On Saturday afternoon, a visit to Otmoor RSPB nature reserve with friends was memorable not just for the starling roost "murmeration" over the reedbed but also for the crowds of reed buntings and linnets that have gathered along the track beside the Wetland Watch hide. Seed has been scattered on the track on a daily basis and has already attracted the flocks - easily a hundred of both species. This plentiful supply of seed will no doubt help to see them through the hungry gap.
On Sunday morning I returned to a cultivated stubble field near the village of Thenford, east of Banbury, where I'd noticed a large flock of yellowhammers the day before. This time I had more time to study the birds, but they were very flighty and not tolerant of my presence - even though I stayed in the car. I was able to estimate at least 80 yellowhammers, searching in the stubble for the last remaining cereal seeds: quite a large gathering . It's a reminder how precarious an existence it is some of our farmland birds - take away these stubbles and our yellowhammers would be in real trouble.
After watching the yellowhammers I continued to Thenford Church, a lovely spot overlooking part of the arboretum established by Michael Heseltine.