Silence at the Stones

For my bird fix this afternoon I headed for Fyfield Down. On the drive to Rockley from where it is just over a mile to walk. I saw four Buzzards soaring together and also a Kestrel.  As I got out of the car at Rockley I heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming, I worked out which tree it was in but couldn’t find it. Heading up the track to the downs I heard a Raven, didn’t see this one either. Approaching Fyfield I could hear a Song Thrush singing and actually managed to see it. A Mistle Thrush was also seen. Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge and Sparrowhawk were all added to the list as was the first of three or four heard only Green Woodpeckers. I walked through a very muddy Totterdown Wood and didn’t hear or see a single bird. There were however many drifts of Snowdrops. Back out in the open I found a largish mixed flock of corvids and another of Starlings. From a high point I scanned the gorse clumps and small trees in the vain hope of finding a Shrike. All I managed were a Dunnock and a Great Tit. Fyfield Down is internationally important for its archaeological interest and is part of a World Heritage Site. Many hundreds of Sarsen Stones are scattered across the area.P1170096 (1024x753) Making use of one of the larger stones I sat and had some coffee. As I sat enjoying the views I realised that, other than a mere whisper of wind there was not another sound, a rare thing around here. This lasted for more than a minute before the silence was broken by a few Fieldfares chattering as they flew overhead. A Skylark was distantly heard as it rose into the air singing but apart from a few Jackdaws the birds seemed to have all gone. Following the tracks along past the old house I found another vantage point. I poured another coffee and started to scan the area. Three Buzzards and two Hares were seen on the ground and after about ten minutes, at around a quarter to four I caught a glimpse of a Barn Owl. A minute or so later it reappeared as it hunted low over the grass. I watched it for a few minutes before it flew into the trees that surround the old house. By now it was time to head back towards the car which was a good couple of miles away. I stopped to watch a Yellowhammer that was singing on the top of a Hawthorn bush. As I watched I caught a movement as a bird flew up. Getting it in the bins I realised that it was a Woodcock. Although I have seen one here before it still seems an unusual place to see one. A year tick and a great bird to finish off the walk.

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