I am finding it hard to keep my bird surveys straight as I have just taken on more. The British Trust for Ornithology has asked its surveyors to sign up for an English farmland bird survey, covering the same transects as we do for the breeding bird survey (BBS) in the spring and summer.
So for my two BBS squares, I am now required to do a survey in each month between December and March. This is in addition to the River Thame Conservation Trust survey.
Today I did the first of the farmland surveys, in the one-kilometre grid square (SU7496) near junction 5 of the M40 at Stokenchurch in Bucks (part of the two-kilometre square where I am also doing the RTCT survey). I walk two roughly parallel routes across the grid square, each divided into five sections. The start is always rather unpleasant as I have to cross two slipways and the motorway bridge, and it is not walker friendly.
I am required to record the habitat of each section, and when I entered the field near the Stokenchurch tower I noted that it is now grazed by sheep. Last time I visited, the field was down to arable crop.
There were not many birds around. For the first half of my walk I recorded robin, blue tit, great tit, wren, dunnock, chaffinch, jay, blackbird, pheasant, red kites, and plenty of wood pigeons and herring gulls.
The second half of the walk is more pleasant, largely through woodlands and away from roads, although there is the noise of the nearby M40. I was delighted to hear and then see three coal tits and two goldcrests in the trees.
The woods were beautiful shades of brown and grey.
The last section is across a rather boring open field.
I thought I was going to have nothing to record there beyond three wood pigeons, when I was reprieved, first by a buzzard, and then a meadow pipit, which perched precariously on the electricity wires, buffeted by the wind. We don’t see many of them round here.
A bit further on I saw a flock of redwings—but predictably that was after I had finished recording.