Sambourne Village

early January to mid-February 2015
Foxes have been visibly active this month. Julie noticed two strolling along at the bottom of their Perrymill Lane garden and another in the field behind. This was the day after the huntsmen were out and about, so perhaps the foxes felt able to relax! Yesterday we paid a visit to the Upton Warren nature reserve and from a hide overlooking The Flashes (shallow pools) we watched a dog fox and a vixen trotting across the field ahead. We gathered they were male and female as they stopped several times to “do what comes naturally”. Although the reserve had nothing unusual it was nice to see large numbers of Lapwing, three Little Egrets, an Oystercatcher and several species of duck including Pochard, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck and Tufted Duck. We were impressed by the amount of work that has been carried out with the help of volunteers to make Upton Warren attractive to more species and more accessible to visitors. Bitterns visit, perhaps they will breed.

We did our RSPB “Big Garden Birdwatch” on the morning of January 24th. We’re normally disappointed that some of the regular visitors don’t turn up, but this time most did and we even had a Song Thrush, which is now quite a rarity in our garden. We counted 20 different species in total. With the field footpaths so muddy we’ve been walking the lanes in preference and were rewarded in Wike Lane with a Common Snipe that was flushed from the field margin and flew over the road. From the lanes we’ve seen large flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings feeding in the fields and the trees and hedges have been full of busy mixed flocks of Tits, while in the trees overhead Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been feeding and drumming regularly. Julie commented on hearing this in January and Chris’s “fat snax” balls have proved to be a great attraction to a Woodpecker.

The light covering of snow on January 31st boosted numbers of birds in the garden with six Lesser Redpolls feeding on the nyger seeds.

early December 2014 to early January 2015
We seem to have had an awful lot of rain since I last reported and this was confirmed when, for the first time, we had a Moorhen visit the garden. It investigated our patio for a short time before moving on to inspect the borders. I know it’s quite a common species around the village, but it still came as a surprise to see it in the garden. More of the regular winter visitors are now in evidence as my jottings show.
8th December. We saw Redpolls, Siskins, Fieldfares and Redwings on a walk along Wike Lane.
9th December. Two Hares, a Kestrel, a Reed Bunting, and many Fieldfares and Redwings were spotted from the footpath to Coughton.
14th December. We watched a mixed flock of Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits in the trees along Wike Lane.
20th December. Garden birds seem to have reached a peak with Goldfinches, a Great Tit and a Nuthatch feeding together on sunflower hearts while a fat block cage was “stuffed” with Long-tailed Tits.
23rd December. We watched two Grey Wagtails where Thundering Brook passes under the A435 at Coughton.
25th December. A nice Christmas gift was the sight of the first two Redpolls of the winter feeding on the nyger seeds.
30th December. Our walk through Coughton Park woods was delayed by several good sightings of Goldcrests. Later, a male Bullfinch appeared in the garden.
9th January. A bit of a “raptorfest” from the footpath to Coughton with views of at least two Kestrels (a male and a female together in a tree), several Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk.
I was hoping to be able to report having seen Comet Lovejoy, but so far overcast skies have defeated me. I hope we all have a garden full of birds for the RSPB Birdwatch on the 24th/25th January.
The mild autumn has gone and the cold weather of winter has arrived. Consequently the rate of consumption of the sunflower hearts by the garden birds has increased dramatically and I’ve just discovered why. Yesterday I noticed to my amazement that the large feeder was half empty only a couple of hours after I’d filled it. Next time I looked there were six Magpies and four Crows clinging to the feeder and shaking it or waiting below to hoover up the fallout. I’ve now purchased a (hopefully) much more robust feeder before they bankrupt me!
Highlights of the past few weeks have been:
16th November. We saw four Fieldfares in trees in Wike Lane – the first this autumn.
18th November. Two Green Woodpeckers were feeding in the garden. I know they’re quite common in and around the village, but I still like to see them. Phil (Middleton Lane) has commented on regular sightings.
25th November. A flock of Long-tailed Tits visited the garden to feed on peanuts. We saw a few Redpolls on our walk to Coughton – again, the first this autumn.
27th November. We spotted two Reed Buntings (male and female) near Sambourne Hall Farm, then a Kestrel. We see one or two Kestrels almost every time we walk this path, which is good as the species has suffered a significant decline in numbers in recent years.
30th November. Pete reported watching a Buzzard perched in a tree in his garden in Middletown Lane. Next time he shops for bird food will he need to add rabbits to his shopping list?
2nd December. A squirrel was seen nibbling a cocktail blini on our bird table. I hope it doesn’t expect such delicacies on a regular basis! Two Goldcrests were squabbling (?) in our hedge, giving Sue one of her best views ever of these lovely little birds.

