A mid-afternoon walk at the beginning of May, started my new patch list off in amazing fashion. The weather was cool and it was a cloudy day, it still didn't feel like Spring had sprung but despite this a number of returning Warblers were in good song. First a Chiffchaff calling from a nearby copse followed by another some way off in the distance. It wasn't long that these were followed by a singing Male Blackcap, which after some patience eventually showed well before hopping back down in to the undergrowth. A Red Kite slowly drifted overhead and on towards a nearby wood flushing a number of Lapwing as it passed over the fields, the agitated Lapwings took to the air and began to mob the Red Kite aggressively forcing it to quicken it's pace and it was soon lost to view as it dropped in to the woods.
A good number of Linnet, Goldfinch and Yellowhammer were present in the hedgerows, popping up in to view as they were approached and then flying further down the hedgerow to repeat the process. There were a good number of Blackbirds along the nearby lanes, verges and hedgerows and I scanned each individual just in case. Skylarks were singing from above and could be heard from all the adjacent fields, 3 Pied Wagtails and a few Starlings paraded amongst a number of Horses grazing in the fields.
It was after scanning the fields that I picked up on a call I recognised, it called briefly then fell silent leaving me angling my ear in the direction of the call. I walked along the lane finally finding a gap in the hedge to look in to the field, I instantly found what had been calling and lifting my bins to look along the underside of the adjacent hedge there stood a pair of Grey Partridges, they showed really well and I cursed myself for not having my camera. They eventually ran across the field gaining pace before taking flight and disappearing in to the next field, I was pretty pleased to have found them and within ten minutes I had also spotted a few Red-legged Partridges feeding amongst Pheasants in another field.
There was one field that looked quite promising, the majority of which was planted with what I recall was rapeseed and stretched almost a far as you could see. The shoots sprouting from the soil made it a perfect hiding place for Pheasant, Partridge, a number Corvids, Skylarks and anything else that could hide amongst the crops. It was difficult to see all parts of the field due to the lay-out of the surrounding hedgerows. From one viewpoint I spied another group of 5 or 6 Blackbirds, a few Wood Pigeon and what looked to be a Wheatear foraging on a stubbled section of ground alongside a hedgerow.
I made my way along the lane to find a better view and eventually found a small gap in the hedge which I could look through. I jokingly said to my girlfriend that I was going to check through the Blackbirds just in case there was a Ring Ouzel amongst them. I got a complete shock when I got straight on to a female Ring Ouzel through my binoculars, in fact I had to do a double-take but amazingly it was still there. It showed really well for 2 or 3 minutes with close views before everything suddenly took flight in every direction with the Ring Ouzel disappearing across the field and in to the surrounding crops. We waited finding a female Wheatear but the Ouzel failed to return.
Better was to come and a few days later a male Ring Ouzel was now showing well in the same strip of rough ground, thankfully Jerry O'Brien managed to get these fantastic photos of this normally timid species.
More of Jerry's amazing photos can be found at his "Birds of Berkshire" website