This is the third year of the River Thame Conservation Trust bird survey. I have opted for a two-kilometre square, accurately but unimaginatively called ‘M40 junction 5’ (SU79N), which is at the top of the Chiltern escarpment.
The south-west quadrant of this square is the one where I do the breeding bird survey, described here. I also covered the square for the British Trust for Ornithology’s Bird Atlas 2007-11. For the RTCT survey I have to walk for at least two hours in the two-kilometre square, taking in a range of habitats.
So I set off on Armistice morning from a housing estate in Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire, conscious that people might be quite suspicious of a person with binoculars peering at their houses at 8am.
The path goes straight from the estate into an open field, nice for those who live there.
It then enters a strip of woodland, where I heard fieldfares.
A benefit of the bird survey is that I can check paths at the same time. I had already encountered some substandard stiles, and then I found that Stokenchurch footpath 86 was unrestored across the field; I have reported this to Buckinghamshire County Council.
I entered Stockfield Wood which was looking very lovely, but there were not many birds around.
The path curves round past Gurdon’s Farm where red kites wheeled, a buzzard called from a fence post, and two skylarks were singing over the field.
After Gurdon’s Farm I joined Collier’s Lane. This is an old drover’s road. I did a loop through the woods here, catching sight of a kestrel. As so often happens, I could hear tits but not see them so could not be sure if they were blue tits or great tits. It was safest, but annoying, not to record them.
I ended up on the A40, which is pretty boring but my choice of routes was limited by the presence of the M40 cutting across the square. At least the A40 provided another habitat.
I followed it back to Stokenchurch, spotting two redwings. I noticed for the first time (because I never walk into Stokenchurch) a sign pointing to the site of Swilley Pond on the south side of the A40.
In fact this is registered common land, which appears to have been enclosed and built on. I suspect this was not done legally since it is still shown as a tiny square of access land on the Ordnance Survey map, indicating that it was registered common land at the time of mapping under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. I guess that the right of access does not currently apply because the land is within 20 metres of a building.
My Ordnance Survey map also shows a larger rectangle of access land immediately to the east. This is allotments with a sign saying no public right of way—but it is also registered common land with a right of access. I shall try to find out what is happening here.
I finished by crossing part of Stokenchurch’s attractive and extensive village green.