Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tame Blackbirds

I've got a very tame pair of blackbirds in the garden.  The male frequently comes down to feed when I'm sitting out and doesn't seem to be the slightest bit concerned by my presence.  Having given me a wary look he just carries on feeding.  This morning he was attempting to stuff as many seeds into his mouth as possible, so they still have young to feed somewhere.  Either first brood that should be ready to fledge by now or perhaps on their second brood.

The female has just come down too.  It's either a young female or a tail-less adult as she has no tail feathers.  Also very tame and flew up onto the trellis when I came out to top up the bird bath, watched me and then flew back down as I went back inside.

I hope they're a lot more wary if a cat appears.  In fact I've just put the bird table back out with some feed as it's off the ground and safer from the danger of cats sneaking up on them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pulborough: Nightjars

Another great Summer BBQ for the volunteers at Pulborough.  Out in the front of the centre this time, so we didn't disturb the nesting barn owls.

After the meal several of us hung around as it got dark and went to see and hear the nightjars on the heathland. It got darker and darker and I got more and more bitten but no sign of them.  There was one distant, short churr around 10pm and after another 15 minutes I decided to give up and head back to the car.  At which point I heard one very clearly and quite close.  Finally!

We rushed round to view its perch and saw it flattened out along a branch and clearly heard it calling.  It flew off after a few minutes but it was lovely to hear it and worth staying late for.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stunned Nuthatch

Over at my parents and the usual array of small birds on the feeders.  I brought over a large sack of seed as they get through it so fast.  Plenty of young, yellow newly fledged bluetits.

While sitting out in the sunshine a hobby flashed by.  At least, from it's fleeting shape I guessed that's what it was.   There are several swallows around although they've not nested in the bottom shed.

A little later I found a stunned nuthatch outside the back door.  It had obviously flown in to the window.  I put it in a shaded area to see if it would recover.  Sadly it looked as if it might have broken a leg and died a few minutes later.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arundel Wildfowl

Another visit to Arundel Wildfowl Trust and quite a few changes since last time I was here.  The Wetlands Discovery Area is complete and well established with a 'quiet' path around the area and two hides close to it.  One was closed and the presence of young children running around screaming didn't exactly make it the tranquil area it was intended.

Plenty of young chicks around - mallardcoot and moorhen mainly with a few young shelduck on the ponds.  Coot and moorhen chicks that only their mum could love, nothing like the cuter and fluffier shelduck chicks.

The Scrape area has been opened up and there's a new sand martin hide overlooking the riverside pools that hadn't even been started last time I was here, although no sand martins around.

Quite a few warblers - ReedSedge and Cetti's.  There was a buzzard and kestrel flying over the woods and a number of woodland birds in the woodland walk area which comes out in the reedbed.

Probably not the best time to come on a sunny weekend when there are plenty of family and weekenders around who are more interested in feeding the exotics and fluffy duckings than being aware of the 'wild' birds.

It's probably one of the reasons why it's not one of my favourite locations.  Possibly better in the winter or on a weekday and I'd like to see what's out in the Discovery area.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Day 3: South Downs Way - Southease to Ditchling Beacon

We set off slightly earlier today having deposited cars at either end of our walk.  Heading out from the church in Southease with runners going one way and masses of walkers going the other.  We'd obviously chosen a busy weekend - although this being half-term week, it probably wasn't surprising as there were plenty of people along the whole of the route.  We were repeating the first part of the walk that we'd covered at the end of Day 2 walking back to Telscombe.

Having hiked up Mill Hill and stepped aside to let runners pass, we walked up the long incline on to Kingston Ridge along concrete roads and wide chalk tracks and fields of grazing cattle.

Finally saw a buzzard as we walked round up on the escarpment above Lewes.  No red kite though.  Several of those have been seen along the eastern end of the Downs recently but not when I've been out and about.

Masses of meadow pipits around on the Downs today, I've never heard so many singing.  Their 'tumbling' song different from the skylarks.  There were also plenty of blue butterflies - although what species of blue I couldn't tell - chalk hill and common blues most likely.  Flitting by too fast and not enough time to sit and watch, as we continued on our way.

The runners were putting us to shame by running UP the hills we were merely walking.  It turned out it's the annual South Downs Way Relay race.  Teams of six, running along the entire length of the South Downs in one day, eighteen legs.  One of their changeover points was the A27 between Falmer and Lewes (and a tap stop for water) where they were all gathered.  After a steep uphill slog over Long Hill and down through the woods we came back out onto open chalk downland.

As we headed up towards Blackcap we came across a mobile shearing setup.  Having wondered what the two gazebos we'd spotted in the distance were doing in the relative middle of nowhere, their purpose became clear as we got nearer.

No, they weren't a refreshment tent setup for hot and tired walkers (unfortunately).  There was a clue in the wool scattered round the field and the presence of sheep (as yet unsheared).

Shortly after we arrived, the action started as the sheep were herded into the pens with much bleating, shuffling and hot, panting sheep and their lambs.  Although some of the lambs had escaped the pen and were racing around outside.  They looked much in need of shearing and not just as relief from the heat.  Can you imagine being dressed up in a thick woolly jumper in the heat.

It was going to be a while before any actual shearing took place, as the shearers (no doubt from Australia and New Zealand) were still munching their lunch, so we walked on and had our own brief lunch stop once we'd reached Blackcap Down.

Although it's an article from last year - it explains the reason so many sheep still seemed to have their fleeces so late in the year and in such hot weather.

After our short break sitting in the shade of a hawthorn on Blackcap, listening to a yellowhammer singing away in the heat, it was just another hour walk to Ditchling Beacon and a welcome ice-cream before heading back to pick up the car.

Total walked today: 11.5 miles - 4.5 hrs
TOTAL SO FAR: 29.5 miles (32.5mi) - 70.5 to go

You can find more photos of the walk on Facebook and Flickr

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Wildlife Webcams and Baby Birds

There's nothing more enthralling than watching wildlife happening right in front of you.  With nesting season well underway a great way to do this is to view live action on a webcam.  There are several wildlife groups with webcams set up on their reserves and live streaming for you to watch.

See four at once on BBC Springwatch
Watch Owls and Kestrels at Dorset Wildlife Trust
RSPB webcams - birds of prey, seabirds and feeders.

Don't disturb nesting birds - you may be keen to see the eggs or young birds but parents can abandon their nests if disturbed.  Stay well clear and keep animals and children away.

Baby Birds

There will be plenty of young birds around at the moment but don't immediately assume they've been abandoned.

If you find a baby bird and it's feathered and uninjured - leave it alone.  It's parents are probably nearby and will not come near while you are there.

If it's on the ground and in immediate danger from cats or a road - place it in a nearby bush or tree.

If it's a young chick, you might be able to find the nest (probably above where you found it) and replace the bird in the nest and move well away.

You can find more advice on the RSPB site