Sunday, 18 November 2012

Therfield Heath Saturday

Therfield Heath. It's a great raptor spot at the mo. This is my report of yesterday:

A great couple of hours birding this afternoon at Therfield Heath. Starting at the village of Therfield itself, I walked the Icknield Way towards the Royston Golf Course. I did have one bird as the 'target' and wasn't disappointed, but in fact my expectations were far exceeded in the end.

I'm not going to be specific about any of the locations on the Heath, but simply relate some of the birds I saw. Ubiquitous were the CHAFFINCHES, up to 100 over the Heath, and it was pleasing to see two BRAMBLINGS in among them. There may have been more, but there was a lot of ground feeding going on, so only when the flocks were disturbed did one get to see them as they flew to bushes for cover. GOLDFINCHES also strongly in evidence, though I was disappointed not to see Bullfinch in the areas where I have seen them plenty of times before.

The other predominant birds were YELLOWHAMMERS, of which there were getting on for 100 in various locations, 45+ CORN BUNTINGS, and a total of 120 or so LINNETS (very mobile so there could be some double counting in there). There was also 1 REED BUNTING. Both GREY and RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE were much in evidence, the former seeming to outnumber the latter, pleasingly. A flock of 23 SKYLARKS croaked as they flew overhead.

A flock of 36 GOLDEN PLOVERS and then 6 LAPWINGS flew over and there were clearly 3 RED KITES out and about. There were at least 4 COMMON BUZZARDS, 2 KESTRELS and, eventually, 1 SHORT-EARED OWL, but a lifer for me was a LONG-EARED OWL, and then another. Also, a BARN OWL was hunting over the Heath. Most pleasing of all was the glorious male HEN HARRIER, harassing various fauna and avia on its way to a presumed roost.

Perched imperiously and ominously was a GREA T GREY SHRIKE (my target) but I saw this relatively late in the day, in among 30 or so FIELDFARE and the odd REDWING. As well as 1 MISTLE THRUSH and 1 SONG THRUSH, there were great numbers of BLACKBIRDS, more than 40 up and down the path and in the hedges leading off. I thought I saw the pale wings of a Ring Ouzel too, but I'm a bit of wishful Ouzel thinker, so I won't claim it!

A brilliant couple of hours' birding, then. There are plenty of berries and good habitat for birds of prey and their prey, so I do hope to see Merlin and Ringtail Hen Harrier on my next visits.

Matthew Mellor

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