Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Motorway Wildlife

Now, I'm used to seeing assorted birds of prey alongside the motorway - kestrels are a common sight hovering over the verge and buzzards are a frequent sight in many parts of the country and as I've mentioned before, red kites are often observed along the M40 - not much chance yesterday as it was dark but as I drove back from Manchester yesterday and was driving round the bend from the M40 on to the M25 I caught sight, out of the side of my eye, of a large brown bird flapping up into a tree on the side of the road.

Now I can only imagine, it being 9.00pm, that it was an owl - definitely not a barn owl - too large and brown. I'm guessing either a tawny or perhaps long or short or maybe even a nocturnal buzzard using the street lighting for a little opportunistic hunting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Malling Down - Autumn 08

First outing of the Autumn with the SWT and we're back working up on Malling Down around the old quarry continuing to clear the deep valley we started working on at the beginning of the year.

Much of what we cleared a couple of years ago doesn't look too bad. The flat area and the scrub we cleared has been taken over by nettles (greener patches), thistles (brown patches) and some of the scrub has re-sprouted but now it's starting to die back at the end of the year, it doesn't look quite so bad and there's a chance that grass may grow back in some areas. The bare patch in the foreground is the bonfire site at the bottom of the valley from last year.

The old bonfire site from this year, in the centre of the valley, was totally overgrown and even the stump we'd burnt out had disappeared beneath a bed of nettles. Sadly empty bottles had reappeared, so cutting down the scrub hadn't deterred the partying, perhaps they were now enjoying the improved view out across the valley.

We did get a good fire going, as there was plenty of scrub that we'd left previously to get it started and we'd had a few dry days, so it didn't take long to get a blazing fire and with several large logs around and the satisfying blaze and crackle created by a clump of bramble or ivy, it was soon burning whatever we piled on to it as quickly as we piled it on.

There was a large group out this time with about twelve of us in all, so spread around the area, working in the valley and the other side of the path, we started to make short work of the scrub. Then Gary turned up with his chain saw and quickly set about the larger trees and stumps. Felling two large bushes, well almost trees, on the left slope of the valley in a matter of minutes.

After a brief lunch break in the sun but cold wind, when we lost a few of the group (it seemed to be a day for birthday parties), it was then a matter of spending most of the afternoon dragging what had been cut to the fire. Some of it having to be dragged up and over the hill, across the path and down the gully into the valley, well, that was one way to flatten down the nettles. I also dipped out before the end as I had a seminar and trip to prepare for the following day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stunned And Bemused

Sitting quietly minding my own business, having breakfast and there's a loud thud - the sort of noise a bird makes when it hits a window with some force. I rushed into the kitchen area and peered out of the patio doors to see a small bird lying on it's back with it's feet in the air, twitching. There's a curtain across the doors so it wouldn't have seen a way through - perhaps just caught out by the reflection.

Poor little mite, it turned out to be a goldfinch. Totally stunned. I picked it up - half expecting it to expire in my hand but it sat quietly, partially conscious I should think - eyeing me up as I held it gently. I checked it's wings carefully and they didn't appear to be damaged, there were a few loose feathers around it's head. After a few minutes it started to become a bit more active - moving it's legs but still just sitting in my hand even when I opened it up. A few minutes more and it fluttered it's wings and then a couple of minutes later it flew a short distance into the bush just on the edge of the patio looking a bit confused and obviously trying to get it's bearings as it looked round and trying to work out what had happened.

I kept an eye on it - knowing that next door's cat was likely to appear and sure enough, while the bird was still sitting there, after about ten minutes one did - scrambling up the fence just by the back door. Fortunately, the goldfinch had recovered enough by now to fly off in the opposite direction as I went out to chase the cat away in case it had any ideas about breakfast. Not on my watch!

One small bird rescued - I just hope that it didn't fly off to another shrub only to keel over from delayed concussion.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Big Cat Live

Well, I can think of other things I could be doing but when it's cold, wet and windy outside I clicked on the BBC Big Cat Live website and found myself watching the live streaming webcams.

It's amazing to think that I'm sitting here watch zebra and elephants hundreds of miles away from the comfort of my sitting room - although I'd rather be out there. I've just watched a hyena family - three adults and a cub and a few birds visiting the bird table. OK, it's not non-stop action and it's been raining there too but it's better than looking out a wet, windswept garden.

It starts live on BBC today - let's hope the TV's back by then, my TV signal has gone AWOL. No doubt a problem with the transmitter, which has probably been blown away. If not, I'll just have to carry on watching it online.

BBC Big Cat Live and they're on Twitter too.