See also...

If you are interested in birds, you may also like to read what's on our Birds on Magog Down page.

Bird Club - come and join us!

If you have never given birdwatching a try do come along on the first Saturday of the month (meeting in the car park at 8am from April to October; slightly later at 8.30 am from November to March).

Membership is very informal–– just turn up and enjoy the birding walk. It is a healthy way of getting fresh air and exercise, and de-stressing while learning about birds.

We welcome new members of any age from beginners to life-time bird watchers. Sorry, no dogs

skylark_garth_cropped_250Photo: Skylark (Alauda arvensis) © Garth Peacock 2015

Bird reports 2016 prev

A view from the Stapleford Bird Club on wintering birds on Magog Down

After a benign autumn, we have entered a much colder period which will now be impacting on our birds.  During the autumn, with a glut of berries on the bushes, seeds on maturing plants, and insects still about, the birds would have found plentiful sources of food.  However, even though the days are lengthening and some birds are already setting up breeding territories, the month of February is called the “hungry gap”, when food suitable for specialist farmland birds is hard to find.  In collaboration with the farmer who crops the internal field, the Trust has provided extra winter feeding for finches and buntings such Linnets, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings.  Alongside Memorial Wood a long strip was seeded last Spring with a mix of plant types for flowers and seeds including millet, seed radish, triticale, quinoa and phacelia. The Club’s bird counts show that these efforts are already helping.  Since the start of the colder period, the Club has noted 60+ seed-eating finches such Linnets and Chaffinches, and Reed Buntings, using this strip for food.  The Linnet in particular is a farmland species in decline so every help given to their survival is important.

The internal cropped area usually has a patchwork of crops which could be winter wheat, oilseed rape and sugar beet. During periods of cultivation numerous gulls may follow the plough to search for food (but numbers fall thereafter) and up to five species of gull can be present.  Corvids (Rooks, Jackdaws and Carrion Crows), and coveys of Red-legged Partridges often feeding there, and a lucky walker may see a Grey Partridge. 

Checking out the high hedges and bushes around the car park can be rewarding. Skulking Dunnocks, Greenfinches, Robins that sing throughout the winter, and occasional wintering thrushes from Scandinavia such as the Redwing and Fieldfare can be found.   With binoculars, Redwings are easy to identify with a bold white stripe above the eye, and rusty-red flanks.  Fieldfares are bulkier with a grey neck, brown back and grey rump with a black tail, and often call out “chack-chack” as they fly off.   Some of the Blackbirds may be not native: they could be German birds escaping the colder weather there.  A Song Thrush is singing regularly by the car park and also in Colin’s Wood.  Some walkers may think that bird numbers are lower in the winter, and this is somewhat true as some species may have migrated to warmer countries, or have moved to other habitats away from the Down. But do not be fooled by periods of silence.  Most birds do not sing in the winter period and if they are actively feeding may not call.  If you stop and wait within the woods, parties of calling tits may come by and that part of the wood can feel quite crowded for a short while.  If you are lucky you may see our smallest UK bird, the Goldcrest, in a conifer tree.  Birds in more obvious numbers can be seen feeding on soil invertebrates in the fields.  As well as the cropped areas, Feoffee’s Field and the Sheep Paddocks often have sizeable number of Rooks (a larger crow identifiable by the bare, pale part behind the bill; the smaller Jackdaws (with a grey patch on the neck), and all-dark Carrion Crows.   The Trust has attached two nest boxes to trees in some areas in the hope that Tawny Owls and Kestrels will use them to breed.  On our last Club walk in early January we noticed a Squirrel peering out from one of the boxes!  Squirrels may use these boxes for winter roosting, but they would normally be quickly evicted in the Spring.

During the Club’s monthly walk on 2nd January, a total of 18 bird species were noted, including Linnets, Common Gulls, Herring Gulls, Redwings, and Fieldfares. 

Long-term Survey of Breeding Birds

In February 2012, Bryan Davies and Robin Cox of Cambridgeshire Bird Club proposed a long term breeding bird survey on Magog Down.

Full reports of the first five years of this survey can be found here:

2012 Report

2013 Report

2014 Report

2015 Report

2016 Report

Birds on Magog Down

We publish the monthly reports of Stapleford Bird club here, plus other occasional bird-related articles; hot links in each report will take you to the RSPB information page for each bird spotted.

The gallery below shows a random six of the birds often seen on Magog Down.

  • Stonechat male.jpg
  • Redwing.jpg
  • Magpie.jpg
  • stock dove in flight.jpg
  • Garden Warbler.jpg
  • Mistle thrush.jpg