It’s been nearly three weeks since I’ve managed to get round the parish, largely due to a two week birding trip to Goa and a couple of other local commitments. (You can see some of the fantastic birds we saw in India by clicking this link to my travel blog).
When I last walked round we were still enjoying the unseasonal warmth of a late autumn, today winter is well and truly upon us. There are no leaves left on the trees, only Ivy berries remain after the feeding flocks of winter thrushes have stripped the hawthorn and brambles clean and birdlife has been reduced down to the seasonal norm – just a few small tit flocks in evidence and the occasional Robin, Blackbird and Chaffinch. I did see a Bullfinch down the lane and there was a Treecreeper in the oaks on the way to the lake. Water levels on the meadow are high but birds seem to be few and far between – only a dozen Teal and a handful of Moorhen. I bumped into Lee at the lake who told me that Teal numbers last week reached an impressive 87 and Snipe numbers were up to 14. On the lake itself there were ten or so Gadwall, a handful of Tufted Duck and, surprisingly, three female Goldeneye. A Green Woodpecker flew over-head as I turned for home.
I’d just joined the track from Keeper’s Cottage, through Common Plantation, when I became immediately aware of a familiar shape atop a low tree stump. I didn’t even need to raise my binoculars I was so close – a fantastic roosting Tawny Owl! It casually squinted at me as I passed by and then resumed it’s slumbers. Tawny Owls are surprisingly difficult to see – if you do come across them in the daytime they’re usually roosting high up and close to a main trunk, often obscured by foliage. To see one like this, out in the open and at head height is a real treat – wow!