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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Red Kites over Combe!

As my sister sat on our patio on Saturday morning waiting for me to bring out tea she heard a louder than usual noise being made by some rooks overhead. I stepped out as she shouted "Red kite" and we realised the noise was due to a Red Kite being mobbed by Rooks who were not amused as it glided through their territory. Whilst I have seen Red Kite many times before, I have only seen one in Somerset once, over Neroche, some years ago and this was the first one for my parish list! It drifted by, hardly flapping its wings and treating the rooks with some disdain before heading off westwards. Unfortunately I didn't get my camera out fast enough to get a picture but this is one that shows the view we had very well.

Baby birds everywhere!

Walking past the school sports field one morning I noticed a large number of brown birds feeding in the long grass. Whilst there were some Blackbirds also gathering worms, these were behaving differently and on closer inspection I realised that they were all young Starlings. Instead of the usual black with purple sheen of the adult birds the hound are brown and quite spotty and if you are not familiar with them you could be forgiven for wondering what they are. See a picture here: Adults of many birds such as Blue Tits, Greenfinches and Nuthatches, are busy gathering food and when the young are hungry and see their parents nearby they flutter their wings and squeak as they beg for food. Blue Tits are nesting in nest-box 4 in SSW and both parents are dashing back and forth with caterpillars and grubs for their young in an exhausting way and are beginning to look quite feather worn. As they lay 10-12 eggs, it is a lot of mouths to feed if they are all to survive to fledgling stage!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fox on the prowl

Getting up earlier than usual on Monday, I had the time for a longer walk before work and I headed off to try and find my first Whitethroat of the year. In previous years I have usually had sightings along Greenway, but despite standing and listening for their scratchy song I was not lucky. Having failed along the lane I headed across the fields between Greenway and Whiteway, colourfully covered in buttercups and clover and humming with insects. On reaching the road I headed back towards the village and glancing through a field gate I stopped to watch the sheep and lambs happily feeding in the early morning sun. It was then I noticed a dark shape crossing the field and through my binoculars, realised it was a vixen fox. It completely ignored the sheep and they barely glanced at it as it calmly walked through the middle of the flock, only pausing to sniff the ground and leave a scent mark. Perhaps it had already fed and was on the way home to its den?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tawny Owl encounter

After a week away in Portugal and then various other family and work commitments I returned on the 14th May to find the Swifts had returned to the village, albeit in small numbers as yet. A welcome sight even so as these harbingers of summer are wonderful to watch as they "scream" through the air so effortlessly.
The RSPB are asking for any sightings to be sent to them so they can build up a picture of their range and whether they are declining or not. http://www.rspb.org.uk/thingstodo/surveys/swifts/
The verges in the lanes around have grown very lush in all the rain we have been having and are now swathed in cow parlsey which looks just like lace and very pretty, if  a slight problem for driver,s as the view of the road is often obscured.
After being alerted by a friend to the possibility of a Tawny Owl fledgling being in the SSW I had a walk on Tuesday evening to see if I could find it. It had been on the ground and whilst it is tempting to pick them up and take them to a safe place, they should never be moved unless in obvious danger from traffic or predators. Thisn is because the young Tawny Owls will often leave the nest before they can fly and will engae in what is known as "branching" this is where they may fall to the ground unharmed, but then climb back up to the nest under the watchful eye of a parent. It is a way of exercising their wings before they take flight. The parents will watch their progeress and this will attracgt the interst of other birds who view it is a threat to their young. This is because Tawny Owls will takeother  young birds as food.
I followed my usual walk, up Stantway and into the fileds via the footpath behind CME. As I approached there were loud chinking calls which signify the alarm calls of a number of Blackbirds and sure enough, when I peered through the hedge I could see an adult Tawny Owl sitting in a low bush. It flew off as I walked on and then when as I entered SSW from the track off of Combe Wood Lane, the Blackbirds were calling again. After watching and listening I finally located  both a young fledgling and the parent bird sitting in two adjacent trees in the old rectory garden.
My photos are not very good as I could not, and indeed would not, approach too close, as I did not want to disturb them but it is great to know though that they are about!
Watchful parent Tawny Owl
Fluffy Fledgling Tawny Owl