I am a dog owner and I’m keen on birds. I am also acutely aware that these two do not always go together. But life is busy so often my ‘bird watching’ is done in the company of a boisterous border collie. When we head off for our morning constitutional I take my binoculars.
Christmas has been great because we have had time to take a longer more leisurely stroll and at this time of year with bare trees even a rank novice like me can manage to spot a fair number of birds along the way.
Our normal early morning route takes us across farm land and along the banks of the river Adur. The other morning I mentally ticked off seventeen different species of bird as we walked. The first part of our journey is down a country lane; large houses, lots of neat tidy hedges and carefully mown lawns and one wildlife friendly garden which is less well kempt and has bird feeders tucked amongst shrubs. Here are all the usual garden culprits; smart great tits, demure blue tits, chaffinches swinging from the feeders and sparrows and brown dunnocks rummaging beneath in the fallen leaves for discarded seeds. White doves float gracefully above old flint farm buildings and pigeons skirmish in the tree tops.
Then it is across farmland and down alongside a drainage ditch to the river. A pair of moorhens play hide and seek amongst the reeds in the stream, a formation of cormorants cross the pink morning sky and noisy crows flapped lazily over head. The water meadows beside the river have flooded and I pick out lapwings amongst the young black headed gulls. Two young swans stand aloof.
Moving away from the river I look for the smart male stonechat that often sits on the fence along the edge of the field. His mate is flitting up and down as well. She lacks the black head and red breast of her good looking husband.
The path home follows the line of an old railway track edged with blackthorn, hawthorn and ancient elder. There is a scurry of activity as we approach and half a dozen agile, acrobatic long tailed tits flit from branch to branch. As we turn across the field back to the lane a flock of fifty or more fieldfares rise from the grass and smother the tall tangled boundary hedge. The flash of white beneath their wings and the grey rump distinguishes them from other thrushes. The winter brings them down from the north to feed and to make my early morning walk with the dog special.
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