This Eagle Owl is a captive bird and was photographed at Woburn Zoo during a Bird of Prey demonstration in 2005. The Eagle Owl is the largest Owl in the world and these photos certainly show the extreme size difference between our native Owls pictured in my previous posts. Impressive to say the least!!
Believe it or not I had tried 5 times to see the Chess Valley Osprey without any luck at all and with the news that it had been seen roosting along the River Chess near Sarratt Bottom I decided the following evening I would have a walk along the Sarratt Bottom footpath and see if my luck would change.
The following afternoon I headed off towards the Chess Valley and as I passed Latimer Bridge I stopped to view the trees alongside the river, a single Grey Heron was sat in one of the trees but very little else so I headed along to Sarratt Bottom where 3 Ring-necked Parakeets could instantly be heard and seen from the trees along the river. I headed off along the footpath and out in to the cattle fields flushing a Green Woodpecker as I went, plenty of Redwing could be heard from the tree tops and the odd overhead passing group were seen. I arrived at the footbridge which crosses the River Chess and met a local gentlemen who was taking a walk, we chatted and I explained that I was hoping to find the Osprey should it return to roost in the area. He soon became interested and together we walked across the footbridge to view the woods alongside the river, the weather soon closed in and as the skies became greyer with every minute the rain soon started to fall. Staying until the light started to fade there was now little chance that we'd see the Osprey even if it did turn up, I retreated back across the Chess with the rain falling and feeling rather dejected that once again I had failed to see it on my 6th attempt.
Wednesday soon flew round and mid-morning I received a call from LGRE telling me the Osprey was showing very well at Sarratt Bottom, he passed on details of where to park and after letting him know I would be there at lunchtime I thanked him for the call. I finished my daily duties and headed for the shower missing LGRE's 2nd call to tell me the Osprey was now showing even better, luckily my receptionist took the call and passed on the message;-)
I arrived at Moor Lane in Sarratt Bottom and met a couple of photographers who had just watched the Osprey fly east along the River Chess towards Sarratt Mill, just my luck I thought but was pleased to hear that a Black Redstart had been found at nearby Valley Farm. I thanked them and headed off towards Sarratt Mill to park and could then walk back to see the Black Redstart at Valley Farm later, but the Osprey remained the elusive object of desire.
I got to Sarratt Mill and suddenly glimpsed the Osprey from the car window as it sat in the trees along the rivers edge, after parking I hurried down the road to join up with a couple of familiar Herts. birders who where watching the Osprey. It flew to a group of conifers along the river and out of view but soon became visible again as it flew to the next tree, it continued moving along the rivers edge and was finally lost to sight as it disappeared further downstream. Although I didn't get the best views I was still extremely pleased to have seen it however brief the views were, I will return when the weather gets better in the hope that I can get some photos of it.
I then headed off along the footpath with the Herts. birders in search of the Black Redstart at Valley Farm. At the farm the male Black Redstart could be seen perched on one of the roofs, it gave really good views but a little distant and often disappeared down on the ground for short periods. I later found out that Bucks birder Mike Collard had found the Black Redstart whist looking for the Osprey. 2 Little Egrets were sat in the trees by the cressbeds.
So eventually I had caught up with the elusive Osprey. I cast my mind back to a few years ago when I had spent a week in Rutland looking for this very species, the whole aim was to go and see them and hopefully see a few Tree Sparrows at the same time. I had exceptionally good views of both during my stay in Rutland but they were eclipsed by events when I returned home, firstly a small brown job on the bird feeders turned out to be a Tree Sparrow! which stayed for over a month and the following day I watched an Osprey circling overhead at Little Marlow GP's, so I'd driven all the way to Rutland to see them and then seen both species in 2 days when I'd got home!
The Chess Valley Osprey is a juvenile and wearing a leg ring which identifies it as a bird ringed in Loch Lomond, Clyde this July, it seems to be still in the area but the weather is obviously making it difficult to observe, the big question is will it overwinter?
Another interesting morning whilst working in the garden at Coleshill.
