Seeing as I am new to blogging I think that I should introduce the places that I visit on a regular basis to watch wildlife. I am 15, and therefore can’t own a car or moped, so I am limited as to how far I can travel (without bugging my parents) by bike in a day. My patch which I bird at is an area of mature hedgerows, which have turned into broken woodland in places, pastures used to graze horses and the pools which form in these pastures. I will refer to this area as ‘Priory Fields’.
It is very accessible for me, being only a 10 minute walk away, and is probably the best birding location in the (very) local area. As I said, it is an area of pastures with mixed mature hedgerows, a feature now sadly disappearing from much of the lowland farmland, in my area at least. Some of my favourite inhabitants of this area are the winter thrushes and they are abundant here. Especially Redwing and Blackbird along with smaller numbers of Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare. It is magical to walk down one of the pathways on a crisp morning in a corridor of trees and hear the alarm calls ring out, forming a pleasant chorus of chucks, seeps and rattles which is one of the quintessential sounds of winter.
The pools in the pastures are quite a unique feature of this area of farmland, being full pretty much all year round, and support species which would not be present on normal farmland. For example they are a local hotspot for gulls; mainly Black-Headed, Herring and Common gulls and occasionally Mediterranean Gulls, although I have never seen them here. They also periodically attract migrating waders including Little Ringed Plover.
One of the Pools
Mixed Flock of Gulls
Other birds living here include decent numbers of Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Yellowhammers and Bullfinches are also reasonably common; one of my favourite birds. Along with all the regular farmland and garden birds other relative rarities have occaisionally been reported such as Peregrines and Red Kites. On the other side of my village there is more farmland which is more crop-based but holds large numbers of wintering Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting along with Lesser Redpoll, Roe Deer, Skylarks and Tree Sparrow. Here, last summer, I was surprised to see a male Black-Tailed Skimmer dragonfly, something I really was not expecting to see. This just goes to show that even humble arable farmland can sometimes surprise you!
To see other wildlife, namely invertebrates, I usually visit my local botanical gardens. There is a meadow there that, at the right time in summer can put on a spectacular show. All of the common garden butterflies occur here along with Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and even Small Copper. It is late summer when this meadow, bordered by woods and a lake, is at its best. With the golden light just beginning to fade away through the swathes of grass and the bronzing, brittle leaves on the trees, I found myself there last summer. The air was hazy and balmy and huge numbers of dragonflies whirled around my head and up to the treetops. Changing direction with crackles of gauze wings, they pursued their prey, the myriad of small flying insects. All of this activity made their wings glisten against the August sun and sent me into a trance of happiness.