Sunday, 4 October 2015

Banburyshire: sunflowers and linnets

The glowing colours of Autumn are strengthening by the day in the hedgerows, woods and verges.

The early days of October have been crisp and warm, dominated by blue skies.  That will all change to tomorrow with the return of wind and rain, but this weekend it was great to get out and about in the good weather.

This morning I spent a couple of hours exploring the local farmland, checking out a few of the better areas.  This time last year golden plover were back, in small numbers.  No sign of them so far, but in their favoured field near Upper Wardington, a flock of skylarks numbering about 60, provided some interest. It looks like the field has been drilled, probably with winter wheat, and a spraying operation was just finishing.  The skylarks were bobbing around the field as the tractor moved across.  There were a few meadow pipits, pied wagtails and a couple of buzzards towards the back of the field.

I'd spotted a field of sunflowers growing near Sulgrave last weekend and vowed to return to take some photos and see if any birds were using the field.  When I arrived this morning, most of the sunflowers were still there, but rapidly being mulched by a tractor - this was a bit perplexing as the crop was only just starting to flower and some way off setting seed. 
A potentially amazing winter food resource for birds was rapidly disappearing, especially as the sunflower "crop" had been drilled into a stubble and was full of arable weeds.  Will be interesting to see what happens next.

Nearby, a prairie-like area of cereal stubble had attracted a large flock of linnets with a few greenfinches mixed in.  I reckon about 300 birds - so pretty exceptional for our area.  I took some pics of the flock to try and make a more accurate estimate of the flock size.
most of the linnet flock
A red kite drifted over. A few skylarks were scattered across this field too, and I got the impression there were many more hidden from view.

In the afternoon I squeezed in a visit to Bicester Wetland Reserve where I spent a relaxing hour or so watching green sandpipers (5), snipe (10) and dozens of teal.  Also, a couple of chiffchaffs and a small flock of siskins.

Lastly, a photo taken at Grimsbury Reservoir a few days ago , which I have just got around to uploading and quite pleased with.
black-headed gull

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