Today I crewed up with Mike Tubb and we completed a Banbury Ornithological Society Long Day Count in the 10km square SP54. This area falls to the east and north of Middleton Cheney in the south west of the county.
With the forecast of rain in the afternoon, we elected to try a particularly early morning start in an effort to find owls and register calling birds under the cover of darkness. In the strong wind and cool conditions it was a long time before we found anything! By dawn we had logged 4 Tawny and 3 Little Owls and heard singing and displaying Lapwings and Skylarks. At first light we positioned ourselves to try and and optimise the advantage of early morning but at only 5 Degrees Centigrade and a strong wind only the bigger birds were initially industrious.
As the day progressed and the species total climbed, we began to see quite an array of mammals in this relative wildlife-rich corner of Northamptonshire. A number of Roe Deer showed well and Muntjacs seemed to be at every location. Plenty of Brown Hares were visible in the fields. Mike was particularly talented at locating Foxes in both field and copse. This area has some fabulous areas of unimproved pasture and carpets of Lady's Smock (or Cuckoo Flower), Cowslip, Forget-me-Not and Primroses certainly provided plenty of colour on a sometimes dull and dank morning.
At one site we located an incubating Sparrowhawk (the only one we saw all day), and found a pair of Raven near Thenford and presumably a different pair at Thorpe Mandeville. A vocal Spotted Flycatcher was also located at Thorpe and 1-2 were near Trafford Marsh. Lesser Whitethroats were in good numbers and singing well but Garden Warbler completely evaded us. Swift and Kingfisher were represented by just single birds and we failed to find a Cuckoo in the square this time. Grey Wagtails were on-site at three potential breeding spots and Yellow Wagtails were on territory at three locations. Unfortunately the breeding site for Meadow Pipit had been ploughed up and converted to cereals so we didn't find this species.
A male Peregrine was a nice surprise at Trafford Marsh. Nuthatch was located at three sites and we enjoyed watching an adult Raven flying in and feeding two of four fledglings in tops of trees at one of the main locations in SP54. We were fortunate to find Tree Sparrows present and presumably breeding at three distinct locations.