This year has not exactly got off to a flying start-looking at Bubo Listing this morning I was 231 out of 243 year lists with a grand total of 19. Not unexpected as I did not get out last weekend and there is not much to see while I am work.
News of an on-off Bonaparte's Gull at Wilstone, a Hertfordshire first should have seen me there this morning, but the clutch needs looking at and I would not want to risk the trip, so the only option for me to boost the list was to go over to Aston End.
Since my last visit on a lovely late autumn day in October, things were a bit different. No leaves, lots of mud and the river Beane flowing quite nicely after the very wet spell we have had. Before I got out into the countryside I found the local House Sparrow flock, which appears to be doing ok with around 15 birds, a few streets away. One of the gardens is full of feeders which presumably helps to explain why they don't bother coming over to my ones. The other flock around Lords Farm seems to be pretty healthy as well.
There was not a great deal else on the way to Aston End, a singing Song Thrush, a Mistle Thrush, the usual tit flock in the plantation, and lots of Robins, Dunnocks and pigeons. A flyover Green Woodpecker was the first notable bird, but things only picked up when I was on my way down to the ford.
I picked up a couple of Jays and then a female Bullfinch-not in the usual spot and a few other finches. The hedges have been partly cut-only on one side of the lane, which hopefully means that there is a more considered approach to management now. A scan along the river valley produced a lot of distant small brown jobs flying around, a few Fieldfare as usual and a huge flock of Wood Pigeons-moost of the fields are planted with brassicas this winter.
Beyond the well flowing ford, the high ground along the Walkern road was reasonably dry but did not produce much. All of the sloes, dogwood, hawthorn, rose and spindle berries have pretty well been eaten and it was not until I got to the bridge below the paddocks I found anything. More Fieldfare of course, this is the traditional spot for them, though with distant gunfire echoing round I had no idea of numbers. However there were at least 17 Yellowhammers here, by far the largest count for some time. Difficult to be sure since there were Linnets here as well and being some distance away I had trouble distinguishing the females.
There was at least one Kestrel here as well, plus two Buzzards, and as I made my way upriver I found a few Redwing as well. The major disappointment was the lack of Little Owls again. I did not see any here at all last year-only heard birds a couple of times early on so I am wondering if they are still around. As they have been here ever since I started birding in the mid 80's it would be a shame to have lost them.
Still I managed to double my year list-it is now a stunning 38!