Thursday, 19 March 2015

Farming Outlook . . .

A pleasant day made a welcome change so I decided to hike around the local farmland to see what was occurring, hoping for some good raptor action as well as looking for your typical farmland birds and hoping to photograph yellowhammers, as their yellow plumage on a backdrop of blue sky should make a canny photo.

Early doors my 'lack of match practise' was apparent as my fieldcraft skills were negligible as a lack of focus and generally not looking before treading resulted in numerous flushes, from yellowhammer to jackdaws, reed bunts to magpies and even a red kite from a pylon (which would have made a cracking photo).
I sorted myself out and started scanning ahead more. At the lower levels more tits and dunnocks than anything else, and the only yellowhammers were one flushed and one overhead.

A lone mature oak was dotted with nestable holes so I stood a while and watched as first a blue tit then a great tit investigated, and then a treecreeper arrived on the scene and disappeared into one of the holes. A bit of a surprise that one.

As I climbed further up the valley, I looked back to see the far side of the valley was still shrouded in mist, but silhouetted were two red kites, two buzzards and a displaying pair of sparrowhawks, though all fairly distant.

Red Kite in the morning mist
I followed the public footpath along a hedge and through a copse, and was pleased to hear a couple of skylarks singing, a grey partridge flew along the far hedge, and numerous yellowhammers and reed buntings fed in the fields and perched among the thickets.

Plenty of reed bunts around
In the copse of trees were goldcrests, long-tailed tits, coal tits, a willow tit and chaffinches. I secured my target yellowhammer though couldn't get the shot I wanted of a singer against the blue skies.

Plenty of L T tits around as well

Target secured, a yellowhammer facing the wrong way

Linnets sprang up from a partly ploughed field where more yellowhammers fed also, and a few meadow pipits sprang up from the next field into a line of trees where goldfinches and goldcrests were calling.
Sad though, I remember just a few years ago a small part of this field was set aside and had breeding lapwings, now it's all cultivated and I didn't see one even flying overhead.

The colour contrast I was looking for, but couldn't get close enough
along the field edges. 
And that's the closest I could get to a mipit as well
I decided to head over to Low Thornley, though not before I heard and spied a small band of tree sparrows by the kennels, never seen them here before, but that's one species making a comeback in the borough.
An obliging robin was my next subject, then heading off the road and onto the red kite trail I was greeted by the sound of a singing chiffchaff, first of the year, but only set eyes on him when he flew off.

Robin mid-song

Only place in the valley I've had little owl, sadly the owl box
on the tree disappeared a few years back.
Distant displaying buzzards (just love their skydancing) and a passing red kite were the only raptors around, a very disappointing count considering the conditions, then at Low Thornley a lot of common stuff before this Comma flitted into view and just about settled for a photo, though it wouldn't let me get too close to test the macro so this is a fairly distant crop.

Comma - first identified butterfly of the year
 Then more tree sparrows, a regular sighting here and this time within snapping distance.

Decent numbers of Tree Sparrows in the area now
hope they continue to thrive. 
When I reached the stables I noticed scaffolding up around the house and was disappointed to see they'd been cementing in the gaps in the eaves where the tree sparrows have  nested in past years, so I can only hope they find suitable accommodation this year or that could be the end of them here.

Still with a bit of time to spare I decided to walk down to Far Pasture in hope of getting a sand martin, no such luck, all quiet here but another chiffchaff was singing along the access road on the way out. Couldn't be arsed to get my camera out again to snap him, but happy enough with the day's sightings. 

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