Before I started the endless task of raking the leaves up at the property I work and live at I had a quick scout around the grounds and found the following-
A pleasing sight of 23 Starlings perched together in the top of a now leaf bare Horse Chestnut started the morning off, they were chattering and clicking quietly amongst themselves with the odd whistle thrown in for good measure. A good group of Finches that I accidentally flushed from a row of wild Rose bushes contained roughly 18+ Greenfinches and 16+ Goldfinches which circled up and in to some of the nearby trees, this gave me the chance to see what they were feeding on and found that some of the larger hips had softened up and contained some large seeds in, some of seeds in the biggest hips were almost as big as sunflower hearts which must be attracting them, there's about 25 of these large Rose bushes and still plenty of hips on them. 2 Jays were soon the next on the list as they squabbled over Acorns in a nearby Oak followed shortly by 2 Resident Mistle Thrushes which were 'rattling away' at each other.
So by 8:30 a mini orchestra of bird song and calls are simmering away soon to be joined by 20 or so Redwing high up in a Horse Chestnut and adding their 'tsseep' calls to the mix. During this time a Blackbird has hopped across the lawn in front of me 'tutting' as it disappears in to the bottom of a bush. It was at this time that I realised I should've started work and headed off armed with my rake ready to take on the piles of fallen leaves, tedious to say the least but a good chance to observe nature as it unfolds.
At 9:00 a Green Woodpecker can be heard calling from the garden next door and a quick peer through the hedge finds it sat on the rear lawn with 2 Pied wagtails bobbing across the grass a few metres away from it, the leaf raking is now not such a mundane job, okay it is but I'm getting a few fringe benefits along the way in bird sightings.
The resident Robin has now joined me and is sitting on the wheelbarrow handle with it's head tilted towards the ground as I clear the leaves, it's watching for the slightest movement before darting down and grabbing a worm and returning to the wheelbarrow handle. It's very tame but won't come to my hand to feed yet, I'm hoping that by Christmas I will have trained him up and then I can get some good photos for this years Christmas cards:-)
It was very grey and overcast when I'd started but by 9:30 a few spots of blue sky could now be seen poking through the clouds and the wind had dropped completely, a Grey Heron gave me a shock as it called from overhead, it continued west probably heading for the local village pond. Not long after 5 Siskin then passed over heading North calling as they went and shortly after a Magpie flew over. During this time the Starlings, Finches & Thrushes were still calling but getting louder, I'm not sure if this is to do with ambient sound from traffic and human activity but it seemed to happen just a the roads became busier. It got to a point where they seemed to be trying to outdo each other and I stopped to listen just as a flock of about 150 maybe more Redwings appeared overhead. They started circling round and seemed to pick up some of our Redwings that have been in the garden for a week or so from the nearby trees, Finches then took to the air and the noise was incredible and seemed that each and every one of them was calling. They circled round a couple of times separating into smaller groups with birds going off in different directions, I wondered if a predator was in the area but there wasn't anything in the sky except hundreds of Redwing & Finches. The Redwing circled round 4 or 5 times before forming a loose flock and heading off north leaving 20 or so Redwing to settle back in the tops of the trees, presumably the same birds that have been in the garden for awhile. It's great to see spectacles like that and a real sign of 'visible migration' on a small scale.
Over the next hour or so I'd seen 2 Nuthatch, Bl & Grt Tit, 12 Chaffinch, 1 Black-h Gull heading south, only my 2nd sighting of Ring-necked Parakeet in the area as 2 flew over from the east and heading west, 1 Red Kite, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker and heard 2 Goldcrests. By 10:45 the Robin had acquired a friend and both were watching me from the garden wall, a few worms that were unearthed made a tasty treat and as they weren't fighting I presume that they are a pair.
The skies were now quite clear and mainly blue and whilst gazing in to the distance I noticed a large group of birds heading towards me from the south, a quick scan with the bins showed that they were Wood Pigeons and quite a few of them. Within a minute or so they were approaching overhead but difficult to count as they were widely separated and a best estimate would be somewhere in the region of 200-225 birds which flew over heading north. As there is a lot of Wood Pigeon migration at the moment It seemed a bit strange to see them heading in that direction rather than south, I don't think they are local as I only seem to see handfuls rather than flocks of 25 upwards. An added bonus was finding a Tawny Owl pellet in the garden to add to the 2 I've found recently near local woodland. So it was quite an interesting morning despite the fact the Oak trees still haven't shed their leaves yet and so I've got it all to do again!!!