Ken and Sarah White led an early morning springtime bird song walk on Sunday 8 May, starting at 6am from the car park of the Rowbarge Inn at Woolhampton. During the walk, a total of 47 species were identified, 16 from song, 10 from calls and 21 by visual identification. The walk started out along the track across the road. On the Society’s previous visit a year ago, the vegetation to the right of the track had been waist high and a Sedge Warbler had been singing there. Following over a month without significant rain, the vegetation was knee high, with no suitable cover for a Sedge Warbler. The walk continued to the Kennet and Avon Canal, then turned back westwards along the towpath. Singing loudly from the adjoining village gardens and woodland were Song Thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Dunnock and Wren. A pair of Grey Wagtails were lingering around the lock gates and collecting nesting material. Looking backwards through the branches of a big bankside Sycamore tree, sunbeams from the rising sun were picked out by mist rising from the waters of the canal. Continuing for a short distance along the towpath, a barking Muntjac deer, a Treecreeper and a distant Cuckoo were heard. The route then led southwards along a track through various fishing lakes, where Reed and Cetti’s Warblers were singing. Several Great Crested Grebes and a male Mandarin were seen here. Presumably a female Mandarin was hidden away somewhere, sitting on eggs. To everyone’s delight, the wandering voice of the Cuckoo came nearer and nearer, while in the distance, a second bird was heard. The group paused to survey the open waters of Rowney Predator Lake, where species seen included Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe. A great disappointment was the absence of a floating raft – which the numerous Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls were clearly missing as a suitable nesting site. Further Song Thrushes and Blackcaps lined the route while circumnavigating anticlockwise around the lake. A pair of geese escorted four young goslings on the water and a Muntjac deer was seen in an adjacent field. Eventually the first of three Garden Warblers was found and soon afterwards the unmistakable strains of a Nightingale were heard, emanating from the well-vegetated margins of a pond near the former gravel works stock yard. A nearby recently harrowed field had a vigilant Lapwing and Stock Doves foraging on it and brief snatches of Whitethroat song were heard from the wonderfully overgrown boundary hedgerows. A Little Egret flew overhead and a singing Skylark was heard. Back at the car park, Ken and Sarah kindly offered hot drinks and chocolate biscuits to the participants.
Report by Ken White
Pictures by Fiona Brown