And so we have snow. Which always brings the birds closer. At first light my tiny garden held a female Blackcap, 2 Fieldfares and a Reed Bunting, plus all the usual residents:
A Red Kite drifts down the Thame Valley:
I drove past the area of set-aside, pictured below, between Little Milton and Cuddesdon. Although presumably providing food and cover for Pheasants for the shooting industry, it was certainly helping out the wild bird population today. This tiny area of unharvested wheat held 50 Reed Buntings, 25 Yellowhammers and smaller numbers of Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Imagine if all of the local fields were left as stubble for the winter, with wheat being planted in Spring, as used to be the case. The positive effect for wild farmland bird populations would be enormous. Wonder why we have lost 50% of our farmland birds in the last 20 years? Look no further than the birdless fields around the set-aside.
A happy hedgerow with glowing finches in reflected snowlight
About 50 Skylark were also feeding on the edges of the set-aside, rising and swirling in response to any passing raptor:
This Kestrel was surprising on two fronts. Firstly, it stayed put for long enough for me to get a picture; and secondly, it has a ring on its right leg:
I ended the morning by entering a local wood. Three years go Phil Barnett told me there were Woodcock on the far side, but I have never found any there. Being a cold morning after heavy snow, it seemed as good a morning as any to go Woodcock hunting. The wood was full of the tracks of rabbits, deer and Pheasants and it only took about 10 minutes before there was a movement on the woodland floor and a rusty brown bird darted away between the trees. My first local Woodcock. Not the same as flushing my own from the ditches of the River Thame, but nice anyway. The 103rd species for the area and first new addition since August 2011, some 16 months ago.