16 March 2011

Further adventures on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal

After a great start to my week of lunchtime bird walks near Henley-in-Arden (see Herald's of Spring, below), today took a turn for the greyer, the colder... but it still turned up the goods.

I spent much of yesterday on the train to London and back (red kites over the Chiltern, muntjac deer and hares in the fields of Oxfordshire), so I was looking forward to stretching my legs on a midday stroll along the two miles or so of canal from Preston Bagot towards Lowsonford and back.

The outward stretch turned up nothing much, but shortly after I turned for home I was stopped by the churring of two mistle thrushes in nearby trees. As they moved on, my bins moved past a superb male chaffinch and just caught a flash of movement - movement that was notable for one reason: it was down a tree trunk. That could only mean one thing - a nuthatch, the only UK bird that I can think of able to crawl down, as well as up, a tree trunk. Although they're common enough, I've not seen one for ages, so I was pretty chuffed.

Just a few steps on and I realised I was surrounded on all sides by a mixed flock of perhaps 200 fieldfares and redwings; another hundred yards or so and there were siskins high above me, in a mixed flock with goldfinches.

I finished with great views of a jay, and returned to the office in good spirits.

Bird of the day: Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), a stunning little woodpecker like bird, glorious in yellow and blue.

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