Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red Kites In Sussex

And to top it all, TWO red kites appeared overhead just before lunch and upstaged the sparrowhawk.

Image shows a Red Kite (Milvus milvus).Image via WikipediaHaving seen them along the A272 yesterday, it was definitely not what I was expecting to see and NOT flying over the house.

They circled lazily above and headed towards the Downs before disappearing out of sight.

They have been spotted in the area before and it's not unusual to see them if you're lucky and know where to look.  If you live in the Chilterns you probably wonder what all the fuss is about but here in Sussex they're still not that common.

Absolutely amazing to see them and to know that they're slowly spreading out this way.  Hopefully it won't be long before these beautiful birds, with their elegant wingspan and forked tails, are as common a sight along the South Downs as the buzzard.
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Fantastic Views Of A Male Sparrowhawk

Spent most of the day watching a male sparrowhawk making regular attacks on the small birds on the feeders.  While it's been seen occasionally and I get one in my garden every now and then, it's unusual to see it appear every four to five minutes, flying across the garden and attempting to grab a bird.

It had appeared a few times yesterday morning but as we were out all day it may have been doing the same thing.  The birds were certainly absent from the feeders in their usual numbers, as there's usually a steady stream of them nipping in and out to the feeders throughout the day.  Obviously put off by the hawk, they were being cautious and only feeding on the nuts nearest cover.

The sparrowhawk was first spotted taking a blue tit before flying off.  It then returned at regular intervals throughout the day.  Mostly missing - landing on either the feeder itself, a nearby branch or swooping in and out again.  It caught a great tit later in the day and at one point looked as if it might have a go at the woodpigeon, who was a good indicator of the impending attack, as you could see it duck just before the hawk came through.

It nearly always came from the same direction but despite going outside to look - I couldn't see it sitting anywhere nearby or sitting on a branch with it's catch.  There were plenty of woodpigeon and jackdaws around perched in trees but no sign of the sparrowhawk.  Given the regularity of it's attacks it must have been close, it even came in when we were standing outside looking for it.

After the second attack and a little later in the afternoon, the birds had returned, so perhaps it had it's fill and had moved off.

While it's sad to see the small birds being taken, it was amazing to see the sparrowhawk return again and again and to get such great views.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Red Kites In Hampshire

The A272 between Petersfield and Winchester is a lovely stretch of road, not great if you're in a hurry and get stuck behind something but far more scenic than many other roads and a good opportunity to spot wildlife on the move.

I was expecting to see at least a buzzard and did spot one sitting in the top of a tree.  Plenty of pheasant around and catkins starting to come out.

On the way back there was a brief glimpse of two red kite on the edge of woodland, not too far from where I've seen one before.

Monday, February 14, 2011

National Nest Box Week - 14-21 February

National Nest Box Week is the week to focus on the birds in and around your garden, school or local park.

Started in 1997, it's run by the British Trust for Ornithology and encourages people to put up boxes in their local area to help our breeding birds.

Bird BoxImage by Crowcombe Al via FlickrBoxes come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of birds.  Make your own from a plank of wood (without the perch) or buy a ready made box from your local wildlife organisation or garden centre.

Don't forget nesting sites for birds like the house sparrow - usually several together or swallows and house martins under the eaves.

The BTO also runs the Nest Box Challenge where you can register your boxes and report any activity throughout the year.

What will you do this week for birds and their boxes?
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scrub Clearance on the E-Piece

Three of us turned up to work on the e-Piece.  Cold and windy but glimpses of blue sky and at least rain wasn't forecast for the day.

As we wandered down to clear an area of regrowth, we took the opportunity to clear one of the paths down from the bridleway to the edge of the field which had become pretty impassble.

An hour or so's work and we'd widened the path and made it visible again, instead of having to fight your way through brambles and hawthorn.
E-piece - before

We then checked out the bird boxes along the edge of the field.  Eight of them in total put up a good few years ago.  Mainly tit boxes but one open-fronted robin box.

Only two of the boxes had been occupied or at least had some nesting material in them.  Spiders had taken up residence in a couple but were otherwise empty.

The rest of the tit boxes had the holes enlarged - where woodpeckers or perhaps squirrels have enlarged them.  They were empty, so they hadn't been raided for eggs or nestlings.
E-piece - after

We then started working further along the slope - clearing regrowth between two patches of more mature scrub that had been cleared a few years before.

We managed to clear most of the lower part of the slope in the time that was left.  It's amazing how much you can get done - even if there are only a few of us - although it was mostly bramble and a few sprouting elders and ash.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Working On Blackcap With The National Trust

A fairly gloomy and drizzly day and we're working up on Blackcap with the National Trust.  Watched beaters in the fields below before the rest of the crew turned up.  Not sure what they were beating for - didn't seem to be a lot of pheasant around although there were plenty of wood pigeons.

We were working on a new area that I haven't worked in before.  Further round and lower down from where we were working last year and a bit of a trek from where we left the landrovers.

Mainly the usual scrub encroaching onto an area of grassland - littered with anthills.  Managed to poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick but then that's not unusual when cutting scrub.

Plenty of lopper-sized shrubs to cut back, along with thicker trunks and bramble patches.  Spotted a sparrowhawk dashing across the treetops and woodpeckers - green and spotted calling from the woods.

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