Monday, 20 February 2012

"Isn't that a Heron?"

My able assistants......

Yesterday we did our second 2 Tetrads for the Devon Bird Atlas survey. The first was a couple of kms South of Culmstock. We parked up near to Leigh Hill Farm & saw a Nuthatch before we’d started the clock. We took Vera for a nice wander across the fields but didn’t see anything too exciting, just a few Jackdaws & Rooks, some tits & Chaffinches & 3 Buzzards circling overhead. 

We didn’t want to walk V too far, so headed back to the van to change locations. Simon spotted a bird, which I identified as a Goldcrest, in a tree by the van. It’s definitely handy having an extra pair of eyes.

The terraced fish farm 

We drove through a ford to a road opposite a fish farm. I couldn’t actually see much water surface & everything was netted, but I was disappointed at seeing no birds at all. After about 10 minutes I decided to relocate & commented to Simon that I was surprised we hadn’t even seen an optimistic Heron.  “Isn’t that a Heron” he said, as one flew behind my head & landed in a tree overlooking the fish ponds!

Great views..... 

We then drove through an area of woodland to a footpath for the remainder of the hour. There were fantastic views as we were right on the edge of the Blackdown Hills. The footpath passed behind a house with feeders & as is usually the case, the birds were congregating in the vicinity, so notched up a few more Blue Tits & Chaffinches along with a single House Sparrow & at least one Goldfinch which I could hear but not see.

As we walked back to the van a farmer came over to see what we were up to as we’d parked near his house. We explained & he was quite interested, telling us about the birds that regularly visit his garden & feeders.

We’d seen 18 species in the hour, plus the Nuthatch & a Song Thrush that we’d seen before & after. By now it was almost time for lunch, so we relocated to a lay-by next to the first footpath we were planning to try in the adjoining Tetrad.

A controversial lunch spot

We had our butties & a mug of tea whilst watching the birds flitting about in the hedge along the road up ahead. Directly ahead was a tall hedge so we couldn’t see into the garden of the house there, but judging by the amount of activity, there must have been a few feeders. Top of the visitors list was a Siskin, only the second time I’ve seen one this year, and a White Wagtail, the Continental version of the Pied Wagtail.

We’d been there about 20 minutes & were just waiting for a sleet shower to stop when a red faced chap stormed across the road from a house to our left. It was an immaculate house behind an immaculate wall, all a bit ‘biscuit-tin’; he probably moved there after watching ‘A home in the Country’ or one of the other property shows. He demanded to know what we were doing, sitting there with binoculars.  Apparently, we were making him feel uncomfortable. I explained about the Bird Survey, at which he blustered and said once more that we were making him uncomfortable & demanded that we leave forthwith. I said that we were actually about to walk down the Public Footpath to conduct our survey. He was literally trembling and looked as if he might burst into tears at any moment. Simon suggested he may have been a Vauxhall enthusiast and the fact we hadn`t washed, hoovered or changed the pollen filter in the van for four years was too much to bear.  But we just smiled and I told him we would be off soon enough. I could have mentioned that we were on a Public Highway, about to walk down a Public Footpath, and that he was a knob; oh, and the fact that we would be back 3 more times this year, but I didn’t. Any extra twisting of his knickers could have resulted in permanent damage.

OK, fair enough to come and enquire what we were doing, but something of an over-reaction to a couple of people eating sandwiches in a lay-by in broad daylight. I hope he never meets a villain. 

We went off for a walk as planned & there was a nice mix of woodland & open fields, a nice view & quite a few birds, including a flock of 25 Stock Dove, 6 Redwing & 2 Bullfinch.

Back to the van & off to another footpath. This one was a bit difficult for Vera as the first half was a bog, the second half was rocky, then the way was blocked by an electric fence. Just scanned for a while before going off to find our last footpath. This one went through a sheep field so we left V in the van as we had to cross another electric fence. We’d parked in the entrance to the field, and as we came back the farmers arrived and parked beside us to check the sheep. They were friendly, interested in what we’d seen & told us that they quite often get Lapwings in the cold weather.

A rocky path
and a sheep field

We’d seen 24 species, 22 during the hour.

Headed for home having seen a variety of birds & met a variety of ‘locals’......


  1. Very entertaining read. I'm still chuckling!

  2. Think you need an Official ID badge & paperwork. hw

  3. You can get them & I would if I was going to ask to go onto private land, but as we're sticking to roads & Public Footpaths, it's not really necessary. That bloke was just a twit & paperwork wouldn't have made any difference!