Despite the lack of posts I have been birding these last few months. Quite frequently. It's just been a bit ... well, you all know.
Anyway, some decent report from the high ground west of our village, and a promising wind/cloud combination, so I met up with Mike at the local cemetery and headed up to the 'hills'.
Mike had seen a few hundred Golden Plover from a local lay-by, so we were on the look out and soon a flock was seen in the air, about 160, wheeling away. They came down just over the brow. We carried on, and on gaining a vantage point we looked but could not see them. We carried on along the ridge with the soft piping still carrying on around us, and then I noticed in the ploughed field next to us a wing, briefly raised.
We scanned, and there, about 70 yards from us, were Golden Plover. Almost invisible, their brown mottled backs perfectly matching the ploughed field, and the ridges and furrows meant quite a lot of backs just visible. But clearly, there was the flock, and as we scanned, the flock went on and on.
We counted, compared, counted again, blocks of 50, blocks of 10, and together with the ones we had seen go down behind us came to our final total. 880.
A spring Golden Plover is something to behold. That bold black underbelly, neck, and face. There were a few like that. Amazing, that here in rural England a bird as spectacular as this should be in our fields. What spring birding is all about.
Local lore has it that there always used to be flocks of Golden Plover up here, but now they've gone. I would contend that there were sometimes flocks of Golden Plovers up here, and there are still sometimes flocks of Golden Plovers up here. Particularly in hard weather, or in spring and autumn migrations. But this was without doubt the biggest I've seen. If I'm blessed with longevity and still here in ten years, someone will mention Golden Plover and I'll casually drop in the day I had a flock of 880 birds. And the memory of scanning across the flock, the birds lifting their wings, softly piping away, with a dash of jet black bellies, will come back.
Apart from that it was, well, when there is nothing on the high ground, with its expanse of precision-tilled fields and field edges of uniformly constructed ditches, there really is nothing. We managed 2 pairs of Grey Partridge, 4 Red Kites, the odd Yellowhammer and Meadow Pipit, and a couple of lingering flocks of Fieldfare. Make a note. Might be the last this spring.
I got to wondering how many other species in this area could muster nearly a thousand birds. I would guess Wood Pigeon. Maybe Jackdaw. But then what. A thousand wrens? Almost certainly no. My patch walk has never got above 20. House Sparrows? I'd be surprised, the colonies are discrete and well spaced. Really cannot think of any other species that could challenge that number. So, today, Golden Plover, possibly the third or second commonest bird species in the area.