I decided that I would go for a spot of birdwatching today at the Country Park, although the black clouds and horizontal rain this morning did make me think twice.
However, the sun emerged in the afternoon, so I bade farewell to my long suffering beloved and set off with my ‘scope slung over my shoulder and headed east (on foot of course). Once again there seemed an absence of small birds at the park and very little birdsong to be heard above the roaring wind.
I edged out onto the dam clutching my ‘scope in the hope that we would anchor each other against the wind. The first thing that I noticed was the large number of wigeon around the edge of the water. The second, and slightly disappointing thing, was that the golden plovers seem to have moved on.
I moved down the dam to look at some of the birds further along and have subsequently decided that Winter has come early this year. I usually decide that Winter has arrived when the goosanders make it to the reservoir, last year this was around Christmas. Well, as you may have guessed they are here already, and in greater numbers, I counted 24 today, twice the number that I have seen before.
Time to get the thermals out?
It was with some trepidation that we set out today to complete the first timed visit to one of the two tetrads that I signed up for. The trepidation was in part due to the dark clouds that were massing and partly because neither of us had done a survey before.
We had planned our route to take the full two hours and take in as many habitats as possible and I think we did pretty well; we managed to include housing estates (old and new), industrial estates, town centre, playing fields, churchyard, reservoir, scrubby fields and old railway track.
It took a bit of getting used to, trying to identify, count and record the birds and trying to decide if you had already seen that one. My initial worries about my bird knowledge were unfounded as it is about commonly seen birds and at this time of year I can recognise them most of the time.
Entering the data when we got back was easy and apparently the number of blackbirds (78) and house sparrows (60) that I saw were noteworthy. I have to say that the churchyard and the old railway track were teeming with blackbirds, which seems pretty representative of Dav this year. Other things that I noted were the almost complete absence of robins (I only saw 7 in the entire tetrad) and wrens, and some areas where we tend to see birds week in week out were empty (some might say almost desolate) particularly of finches.
Another result that suprised us was that the number of birds that we saw in older housing estates with established gardens was lower than in the newer housing estates. Oh yes, we also saw only one song thrush, but I did see my first redwings.
My other tetrad covers more farmland and part of the canal so there should be some different results there.
Last Sunday it snowed here in Daventry (and in numerous other places in the Midlands). The snow settled, but had gone by morning. On thinking about this I cannot remember the last time I saw snow in November – it snows in April more than in November, and this time last year there were still Red Admiral butterflies about feeding on the ivy flowers.
The cold weather also seems to have brought increased bird activity in the garden. Although I am at work during the week my other half keeps me informed to the best of his ability (having only a beginner’s knowledge of bird types) of the number and varieties of birds that he sees during the day. This week he was trying his best to describe a bird that didn’t look like the other birds (his description was by necessity hampered by being colour-blind and I couldn’t decide what it was that he had seen).
Yesterday when watching a flock of 8 greenfinches in the tree I saw what I at first thought was one of the chaffinches that had been about earlier, but it didn’t look quite right. It flew away before I could confirm my suspicions, but came back later. Yes, said my beloved, that’s the one that has been in the garden for the last few days. As you may have guessed it was a Brambling (female I think) and the first time I have seen one (although I have always been hopeful as there seem to be a lot of sightings around). As this is the first time I have seen one in my garden, and it is November and the food out in the fields should not yet be too scarce I am wondering if this is a portent of cold weather to come this Winter.