Thursday, 17 May 2012

16th May - The Sun in My Eye

On Saturday I commented on the juvenile Robin, and how the adults were probably now on to their second brood.  I never saw the first brood from the Robin's nest next door, but on Tuesday evening we came across a youngster from possibly their second brood in the most unusual circumstances.  A Robin was sounding an alarm call, and we could see the adult, but there was a call answering, and it was impossible to pin this down.  The Robin has a way of their alarm call sounding as if it is from somewhere else, just like a ventriloquist, and I was convinced this was what was going on.  Helen, however wasn't having any of it and continued the search, eventually narrowing it down to a call coming from the recycling glass box.  Closer inspection did in fact find a very young Robin fledgling under all the bottles.  Carefully we lifted the bottles out so that they wouldn't collapse on it, and I managed to get the little fella out and returned it to safety.  The bottles obviously provided a lot of protection and was a great place to hide, but how it was going to get out I don't know.  I hope it made it through the rest of the day, there were a lot of Magpies around that evening.

Wednesday evening was dry, and relatively warm for the weather we have been having.  I decided once again to try and find the Barn Owl, but before that I wanted to see what was about around the felled area in the Maryanne Plantation.  Where the trees had been cut down, scrubby bushes had grown, making it a very different habitat for the patch.

As I walked into the open I could hear a Willow Warbler singing, this is perfect habitat for them, and very reminiscent of the reserves in Wales we had just visited (details here), where Willow Warblers seemed to be everywhere.

At the bottom of the track I noticed a dark red shape, as I walked closer it became clear what it was.  It was the carcass of a recently dead Roe Deer.  There were no soft tissue or organs left, all you could see was the rib cage and the limbs and head, the condition of which indicated that the deer had only recently died.  I would imagine the deer had been hit on the road close by, and then made it to the wood before dying. I do not imagine the animal had been killed by a Fox, I do feel it was probably scavenged and cleaned up by Fox, and maybe even Badger or Buzzard.

I turned and walked up the opposite side, and found another Willow Warbler, this is good news as I have not found them to be common around here, so two singing birds was a positive sign. 

It moved about while singing, but I was able to get this view.

Along the tracks and in the grass at the edge of the clearing was lots of spikes of blue flowers.  These were Bugle, they are quite a spectacular, if overlooked flower, and the only place I have seen them in such abundance. Close up you can see the detail in the petals and sepals.

As well as the Willow Warblers a Blackcap and Chiffchaff sang, but of more interest was the faster scratchy sound coming from the willows.  This was a Garden Warbler, in fact two were singing, but I only managed to get a glimpse of one.  With the Blackcap singing behind me, it was easy to distinguish the two songs. 

The area is probably too new, and maybe too small to attract the birds I had hoped for Tree Pipit or Wood Lark, but it looks like they will continue clearance, and if they do, who knows what might arrive this winter.

I drove around to the owl site, and decided to walk a footpath around the area.  This took me past the field with the Bull, and he was standing amongst the cows as I walked along the road.  Even though there was a fence between us, the way he continued to watch me as I approached and crossed the road to take the footpath was very intimidating, and I checked I wasn't wearing red!

The footpath takes you through a cereal field, and then a rapeseed field.  As I walked along the first part a Hare sat on the path in front of me.  I can't help but photograph these lovely animals, this one was very confiding, as others usually shoot off as I lift the camera.

The rapeseed was quite high, and the yellow pollen got everywhere, however at the end of the field it opened out into another field that had been left to fallow, some had been ploughed and on this part I found a Lapwing.  As I walked closer it flew up, and circled around, maybe it was nesting, I am not sure, but there was no sign of another bird.  As well as the Lapwing there was a large flock of Rooks.  The two rookeries along Alton Lane are now quiet and empty, and large parties can be seen feeding youngsters in the fields, this was probably one of those parties.

You come off the field, and can then walk down the lane past cottages and a barn.  All along the lane in the verge are seed hoppers, and these attracted quite a few finches and Yellowhammers. The smaller birds also attracted predators and a female Sparrowhawk sped past and over the hedge spreading a flock of Wood Pigeon.  I read this week that these hoppers may be given to farmers to help them encourage rarer farmland birds such as Grey Partridge and Corn Bunting.  There was no sign of them here, but over time it would be nice if they were to return here.  As I approached the farm buildings a Pied Wagtail was perched on the telegraph wire.  We see them frequently in the winter, but not so much in spring so it was nice to find one.

I reached the site where the owl had been seen and set about waiting to see what would develop.  A pair of Collared Doves raised my hopes, attracting my attention as flew around the barns, mainly because they were light coloured.  Even though the intended target did not appear, I was kept entertained by a Raven flying over, and a Sparrowhawk and Buzzard soaring together over the tree tops.

Once again Hares were in the field next to the lane.  This time it was nice to find an adult with a youngster.  I am not sure if you can call the young one a leveret still, but it is clear from this picture that it has not yet developed the features of the adult in front of it.  They allowed me this photo chance, and then were off.  It's difficult to estimate the numbers here, but I imagine there must be at least double figures, which must indicate that responsible farming, and allowing scrub areas around the edges of fields is working, this could also probably account for the Barn Owl being seen, let's hope the other rarer birds come back too.

As I stood waiting to see if the owl would appear the most entertaining event was that of a pair of Lapwings in the fallow field.  Initially there was three, but this then became two, and together they put on a wonderful coordinated flying display all the time I was there.  They would fly together around the field calling to each other as they swooped up and down, banking left and right, all the time both seemingly knowing what the other was going to do and copying.  When they did settle one would not stay long and would start calling and displaying on it's own before being joined by the other.  It was a bit like watching the dance floor at a club, where one couple decides to dance and doesn't care that they are the only couple there, it was wonderful to watch, and these two photos show the coordination as they delivered their display.

The sun was now getting lower, and came out from below the clouds.  This seemed to be the sign for the swallows to arrive and up to 20 could be seen flying around the grazing cows in the field opposite.  Every so often they would pop up onto the wires and chatter to each other, this one was rather annoyed it's mate had flown off.

The owl didn't show, but I will persevere, so I headed home after another eventful day.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, about a week ago I saw a barn owl late afternoon flying over the barns at plain farm, I think it may have a nest in the first one on the right as the road goes through the farm. Would like to look in it but it is private property. Had another encounter with doe and fawn in old down woods this morning. The doe looks very young and has not shed her winter coat yet. I had a real treat watching the fawn suckle too. I saw a tawny owl out hunting at the other end of the woods one evening, really good view of it. Also a sparrow hawk which I saw fly onto a branch so had an unusually good was a very dark colour, not brown, almost black but I couldn't see the front so assumed that is what it was! Jill


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