Thursday, 5 December 2013

5th December - Red Sky In The Morning....

An amazing sky this morning as the sun came up amongst the thin cloud, that had developed following a frost last night.  The light around the house was like a pink hue, with purples and reds in the sky.  Possibly an omen for the day, as there is a storm forecast, but it seems like we will not see the worst of it here.


The cloud came and went through the morning, but by lunchtime the sky cleared and the sun came out.  I decided to head down to Plain Farm, but didn't realise how windy it had become.  As I set off up the hill towards Winchester Wood it was really blowing, and I could hear what leaves there were left on the trees rustling above me.

The noise of the wind and the trees made it difficult to hear any bird song.  But I was suddenly presented with a huge flock of Woodpigeon above me.  They seem to be everywhere, but the manner in which they were flying made me think they had probably been spooked from the tree tops in the woods.  I estimated the flock to be around 500.

With the large numbers of Woodpigeon it must be an attraction for predators.  The Peregrine last Sunday was probably not just a coincidence.  As I walked through the wood I noticed pile of feathers such as these close to tree stumps.  I suspect they are the work of a Sparrowhawk, sitting and plucking its prey, but may also be the work of something bigger, maybe the Peregrine, or perhaps more exciting, a Goshawk.


Blackbirds flew around close to the ground, and I managed to hear two calling Nuthatches but I couldn't see them.  At the seed feeder area there were Chaffinches, and a few Blue Tits, but again no sign of any Brambling.  I heard Redwing calling above me, and one dropped down into a Holly Bush still covered in berries.

I scanned the fields as usual, and as usual nothing other than rolling waves of leaves as the wind picked them up and moved them across the open ground.  The leaves were proving to be a problem as they were travelling almost horizontally, and you could be confused into thinking they were a bird.  In fact in the sky as they swirled around, buffeted by the gusts of wind, they looked just like the flocks of Woodpigeon seen at a distance.


I walked along the path, and watched Bullfinches fly away from me, call and then disappear into the safety of the hedge.  I counted five in total, three males and two females, they are getting very regular here.

As I walked down the hill towards the farm two Chaffinches called and flew into the cattle barn, but that was all I saw.  The wind was the dominant feature and it continued to send clouds of leaves to confuse me.  There was some shelter at the quarry, but unfortunately no birds, even the small Inkcap fungi that was showing on the track last weekend had gone.  I walked up the hill and out into the open by the field.  In front of me, at last was something of interest.  A Kestrel was using the wind to allow it to hover by flying head on into it.  Some raptors like the harriers, and owls use sound as their method of locating there prey, so in these conditions they would really struggle.  But for the Kestrel, its main weapon is sight, and in fact it can go a little further by being able to see the ultra violet light given off the urine that a bank or field vole would deposit, and it is able to follow a trail.  This one would hover and fly around and start again.  It was for once unconcerned about me being there, probably focused on its task, and couldn't hear me due to the wind.



As the winter goes on, and it gets colder, the Kestrel looks to conserve energy by adopting an alternative hunting approach.  They find a convenient perch, a pole or tree, and watch from there.  Hovering requires considerable energy, and in winter it can be a while until your next meal.

I got a little greedy and tried to get even closer, and finally it noticed me and was off.  Turning with the wind it flew off over the field, and I could just make it out in the distance, starting to hover again, head pointing again into the strong wind.


I walked back to the car, with only leaves and Woodpigeon flying over my head.  I could hear Goldcrest in a yew tree, but they were not coming out.  I decided to head home.  Maybe I should have heeded the red sky this morning:  shepard's warning there's nothing about!

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