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Bird spotting walk - 26th February 2006

Event organised as part of the Sponsored Parish Birdwatch

Ashe to Overton

The 6½°C greeting the 14, and two dogs that attended the second of the monthly Parish walks was not in itself too bad, the brisk north-easterly wind driving the temperature down to around freezing was another matter however! The wind did however allow the sun to break through the clouding that was turning distinctly wintry, snow on the way perhaps!

Birdwatchers about to set off

The 'pool', the source of The Test, west of Ashe House was expectedly quiet, a Coot and a Moorhen feeding about the edges whilst the rough grassland surrounding it played host to a small group of initially vocal Meadow Pipits.

Crossing the fields toward Polhampton saw a Buzzard drifting over the group and a large group of Woodpigeons scattered in the distance. Chaffinches were picked up on nearing the fords near Polhampton Farm where Moorhens fed in the fields and two Black-headed and a Lesser Black-backed Gull moved low into the wind. Goldfinches were vocal as they over flew the group and both Robin and Wren were heard in the pathside scrub.

Three Magpies dropped down to streamside trees, the mature Black Poplar in the background. The newly planted Black Poplars being seen as the group walked toward the farm. A pair of Mallard was seen on the old cressbeds before the group turned north towards the railway line.

Walking the track northwards saw large amounts of Old Man's Beard covering the hedgerows but little evidence of birdlife. A single Winter Aconite was in flower on the bank above the cottages. The Woodpigeons were again on the move, many were dropping down on to kale to feed.

Looking south from near David's Wood three Roe Deer were seen way off to the south, others slots having been seen earlier in the muddy track by Polhampton Farm.

Heading back downhill and a male Kestrel was seen peering intently into rough grassland from a telegraph wire perch. The stop for this bird slowed the group down so that all were together again as a mixed party of birds moved about the hedgerows. Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were seen well and then a group of Goldfinches dropped in to a Hawthorn where they became the next objects of focus. The scrubby trees at the junction with Station Hill produced two Coal Tits and the rookery by Hilltop Road was obvious in the leafless trees. Greenfinch and Dunnock moved across the road and then a flock of well over 400 Woodpigeons burst into the sky over us; at no time did we ever see the reason for the continued flushing of these birds. A Robin tackling a large worm proved interesting, though somewhat disgusting to some!

More Moorhens were in the fields by The Test but only Rabbits were in the paddock north of Flashetts.

Cutting back across the farmland east of Station Road a cock Pheasant was way off to the north whilst a group of 31 Chaffinch dropped from trees to feed amongst the kale, allowing close scrutiny but not seen to be harbouring any of the Brambling seen about the village this winter. A single Mistle Thrush was in the same area before chortling off northwards.

The field between Straight Lane and Polhampton held a solitary Skylark, seen to float up over the field just briefly before disappearing back into the plough.

Heading back towards the cars two Carrion Crows had dropped down to The Test source where four Coot were now feeding; the latter number a sad reminder of the birds that the site used to attract, particularly during the winter months. A Song Thrush flying from the farm towards the pool was the third thrush of the walk, several Blackbirds also having been, mainly, heard.

Some of the group visited St. Andrews Church after the walk and came across a wooden Robin on its wooden nest! In the corner of south end of the screen is a little door - inside it is a Robin carved in wood. The story is this: while the chancel was being built a Robin built her nest in a putlock hole. The workers fed her in the window close by. She hatched one young, and was seen sitting on the ladder while her hole was being filled up. She made her nest out of wood shavings and has now been handed down to posterity in a more substantial form. The grounds of the church held substantial numbers of Snowdrop and Crocus, another reminder of spring possibly being on the way.

30 species of bird were seen on the walk (view the list of species) with the Buzzard, worm-carrying Robin, Goldfinches, male Kestrel, Long-tailed Tits, Skylark and scattering Woodpigeons possibly grabbing the headlines for those present.

Thanks are due to those that attended and made the wander that much more enjoyable.

See you soon!

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Peter E. Hutchins

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