Many village gardens will host 30 – 40 species during the course of a year, depending on how diverse the habitat is and whether you feed birds. In addition to common species that visit weekly, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch can be regular visitors to peanut feeders, but you need to keep your eyes peeled for rarer visitors, like Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Siskin and even Blackcap in winter, as well as the not-so-welcome Sparrowhawk swooping through your garden.
Around the village, you will see Pied Wagtails on rooftops, House Martin and Swallow swirling around and entering their mud nests, or lined up on overhead wires preparing for migration in the autumn, and the occasional small group of Swift screaming overhead. Increasingly, a single or pair of Red Kite regularly hover overhead or higher up in the thermals with Buzzards. The “yaffling” of Green Woodpecker from old orchards and ant-infested grassland is quite common, as are the “clacking” of Fieldfare and Redwing congregating to eat fallen apples in the autumn.
Along the roads and footpaths, Yellowhammer and Linnet are always flitting around, Skylark can be heard singing above the cornfields and sometimes the scratchy song of a Whitethroat in a hedgerow, and a pair of Bullfinch or a Yellow Wagtail may occasionally show themselves. A Kestrel on overhead wires is not uncommon, as is the silhouette of a Barn Owl or Little Owl flying across the road at dusk.
Of course, Kenchester Pools and the field ponds hold a good array of water birds and waders, with Shelduck (breeding for the first time in 2019), Goosander, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher and Snipe showing up most years and occasionally rarities like Avocet and Little Ringed Plover show up for a day or two.
For early-risers at 5.00 am, there is nothing quite like the dawn chorus in May as species join together to welcome the new day, although the evening song of Blackbirds lined up on the village chimney pots is a lovely ending to summer days. Of course, a Cuckoo heard singing during May/June is always a bonus.
The Herefordshire Ornithological Club has the latest news on sightings in the area and is ideal for anyone interested in birds within our county.
Written by Mervyn Davies, Bishopstone resident.