12 April 2011

That lunchtime list in full

I promised last week that I'd sit down and calculate my lunchtime list in full.

So here, in no particular order, is the full list of bird species that I have seen in a series of short lunchtime strolls around Henley-in-Arden, Wooten Wawen and Preston Bagot over the last decade (give or take a bit):

grey heron, little egret, moorhen, mallard, mandarin duck, mute swan, kingfisher, buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper, wren, robin, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, willow warbler, wood warbler, chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroat, dunnock, blackbird, song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing, fieldfare, chaffinch, siskin, goldfinch, bullfinch, greenfinch, lesser redpoll, linnet, meadow pipit, cuckoo, black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, raven, swift, swallow, house martin, pheasant, red-legged partridge, goldcrest, wood pigeon, collared dove, stock dove, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, magpie, jay, house sparrow.

For the record that's 59 species, of which my personal highlights have been: a wood warbler high on a dead tree near The Mount, a cuckoo on a telegraph wire not to far away, an entire telegraph wire (the same one) full of linnets, a little egret on the weir in Wooten Wawen, a mandarin duck on the tiny river running through Henley-in-Arden, and a nuthatch on the roof outside my office window.

Bird of the decade: Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), not the rarest of the bunch (that must be the wood warbler) but this cuckoo was entirely unexpected, gave great views at close quarters, and I had a thrilling half hour just leaning against a tree watching it. A magical moment that I can clearly remember 7 or 8 years on; the closest I've come to repeating it was last year when I heard a few snatches of song but could never locate the bird.

Fresh arrival - the reed warbler

I'm doing a lot of fishing at the moment, and while you don't get much time to look around, you do get a lot of time to listen to birdsong. That makes it a great way to notice the fresh arrivals as they return from Africa.

A couple of weeks ago I heard my first swallows overhead as I fished near Southam, then chiffchaffs, and then last weekend I was accompanied all day by at least a couple of willow warblers. This evening it was the turn of the reed warblers, again my first of the year. Their rhythmic chirping was complemented by the musical blackcap, more willow warblers and a single song thrush. Two bold reed buntings flitted around me throughout.

A nice tench, a couple of modest carp and some skimmer bream ensured a pleasant evening all round.

6 April 2011

Growing the lunchtime list

In common with most people I don't automatically qualify for a day off just because the sun's out. I am lucky enough to have some nice spots for a lunchtime stroll though. So with March's good weather continuing into April I have been able to watch spring unfolding in a series of extremely pleasant 40 minute walks.

Red-legged partridge: here's one I took earlier...

Today's walk along the canal from Preston Bagot was another little cracker - clear skies, bright sun, a gentle cooling breeze and birdsong filling the air.

A great-spotted woodpecker and the goldfinches were in their customary haunts near the bridge (along with a particularly belligerent mute swan who's taken up residence there). Four or 5 buzzards circled overhead, the chiffchaff song that has grown familiar over recent weeks was accompanied by two male blackcaps, both singing lustily and prominently, and two of our most powerful vocalists - the song thrush and wren - were giving of their best.

Then, just as I reached my 'turnaround point', I found two red-legged partridge running ahead of me on the two path. I haven't encountered this lovely species during more than a decade of lunchtime walks in this area, so that's another one for the lunchtime life list. When  I get a moment I must write that list down and work out how it stands.

Bird of the day: Red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), an introduced species like the pheasant, and with many of the same characteristics - often found in the same kinds of places, with strong attractive markings and often shot at by hunting types!