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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Wet day ends up shining

This morning was truly depressing, with unbirdable conditions at the farm. I sat in the car with the wind behind me, window down, trying to keep alive a degree of concentration and hope - to not much avail. I decided to break the morning up by having a quick look at the Hawfinches at Juniper Bottom, which I hypothesised would be a slightly more pleasant place to be, situated in a valley. Even though it wasn't quite as windy the conditions were negligably more bearable so I left after only hearing a handful of the birds from deep in the yews, and three Marsh Tits.

I returned to Canons and the latter half of the daylight hours were generally more forgiving so I slopped around the muddy fields, enjoying myself thoroughly in the end despite being wetter than most frogs. For the time of year, there were some decent local birds on offer. The first of which was a very pretty female Brambling. This was with the growing flock of Chaffinches which now numbers over 250 but has been pretty healthy for a few weeks now. I've taken every available opportunity to grill this flighty flock but despite my best efforts hadn't reaped the reward until now, and the Brambling was about within the first twenty birds I scoped through! Sadly it was lost to view and the entire flock moved off about five minutes before Jamie arrived.

Brambling in Broadfield

After Jamie gave up and headed home, I headed down Reads Rest Lane to look for the Stonechat and to complete the circuit of the farm, planning to go around the back, around Ruffett Wood. When I looked back at Reads Rest Cottages, a large white blob sitting in the rear entrance to the main cowshed caught my eye and I knew what it was without lifting my bins - Barn Owl! This is the fourth time I've seen it in the last week, and all but one of these encounters has been in daylight which is freaky for this species at the farm as they've always been extremely nocturnal and elusive before. I found it particularly out of character for it to be sitting in the open air for all to see, overlooking its territory well before sunset. Anyway, this it was doing and I enjoyed the rare opportunity to admire it settled in good light. At 5.50pm, a similar time to when Josh and I saw it hunting on Wednesday, it took to the air and started hunting over Horse Pasture, landing on a fencepost and in a holly bush, flying right past me and hovering and diving - the full show. Great scope views and opportunities for record shots. I was very happy indeed. To add the icing to the cake the male Stonechat and the resident Red-legged Partridge also showed - not forgetting that two Mallards flew over earlier, making it a very worthwhile afternoon's patch birding!

Barn Owl, Reads Rest/Horse Pasture
Stonechat