Overcast and breezy
Some 15 members of the Team gathered in the Henshall Lane car park for the first outing of the new season. The overcast and breezy conditions did not augur well for birding, but spirits were lifted both by a general bonhomie and by some very good views of a small group of mistle thrushes and larger numbers of starlings perched on wires on the far side of the field opposite.
Setting off eastwards along the trail, it soon became clear that we were going to struggle for good sightings; wood pigeons and carrion crows flew back and forth overhead, but smaller birds, perhaps wary of the breeze, kept low and out of sight in the rampant undergrowth along both sides of the trail. A couple of swallows swooped over us and every now and then small flocks of starlings took to the sky before settling in the fields where the soft ground no doubt offered good feeding opportunities. Determined scanning of the paddocks around Black Brow Farm was eventually rewarded with views of wagtails busily probing the ground churned up by the horses and numbers of sparrows and goldfinches were spotted flitting about in the hedges nearer the farm buildings. The squawk of a jay alerted us to its presence close to the trail, but the dense foliage hid it from view for many in the group, before it was spotted flying off.
Another reason for the absence of birds was revealed when we came across a bird scaring operation on the southern side of the trail, although the reason for this was not readily apparent, as the fields were full of stubble and did not seem to have been seeded recently. However, our attention was then drawn to raptors, first as a large buzzard flew down into a field on the other side of the trail, apparently to finish off its catch, another (or possibly a sparrow hawk, according to some) was challenged by a posse of crows, and a kestrel began quartering its territory, untroubled by the windy conditions. Further on, yet more buzzards made their presence known by their mewling cries and in all we caught sight of at least three individuals, one of which, like the first one spotted, came to rest in a ploughed field nearby and gave us plenty of opportunity to admire its fine plumage.
On our way back along the Bridgewater Canal towards School Lane we had a good view of an immature heron, standing on the tow path not too worried by our presence, keen eyes located a solitary chiffchaff and, nearer to Little Heath Farm, just before we left the tow path to climb back up to the road, we spotted some house martins flying above the trees.
By this time thought of lunch began to make itself felt, and collectively the group put its best foot forward to head back towards the car park and our rendezvous in the Rope and Anchor. There, a convivial crew wiled away an hour or so discussing the programme for the rest of the season (now up-dated on the website) and enjoying food, drink and each other’s company!
Bird List (CG/MH)
- Mistle Thrush
- Carrion Crow
- Canada Goose
- House Martin
- House Sparrow
- Pied Wag-tail
- Wood Pigeon
- Grey Heron