Sunday, 14 November 2021

Hinton Airfield :: 13 November 2021

The Banbury Ornithological Society monitors bird life in the twelve 10km squares surrounding Banbury which includes parts of Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. As well as Banbury, the area cover Bicester, Brackley, Byfield, Chipping Norton, Kineton, Hook Norton, Bartons, Tysoes and locations in between. One of the regular birders John Friendship-Taylor had reported merlin from the Hinton Airfield site, likely two different individuals. I met up with Kevin Heath for a wander round.

Despite the weather forecast of heavy cloud cover, it was due to stay dry; although it didn't rain, there were periods when we were sure you could feel moisture in the air. We set off along the perimeter hedgerow, picking out the usual tits and finches, meadow pipit and skylark over, but also lots of fieldfare and redwing. We reached a field beyond a barn and were watching fieldfare, redwing, yellowhammer and chaffinch on the ground when a flock of c75 golden plover were spooked into the air; at the same time a hare was flushed and it exited stage right. The golden plover dropped behind and to the right of the main mixed flock.

Golden plover
Golden plover

We watched the mixed flock as they fed, trying to pick out something unusual but could only add reed bunting. On a couple of occasions, they were flushed by an unseen adversary and made for the trees. On one of these occasions Kev pointed out two birds on a side branch that looked more interesting - we decided that they were likely brambling and on reviewing some photos it was confirmed - there were probably more but we couldn't pick them out easily at this distance.


A flock of 250+ linnet took to the air and relocated on a few occasions, a small number also landing in the distant trees as they passed. In the hedgerow, running away from the back of the barn, a couple of roe deer watched us watching them.

Roe deer
Roe deer

We continued on seeing buzzard and kestrel but no merlin. There were still plenty of fieldfare, redwing, and finches as we went. We turned to head back towards the runway and were unfortunately joined by two dog walkers - that put paid to any hope of spotting birds on the ground - another group of dog walkers came from the opposite direction too. At the runway we looped back towards the barn and picked out mistle thrush and meadow pipits in trees on the next hedgerow but another dog walker passed us in the field we had hoped to scan.

Meadow pipit
Mistle thrush

Reaching the barn we had a look but couldn't add to our earlier species count and decided to make for the cars and a coffee, encountering another dog walker as we did so. We sat on a log and watched distant magpie, buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel - the kestrel giving a rather attractive if distant display, swooping to and fro. Skylarks displayed in front and behind, a handful at a time. An array of light aircraft took off over our heads, the first containing some mad people looking to jump out, a private small aircraft and then a plane towing a glider.

Glider being towed

Finished with no merlin but had a nice morning out.

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