New Year walk (Part 2) swans and yellowhammers

Five of the eight mute swans

Five of the eight mute swans


Part of the skein of pink-footed geese

Part of the skein of pink-footed geese

Eventually tearing myself away from this interesting flock of birds I continued along the track. On my right now I could see that young trees had been planted; some conifers and some young hardwood trees with bare tips just peeping out from the top of their plastic protective tubes. They were short tubes and would give little protection from roe deer, and I wondered about that. At the end of the track I cut right handed into a semi- mature sitka spruce wood. I followed a narrow track through the wood and when I came out to open fields on the far side there was another ditch, even more suitable than the first as water vole habitat. Pity they can’t be re-introduced to these ditches and waterways. I’d heard the wing beats of swans earlier but couldn’t see them. Suddenly a family of eight mute swans came low over my head, the sheer scale of them quite daunting at that close range. The sound of their wings cutting through the air is a delight, only bettered by the sound of whooper swan wings, which is always accompanied by their trumpeting sound as they communicate with each other almost continuously. As I followed the flight of the swans, there were two buzzards, one of them with a breast as white as the swans, hanging in the wind over a small wood. Amazing how they can hang in the wind almost as well as a kestrel.

I now headed back towards the road through another stubble field. I was surprised at the number of meadow pipits that rose ahead of me, the white feathers at either side of their tails being the main identifying feature. There was a pylon in the centre of the field and there was a row of birds on one of the wires. Initially I thought they were more meadow pipits but as I got closer I could see that some of them had bright yellow heads. A view through the binoculars confirmed that at least some of them were yellowhammers, the most I had seen together for some years. There had been a yellowhammer’s nest in a roadside hedge during the summer (not that I saw it but the cock bird was standing guard on the telephone wires above the nest every time I passed). The birds were less than quarter of a mile from the nest site and it would be good to think that these were some of the family from that nest.  Even with my two-hour walk finishing with a skein of pink-footed geese flying over my head, the yellowhammers remained the highlight.

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