Bransbury Common

Bransbury Common by Tom Jordan

Introduction

Bransbury Common is a large area of grassland and wet fen in the upper Test valley, to the east of Andover. As a birding site, it is best known as a place for viewing raptors and owls in winter.

Birds

The main birding interest of Bransbury Common is provided by the various owls and raptors that use the site, primarily in winter. Barn Owl is almost guaranteed and it’s not unusual to see several hunting the common simultaneously. Short-eared Owls are often present in winter, although they tend to only emerge late after sunset. Hen Harrier and Merlin are also regular winter visitors, while Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Tawny Owl are all likely to be seen or heard in the area. The site has a good history for Great Grey Shrikes, with one present in 2003/04, 2011, early 2014, 2014/15 and 2016. A Great White Egret has been seen in several recent winters, Bittern has been recorded occasionally and even a Crane roosted once. Winter also offers a good chance of Woodcock, Snipe and large numbers of winter thrushes.

At any time of year one can expect typical birds of river and open country, such as Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. The surrounding farmland still holds Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge. Spring brings all the expected warblers, including the occasional Grasshopper Warbler, while Cuckoo is also possible. Passage migrants have included Wheatear, Whinchat and Redstart.

Access

Access to the area is somewhat difficult due to a lack of official parking facilities. The best place to park is on the corner of the minor road between Barton Stacey and Newton Stacey (SU416405), where there is space for two vehicles beside the road. From here, it is a walk of around 500 metres north-west up the track to reach the viewpoint over the common. Alternatively, there is space for a couple of cars in Bransbury village (SU421422), from where another public footpath provides access to the viewing area from the north-east side. Careful roadside parking may also be available in other spots in the area. The common itself is ‘right to roam’ land, although the majority of it can only be reached by crossing the River Dever at the ford (SU413411). In any case, it is best to stay on the near side of the river to avoid the risk of disturbing roosting raptors and owls. The common can be significantly waterlogged in winter, so wellington boots are recommended.