Birds on the Estate include barn
owls, long-eared owls and hobbies. The Estate also supports good
numbers of farmland birds whose populations have declined dramatically
in the UK, such as grey partridge, skylark and corn bunting.
has a wide diversity of carefully managed habitats. There is virtually
no water, which precludes many species. However, with miles of
woodland edge and thick hedgerows interspersed with arable and
downland, Cholderton supports large numbers of breeding birds
of many species.
owl Almost 30 owl boxes have been put up in barns across
the Cholderton Estate. As a result, numbers of barn owls have
built up from a single breeding pair to about seven. Rat poison
is not used around the buildings, to ensure that the owls do not
eat poisoned rats. Rat poisons have a cumulative effect, and the
barn owl is top of the food chain and very vulnerable. Few things
compare with the magic of watching a snow-white barn owl as it
glides and stoops.
Abundant throughout the Estate, and best loved as a brilliant
Common all over the Estate, breeding in every suitable locality.
Widely distributed over the more thickly hedged and wooded areas,
bullfinches have increased in numbers in recent years. The scarlet-breasted
male is a glorious addition of colour to hedgerows in late winter.
All the larger woods have resident pairs. Buzzards are not a recent
arrival, as birds were certainly breeding here in the 1950s and
crow Not encouraged, as it is a predator of lapwing chicks
and other ground-nesting birds. Crows also kill newly born lambs,
pecking through the eye and then removing the liver.
Common breeding birds, widespread over the whole area.
Present and common in all wooded areas on the Estate.
dove Common around farm buildings all over the Estate.
bunting Most years will see an overwintering flock of
between 20 and 80 birds at Cholderton. Only a few pairs stay to
breed, and efforts are being made to ensure that areas of rough
grass are left and protected in Stewardship fields in an effort
to provide suitable breeding sites. Corn buntings do not favour
dense hedges, preferring areas of scattered scrub.
Breed on the restored lake at Cholderton Park.
Until recently this was a common bird at Cholderton, but numbers
have fallen in the past two years, apparently owing to conditions
on their wintering grounds in Africa.
Common in many of the hedgerows on lower ground.
This jewel-like species has increased tremendously in the past
few years, no doubt encouraged by the policy of allowing dandelions
to seed in the grass fields and not being overzealous in the control
of thistles and burdock.
warbler Breeds in several of the woods and also in scrubby
Common in most of the lowland woods, breeding in evergreen trees,
warbler Adults are seen every year in crops of winter
oats while they are being combined. Some of these may be migrant
birds, but some do breed here, if not every year.
spotted woodpecker A common breeding bird at Cholderton,
present in all of the woodlands.
Very common in some areas on the Estate, often associated with
woodpecker Now present in all the larger woods and a
common sight in gardens on the Estate, the green woodpecker has
responded to the Estate's policy of maintaining a balance of old
and young trees in the woods. Removing all older trees in a clear
cut would effectively make it impossible for the woodpecker to
partridge It is always exciting to see a pair of grey
partridges, with their plumage of ochre and grey and apparent
mutual devotion. This species has suffered a nationwide decline
of disastrous proportions due to changes in farming practice and
competition from other game birds.
are notorious for laying in grey partridge nests, eventually causing
the grey partridge hen to abandon her nest.
many years' work has been dedicated to attempting to arrest the
decline of this beautiful bird. Measures include legal vermin
control, maintaining a mixed farming system, protecting hedgerows
from animal grazing, turning to a fully organic system, organising
reserve areas all over the Estate where rough grass is left to
provide shelter and nesting cover, and not releasing hen pheasants.
wagtail Grey wagtails breed at the Home Farm Dairy and
near the Victorian walled garden.
It is very difficult to prove that hobbies are breeding in any
given area, as their nests are usually hard to find. However,
hobbies are seen at Cholderton every year, normally hunting swallows
and martins around the farm buildings. It is likely that one of
the outlying woods has a nesting site.
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prowess in aerial acrobatics and supreme elegance, this bird has
no rival. Its crescent wings and flickering flight in high-altitude
pursuit of swallows and martins make it one of the most memorable
of birds. Occasional low-level hunting forays are executed with
great rapidity and with lethal effect. The hobby’s ability
to take dragonflies and dung beetles on the wing and then pause
in mid-air to nip off their wings before eating them is remarkable.
martin This species suffered a disaster on migration
or on the wintering grounds four or five years ago, but numbers
have gradually recovered since. Huge flocks of martins congregate
over the Home Farm in the autumn.
sparrow House sparrows were once a very common bird of
arable fields and adjoining hedges, flying in large flocks to
take grain from ripening crops. Fortunately, a population persisted
around one of the dairies at Cholderton, feeding on waste corn
from the feeding of the dairy cows. This has been so successful
that house sparrows are re-colonising areas and there is once
again a thriving population at Home Farm.
