Bird Walk 15 February 2020
Gathering at the bottom of Totley Hall Lane always provides a good starting point for our Bird Walks, as it did in February. A flock of Long-tailed Tits were trilling and calling as they moved along the low hedgerow there, while a Dunnock sang perfectly at the top of a small sapling for all to hear.
A small party of birdwatchers had keenly turned out for a breath of fresh air and a nice chat on a windy, rainy morning and were quickly “ticking off” Blackbird, Blue Tit and Starling; 30 of these at the top of an old Ash tree, preening and looking at the surrounding fields perhaps assessing which field to fly down to, to feed.
You can always rely on Woodpigeons as well to put in an appearance. They were constantly flying over in ones and twos and there were also over 80 feeding in a nearby field. Their numbers have exceeded 200 recently in these Totley Hall fields along with a good number of Magpies; “too many” some people say.
Before moving on too far, the opportunity was taken to try to see what species we could “pick up” along the high hedge that borders Totley Hall Lane Playing Field. Goldfinches are guaranteed here these days, calling excitedly as they gather together, a delight to hear and watch. Chaffinches were also present plus Bulfinch and Lesser Redpoll were heard calling deep within the scrub area. These latter two species failed to appear for us to get good views so we had to be satisfied with just hearing the short melancholy notes of the Bullfinch and the distinctive rattling notes of the Redpoll. Our attention was then drawn to a single Black-headed Gull skimming its way overhead in a rocking motion on stiff pointed wings; it was being ably assisted by the wind that was by now, blowing strong.
Time to move on and keep warm. Our next stop found us standing at the junction of paths and fields watching a male Sparrowhawk circling low just on the edge of Gillfield Wood. This was first noticed by one sharp-eyed lady in our party and provided brief views for us all before it turned gracefully on open wings and glided over the wood and out of sight.
The weather conditions were making it difficult; Storm Dennis had a lot to answer for. Little was showing as we continued our walk, not like in the days immediately before when Little Owl, Ravens and Buzzard were seen in the area; good views as well! And a flock of about 150 Redwings and 50 Fieldfares had been seen in one of the fields, these were the winter thrushes we had hoped for but no luck this day. At least one or two members of the group managed to see Redwings in flight and in tree tops on our walk last November.
The weather was not that good on that November walk either, and again birds were difficult to find. It was anticipated the species list that morning would be low so for a bit of fun a target of 20 species was set. Well, for a quiet bunch of folk there was so much excitement at being set such a challenge. The competitiveness was very apparent, especially when a cock Pheasant was seen feeding at the top of a field some distance away; everyone wanted to make sure they saw it, and they did.
Now back to this February walk, our route took us through the wood with the occasional Coal Tit calling “teechu-teechu-teechu” from on high in the Larches. The highlight here was when another lady grabbed everyone’s attention by pointing out a Treecreeper making its way up the side of a tree only a few metres from the group. It is fascinating to watch these tiny creatures quietly going about their business edging their way on bark and branches feeding, sometimes silhouetted against the light from the woodland edge so that you can clearly see its down-curved beak probing away. Quite wonderful.
What more did we see on this walk? Well we had a pair of Mallards floating quietly on a bend in Totley Brook, we had good views of Nuthatches calling in several areas and we spent some time watching House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Great Tits and several other species using a tangled hedgerow as cover and a corridor to move towards a feeding station in the back garden of a house on Rowan Tree.
One more highlight to mention was when we were in the vicinity of the Scout Hut and a party of Siskins were heard and seen feeding in the tops of an Alder. These little finches have broad yellow wing bars, yellow rumps and yellow sides to their tails. Their whistling and twittering “speeoo” call is a give-away; a cracking little bird on which to end our very enjoyable morning out. And yes, we exceeded 20 species again.
Please remember, you do not have to be a member to come along to any of the events run by the Friends of Gillfield Wood and no experience is necessary. You will always be made most welcome. The events are advertised on the FoGW website but things are a bit on hold at the moment as you will appreciate.