4 January 2009

Of biking, biting cold and bank voles

The absolutely freezing weather continued into this weekend ('just like winters used to be'), but a New Year's Resolution is a New Year's Resolution - so on to the bike for a bit of exercise and birding.

Friday saw the big ride, a 25 mile round trip to Napton Reservoir via Hunningham and the back roads east of Leamington. It was an exhausting but exhilarating experience - the exhausting being the cycling, and the exhilirating being the birding. I am a total convert - cycling is the only way to bird. You get to see so much more than you do by any other mode of travel - before I'd got anywhere near Napton I'd enjoyed hundreds of Fieldfare, Redwing, Bullfinch, Goldfich and various LBJs flitting from tree and bushes around me, close encounters with Buzzards, Kestrels and Green Woodpeckers, Lapwings flying over Offchurch, and... well, you get the picture.

At the reservoir itself, the cold had left most of the water frozen over. Concentrated in the remaining open water was an unusually high number of Wigeon (around 40) and Mute Swans (14), as well as a few Pochard, Gadwall, Tufties, Coots and so on. The most unusual sighting was the Harris Hawk which was out for a spot of fresh air with its owner - I often see unusual birds at Napton, but sadly they never seem to be official (i.e. legitimately wild). Never mind, it was still a superb bird to look at.

After a day off to recuperate some tired limbs, I set out today on a more modest 12 mile loop to Ufton Fields. The hedgerows were again alive, with Bullfinches, Jays and Fieldfares all easy to spot with their brightly coloured rumps. At Ufton itself the water was nearly all frozen, but huddled in front of the IBM hide was a record number of Teal (24), along with 30 Mallards, a couple of Coot and a Moorhen.

Other moments of note were my first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker of the year and a Bank Vole which ran out and sat just in front of me for two or three minutes, allowing me best-ever views. Magic.

Glad to be off that saddle though.

Bird of the day: Bank Vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) - yeah, I know, but it was great. Told from the Field (aka Short-tailed) Vole by its tail length. My one was over half the length of the animal's body, so definitely Bank. If it had been 1/3 or shorter it would have been a Field Vole. Other contenders too numerous to mention - Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, record numbers of Teal and Wigeon on the two waters, great close views of roadside Buzzards etc.

No comments: