Sunday 20 January – Marshfield Leaders: Sue and Nigel Kempson

Twenty of us turned out on this cold day which is testament to Marshfield’s continued popularity. We started out by walking towards the small barn that Little Owl have frequented in the past, but this time they were choosing to either stay warm below roof level, or they just weren’t present. As we passed the barn into Northfield Lane, Starling, Robin and Song Thrush appeared on the list. We then picked up on a coming and going of gulls on the ground which morphed from a century of predominantly Black-heads with a handful of Commons, into a single-species group of 127 Common Gull, with the Black-heads now dispersing all around. The next field that bordered the hotch-potch of Culverslade Farm buildings with its machinery, gave us a flight of 15 Skylarks. We stopped to make some observations on this stubble-covered field where a few more larks and buntings were seen, but this soon became a half-hour immersion of our time with 57 Corn Bunting, 47 Yellowhammers, 50 Goldfinches and half a dozen Chaffinches all sallying from the hedgerow and lower trees into and out of the stubble. As well as these, plenty more of other common species were enjoying this most sought after winter food source. A Buzzard with an apparent limp wing caused us some welfare concerns but soon dispelled any myth of injury by gliding effortlessly, and menacingly on to another nearby vantage point, wings now folded neat and proper. Eventually we left the stubble spectacle and ventured to Rushmead Lane where we took the easterly direction to its end. This location can favour passerines but was almost devoid of them at this time (likely they were all back at Culverslade Farm!) but we were compensated with a flock of 107 Lapwings, most of them in the sky but the ones on the ground were cryptic against the ploughed earth. Back along Rushmead Lane to just past the industrial buildings, five Linnet took flight and three Red-legged Partridges loafed in the hedgerow at the edge of Broadmead Brook. As we pondered the identity of a hedgerow-perched dark raptor, no doubt in the gaze of the skulking partridges, a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare alighted on the ridge and proceeded to feed on the ground. The raptor moved and revealed itself as another Buzzard. There were more gulls, with Herring, Black-headed and Common again all featuring as we walked up West Littleton Road. There’s something about this site that keeps throwing up another spectacular; this time it was Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail. They were feeding at the fence line of the ploughed field and the first horse paddock, another case of ‘the more you look the more you see’ as our count reached an equal 30 pipits and 30 wagtails. Back at the cars, three Blue Tit and a single male House Sparrow gave us a total species count of 33 for the day.
After the cold start this turned out to be a classic Marshfield field trip with all of the wish-list represented. Many thanks to Sue and Nigel for leading the walk and to Nick for his essentially precise tally count, and of course to all for turning out and sharing the birds with such good cheer. Mike Jackson