to mid November 2014
Our highlight of the month was a visit to the Steart Marshes nature reserve, by Bridgewater Bay, Somerset. This is a newly-established reserve managed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust on behalf of the Environment Agency. Here we had wonderful and prolonged views of a pair of Short-eared Owls hunting over reed beds. These spectacular birds hunt by day and the light was perfect. The tidal mudflats where the River Parrett joins the Severn Estuary are important feeding grounds for shorebirds and we saw large flocks of Dunlin as well as smaller groups of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank. Avocets are present, but eluded us. Apparently 386 of them were seen next day!

Closer to home there has been much to comment on. Sharon watched a herd of nine Fallow Deer from the footpath to Coughton. Pete has noticed a white Pheasant, including in his Middletown Lane garden and Chris had a Red Admiral in his garden on 1st November! Phil B. was thrilled to see a Peregrine fly over the village and even provide a bit of a display. This was interesting as a couple of days earlier I was fairly sure I’d seen two fly over, one performing a “stoop” – an attacking dive with the wings folded back. Our own bird sightings of note have included two juvenile Reed Buntings, some Yellowhammers and a Kestrel near Sambourne Hall Farm, Mistle Thrushes on several occasions, and the first of the winter visitors in the form of a small flock of Redwing. Our local highlight was a pair of Stonechats looking out for insect prey from a hedgerow near Glebe Farm. This is the first time we’ve seen this species in the area. Our garden is again full of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Tits and Nuthatches since we restarted the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Finally, David watched a Fox trotting nonchalantly down Perrymill Lane around midday last Saturday!

mid May to mid June 2014
Top nature sighting this month was undoubtedly Roy spotting a Grass Snake swimming in his garden pond.
The crowning glory was seeing it on a second occasion, this time it had caught a frog and Roy was actually able to photograph it.
Also in the past month:
13th May. The fat block hanging in the garden barely touched for weeks has suddenly become a centre of attention for an adult Starling feeding young.
14th to16th May. We had three days walking parts of the coastal path in south Pembrokeshire.
Along with the splendid scenery we enjoyed sightings of the local specialities including Razorbills, Guillemots, Fulmars, Gannets, Puffins and Choughs.
The most abundant butterfly was the Wall Brown, now thought to be extinct in Warwickshire.
17th May. A Cuckoo calling could be heard clearly from our garden.
19th May. We saw two Fallow Deer and three hares on an evening walk home from Coughton.
23rd May. A fat block now disappears in couple of days as Great Spotted Woodpeckers and members of the Crow family are tucking in!
24th May. Chris reported having watched a family of newly fledged Goldfinches in his garden in Middletown Lane.
28th May. A Muntjac Deer spent an hour in Pete’s garden in Middletown Lane.
7th June. Red Kites continue to spread. We watched one flying over the Cotswolds, south of Stroud.
9th June. We were impressed by a large and noisy beetle that landed on a patio plant. On inspection this turned out to be a Common Cockchafer
– not a welcome guest as they cause significant damage to plants, particularly cereal crops.
11th June. We saw two Hares and heard prolonged Cuckoo calling on a late evening walk to and from Coughton.
12th June. As we walked near Glebe Farm in the evening we heard more persistent Cuckoo calls and saw a small flock of Linnets.

