Despite having good views of waxwings in January, I've still been keeping my eyes open in the hope of another chance encounter so when I learnt a flock had been seen in Ladywalk NR car park yesterday I decided to head over to Hams Hall Business Park today on the off chance they were still around. Some of the berry trees I have been intermittently checking on the Park since the waxwing irruption started last autumn are very close to the entrance to Ladywalk. Predictably, there was no sign of any waxwings - in fact the highlight of a drive round the Business Park were two Canada Geese near the pool!
I did manage to add a new species to the year list though when I spotted a flock of around 25 yellowhammers in a stubble field along a lane on the way home in exactly the same place that my daughter and I saw a flock in March 2 years ago.
Yellowhammers are one of my favourite birds and I love seeing a male perched in a tree in the Spring singing his "little bit of bread and no cheese" song. Yellowhammers began to decline on farmland in the mid-1980's due to factors such as loss of winter stubble and reductions in the amount of winter seed available due to agricultural intensification and they were added to the "Red List" of birds of conservation concern in 2002. So a sighting of a flock of these birds is always special. They have alternative names such as Yellow Amber, Yellow Bunting and Scribbling Lark (the latter name comes from the markings on their eggs).
The flock kept flitting ahead of me as I walked along the lane just in the way the poet Andrew Young described in his poem "Yellowhammers"
"All up the grassy many-tracked sheep walk,
Low sun on my right hand, hedge on my left,
Blotted by a late leaf, else leaf bereft,
I drove my golden flock.
Yellow-hammers, gold-headed, russet-backed,
They fled in jerky flight before my feet,
Or pecked in the green ranks of winter wheat,
While I my footsteps slacked."
I also saw plenty of pheasants and chaffinches nearby and a pair of buzzards soaring.
Mallard on a grassy bank at Shustoke Reservoir
In recent weeks I've also added jay and red-legged partridge seen locally to the 2011list.
Back in the garden, several more clumps of frogspawn have been laid and the original clump has already sunk below the surface of the water. Its going to be colder tonight and I'm just hoping we don't get a ground frost.
Up on Swallow Heights
5 hours ago