With a trusty co-leader like Duncan and 30 enthusiastic walkers we were all set for a brisk trot around this four and a half mile bird walk. From the playgroup school – where three male Blackbirds chased and squabbled, we crossed the village green to find Mistle Thrushes fighting in the trees, Jackdaws all cosy in pairs and Greenfinches singing lustily from atop the, as yet, budless trees. Along Roach’s Lane where the feeders at Corner House were rich in tits and finches, and the trees above us were filled with the sound of chattering Starlings and the soft ‘chuck chuck’ of Fieldfares. They duly lifted off and flew to a single leafless Oak, displaying themselves to us allowing an inspection of size and posture differences. Along the beginning of the Seven Mile Plantation our first raptor of the day, a Buzzard, was perched on a wall, and we enjoyed our coffee break, soaking up the warm sun. Along the first half of the airstrip, we descended to cross the stream where a bright male Yellowhammer showed his canary-colouring to the whole party. As we walked towards Little Badminton several more were seen, along with Fieldfares, Jackdaws and Starlings. Our second and final raptor, a male Kestrel, alighted on the power lines and then flew off towards the American Barn. In the Deer Park, by its northern entrance, we passed the lake where a 14 pair of Canada Geese took to the water and about 150 Common Gulls were at roost on the grass beyond. The final stretch was through the stables and past the kennels, where a lively couple of male Greenfinches called and sang in their best circular swivel-hipped courtship dance, trying desperately to win the favours of the four or five females in the audience. Our tally of 28 species was, alas, missing some we might have expected to see at this time of year and, with the benefit of previous visits, had hoped to: no Chiffchaffs, no Woodpeckers, no Owls, no Ducks, but still, a lovely morning to be out birding.
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