Wednesday 8 April 2020

Who Needs Dedicated Birding Sites?

Wednesday 8 April

Good to see my birding friend AB back again and what a wonderful time he is having undertaking early morning exercise and so missing human contact but getting to see a good range of birds.  And the exercise is doing him no harm!  But also, I trust, a report full of interest and showing that the birds are still out there and awaiting our return.

Who needs dedicated birding sites: Tuesday 7 April

I had checked what I was doing during those now halcyon days of 2019, and on the 7th of April I was having a no doubt leisurely bird-filled outing, with probably coffee and cake at the Visitors Centre, to RSPB Budby South Common in Nottinghamshire, and my records showed that species seen included Crossbill, Woodlark, and Willow Warbler.  I must have chosen the Willow Warbler as my species of the day, would have been tricky.  However today’s “enforced in the name of fitness” march was unlikely to include views of such exotica, but as I had decide the Shrubbery lakes as my destination and had heard Woodlark there on my previous visit, one never knows.  (It is additionally an area that as far as I know is devoid of tigers, however I do have the feeling that this news item might be nonsense.)

You guys hunkered down in Spain might just “pin back your lug holes” and from your “prisons” hear some, to me, real exotica, like passing Bee-eater, and much more beside.  I experimented from my housing estate home and had no difficult “pinning” about 20 species by ear whilst doing mundane gardening/domestic tasks.

When I left home at 7am with not a cloud in the sky and hardly a breath of wind.  However, with the temperature just above freezing (and when I first reached the countryside there was a grass frost there), I was well wrapped up and within 10 minutes had donned gloves.

So off I went and I was soon seeing/hearing several species; Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock , House Sparrow, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Blackbird as I made my way “at speed” via pavements beside main roads, the noise from the road traffic making “birding by ear” difficult . In half an hour I had completed the first 3km and was able to turn off on to the lane where it was by comparison silent, and I will feel happier to have the binoculars out.

Greenfinch Carduelis carduelis  (PHOTO: Bob Wright
I had been just been able to discern the odd Skylark earlier during lulls in the traffic, but now the full joy of their calls filled the air.  Ahead I could hear Yellowhammer and both these species were going to be my companion during most of the rural part of my wanderings.  However, with the only sighting of the later species that I recall being a male flying just above hedge height.

A couple of Pied Wagtail busied themselves in a ploughed field.  In the small “duck pond” over the hedge a couple of male Mallard, a Coot or two, and a Grey-lag Goose with its head tucked in.
I was warming up and gloves had been removed and the zip of my outer jacket pulled down, but also birding was warming up.  As I approached the small wood adjacent to, and on the right hand side of the track, I could first hear Chiffchaff, and then Blackcap and, oh yes, my first Willow Warbler of the year.  Stepping away from the wood to the very left of the track, and just avoiding the ditch, I searched for it and despite it being to the top of the trees, and obviously moving to the right, I couldn’t see it however comforting myself in so far as the most reliable way of definitely “pinning the species” is by song/call.  It just has to be my “species of the day”.

I could however see Chaffinch, both male and female, and to the back of the wood a Song Thrush was “singing”.  This is an “exercise” outing so I moved on and because I am looking to my right fail to notice a bird in the middle of the track which, as it zig-zags away from me but without me hearing it call, might well have been a species not called Jack.  Dam, but if it was easy, then it wouldn’t be so interesting.  The reason why I was looking to the right was I could hear and then saw 6 Lapwing in the next field and also saw 3 Moorhen, numerous Pheasant and a Hare.

In the large wood some distance ahead of me I could hear, advertising his availability, a Great Spotted Woodpecker which had found a really resonant dead tree to hammer on.  As it was still going on nearly an hour later perhaps it wasn’t such an effective tool.

Onwards and upwards (and the lane does climb up to and then through the wood ahead).  To the far left over beyond a hedge row a Sparrowhawk flies by low down.

I pick up a gorgeous Wren, sat atop a hedge strangely quiet, and then half a dozen birds singing 
Nuthatch Sitta europaea (PHOTO: Bob Wright
sweetly resolve themselves into Linnet.  When I reach the wood I can hear an apparently vexed Nuthatch.  Peering into the woods with bins I find the probable reason for its wrath, a perched Buzzard.

Out of the sun in the wood it is definitely colder, but I am quickly out as the path only cuts through the corner of it, and viewing in the sun the field that slopes down to the lakes, and it is not only may be Skylark heaven (I estimate 12 plus pairs) but I can hear 2 Woodlark up calling and despite my difficulty viewing on a blue background, I find one, and apart from the song you know you are looking at one when you view that tiny tail.  I just love them and it is such a privilege and joy to see them that no doubt at all  Take 2, my "Species of the Day”.

Onwards and “downwards” towards the lake picking up more Skylark both up and on the ground as I go, and to my right a dozen Grey-Lag Geese probably alert to my presence, I can hear several Mistle Thrush calling and at the bottom left near the wood limiting my view onto the lakes, a Red-legged Partridge.

Just before I reach the lakes, ahead of me is a man and woman each with dogs. He takes avoiding action but she (maybe because she knows she has that seemingly important second set of X chromosomes) doesn’t, but I avoid her and we pass at a safe distance.

The area around the lake is alive with the call of Chiffchaff and Blackcap and on the water probably the same species as last time I viewed but in different proportions: 4 Shellduck,5 pair of Gadwall, 10 male Mallard, a male TealCoot , Grey-lag Geese, a single Mute Swan and 2 Canada Geese.

It’s about turn and I’m homeward bound, with all the same birds, including larks ascending, as I saw not many minutes earlier but also the 2 dog walkers which, as this time I view them well before we pass, I position myself a good distance off the path.  Looking back to the lakes whist I wait for the people to pass, I see 3 Cormorant over the trees to the east end of the lakes.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (PHOTO: Bob Wright
Through the corner of the path and another obstacle.  Why oh why would someone be stood on the path with a greyhound?  So I stop more than a chain away, that is the length of a cricket pitch between the stumps, its 22 yards, 20 metres, a distance that I use often in visualising birds distances (as in 1 cricket pitch, 2 cricket pitches,etc).

Eventually this awesome two-some move off in the direction I am intending to go, and whilst in different circumstances their slow progress might have been annoying, it does suit me as I feel they are a perfect opportunity for me to frequently pause and look around and maybe this helps me to find a pair of Long-tailed Tit.  When I get to the small wood adjacent to the lane, I stop and search again for the Willow Warbler.  It takes me some time, but there it is in all its glory in the sun, and perhaps because of the effort I had to put in to see it, “take 3,” it is back to “my Species of the Day.”

A few minutes’ walk further on to my left a Red Kite drifting slowly from above a wood towards me with a tinkering of its wings changing direction at will.  Beautiful. Not quite a rarity in these parts, and not a year tick for me as I have seen them many miles to the south, but definitely ,”take 4” my Species of the Day.

Red Kite Milvus milvus (PHOTO: Bob Wright
Not far to go now until I am back on to the race track of the main road, but time enough for me to see my 3rd raptor species of the day, a Kestrel sat atop of a wooden electricity pole.

The weather has warmed up nicely and my outer layer has long since been discarded but not quite down to sleeveless order.  I then make my sprint walk home, not coming across a single obstacle either in the form of a human or a tiger, having logged 38 species, sorted out my bird of the day, and in the weather conditions it has been so much healthier for me than sitting around in those bird hides of my usual birding outings.

Species logged:
Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler , Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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