Sunday, January 2, 2011

In The Beginning

After the excesses of the season I was ready to put 2010 behind me with a fresh air walk and my first birding of 2011, so set off from Nateby to cross Rawcliffe Moss. As I pulled out last year’s notebook I remembered that my pristine 2011 diary and notebook was back home in the “office” drawer, so I made a mental note that my car was to the north of the track, and not the usual spot a mile away to the south, just in case I forgot that too.

Away from the road and into the dark land-dip masses of Pink-footed Geese were coming into the fields to feed and although those on the ground were packed tight, the newcomers turned into the breeze, whiffled down, then found unclaimed spots in which to settle. I was 100 yards away; any closer and the wilder than wild geese would raise their heads as one, and then walk away before breaking into a short take–off and mass panicked flight. Even at that distance I could hear their chatter and murmurings, the volume so loud it was a sure sign of high numbers and several thousand birds. I carefully went on my way so as not to disturb them, a precise or even approximate count impossible unless the whole lot were to be disturbed for my benefit alone.

Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Geese

Perhaps attracted by the noise of the feeding geese, 4 Whooper Swans flew quickly over but veered off towards Pilling Moss where they would surely find wetter areas on which to feed. I jotted 3 overhead Lapwings in my notebook, a bird so scarce in recent weeks that even a handful of birds are noticeable. Towards the small copse of pines I found a single Mistle Thrush, and in the wood itself several Redwings mixed with 15 or so Fieldfares. Blackbirds were noticeable today, with not only paired up birds around the farm buildings that have early and secure nest sites, but better numbers than I have seen for a week or two. From my 2 hour walk I counted at least 35 individual Blackbirds and in various hedges and trees totted up 24 Redwings and 32 Fieldfare plus a circling Kestrel, and a rather distant Buzzard. Along the track a couple of Roe Deer heard me coming, one of them running off into the expanse of the moss as the other, a doe I think, watched me from a safe distance.

Roe Deer

I reached the fields and hedgerows where the small stuff hangs out and counted 8 Corn Bunting, 14 Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 8 Yellowhammer, 200+ Tree Sparrow, another Kestrel and 2 Grey Partridge, wild ones. It seems that in recent months a nearby farmer released a number of captive bred Grey Partridge, which explains my sighting of 18 birds around a Pheasant feeder weeks ago. At the time I didn’t enter those birds in my notebook, it just seemed a highly unlikely sighting until I could quiz the gamekeepers on the likely origin of the partridge. Not quite as unlikely was sight of 2 Little Owls and 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, all in clearly separated locations, but even at the beginning of the year worth noting territories.

Little Owl

Great-spotted Woodpecker

It was a highly enjoyable couple hours blowing away the Christmas cobwebs. Another year of birding was only just beginning.

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