A Canons Top Ten
|There's a good bird at the end of that rainbow!
The Top Ten. Either the lazy fall-back option for an uninspired blogger, or a chance to celebrate the good times.
When I first stumbled across Canons Farm back in 2002 I had no idea that the place would provide me (and others) with so many happy hours of good birding. On the surface it is an unremarkable area of open farmland (with no open water), where crops are intensively grown so that arable weeds (and the resultant seeds) are largely missing. It does retain hedgerows and copses and is positioned at a high elevation which helps to attract migrants and is always worth a check. My personal Top Ten highlights are, in chronological order:
An enormous finch flock gathered on Broad Field to take advantage of a flattened and un-harvested Flax crop. They comprised largely Chaffinches and Bramblings and over the course of the month these numbers attracted quite a few birders to the farm. Throughout the month the volume of birds did fluctuate, and when they came together they made for a spectacular sight, a vast wheeling flock of c2500 finches. Chaffinches peaked at 1,650 on 5th and 1,600 on 24th. Brambling highest counts were 800 on 13th and 1,200 on 20th. If only we had fields full of seed each and every winter…
9th November 2010
The previous evening David C had watched a male Hen Harrier quartering the fields east of Canons Farmhouse at dusk and it appeared to go to roost. Along with two other birders I was on site before first light, hidden behind a hedgerow bordering the roost field. As light crept over the farmland a pale shape began to appear out in the coarse grassland, and soon morphed into our hoped-for prize. We had little time to take it in, as it soon took to the air and, like a bullet, left eastwards with little ceremony.
17th April 2011
It had been a Waxwing winter, and the farm had enjoyed a few brief fly-overs, but it was not until a flock of 50+ made the Ballard’s Green gardens home that they could be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Whenever birding in residential areas I feel self-conscious and uncomfortable, so I didn't stay with them for as long as I would have liked.
21st May 2011
A calling Quail had been picked up in the morning, frequenting Horse Pasture field. When I turned up mid-afternoon there were a number of frustrated birders who had spent hours staring into the rank grass with just the frequent calling to let them know that the bird was still present. I took myself off and walked down the lane at the southern boundary of the field in question. When the Quail started up again it was very close, so I inched towards the fence, peered into the grass and was confronted with a head-and-shoulders view of the bird, head back, bill open, throat shaking!
4th May 2012
When Roy W and David C watched open-mouthed as a flock of 15 Dotterel flew onto Heathside Field I was luckily at home - the explosion of tweets and texts soon had me on the move and together with a constant procession of admirers was able to feast my eyes over the exotic and colourful gathering.
6th October 2012
A drab afternoon saw me cut my loses and start for home earlier than I had planned. Cutting across Pipit Meadow my attention was drawn to a movement just a few yards ahead of me. A quick lift of the binoculars soon had me appreciating a flock of three Woodlarks that were working their way across the stubble. Alas, they stayed just a few minutes before taking off and departing. Even the deadliest dull day has the potential to turn itself around.
28/29 February 2016
The farm is not renowned as a place for gulls, so when the farmer ploughed up the fields - which fortuitously coincided with the Beddington landfill operation being closed - they uncharacteristically streamed in. A first-winter Iceland Gull spent a good few hours loafing about on the first date, followed by two adult Mediterranean Gulls the following day.
7th March 2016
A very quiet morning was suddenly awakened when Geoff B came across a smart Dartford Warbler that was being faithful to a straggly length of trackside vegetation close to Perrott’s Farmhouse. It stayed long enough for me to hot-foot it to the farm and share in the experience.
21st September 2017
An early morning start revealed that hirundines were already on the move southwards. I stood rooted to the spot for the next six hours as wave after wave of House Martins and Swallows passed by. They were constantly in view and from time to time huge pulses were observed – in one unforgettable moment a swarm of 2,000 birds surrounded us. As impressive as the final totals of 6,710 House Martins and 4,000 Swallows were, the numbers didn’t do it justice.
28th February 2018
The 'Beast from the East' caused a south-westward movement of birds over the farm, with record numbers of Lapwing (617) and Golden Plover (170) for the site - both species that are normally hard to come by.