mid April to mid May 2014
Although the spring weather has been rather mixed so far, nature has been responding to the generally mild weather as can be seen from the following chronology.
14th April. The first Orange-tip butterfly appeared in our garden. Skylarks were seen and heard singing over fields beyond Glebe Farm. There have been more sightings since.
16th April. We saw the first Swallows overhead. Pete reported hearing a Cuckoo calling near Wike Lane. Over the next few days several people heard calling in the vicinity of Glebe farm. Are we to be the only Sambourne residents not to hear a Cuckoo? We saw two Hares in fields between Sambourne and Coughton.
18th April. We heard the song then saw the singing Whitethroat by Willis’s field off Sambourne Lane.
21st April. Three Bullfinches and two Redpolls have again brightened up the seed feeders after a short absence.
22nd April. Thirteen Fallow Deer were grazing in a field by the path from Coughton and dashed into the adjacent copse when they spotted us. A Siskin has returned to our garden. More Swallows seen around the village.
2nd May. On an evening walk home from Coughton we saw five Hares and a Little Owl. Bluebells in Coughton Park woods must be at their peak now.
6th May. From our garden we could hear a Cuckoo calling.
8th May. We saw Swifts for the first time this spring
10th May. A Nuthatch has started to visit the sunflower hearts regularly and I wonder if it’s feeding young nearby.

April 2014
What a wonderful time of year this is! There are signs of springtime everywhere and the following are some of our highlights:
14th March. We managed to walk though Coughton Park woods, although it is still a quagmire in places. We saw a lot of frogspawn in water-filled wheel ruts.
16th March. Comma and Peacock butterflies appeared in the garden. Chris commented on the bird activity in Middletown Lane and referred to high levels of “nestosterone”!
22nd March. A Little Owl was calling loudly from the hedgerow across the field behind us.
23rd March. It was amusing to see Mallards swimming in a large puddle in Wike Lane.
24th March. We put some stale “Café Curl” wafer biscuits on the bird table, but the first to find them was a Squirrel. It picked one up in its front paws and as it sat at the front of the table it gave the impression it was playing it like a clarinet – but it soon got munched.
28th March. We saw and heard Chiffchaffs in Wike Lane for the first time this spring. We watched a Goldcrest on the same walk.
3rd April. A Blackcap was singing in the small copse below the Ridgeway by the footpath down to Whitemoor Lane.
4th April. On a walk on the footpath from Coughton to Sambourne we saw a Yellowhammer, a flock of 10 or more Linnets and two Reed Buntings (a male and a female) – the first time we’ve seen any on this walk. Chiffchaffs are now being heard and seen regularly.
Phil B. has reported many sightings from Middletown Lane, perhaps the most significant being a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Kestrel and Skylarks.
Lorraine has seen a Mink on the bank of the River Arrow behind Coughton Court and her garden in Middletown Lane has become a home for up to 14 Pheasants!

March 2014
Oh Joy! – It’s stopped raining and the sun has come out! Over the past few days we’ve noticed a number of signs of the arrival of springtime. Good numbers of Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies are around in the village, wild garlic is shooting in Wyke Lane, pussy willow is visible and the hawthorn hedgerows are sprouting leaves. Also, the daffodils planted around the Sambourne and Middletown signs by parish councillors and willing helpers are starting to give a fine display.
Other sightings over the past few weeks have included:
16th Feb. As we drove homewards on the A46 near Salford Priors around 11pm a Barn Owl flew over us.
23rd Feb. The Barn Owl experience was repeated in the same vicinity.
Gold-, Green-, Chaff- and Bullfinches have continued to rapidly empty our garden sunflower seed feeders, ably assisted by Redpolls, Siskins and Tits. However, our visitor numbers have been greatly exceeded by Lorraine’s in Middletown Lane. She reports having up to 30 Redpoll at a time, 6 Bullfinches, a pair of Siskins and a male Blackcap. A Fox, Treecreeper and Nuthatch are also regular visitors to her garden. Her other sightings have included a Stoat near the ford at Coughton, and 5 Green Woodpeckers by the footpath between Coughton and Sambourne.
Justin telephoned to report an unusual bird in his garden. From the description it sounded like a warbler, although with tricky lighting conditions we weren’t able to work out what it was. It’s rather early for a summer visitor, but Chiffchaffs are starting to overwinter in southern England, so perhaps it was one of those. It reminds me that we should be seeing and hearing the first summer migrant birds in the next two or three weeks. I look forward to that!

