Monday, 14 June 2021

Hinton Airfield :: 12 June 2021

It had been a busy week and by Friday night I was feeling a bit weary. So, when Kevin Heath got in touch and he felt much the same, we decided to give an early start on Saturday a miss and think about Sunday instead. However, I'd then been thinking about where to go, and my mind fell on a site that I've never visited - Hinton Airfield. In the lockdowns John Friendship-Taylor had walked here from his home in Brackley and turned up some interesting birds - I contacted him to confirm the parking spot I'd found on my maps and what a common route around may be. He confirmed the details but also said that he was thinking of going there in the morning if I would like to join him - an opportunity not to me missed, rather than stumbling around on my own.

I arrived slightly early and as I waited I listened to the calling skylark and watched a grey heron over. A calling yellow wagtail caught my attention, and I raised my bins to see it atop a nearby tree. It had a full beak of what I originally thought was nesting material but turned out to be food for the nest. That is how you provision a nest!

Yellow wagtail

John arrived and we set off on the south side of the airfield, spotting another yellow wagtail and yellowhammer ahead. In the bushes to our right, we came across a family of whitethroats, the mother with food for the youngsters hopping excitedly from branch to branch. Soon we came across another family group, this time long-tailed tits. They fed amongst the branches in the hedge, constantly on the move. Looking across the field we could see another yellow wagtail sitting on top of a small dung heap. More whitethroat showed and we were already into double figures.

Long-taled tit
Long-taled tit

We came upon a field where the farmer had left a very wide margin and it was filled with red poppies - it was really a beautiful sight. John stopped to take some photos and I couldn't resist either.

Field of poppies
Field of poppies

We continued passed a barn and came across (another?) family of long-tailed tits and into a large area where some small planes were parked up on the far edge. To our left we spotted a brown hare and watched it moving slowly at first, but then it sauntered across to our right - wrong decision - as a dog and its owner rounded the corner and the dog took off after the hare. No competition. Despite the owner calling on the dog, it tried to follow but the hare opened the gap between them and disappeared into, and presumably through, the hedge.

Brown hare

We came across another brown hare shortly after, more distant but running towards us - it stopped for a short while but then exited stage left, and into the hedge. John headed for a short patch of grass, leading to an area of higher grass and scrub - he had a purpose and soon announced that he'd found some bee orchids - searching around we counted ten. It is odd but we only found two more and not too far from the main group. Continuing into the scrub we saw a butterfly fly past and land ahead - we got up close and John identified it as a small heath - I would have had to check at home but he knows his stuff. Shortly after we had another and this time John identified it as a brown argus.

Bee orchid
Small heath butterfly
Brown Argus butterfly

We circled back to the cars and I was pleased to have had a first visit with someone who knew the area and had some butterfly knowledge. A great visit to somewhere new - it will be on the list for regular visits, especially for spring migrants.

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