Monday, 23 February 2009

In & Around The Garden.

Coal Tit

We've had some interesting sightings in and around the garden over the last week and with a glimpse of warmer temperatures and perhaps the first signs of Spring bird activity has been very high. After nearly a 3 week absence one of our local Marsh Tits has returned to the feeders, it's great to see they survived the cold weather and snow and I guess they are much tougher than I give them credit for. 2 Coal Tit's and a Nuthatch are also regularly in the garden.

On Wednesday 18th I spotted a large Finch flock in Horse paddocks whilst driving along Parmoor Lane, Frieth (SU793900). Quite a varied selection of species that included Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Linnet, Brambling, Chaffinch and a couple of Pied Wagtails all feeding in the paddock but very mobile. A lone male Kestrel perched on top of a telegraph pole and 7 Red Kites circling over Little Frieth were also seen. Early Thursday brought views of an extremely pale Buzzard perched on the fence posts of a boundary fence outside our cottage, it was so white it was more reminiscent of an Osprey in appearance and although I have seen a couple of pale individuals a few miles away I have never seen one this pale around the cottage before. It was perched hunched up on a fence post looking in to the field which I have never seen them do here before, if there not circling above with Red Kites they can often be seen sat on telephone posts or some of the tall trees that overlook the mass of open fields so I was surprised to say the least. Although I could see it with the naked eye I thought it certainly needed closer inspection and with a number of Rough legged Buzzards turning up in neighbouring counties I rushed off looking for my binoculars, by the time I had found my binoculars it had moved to the next post and was partly obscured behind a small tree. I started to look for some of the key features to separate the Common and Rough-legged Buzzard by firstly looking at the tail which did seem very pale, the Buzzard then tuned side on and I decided to run upstairs and view it from the bedroom window with my scope. I ran upstairs with the elegance of Todd Carty from Dancing on Ice and grabbed my scope and proceeded to put up the tripod, I made my way over to the window and looked out only to find the bird had gone and despite going outside and scanning the skies, hills, fields and woodland it was nowhere to be seen. It hasn't been seen since and I'm kicking myself for not getting a good view of it, with daily sightings of both Red Kite and Common Buzzard I have got a bit used to seeing them and don't always check each individual out, perhaps a valuable lesson. To be honest these days I see more Red Kites on a daily basis than I do House Sparrows!!

I was woken in the early hours of Friday morning, 5am to be precise by the hooting calls of a Tawny Owl perched on the chimney. It continued for over 10 minutes before it fell silent and I drifted back off to sleep. There seems to be at least 3 or 4 calling most nights from the woods in the surrounding valley and due to our remoteness and distinct lack of traffic noise they can be heard clearly as they claim their territories and potential mates.

Our resident Little Owls have also become very vocal calling during both day and night, I was watched sternly by one individual which was sat in a tree overlooking my car in the week and we've also had a few brief sightings of single birds sat on the paddock fence posts overlooking the adjacent fields.

I returned home on Friday evening and was immediately halted in my tracks as I approached the front door, hearing the eerie drawn-out screech of a barn owl nearby I stopped and listened patiently. Within 30 seconds I heard it again but this time it seemed closer but due to the light it was impossible to track it down, being miles from civilisation there are no street lights here and no ambient light so it's dark to say the least, our 500watt security light does light up the area around the cottage but not in to the fields. I tracked it by it's calls to the field next to the cottage and listened next to the fence, it continued calling on and of for about 5 minutes but by this time was moving further away. Barn Owls aren't uncommon in the area and I've seen them in at least 4 nearby locations including a incredible experience I had in our orchard where I managed to film the individual in the films below.

At 4am Saturday morning nature called and I made my way downstairs to take a leak, I always switch on the outside light in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of something interesting, often the early hours give great views of Owls, Deer and other wildlife going about their nocturnal activities. Looking out of the living room window and out in to the paddock I noticed a grey lump hunched over in the long grass, thinking it was a Rabbit I started to pull the curtains but as I did a black and white striped face looked up from the grass and stared back at me. It is my first Badger sighting in the garden this year and I watched intently for 10 minutes as it snuffled it's way through the grass and towards the edge of our garden, it certainly looked like the Brock that visited regularly and brought his family to the garden to feed during 2006-2007

Common Gull

Saturday was a glorious day weather wise, finally the grey cloudy skies made way for blue skies with outbreaks of warm sunshine and the first signs that Spring is on it's way. A Red Kite perched outside the cottage was whistling away from the top of a telephone pole and with the weather being so nice I decided to have a good look around the garden to see what was about. I watched the feeders from the bedroom window and spotted Great, Blue, Coal and Long Tailed Tit, only 3 Chaffinches feeding beneath the feeders, a Robin and 2 Blackbirds occasionally popped in and out of the garden and a Dunnock which continually broke in to it's sweet warbling song from the edge of the bushes in the garden. Walking out in to the garden I could soon see 2 Common Buzzards and 5 Red Kites circling above and from the surrounding fields the squabbling Corvids could be heard as they searched the fields for food. No sign of any Black-headed gulls today but 12 Common Gulls were joining a small flock of Jackdaws that were feeding in one of the Sheep fields off Shogmoor Lane. After viewing the surrounding fields I made my way back towards home hearing a small flock of Long-tailed Tits as I walked, they soon flitted overhead and into the hedgerow next to me and as I watched them I soon heard the contact calls of 2 Goldcrest that were in the hedgerow as well. As I was watching them I began to hear a Bullfinch calling nearby and leaving the Tit flock I carried on further along the hedgerow and towards the calling Bullfinch, it didn't take long to see both male and female Bullfinches feeding in the hedgerow but they soon noticed me and flew further along the path and back in to the hedge. I slowly approached where they were feeding and this time inched myself into a good viewing position and watched as they ate new shoots and buds in the hedgerow, they stayed for a good ten minutes mostly deep in the hedge but now and again came to the top to clean their beaks on a number of thicker branches giving exceptional views of this normally shy species. I wandered back to the cottage and immediately picked up on 2 large black birds flying south-east towards Hatchet wood, they soon called and before I had time to look at them through my binoculars I knew they were Ravens. They continued flying over without stopping but I could still hear "Kronking" even with them out of sight. I'm certain that there is at least one pair in the area and with fairly regular sightings over the cottage there's a good chance that they are resident and possible breeders.


A Red Kite returned to the top of the telegraph pole near the garden and from the bedroom window I could see it was eating something, being curious I headed outside again . I managed to hide behind a large Laurel bush which meant I could get relatively close view without flushing it, I was a bit taken back when I saw what it was eating as I had at first thought that it would be probably feeding on a dead Rabbit or some other road kill. After doing a double take I realised that I wasn't going mad and that the Kite was eating what looked like a sponge cake(make and origin unknown!), I have often had them swooping into the garden after I have put bread out for the birds but never seen them take anything so this came as a bit of a surprise. It finished everything and then took off and began circling the fields with 3 other Kites and a Common Buzzard. It had a metal leg ring on it's left leg but it wasn't possible to read it.

The Cake Eating Kite

Red Kite

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