Sunday, 5 January 2020



Today Helen Franklin and I had a go at completing the Banbury Ornithological Society Short Day Count in SP55 to the west of Daventry. This is all about trying to find as many different wild bird species in a specific 10km tetrad between 8am and 4pm as possible, and over the years the changing picture of what is common and what is rare has changed quite a bit! The weather, the climate, the habitat and other factors have ensured that it is now difficult or even impossible to find birds such as Willow Tit, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting etc. On the plus side I certainly didn't see Red Kites, Ravens and Yellow-legged Gulls when I first started completing these surveys!

For me the undoubted best site in SP55 is Fawsley Park which incorporates lakes fringed with reeds, mature trees, broken woodland and grass fields. And so it was here that we started our day and our best birds were really at the start of the day when we encountered a Little Owl, several Water Rails, two Woodcock, a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail. Gulls were prominent with small flocks arriving and leaving, some washing in the lakes and others feeding on worms in fields. Local birding guru Ian Dobson found a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls in the flock which included plenty of Lesser Black-backs and Herrings. A pair of Pochard was a good find and the finch flock in the alders contained plenty of Goldfinches as well as about fifty Siskins. Several Ravens were vocal and the first of a remarkable number of Red Kites during the day popped up there too.

With about fifty species logged we reluctantly left Fawsley and trundled around this rural tetrad in search of other birds. Ten Red Kites at Everdon Hill Farm was unprecedented. Some farmed Red Deer near Mantles Heath didn't used to be there! Some scanning over open fields in the Cannons Ashby and Woodford Halse area provided plenty of repeats with more big gulls worming in stubble fields, on territory Ravens and common raptors. West Farndon hosted a flock of Greylags, not frequently encountered in this square, but Byfield Pool was quiet with Water Rail and Kingfisher as highlights. A Stonechat was at Catesby yesterday but we didn't see it today and other birds included a Kingfisher, plenty of Ravens and a Barn Owl.

Eleanor's efforts more locally provided four Ravens in the Brampton Valley below Hanging Houghton and the Short-eared Owl again at Harrington Airfield (between Bunkers 2 and 3).

Seven Whooper Swans flew in to Summer Leys yesterday afternoon but couldn't be seen today. A Great White Egret was present still. Stanwick today was busy with four Great White Egrets, nineteen Goosanders and seven Redshanks. Nearby Ditchford Pits had three Cattle Egrets west of Ditchford Lane and Thrapston Pits still hosts two Great White Egrets, a Shelduck and a Stonechat. The good-looking Great Grey Shrike continued to entertain on rough land on the DIRFT3 site near Crick.

A ringing session at Stortons Pits this morning caught a small number of birds but included another new Water Rail!


Neil M

Great Grey Shrike courtesy
of Robin Gossage.

Water Rail courtesy
of Chris Payne.

Red Deer.

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