Woodlark survey - 6th April 2006
Survey carried out for the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The third of the outings to continue coverage of the B.T.O.'s Woodlark Survey was to the north of Overton, taking in farmland, scrub and hedgerows between Overton Mill and The Harrow Way on 6th April.
The wind had moderated from the previous day but was still chilling over the higher ground, the temperature had also risen but was still just 4½°C with frost still lying in the more sheltered areas. The bright sun, clear sky and light and high white clouding however at least hinting at spring.
The byway adjacent to the mill had Greenfinches preparing to nest in the conifers and Woodpigeons feeding on the rougher path. Skylarks were immediately obvious, birds singing over the crops of winter wheat, and a pair of Red-legged Partridge trotted up the path and into the hedgerow.
Further from the buildings and a migrant Meadow Pipit 'seeped' overhead, a Yellowhammer buzzed from the top of the leafless hedgerow and a Pheasant coughed into action off in the distance. As on the previous morning bird song was filling the air, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Robin and Chaffinchall taking part in the late morning chorus.
Reaching the higher ground by The Harrow Way a Buzzard was seen to be circling to the north-east and a Linnet moved over, the former now often considerably easier to find than the latter. Heading east along The Harrow Way the most notable thing was the smothering of the field edges by the speedwell that was rapidly coming to flower, these having smaller numbers of Ground Ivy mixed in for a more subtle flush of colour.
Heading back to where The Harrow Way crosses the main road to Kingsclere a Lapwing flew west and a Blackcap was in song, the first as such noted this year and presumably one of the many now arriving from the south. The fields and hedgerows flanking the road towards Frost Hill where quiet, the walk to and from the most northerly edge of the kilometre square adding nothing more.
The thicker wood and scrub covering either side of the westwards taken path held a singing Chiffchaff and a pair of Bullfinch, the male giving out his fluty humming song, this in itself quite a rarity to hear. A further singing Blackcap was on the perimeter of the north-west corner of the square, as was another Chiffchaff whilst to the north two Buzzards were circling over Willesley Warren. Two Brown Hares were out on the field here and three Roe Deer also fed out in the open.
The hedgerows heading south held the first Song Thrushes of the walk and more Skylarks were by now up in the air, proclaiming their territories. A kale field looked bizarre in that it did not have a covering of Woodpigeons feeding across it.
Moving back north along the B3051 many violets, dandelions and White Dead Nettles were in the longer grass on the banks whilst a Brown Rat was unexpected. Turning back southwards a male Blackcap was in a roadside tree, this one not singing but sitting in the same position for minutes allowing yet another record shot to be taken.
Heading back towards the start point a Buzzard moved south-west over Hilltop Road and a female Sparrowhawk drifted west towards Court Drove, a Linnet heading in the same direction. A pair of Mallard moved rapidly south and a, presumed, racing pigeon headed low in the same direction. The 'compound' at the northern end of the mill was covered in skeletal Buddleia, a place to look for butterflies later in the year. A Mistle Thrush left the perimeter trees where Woodpigeons scattered on my approach.
Finishing off at the mill car park the Greenfinches were vocal on the pollarded trees within the mill grounds and two Pied Wagtails, a pair perhaps, flew off southwards. By this stage the temperature had crawled up to 9½°C, the remainder of the weather not having noticeably changed since the start of the work.
32 species of bird were recorded in just over 1½ hours surveying, again, this total not including the target bird of the survey:
Blackbird, Blackcap (3), Blue Tit, Bullfinch (pair), Buzzard (4), Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff (3), Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Lapwing (1), Linnet (3), Magpie, Mallard (pair), Meadow Pipit (5), Mistle Thrush, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail (2), 'racing' pigeon, Red-legged Partridge (7), Robin, Rook, Skylark (7), Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk (female), Woodpigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer (4).
Brown Hare (2), Brown Rat (1), Rabbit, Roe Deer (3).Woodlark survey
Peter E. Hutchins