Common on the Estate and nesting in many of the older farm buildings.
These birds are found in all the Estate’s larger woods.
The harsh alarm call alerts one to unwelcome visitors; it is known
as the Forester's Friend because of its planting of acorns.
There are many pairs of this colourful raptor, breeding in dead
trees, old buildings, owl boxes and even hay barns all over the
Estate. Their abundance is an indication of a thriving population
of voles and large beetles, which form their principal prey.
This species has suffered from a disastrous decline in recent
years. They were common in the 1960s but almost lost by the late
1980s, when Cholderton had only three breeding pairs left.
At that time
there was a far greater emphasis on growing cereals than there
is now. The decision was taken to step up the stock enterprises
and reduce the acreage devoted to cereals. Mixed farming –
with its emphasis on using grass/leguminous mixtures for grazing
and forage conservation, together with brassica crops such as
kale and turnip for winter feed, and spring barley as the predominant
cereal – was the only way in which structure and biodiversity
could be generated in a landscape that was otherwise palpably
unsuitable for the lapwing. The plan is working: in 2002 Cholderton
had around 20 breeding pairs, with several fields having up to
four pairs. Foxes remain a principle danger, scooping up fledgling
birds whenever they have the opportunity.
to start laying towards the end of March, but this first brood
is often unsuccessful owing to predators and the vagaries of the
weather. The important thing is to ensure that bare ground is
available in late April/May so the birds have a chance to produce
a second and generally more productive brood.
whitethroat Favouring the thickest parts of the hedge,
particularly clumps of blackthorn, lesser whitethroats are found
all over the Estate. They are secretive and very difficult to
see, but have a distinctive song.
grebe It was a surprise when a pair of these appeared
at the restored Victorian lake in the grounds of Cholderton Park.
Breeding has been attempted for three consecutive years.
owl There are a couple of pairs of this engaging bird
on the Estate. Numbers have fallen, probably owing to a lack of
suitable nesting sites after many old trees were lost in the two
great wind storms. More nesting boxes will be provided.
Linnets have increased substantially in recent years, and are
now very widespread, being found in most fields and hedgerows.
Seeding dandelions and cruciferous plants are very attractive
owl Two or three pairs nest in woodlands on the fringes
of the Estate.
Not encouraged, as it is a rapacious predator of other birds'
nests and their young. Grey partridge are particularly susceptible.
Pairs breed on the River Bourne and even in the woods half a mile
away. The river – which most years flows only in winter
– has often dried before the ducklings can get to it. There
are surprise successes, with ducks rearing broods on puddles created
by a leaking trough, for example. Others rear their young on the
lake in the park.
pipit This bird has benefited from the Stewardship scheme.
It was formerly rare at Cholderton, but now breeds in quite large
numbers on rough grassland. Wintering birds are often seen in
fields where livestock are being fed.
thrush This is Cholderton’s commonest thrush, widespread
and easily seen. Late summer flocks in excess of 250 have been
seen. It is an early breeder, favouring yew trees to nest in.
A relatively new arrival as a breeding bird, moorhens first nested
at the Home Farm Dairy in the late 1970s and have done so ever
An occasional breeder at Cholderton, in Scotland Wood and possibly
in other localities as well. An incomparable songster that makes
time stand still – if only for a minute!
Common in all larger woodlands on the Estate.
wagtail This is common and breeds in several places on
Pheasants are mostly reared and released for shooting. However,
some birds are wild and can be successful breeders. The new birds
are released in pens in the woods, where they are protected until
the shooting season. Pheasant shooting has had a considerable
impact on the Cholderton landscape, and many woods have been planted
to provide cover for them. There has been a beneficial effect
on the general biodiversity of the area.
This is a summer visitor, breeding at Cholderton most years. It
is very difficult to see, but the call, repeated persistently,
is often heard. The growing of organic crops, which will encourage
arable weeds, should benefit this species.
It is possible that ravens are now breeding on the estate, and
adults have been present for two years. At Cholderton it is a
bird of the first light and the late evening, particularly during
partridge A very common game bird, normally reared and
released for shooting. Unfortunately, the original wild strain
of these birds has disappeared. They were not so highly coloured
as the modern type and were smaller and far more successful breeders
in the wild. Though not indigenous to the UK, the first introduced
stock has adapted to our conditions.
