Friday, December 29, 2006

Cheddar Reservoir

Down in Somerset for Christmas and the New Year with friends. We went for a walk around Cheddar Reservoir to get some activity after eating too many chocolates over Christmas. Unfortunately not with Bella, their black lab as she's recovering from an op and not allowed on anything more than a brief walk into the fields. There were hundreds of Coots on the water. I don't think I've ever seen so many together but they migrate from further north to overwinter on lakes and reservoirs so you might find your local population has expanded too.

There were also the usual Mallard, a dabchick and several pairs of Gadwall. These are fairly indistinct grey ducks when seen at a distance but up close they have the most beautifully marked feathers on their backs and a more delicate head than most ducks.

There are a few pairs of mute swans on the reservoir and as we walked round towards the yacht club there was a swan sitting on the slipway, obviously injured as it was having trouble holding it's head up. As we stood watching and wondering what to do, a man from the local wildlife charity Secret World arrived with a large net having been told there was an injured swan to rescue. He asked if we'd lend a hand helping him catch it - to which of course we said "Yes". It didn't take much catching and didn't even put up a fight only just managing to raise it's head. It was a female swan (you can tell by the size of the black lump on their bill - the male's is larger). She was very quiet and we weren't too hopeful that she'd last very long as we made our way back to the car where she could be placed in a cage and taken back to the centre.

At least we'd done something to help.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Long-tailed Tit


Just spotted a long-tailed tit in the garden before I head off for the Christmas break.

It's the first time I've seen one actually in the garden. They're very distinctive not only for their appearance but their high twittering calls, as they flit from branch to branch - usually up in the treetops and in large groups, flitting quickly from tree to tree.

This one appeared to be on it's own as I couldn't see any others. The trees in the park close by are more mature now, so there are a lot more woodland birds around and I've seen them occasionally there. They're lovely to see it and perhaps it will be back with a few others later in the year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Female Sparrowhawk

Another first. Quietly minding my own business this morning, doing the washing up and watching the birds on the feeders when there was a flurry of activity at the bottom of the garden and a female sparrowhawk flew up and landed on the fence before quickly flying off into the trees. Obviously chasing a bird judging by the way the sparrows and tits scattered in all directions. Being a female, it was a large brown bird (bigger than a kestrel) with a distinctly barred tail. I didn't get to see much more of it as it didn't hang around for long. They don't - ambushing birds by flying low through tree branches or swooping into gardens.

I know they're in the area - I've seen them flying fast between the houses or through the trees up on the park or playing fields but never had one come into the garden. One of the downsides of having feeders in the garden - it attracts the small birds which then in turn become prey for birds like the sparrowhawk.
Shortly after, another bird appeared in the garden that I haven't seen in a while, a dunnock or hedge sparrow. Quite secretive and a dull brown/grey bird but with a lovely song.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Stoat or weasel?

On most of my runs I don't see anything out of the ordinary but this morning just as I was coming back up to the corner of the Tye, I spotted a stoat - at least I think it was a stoat rather than a weasel. It was sitting just on the edge of the undergrowth only a few yards away, looked at me and then turned round and disappeared.

You see them so rarely these days - I wasn't surprised it was there as there are plenty of rabbits around but I've never seen one up there before. It was mid morning, windy but clear and there were a couple of dog walkers about but that was it. The last time I saw one was over in Pulborough last year. I'll keep an eye out but I don't expect it will be a regular sighting.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Running and Flytippers

Back out running as I'm now seriously in training for the Brighton half-marathon in February. This does mean that I'll need to brave the wind, rain and mud over the winter. Not too bad last week but this week it's definitely been pretty muddy up there and the ground is getting more churned up by the cattle that have been grazing up there and the horses that get exercised on the Tye.

This week someone has dumped a load of what looks like compost, rubble and manure right in the middle of the track. Effectively blocking anyone from getting through. Fortunately the majority of traffic on that road tends to be 4x4s so it had already driven across on one side so anyone walking up the track didn't have to scramble over the heap. The wooden pallets that were dumped up on the corner last week have now disappeared - at least they can be put to some use. There's a lot less rubbish being fly-tipped up there since they put up the bunds to fill in the gaps but it just gets left on the side of the track now. Include a few months ago, a burnt out MG.

Anyway, it's a lot muddier and so far I've managed to time my runs to avoid the showers. It's also still not too cold so although the hat's come out the gloves and scarf haven't as yet but I'm sure it won't be long.

If you enjoy reading my nature ramblings - please take a few moments to sponsor me on my half-marathon as I'm raising funds for Cancer Research. Further details and sponsorship here -
http://www.justgiving.com/clarehalfmarathon

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fencing At Ditchling

Yesterday, I was out volunteering again and once again the weather was kind to us. Something a bit different for the day's activities. We were mending fencing along the lower part of the road up to Ditchling Beacon where a car had crashed through, damaging not only itself but the sheep fencing and as the sheep were about to be let into that area it needed to be secured to stop them getting out onto the road. That was after we'd had to winch both the landrovers up the track as the mud made it impossible for them to drive up, even with four-wheel drive. I'd like to see some of those chelsea tractors attempting it!!

Hardly surprising that there are so many accidents along that stretch of road, as people were speeding past on that stretch of road. Boy racers in their micras and those good old white van drivers. There were 10 of us out working - plus the two rangers. The most so far. We cleared all the undergrowth and scrub back from the fence so that we could get to it. Tightened up the barbed wire all along it's length and fixed two stakes.

After a cold lunch break in a cleared area up above the underhill lane, we all set about clearing the track down to the small carpark, so that emergency vehicles could get up to the livestock if needed, with the help of a 'lawnmower' that was capable of cutting down Mostly easy stuff and just for once I haven't come back with scratches and splinters, although I did get twanged by the barbed wire when we were tightening it up. Only a flesh wound.