On a chilly, grey, blustery Sunday afternoon a group of 13 people met outside the gates to Monkton Combe Church. Our guides, Ann and Simon Stuart, were going to lead us on a walk to look at Birds in Winter. Pretty clumps of snowdrops were out in the churchyard, but otherwise it was still looking very wintery. This had one advantage: we could spot nests in the trees. We didn’t need to look far to find the owners of the nests, the crows were in the grass just below the churchyard.
Simon told us more about Crows, Jackdaws, Rooks, Ravens, Magpies and Jays: the Corvids. He explained that the nests didn’t belong to the Jackdaws as they like to nest in chimney pots and in the roof of the church. At this time of year there is often a pheasant in the churchyard, and we spotted him beyond the crows in the field. The group of pigeons and doves that live in the roof of the old barn overlooking the church yard flew around overhead as we spent our time there.
We chatted to each other as we walked down to Tucking Mill to watch the many birds that visit the feeders outside a house right by the lane. These feeders have been offering food to the local birds for many years and there are always birds to seen there – this gave us all a good opportunity to watch, identify and listen to birds. Acrobatic Long tailed tits fed from the furthest feeder whilst things like Blue tits and Chaffinches were feeding from those at the front. A Marsh tit was pointed out to us – a bird I am unfamiliar with – I can see that I have been confusing it for a Black cap but with the chance to watch it and look at a guide book I can now see the difference between the two birds. The good looking Nuthatch is often seen at this feeder and it appeared to everyone’s delight. There was lots of conversation about Woodpeckers prompted by the evidence that they had been hammering in the old tree close to the feeders
We moved on a little further to the Tucking Mill Reservoir where we all had the chance to watch a pair of Cormorants as they worked their way up and down the reservoir diving from the surface to fish. Simon pointed out to us all that there was a pair of Little Grebe – a bird I hadn’t seen on the reservoir before, I hope they stay and nest. At the water’s edge on the far side there were also a few Moorhens.
Just as we left Tucking Mill to walk back, a juvenile Cormorant was pointed out – it was sitting at the top of a tree over in the field, and then a Buzzard appeared overhead – a perfect way to end our outing in which we had seen and/or heard 24 species.
By Tania Orgill – PlayWood Forest School & Outdoor Learning