Breeding in some years, redstarts are seen in the old orchard,
or in hedgerows.
A common bird of hedge and woodland, whose numbers appear to be
increasing at Cholderton.
Several rookeries are present on the Estate, and a new one was
started at the Home Farm in 2002.
Skylarks are widespread over the whole Estate, breeding in spring
barley crops. The singing of the skylark as it ascends higher
and higher has to be one of the glories of spring.
thrush Present in all the low ground woodland and breeding
in many hedgerows, song thrushes are no doubt encouraged by the
large numbers of snails and the fact that slug pellets are never
used at Cholderton.
A very common and fearless raptor on the Estate, exacting a toll
of wood pigeons in particular. It kills woodcock and woodpeckers
as well as many smaller species of bird. There are several breeding
pairs at Cholderton.
flycatcher Pairs of spotted flycatcher breed at Quarley
Farm, Cholderton Park, Thruxton Farm and Home Farm. Numbers have
declined, but organic farming may assist them. In the late 1960s
they were present in large numbers, nesting in hedgerows, and
every field had several families that could be seen on prominent
Small wintering flocks and pairs breed in suitable localities
all over the Estate.
dove There are many breeding pairs of this attractive,
very fast-flying dove at Cholderton. In winter they forage over
fields where animals are being fed and in the spring they feed
on weeds germinating in the cereal crops. Occasionally they form
large flocks and will perform an aerial display en masse, with
up to 300 birds whirling vertically and then diving with a rush
of wings that sounds like the roar of a strong wind in a forest.
Breeding annually in areas of rough grass at Cholderton, the stonechat
has very similar requirements to the whinchat.
There are large numbers of swallows nesting in farm buildings
and in garages and other suitable locations all over the area.
In the autumn hundreds gather in flocks over the Home Farm. They
find an abundance of insect life here owing to the presence of
stock and manure. Organic farming should provide a further boost.
Spring 2002 saw a record return of swallows.
These nest in the roof of one cottage only on the Estate, but
large numbers feed over the fields in the summer. Swift boxes
will be erected under the eaves of suitable properties to try
to encourage them to breed.
owl Tawny owls are common and are found in all the principal
woods on the Estate.
marsh, blue, coal, great, long-tailed All these species
breed in wooded areas of the Estate. The old orchard is a particularly
popular nesting area as the old apple trees have many suitable
holes, but even old rotten fencing posts can be utilised. The
long-tailed tit's round nest – immensely complex and almost
invisible – is a near miracle of nest-building craft; the
inside is interwoven with animal hairs and the outside with lichen.
A most remarkable sight in winter are family parties patiently
working the hedgerows and woodlands with the older birds leading
and the younger following.
Treecreepers are distributed through all the larger woodlands
on the Estate.
pipit A couple of pairs normally breed in an area holding
two new plantations on the edge of the downs. The bird has a delightful
song and display flight; it ascends, higher than a meadow pipit,
then falls on stiff wings.
duck These have attempted to breed on the lake on two
occasions, but have not as yet been successful.
dove With a back of tortoiseshell and a pink breast,
this is a particularly beautiful bird, sadly depleted in numbers.
Several pairs return to breed at Cholderton every year. Fumitory
– a common arable weed – is a particular favourite
of this dove, and now that cereal fields are no longer being sprayed,
there may be an increase in numbers at Cholderton.
This is a common migrant of the spring and autumn, but breeding
has recently occurred on the Estate.
Areas of rough grass with upstanding dead stalks of wild parsnip
are favoured by this species, which breeds at Cholderton most
Whitethroats breed in most of the hedgerows on the Estate. As
part of the wildlife management, hawthorn is left to form trees
above the hedge to provide singing perches for these birds.
warbler Although not as widespread as some of other warblers
on the Estate, willow warblers breed regularly around the waterworks.
pigeon Wood pigeons are common and may cause damage to
crops, but are normally easily deterred by flying streamers in
fields that might be subject to attack. Numbers are swelled in
the winter by flocks of migrant birds. Clover provides a valuable
food source for much of the winter.
of wood pigeons on a balmy, wet June morning is one of the most
enjoyable sounds of the southern countryside.
Abundant throughout the Estate.
Wintering flocks of yellowhammers can exceed 200 birds, occupying
every hedgerow on the Estate. Waste corn is placed along hedgerows
over the winter to help them through.
here for Casual Visitors – Some Notes, Taken from Henry
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