Friday, 24 February 2012

24th February - Warming up!

Yesterday was an extremely mild day, the warmest so far this year.  The temperature when I left work was 17oC but in Four Marks it had fallen to 15oC.  It is staying light quite late too and on my run this evening 3 Pipistrelle Bats were flying under the trees on Gradwell Lane.  They are usually seen early in the spring when the weather has been mild, so this was no surprise.  The name Pipistrelle apparently comes from the italian "pipistrello" which means bat, so flying around me was a "Bat Bat"!  The Tawny Owl was quite vocal too, calling from the trees in the field to the north of the lane.  I managed to catch a quick view as it flew low over the field into the trees well to the back.

This morning the skies were cloudy although still quite mild.  Before dawn a Blackbird was singing very well outside the bedroom window, and was joined also by Robin and Dunnock.  The real dawn chorus can not be that far away.  I took the opportunity to retreive the camera early on, before the dog walkers arrived.  At the gate I could hear skylark singing high above the fields, I could make out two birds but couldn't see them.  Just down the lane there was a lot of activity along with bird song.  High in the trees there was quite a sizeable flock of Redwing and Fieldfare, and along with quite a few Goldfinches they were the main source of the song and calls.  The thrushes were very nervous and were very reluctant to let me approach, flying off into the field where a good number were feeding.  I did manage to get these shots though.

Walking into the wood a Bullfinch was calling from the hedgerow.  There appears to be quite a good number of these around this year.  Yesterday afternoon at work I watched one devouring the newly opened cherry blossom.  I hoped that this morning it would stay long enough for the photo opportunity but it resisted all attempts.  I had to be satisfied with this Blue Tit, who along with a pair of Great Tits were collecting moss in the field.

I collected the camera, deciding to bring it home and relocate in a new site over the weekend. I walked through the area checking for more paths but only found a pile of pheasant feathers, the remains of someone's dinner.  I took the diagonal path back to the gate and was rewarded with another sighting of the Willow Tit.  It was calling low in the bushes close to the path, and flew up right in front of me giving great views.  But again as I tried to get a photo it just wouldn't stay still and the opportunity passed when it finally flew off.

When I got back to car it was clear now that there were more than 2 Skylarks singing, in fact I managed to count 7 in total, as 5 came acorss the field.  I found two singing in the air above the field, and captured this record.

This time of year they tend to squabble over territory and I have seen them fighting on the ground.  The 5 were chasing each other so maybe that is the situation here.

I decided to check the rookery on Alton Lane.  Last night there had been a sizeable flock of Rooks and Jackdaws heading from Alton lane towards the roost in Chawton Park. I wondered if there was any activity around the nests.  When I got there it was clear that there was, as Rooks were flying around and calling from the side of the nests.  I watched one individual bring in a twig which was left in a nest.  They were clearly at the stage of repair and maintenance, as there were no birds actually in the nests, and the fact that they were still heading off to the roost indicated that they were not yet ready to lay.  Rooks are one of the earliest nesting birds, it is thought that this is due to the fact that they can easily get food for the young while the soil is relatively soft.  The main diet is earthworms and invertibrates, and these would be very difficult to obtain later in the season. 

There is something about Rooks that I like, they are not an attractive bird, although in the right light their plumage takes on an iridescent blue hue.  It must be the character and interaction that I find interesting.  Any way here are some shots, hopefully I can get some more in better lighting.

There is always some confusion over the identification of Crows, Rooks and Ravens.  The Rook has the white bill and white at the base of the bill, while the Crow and Raven are all black.  Rooks are very social and are typically seen in groups, while Crows are usually seen at most in pairs.  The Raven is significantly larger than both of the others, with a very heavy bill.  The Rook in flight is similar to a Raven, but the tail is rounded where the Raven has a very prominent pointed diamond shape tail.  These days there is every chance that I may get a Raven fly over, they are seen on the downs so I will keep a good look out on any solitary corvid.

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