and once again back to its, hopefully, pristine self and attracting Grey Wagtail. The Bullfinch count in Two Gate Meadow had increased to three. Other garden visitants included Collared Dove, Wren, Great and Blue Tit.
further snowdrop were beginning to bloom at Tidgrove Warren where a Raven, seven+ Red Kite, a Brown Hare, flocks of Lapwing, Yellowhammer and Linnet, four+ Buzzard and at least two Fieldfare were present mid-morning. A foraging flock of c.200 Fieldfare was seen in fields north of the railway line / David's Wood, both Kestrel and Buzzard being about the same fields. A Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming in Southington was the first noted doing this in 2018. Two male Bullfinch were again visiting village gardens, Wren being seen in others. Five Gadwall joined 127 Mallard on the Tidgrove Warren ponds.
a Tawny Owl was heard several hours before sunrise. Up to a dozen Long-tailed Tit were seen visiting one garden where Red Kite were overhead. Song Thrush were seen / heard about the northern edge of the Overton Hill building site. A pair of Bullfinch were in Burley Lane roadside scrub. Two Red Kite were on the field north of the railway line / Hilltop Road early afternoon.
several Tawny Owl were vocal about Ashe early evening. A Kestrel was over fields off Straight Lane, Red Kite again over Highfields. Garden visitants included three male Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, a Green Woodpecker investigating the winter sward and a Robin, the latter seen to be "Angry", perhaps due to the Bullfinch invading his / her winter territory.
a Raven flew over Court Drove late in the day, as did a Red Kite and Buzzard, a further three of the latter sat in a field close to Willesley Warren. Nearby a Tawny Owl was 'singing', numbers of Fieldfare were roosting in the hedgerows and eight Brown Hare and three Roe Deer were using the adjacent fields.
a male Kingfisher was about The Test and Filtration Pools mid-morning, Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Mallard being on the latter, as were Little Grebe, and a Red Kite lingering overhead in the drizzle. A Treecreeper was singing in Flashetts where Hart's-tongue Fern were evident. A further Red Kite was over gardens towards the southern part of the village.
Bullfinch snow hit the Parish from late afternoon - winter's arrived! Self Heal and a yet unidentified crucifer were in flower by the school lay-bys, snowdrop and cyclamen ever more prominent in the Court Farm grounds. Walking Court Drove late morning / early afternoon saw four Brown Hare and three Roe Deer in the adjacent fields, flocks of Fieldfare, Linnet and Chaffinch also being noted, as were the expected Red Kite, Buzzard and, perhaps less so, Kestrel. Earlier in the day / night a Tawny Owl was heard about the eastern fringe of the village. Gardens here once again attracted Bullfinch - three male and a female today!
Right: Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula — Picture: Deb Heath. Three males!
Robin were again noted as being evident in gardens.
a Reed Bunting was seen in an Ashe tree, Bullfinches being evident there, as were the three male again visiting a Two Gate Meadow garden.
garden visitors, the weekend before the Big Garden Birdwatch, included Magpie, Blackbird, Blue Tit and, of course, Woodpigeon.
snowdrop were noted brightening ever more gardens and hedgerows. Tawny Owl were again vocal about the eastern fringes of the village, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and female Bullfinch visiting gardens there, earlier in the day! Green Woodpecker was also seen to visit gardens, towards the south-eastern outskirts. Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and c.200 winter thrushes were about Turrill Hill pre-dusk, Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipit and Lesser Black-backed Gull moving over in numbers to roost, up to four Green Woodpecker also mobile, and vocal, about the area. Further Red Kite, two, were about The Source of The Test, where a Nuthatch was heard and a Grey Heron hunted nearby, and over Highfields. The Moorhen flock on Town Meadow had grown to nine.
a Sparrowhawk seen over the weekend lingered about the Southington Lane / The Lynch trees. Red Kite also lingered, again being seen over Highfields, amongst other residential areas about the village. The Roe Deer frequenting the '100 field', north of Ashe Park, were again present, six, but again decided not to enter the Parish, preferring the open fields to the adjacent Hyde Hill Plantation.
Greylag the pair of Mute Swan at The Source of The Test was joined by a mixed gaggle of Canada and Greylag geese.
Right: Greylag, Anser anser — Picture: Deb Heath. Less regular about the Parish than Canadas, but often just as vocal!
the pair of Mute Swan remained at The Source of The Test, many of their geese cousins having once again moved on. Garden visitors included a male Bullfinch, Robin, Rook and Magpie.
Bullfinch were seen close to the B3400 off Straight Lane and the previously reported Canada Goose flock was seen on the wing over 'Charters Hill'.
the '100 field' again held six Roe Deer, Skylark also present about the brassicas there. Closer to the village the fields and hedgerows about Polhampton attracted both Yellowhammer and Goldfinch. Blue Tit continued to visit a good number of gardens, though perhaps less than in previous winters due to the generally milder weather and therefore more food being available elsewhere. The quieter early hours were once again troubled by vocal Tawny Owls.
Bank vole the Little Egret was again seen to be roosting at the filtration pools. Nearby a foraging Bank Vole was seen in the leaf-litter at Flashetts. Also nearby, the snowdrop under the roadside hedgerow at Little Meadow were ever more evident. A Meadow Pipit moved low west over the ORC. Red Kite were seen over Dellands and Greyhound Lane later in the day.
Right: Bank Vole, Myodes glareolus. Note the richer colour than might be expected for a Field / Short-tailed Vole, as well as the proportionally longer tail
an over-wintering Chiffchaff was seen at the filtration pools where wildfowl numbers remained low, three Shoveler and 39+ Teal being of most note. Woodcock were put up in the Polhampton area where four Roe Deer, further Teal and both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Song Thrush were recorded. A flock of 15+ Redwing in fields off Station Road was the largest noted for some time, this wintering thrush remaining in poor numbers locally this winter. An immature Grey Heron was seen to visit several of the wetter sites about the village. One Big Garden Birdwatch yielded three Bullfinch, two Chaffinch, single Great and Blue Tit, a hen Blackbird and single Robin and Collared Dove - how did yours go?
Big Garden Birdwatch logo 19 species were recorded during one Big Garden Birdwatch, though not a single bird graced the garden being watched! The most notable of the fly-overs included a Kestrel, up to six Red Kite and seven Buzzard. A more successful watch saw a Goldcrest, pair of nest box-investigating Blue Tit, two Robin, six Starling, three Blackbird, a Chaffinch, two Collared Dove and a Woodpigeon visiting. Later in the day two Roe Deer were in the '100 field', a Nuthatch being heard nearby. Red Kite were also seen over other Parish garden during the day.
Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. Far less frequently encountered than the seriously invasive Lesser Celandine
Magpie joined garden visitors noted today.
Winter Aconite Winter Aconite were in flower in the garden of Southington House, Lesser Celandine in the nearby hedgerow flanking Town Meadow. A Red Kite was seen over Dellands mid-afternoon.
Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. Far less frequently encountered than the seriously invasive Lesser Celandine
Red Kite, Rook and Robin were amongst birds seen about one village garden..

