Bird Walk Report, 23rd May

The route for this walk covered very similar ground to that which we followed on our first walk in March, covering both the woodland broad rides and then the open meadows.

Identifying birds “in the field” is usually more difficult than watching them in one’s own garden particularly if you are feeding them, as many of us do.  And with all the trees in full leaf, we hardly had a clear sighting of any of the woodland species in that part of the walk. And out in the open, they were mainly flying around pretty fast. Nevertheless, several species were singing strongly in the woods though tit species were in the main very quiet, no doubt either incubating their eggs or just busy foraging for food. So again we focussed heavily on birdsong and in-flight silhouette etc. 

Starting from the Car Park both chiffchaff and blackcap warblers were singing strongly, and robins too, giving us a good opportunity to store the main characteristics of each in our memories; robins and blackcaps in some respects are not that dissimilar differing mainly in phraseology and tonal quality.

As always the parakeets continual raucous and loud calls dominated the whole scenario, and so it was difficult to hear several other species which were calling and singing well enough but mainly too far away to learn a lot about them on this occasion.  Wood pigeon and stock doves, magpies and crows etc, song thrush and blackbird included amongst them. Most noticeably scarce on this day were the various tit species. Only a month ago both great and blue tit species were seen or heard seemingly all the time one was walking along the same paths. Just before we emerged from the woodland we did hear a song thrush singing its characteristic repeated phrase quite well, which was very nice.

Crossing the Tree Centre approach road from Perry St. and out in the open, we had much better visibility and could see two male blackbirds each high up on their own territorial song posts about 60 yards apart and hear them singing against each other, just as the books says they do.  As we walked through the meadows bordered by hedges we started to hear snatches of song of another summer migrant warbler species, the common whitethroat. This species about the same size as a dunnock is known as a scrubland species living in hedges and isolated scrubby bramble patches, but not seemingly in the larger dense stands of bramble. It is aptly named but one needs to see it perched at the top of a bush singing before one can readily appreciate it.  The song is not actually very attractive and is usually described as “scratchy”, without any of the clear fluty tonal quality of e.g. blackcaps. One of the male birds behavioural helpful features is that it often does a song flight dance, just flying up out of a patch of scrub and then back again while delivering its song in flight.  This area of the Park is ideal for them and several pairs have established breeding territories, so I recommend you to visit this end of the Park over the coming weeks to get more familiar with this species. Though it is one of those on our Priority Action list it seems to find here exactly the conditions it requires.

Two buzzards then appeared, some distance away and caused me some embarrassment, as from my angle the silhouette and flight pattern of the first seemed to me to be more typical of a red kite. The second bird seen was soaring and circling higher up in the sky and displaying the perfect ID guide silhouette.  A real surprise next, as we walked down the meadow, we heard the unmistakeable “churring“ of starling family contact calls and on looking about us we saw quite a bit of activity in the woods and over the meadows where they were foraging for food. I use the word surprise because I had no real evidence thus far this year that starlings were even present trying to breed in the Park and here they were out of their nests, fledged!  Starlings do not sing territorially in such an obvious way, as do most of the songbirds that we have been studying.

Further down the hill we saw a fledged family of long tailed tits; we heard them first as one usually does, foraging as a family group for food and maintaining contact by quiet thin “tseeping” noises which do not carry very far, and then on cue when the parents decide to fly on to another patch of scrub, they move on in procession enabling one to count them one by one as they sees break cover before vanishing into the thick dense cover; it is not uncommon to count as many as 12 juvenile birds in such a party.  Further on in the valley we encountered a second long tail family party. It was nice too to see both swifts and swallows over the meadows, just a few individuals, presumably foraging for food.  Both are on our Priority Action List. The only place a swallow might nest would be in the farm buildings near the Moat, and to date there is no evidence of this so the swallows we see could be non-breeding birds, and just foragers.

We finished our walk following the central cross path and were lucky enough to see a green woodpecker in characteristic looping flight low down over the valley field.  Compared with our previous walks the total number of species recorded was down but that does not mean that the birds are not there, simply that they are busy doing other things which do not include advertising their presence.  One always learns something useful!