Woodlark survey

Woodlark survey - 28th February 2006

Survey carried out for the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

The first attempt to get out and cover one of the 1km squares (SU 51 50) within the Parish took place on the last day of February, all other available mornings in the previous two weeks of the survey being too cold or foul in some other weather form to warrant an attempt.

2½°C and a brisk northerly wind hardly boded well, but the latter had cleared the early morning cloud to leave a clean blue sky and strong sunshine.

08:45, Court Drove, the starting point in the south-western corner of the square, 10:15, Station Road / Overton Hill fields, the finishing point in the south-eastern corner.

Court Drove was busy, but only with school children and their manic mums, a couple of Greenfinches flew over and Chaffinches were heard in the woodland north of the school. A Buzzard was being harassed off to the north-west of the railway line whilst single Linnet and Yellowhammer were heard as the farmland opened up, the former eventually being seen as it left cover and headed northwards.

Heading north-north across the kale fields towards the B3051 a flock of 250+ Woodpigeons were flushed from their breakfast, another 36 scattering from behind a hedgerow and a Red-legged Partridge doing the same. Several Skylarks were feeding in the same fields and an occasional burst of song broke through the pre-work traffic sounds.

Dropping south along the B3051 the Rooks and Jackdaws were evident about the Railway Station. Nearby, the Hilltop Road rookery holding 13 nests and the one in Copse Road a further 12, perhaps many more to be built as piles of sticks were bridging gaps in the canopy in several of the still leafless trees. Goldfinches were heard about the gardens here and a Pied Wagtail headed south, perhaps a late riser from the mill roost?

The urbanised area attracted Collared Dove, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock and Wren, all being in song.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull moved north-east low over Kingsclere Road and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard tapping in the area of the Foxdown development, then being seen to head off towards Flashetts.

Down Kingsclere Road and looking out over the fields north of Little Meadow produced little, the latter fields being their usual barren self.

The stream in Flashetts held a pair of Mallard and a showy Water Rail, this possibly the bird seen on the 'sponsored' walk in January. Confirmation of a second bird in the area was soon forthcoming, this being a skulker in the stream on the northern edge of the trail, 'accompanied' by several bolder Moorhen before it disappeared into the middle of some scrub awaiting my departure. A male Kestrel produced some panic as it sat in the trees over the main stream, being seen to attract a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches and tits. A male woodpecker could now be heard drumming off to the north-west.

More Moorhens were in the field across Station Road and further scattering Woodpigeons were about the trees and fields along the road to Polhampton and the mill. The Kestrel reappeared on a telegraph post, this time eliciting some excitement from the Jackdaws. A Nuthatch was vocal in the trees by the triangle before heading towards Foxdown.

The stream by Quidhampton Mill held two Little Grebes and a pair of Gadwall.

The filtration pools were busier but there was still no sign of and 'real winter' wildfowl. Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen were all expected whilst three Teal and seven Black-headed Gulls were less so. A pair of Siskin fed in Alders and of the two Chiffchaff seen, one burst into song. A Grey Wagtail showed to feet and a solitary Coal Tit was voluble in the salix carr. In one of the streams a Brown Trout was flashing about and a Rabbit disappeared into the bottom of a hedgerow.

Though no Woodlarks were located, as expected, 43 species of bird were recorded:

Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Coot, Dunnock, Gadwall, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Wagtail, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Red-legged Partridge, Robin, Rook, Siskin, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Teal, Tufted Duck, Water Rail, Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer.

On the 'wildlife' front it was rather quiet, just two species being recorded:

Brown Trout, Rabbit.

There are now a further seven visits to be made before the end of May to complete the projected survey work, once more to this square and twice to each of SU 50 43, SU 51 47 and SU 51 51.

Watch this space!

Woodlark survey

Peter E. Hutchins

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