Yellowhammer on a branch Geoff HarriesI did the late March Westfield bird survey today for the Common Bird Census. A day of two hats, with a warm woolly one to start in the frost, and a peaked cap to keep the sun of by the end. Birds were dotted all over the farm, no real flocks of anything although the Yellowhammers still had small groups of three or four here and there, and a couple were practicing their song. The only spring migrants were chiffchaffs, with just three along the brook - no doubt more to come. There was a blackcap just outside the farm boundary.

But the best migrant of the day was less than half a mile away on my allotment – I picked a few veg. On my way home and was amazed to see a female black redstart on the gatepost! There are only about four records per year of this smart species in Cambridgeshire.

Back to the Westfield account, winter birds were represented by a half-dozen each redwing and fieldfare, the former singing in the trees by the meander, the latter feeding in Railway field. A small flock of golden plovers flew south over Westfield House, it’s a while before they will go to the moors and mountains where they breed. Our farmland red-list species included four pairs of grey partridge, maybe 10 Skylark territories, a pair of linnets and a third individual elsewhere. A pair of Starlings flew past, but it was mainly the yellowhammers all around the farm that stood out. Too many to tally them from the map.

Other things of note – just one reed bunting, hopefully more to come as spring gets underway. Two song thrush in song and a few others seen. Treecreeper singing by the old railway line. Four moorhens along the brook, one of the beneficiaries of our mink control scheme. A greenfinch near the railway bridge over the brook. One kestrel. Ten hares.

The veg I harvested were mainly destined for my niece's Guinea pigs, which love our spare kale. The family has been in self isolation since my sister-in-law developed possible COVID-19 symptoms, and they have been living out of the well stocked freezer for 10 days, but the Guinea pigs really needed some fresh greens so I delivered them to the front drive, and had a conversation with each member of the family across the drive. It was great to see them all looking well, and hopefully soon they will be allowed out to the shops again. I decided that it was not a strictly necessary journey, so I made it my daily exercise allowance and travelled by bike – just 22 miles each way! I’ve never tried cycling there before, but with so little traffic on the roads it seemed like the right day to give it a go. My second surprise bird observation of the day was a small flock of turkeys which seem to be free-roaming near the A428!

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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