Tuesday, 5 February 2013

My first Skylark of the year and a very obliging Redwing

I arranged to meet a lady called Erin today, a fellow Hayes Town resident who is also a member of Save Lake Farm. We had met at the Save Lake Farm peaceful demostration back in early January. I have never once been able to attend any council or public meetings due to my work shifts, but Erin has been to them all, and has managed to obtain a map of where the proposed school could be built. So after a lovely coffee in the local library, and asking the staff to photocopy a couple of maps for us, we set off to Lake Farm to see exactly where the proposed school building would be.
Erin admitted herself, she wasnt a bird watcher, but as we walked around the site, and I pointed out the birds tucked in the hedgerow and flying in front of us, she started to see more and more herself. We saw a good number of Reed Buntings today, again doing what they have been doing for the last few weeks, tucking themselves into the perimeter hedgerows for a bit of protection from the biting cold wind. Erins interest in saving Lake Farm is for the pollution risks. She's asthmatic. Lake Farm to Erin is a place where there is little pollution and a lot of peace. It's true that when you are in the middle of Lake Farm, you can barely hear the traffic.
The map Erin has given me has enabled me to see exactly where the school could be, and I'm even more unhappy about it than I was before, as the site takes in where I often see the Reed Buntings before they take up shelter in the hedgerows. It's also the same area where I often see Stonechats, Song Thrushes and Long-tailed Tits. The area includes a long mature hedgerow of mixed trees and bushes, so I will be monitoring these over the next couple of months, to see what birds are using this site for nesting.
During our walk around we spotted another lady with binoculars and a clipboard. She introduced herself as Erica, and she was doing a bird survey for an ecology company. I'm waiting for a few more details from her by e-mail, and then I can put up the full story here.........and hoping its good news for Lake Farm.
After both Erin and Erica had left, I went about my normal Lake Farm walk-a-bout. The House Sparrows were in fine form, very active, and a lot of chirping. At my favourite bench (based in front of a tangle of brambles and shrubs) I flushed a bird that settled nearby. My first thought was it was a female Reed Bunting, but it was larger and the bill was longer, and then I realised it was a Skylark....my first sighting this year....
After another stretch of the legs, I saw another two Skylarks in the air, then flying down deep into the grasses. For all I know, they may well over winter at Lake Farm, but I can honestly say I have never seen them between December and March before today.
I also saw this male Reed Bunting (in the usual sheltered hedgerow). His summer plumage is just starting to come in now. All that dark speckly grey will become a lovely all black mask with white moustache and neck collar soon......

I wandered over to where I had seen the Mistle Thrushes last, but still no sign of them. But look what I did find.....a beautiful solo Redwing. At times it was less than a metre away from me, which concerned me. I really thought there might be something wrong with it. It was feeding fine, it took five worms while I watched it, but after 40 minutes of it staying on the ground, I decided to see if I could approach it. I wanted to see if it could fly, because if it couldnt I was intending to catch it and get it the nearest rescue centre. A grounded bird in this weather is not good news. Thankfully as soon as I approached, it flew into the nearest tree and scolded me ! Very good news. I found a suitable sitting place and waited for it to come back down......and it did. I've never had such great close ups views of this beautiful winter visitor, and instead of it being wary of me, it seemed to be showing off. It got very close at times, and although Im still a bit concerned there may be something wrong with it, with the way it was feeding, Im hoping it was just hungry. As school closing time approached and the site got busier (Lake Farm is often used by school kids walking home), the Redwing decided there were far too many humans for its liking and flew off into a nearby tree. Sadly I wont be able to get down to Lake Farm tomorrow, but will try to get down there again on Thursday to see if the obliging little thrush is still around..............here are a few of my favourite photos from that magical two hours......
Briefly, going back to the proposed school building on Lake Farm, below are maps that Ive photographed from the board at the northern entrance to the site (which is ironically part of the area the council wants to build on). The first map shows the whole of Lake Farm. The second photo, which I have cropped, shows the site the intended school may be built on. 
It may only look like a quarter of the site, but thats not the point. Any building on Lake Farm could potentially risk the resident birds nesting. That northern section is well established with mature hedges and trees, and the grasses and cow parsley attract various butterflies and insects too. Erin and I have a few ideas about what to do next, so keep watching this space..............cheers.

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