February 2014
Middletown Lane seems to have been the nature-watching hotspot over the past month. Phil B. reported five pheasants in the garden and many good views of Buzzards in the field behind. Also present were Tits, Bullfinches, Fieldfares and Redwings. Of particular interest were Waxwings and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which has been regular in the garden. This species has seriously declined in numbers in recent years and is now quite scarce so it’s good to know of its presence in the area. Two foxes have also been providing entertainment in the field. Pete J. has had a Buzzard as a regular visitor to the garden to feed on the lawn. However, it was conspicuous by its absence when Pete was carrying out the RSPB Garden Birdwatch!!
We missed out on the Garden Birdwatch as we spent a couple of weeks in Oman to see the birdlife and to get a feel for the country. No birding trip would be complete without a visit to a landfill site, where there were hundreds of Steppe and Imperial Eagles and even more storks, or to a water treatment plant (a polite term!) where plovers, sandpipers, herons and other shore birds were present in large numbers. Oman is a fascinating, fast developing country. We stayed in three locations – the capital, Muscat where we spent some time on the coast and some in the nearby mountain range. Next we spent a couple of nights in the desert, known as the “Empty Quarter”. The main focus here was the flocks of hundreds of Sandgrouse that fly into an oasis to drink. Finally we moved on to Salalah on the south coast of Oman close to the border with Yemen. Here we enjoyed more beautiful coastal and mountain scenery and visited a large area of irrigated farmland for a quite different habitat and new birds. In total we saw just short of two hundred species. There was some sightseeing as well as birding and one evening we visited a Souk to stock up on frankincense!
On our return to Sambourne we thought the birds had abandoned us due to the empty feeders, but after topping them up we were quickly rewarded by the return of Redpolls and Siskins.

January 2014
The recent wet weather has confined our exercise walks to the local roads and lanes to avoid wading through mud. Typically this would be a walk to the ford at Coughton and back. This afternoon on just such a walk along Wike Lane, we were pleased to see a Kestrel fly over. We tend to think of Kestrels as quite common birds, but in fact there has been a significant decrease in their numbers in recent years due to agricultural intensification and land use changes. This Kestrel reminded me of other wildlife sightings we’ve seen in Wike Lane and it struck me just what a wildlife haven this is – usually with more to be seen than in the fields. Within the past week we have watched a party of at least 8 Coal Tits in the oak trees lining the lane, numerous Redwings and Fieldfares perched in the treetops along with the odd Mistle Thrush, a Sparrowhawk flew over, and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers drew our attention with their loud drumming. A small herd of Fallow Deer crossed the lane ahead of us. Yesterday Pete saw a Grey Wagtail where Cain Brook passes under the road near the “Sambourne” sign. There are always Robins, parties of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, finches and, at this time of year, often Redpolls and Siskins feeding in the trees and bushes. I’m sure we all eagerly await the first signs of spring. Wike Lane has provided again with ever more obvious catkins and leaves sprouting on the honeysuckle.
We are blessed with what is on our doorstep and long may it continue.
Other sightings:
29th Dec. We had a very brief view of a Kingfisher upstream from the ford.
2nd Jan. Two Little Grebes were still present on the River Arrow at Coughton.