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Report from Stapleford Bird Club - 4th May 2013

On a cloudy, cool and windy morning seven bird watchers met at 8 am on Saturday 4 May in the car park. A combination of warmer weather, more available food sources and the cessation of bird feeding meant a much reduced bird population in the car park than in the last few months. We saw only a robin, chaffinch, blue tit and great tit.

On the North Down we saw and heard the first of our summer visitors, a willow warbler, in the trees backing on to the picnic area. A buzzard slowly circled overhead and approximately seven rooks, a crow, five jackdaws and a magpie were seen on the down. Three skylarks sang above and two red legged partridge were seen further up the hill adjacent to Youth Wood.

In the Old Shelter Belt we heard a robin, chaffinch and a great tit. As we walked across the top of the hill we saw in a tree at the edge of Little Trees Hill eight or more goldfinches, together with two blue tits, a chaffinch and two yellowhammers. It has been some time since we last saw so many birds there in one spot! In the clunch pit itself we heard a blackcap and a chaffinch. On a post on the South Down a mistle thrush was perched and approximately 50 birds were on the ground, mainly rooks plus a few jackdaws and possibly some crows. Both North and South Down looked very attractive as they were covered in cowslips.

The Feoffees Fields were empty but we were pleased to see that the hedges surrounding them were beginning to show signs of regrowth following their severe pruning a couple of years ago. We hope that the birds will return when they are able to find adequate shelter there.

At the top end of Villedomer Wood we heard a robin and further down another willow warbler. It was quite windy and as we walked down the hill it started raining. This may have kept the birds under cover as we saw very little in the hedgerow apart from a couple of whitethroats (compared with approximately eight seen a few days earlier!). Also a lot of undergrowth has been lost in replacing the fencing on the dog walk and again may have affected the number of birds there this spring. A solitary swallow flew around us and we could hear a skylark over the arable fields. As we reached Vestey Wood the rain stopped and the sun came out. We heard two blackcaps at either end of the wood, a yellowhammer, blackbird and chiffchaff.

Alongside the A1307 we heard a further two blackcaps, a robin, great tit and possibly a wren. On the South Down there were approximately 25 rooks and three jackdaws. Memorial Wood was very quiet and we heard only a solitary great tit and nothing in Youth Wood. Returning back to the car park we saw a robin in the picnic area and heard a chaffinch.

In all we saw or heard 20 species of birds and it was good to see some summer visitors. Our next meeting will be at 8 am on Saturday 1 June in the car park. All are welcome. Please remember to keep all dogs on short leads on the downland and keep to the mown paths as skylarks are nesting on the ground in the uncut grass.

                                            Sue Bradley