25 January 2009

Back at Napton

After a couple of hundred miles, the legs and the lungs are starting to cope better with cycling. This is great news - it gives me more range, a more enjoyable experience, and of course more opportunities to combine cycling and birding.

Today was brilliant. My trip from Radford Semele to Napton and back was 24 miles in all, cycled at an average speed of 10.8mph, up almost a full mph since I started cycling. I saw loads of birds as I travelled (including a patch first), enjoyed a nice walk around Napton Reservoir in the middle, and then arrived home in time for tea and buns - hurrah!

So, to the birds. As I left Offchurch and headed for Hunningham, I saw a flock of 200+ Lapwing in the fields away to my right. When I stopped to watch these, I was extremely excited to find an even larger flock of Golden Plover swaying and swarming above the Lapwing. In fact I stopped to watch their interplay for more than 10 minutes - these were the first Golden Plover I had ever found on the patch.

Moving on I found a couple of Buzzards, plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing, hedges full of tits and finches, Skylarks singing, great views of a Meadow Pipit on a roadside spoil heap, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.

Once at Napton Reservoir, things looked quiet at first - the usual Tufted Ducks, Coots and Mallards, with nine dozy Pochard lazing in reeds at the back and a single pair of Gadwall. But then a Cormorant flew over, causing me to look up and see at the same time a pair of Snipe circling fairly low over the reservoir. They continued for 30 seconds or so, giving great views of their distinctive profile before diving into the reedbed.

As I left I found Bullfinches in the hedgerow, and then two pairs of Mistle Thrush (one at Stockton, one at Long Itchington) on the way home. Top cycling, top birding.

Bird of the day: Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), a real winter treat for inland birders. These waders are often found with Lapwing in large numbers, feeding on winter fields and flying overhead in tightly co-ordinated flocks if startled.

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