Sunday, 25 November 2018

Winter random square: thrushes and tree sparrows; plus Wardington Common Buzzards

Common Buzzard, Wardington
This weekend was Winter Random Square time again - the long-running winter bird count organised by the BOS for many years, and really easy to do: just spend at least two hours in your allocated 1km square (they all have reasonable public access via rights of way) and count what you see.

I recorded 31 species in my square, centred on the tiny hamlet of Plumpton tucked away in the south Northamptonshire countryside.  Most prominent were thrushes - lots of Redwings (at least 200) and plenty of Fieldfares, feasting mostly on the remaining berry crop but sometimes dropping down onto the fields to search for worms and other invertebrates.  Also good numbers of Skylarks and Yellowhammers, though raptors were is short supply, just a solitary Red Kite.

Driving out to the survey square I stopped off at a couple of places I used to see Tree Sparrows quite reliably, but couldn't find any - though there was a nice gathering of Lapwings and Golden Plover in a winter sown cereal field.
Golden Plovers, near Weston, Northamptonshire
I tried one last spot on my way back - a strip of game cover that looked promising - and sure enough, mixed in with about 50 Yellowhammers were a scattering of Tree Sparrows - about ten in total.  In the past few years Tree Sparrows have become noticeably scarcer in our area and they have disappeared completely from my BTO Breeding Bird Survey Square in nearby Moreton Pinkney.  So good to see them still around.

I hope to see Tree Sparrows in my garden again over the winter, but at the moment the most interesting birds around the village are the Common Buzzards, which like last year, have gathered in the big arable field at Top Dawkins.  My peak count so far is 19 birds.  One was particularly confiding, feeding quite close to one of the gateways.  They make short flights or a quick run, then pounce on their prey in the soil.

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