Tuesday 11 March – Elm Farm, Burnet.

Out at the stewardship scheme acreages of Elm Farm, we walked in the bracing NE wind under a full grey/white sky with plenty of birdlife. From the car park we had splendid views and heard the wheezing call of Greenfinch and there was an addition of five more of these brightly feathered birds, some setting off on circular sprint chases above us. An early Buzzard was seen flopping down into pasture, while along the path to the feeding area where seed is provided during the winter, our group of 29 walkers saw Yellowhammers grouped with Chaffinch and Greenfinch, we counted six calling and singing. Our first sightings of migrating Fieldfare and Redwing occurred at this point – a mixed flock of 27. We caught sight of some more at the bottom of the hill, this time mixed with Starling (a flock of 41).
The Barn Owl boxes we saw round the patch did not appear to be occupied, as was the case with the Kestrel box down by the River Chew. The climb up the hill towards the wood, from which echoed the ‘yaffle’ of Green Woodpecker and the ‘chip chip’ of Great Spotted Woodpecker, drained us of all the energy we’d conserved going downhill! We stopped for a breather and, turning to admire the view, caught sight of a Grey Heron stalking along the back of the pool. Along the path the tiny tracks (slots) of Muntjac were identified, and this miniature deer was seen disappearing into the woods. We too descended to the woods, with hope (vain as it happened) of finding Woodcock. As we climbed towards the farm a Brown Hare was disturbed, which shot away across the fields. Our final bird tally was 32.