Contributors: David Cluett, Deb Heath, Alison Hutchins, Peter E. Hutchins, Jane MacKenzie, Ken MacKenzie & Nicholas Montegriffo.

February offers...

Wintry weather? Often in the past, long-distant though it may seem, this month has offered up the harshest of winter weather. As always, we'll just have to wait and see!

No matter what the atmosphere may grace us with the hints of spring will soon be evident - the early flowerers like Lesser Celandine will brighten the bases of hedgerows, Primrose the copses and grassier banks, the theme of yellow continuing with the less 'wild' but even more evident daffodil. Hazel catkins are already rampant, and it won't be too long before the pollen held within them creates yellowish drifts of 'smoke'.

The middle of the month will hear the first warblers in song, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, though to date there've been no reports of the latter over-wintering in to this year. Have you had any visit your feeders late in 2017 / earlier this year? If the weather's conducive to migration from the south the first Sand Martin and Wheatear might arrive, though the majority of these will begin to appear from early in March. The lingering Fieldfare and Redwing will begin to move north, and it would appear that this winter will be one where no Waxwing are found locally.

Brown Hare, already more evident, will step-up their activities, the fields off Court Drove a good place to lookout for their perhaps not so Valentine's Day behaviour! Roe Deer continue to dominate sightings at present and it'll be interesting to see if the herds about Court Drove and Ashe continue to do so, or begin to break up in to smaller parties. Will there be any further sightings of Otter, or even Water Vole, about The Test? We can but hope, but I'd presume that collective breaths won't be held! Dormouse will soon break their winter torpor so be aware that rustlings in hedgerows might not be the anticipated mice, shrews or voles. Further surveying of these will take place later this year and it's hoped that Parishioners will help with this, so get ready to look out for nuts!

Toad Patrols locally have yet to see many on migration, but milder and drizzly nights will soon have these on the move. If you're aware of any areas that bring them in to contact with vehicles please do let us know, as volunteers have already been sourced to help them across the roads - hi-vis, torches, buckets at the ready.

Keep the watching and listening going, there's a lot out there waiting to be found, and we look forward to hearing all about it.

Wishing you all the very best for the month and all that it will surely offer.


PS don't forget, we'd like to hear about what you're seeing!

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