I've completed a couple of plantation woodland bird surveys this week and I have my last one to do tomorrow morning. On Tuesday I was in Cumbria, northeast of Penrith, in the Eden valley and at first light it was cool with four oktas cloud cover and a light northerly wind. It was here that I noted some interesting Tree Sparrow behaviour, but before that below is a summary of my sightings.
I had 31 Tree Sparrows, three Mistle Thrushes, a Bullfinch, a Stock Dove, an immature male Sparrowhawk spooking the Tree Sparrows, a Willow Warbler, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Siskins, four Grey Wagtails, a Song Thrush, 120 Lapwings heading north, two Buzzards and twenty Goldfinches.
Back to the Tree Sparrows. At this site there is a thick hedge running alongside a track and I always record lots of calling Tree Sparrows from here. As I was walking up the track, with the hedge on my left, an immature male Sparrowhawk came flying along the track about two feet from the ground, and as soon as it saw me he shot through the hedge causing pandemonium amongst the Tree Sparrows.
About half an hour later I was surveying a wooded compartment that runs up a slope and from the top there are great views over the River Eden. As I was walking up the slope I kept on hearing Tree Sparrow calls and small groups of Tree Sparrows were leaving and heading northwest. They must have been roosting birds from the aforementioned hedge heading out to feeding areas. Interestingly they were climbing high as they headed northwest, presumably to gain height to get over the surrounding hilly countryside. I had groups of 14, 11, 4 and 2, but there was more, because some I could hear, but not see.
On Wednesday I was again in the Eden valley, but in the upper Eden near Kirkby Stephen. It was a cool morning again, very Autumnal, with just one okta cloud cover and a light northerly wind. Before I get to the Common Gulls, of interest I recorded 235 Swallows, nine Siskins, three Stock Doves, a Song Thrush, a Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.
At this site there are seven woodland compartments to survey, but some are very small. I was just heading into the third compartment block when lots of Gulls came over, about 300 to be exact, and I didn't really pay much attention other than thinking that it was a large group of Gulls in an area that I don't normally record many Gulls! They dropped into the field on the other side of the hedge and were calling excitedly to each other, and I knew straight away they were Common Gulls. I had a scan through them with my bins and all were Common Gulls, not another Gull species among them. They were a mix of adults and juveniles, with more adults than juveniles.
A short while later the Gulls came over me and headed off south. I can only think that they had arrived from the north, dropped into feed for a short while, before continuing their southwards migration. Brilliant!
I'll let you know if I see anything interesting during my survey tomorrow. Weekend is looking like a wash out on Saturday, with Sunday being a better day but sadly too breezy for any ringing. Let's hope it changes!