2 November 2014

All change - the new office patch

My office patch has long formed a small but important part of my birdwatching life, and for more than a decade that patch has been in and around the small market town of Henley-in-Arden.

With plenty of fields, some shrubby woods, a small stream and a canal all just a lunchtime stroll away, my Henley office patch has turned up plenty of memorable moments over the years - my best cuckoo encounter, mandarin duck and little egret, and - rarest of all - my only county wood warbler.

So it was with some trepidation that I joined my colleagues in an office relocation in 2013. The tiny hamlet of Langley is less than 10 miles from Henley, and undoubtedly the shiny new offices are good for business - but what would it do for my lunchtime birding?

Well the good news is that there is plenty of potential.

The office is surrounded on all sides by farmland, mainly for sheep and cattle so certainly no shortage of jackdaws. Half way along the track is a large, almost hidden lake, fed by a small stream and surrounded by trees. This of course brings an entirely new dimension to things. And high on the hills either side of the valley is mature woodland.

Today showed just what a rewarding mix that can all be.

At the lake I found 11 greylag, a little grebe, a moorhen, a grey heron and a calling kingfisher somewhere nearby. Six cormorants jostled for perch points on a single tree in the island, watched by just a single female mallard. She wasn't alone for long though, joined in short order by a total of 29 incomers.

As I moved into the main farmland, the most obvious feature was the number of pheasants on show. Clearly a local pen had been emptied in the last day or two - every field was literally lined with pheasants. Above and around them were the usual wood pigeons and jackdaws, with carrion crows and a few rooks among them.

A buzzard called loudly from nearby woods, a female kestrel gave great views while sitting on a wire, but it was the hedgerows that shone brightest: whether in ones or twos or in small flocks, I found just about everything I could have reasonably expected: blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, chaffinch, goldfinch and, slightly less common, coal tit, marsh tit, goldcrest and yellowhammer - the latter being the sight of two fantastic cock birds sitting high in a hedge and ignoring the increasingly wet and windy weather.

And when you add the other species picked up here and there along the way - the magpies, robins, wrens, blackbirds and pied wagtails to be precise - you have a very satisfying 30 species. Not at all bad for a 40 minute lunchtime stroll from the office.

Bird of the day: Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella): the stridently yellow male yellowhammer is as stunning a bird as you could wish to see, as the photo from www.andymorffew.com shows. A real farmland classic which is unfailingly generous to birdwatchers - as well as being almost luminous yellow it likes to sit high atop hedgerows, and it has one of the most distinctive and diagnostic calls you could wish for. Mind you, the females on the other hand...


George Burton said...

You working on a Sunday Hornet? We can't have that!

I'm enjoying your return to blog-world albeit I miss our comparative notes on the
Leam. Any chance you might be attacking it again soon?

Hornet said...

Don't worry George - I might be back blogging but I'm not terribly timely with my posting. I'm usually a couple of days out of sync, so no - not working on a Sunday!

I do feel bad about any readers who may still be bothering with me though - I haven't exactly been consistent over the years. Started out birding, went full on for fishing, now back in a real birding mode. I suspect only anglers who love nature - such as your good self - are still even slightly interested! But I'm sure I'll be back fishing on the Leam soon enough - I love that river in all its aspects.