..…was the cry from the kitchen, as I was nicely settling down to a spot of midday TV. Hurrying to the window – sure enough, there it was – an unusual midday visitor! A sleek little specimen, obviously young – bouncing along the far edge of the orchard. I guessed it was hunting for voles and frogs in the semi-long grass, of which there are many.
Judith, meanwhile, was scrabbling to get her camera when suddenly it paused momentarily, leapt into the air (very catlike) and came down - whack! Obviously onto some prey of which it then took a firm grip of in its jaws and proceeded to shake violently from side to side. It was a large dark object of an uncertain nature. It then began trying to eat it but seemed to tire of this eventually and so recommenced it’s tour of the orchard.
Camera at the ready, Judith had by now gone outside, trying to get better views. The fox was obviously aware of her presence but was unconcerned, even returning to the spot where it’s prey had been left. It’s whole demeanour was quite playful and seemed to be enjoying the process – frequently gazing towards the house. It then disappeared into the undergrowth, presumably back to the Reserve meadow from whence it came.
It’s a fair bet that it is a regular visitor, coming to partake of the scraps that we put out in the evening for the birds, ready for them early next morning. This can vary - anything from old swiss rolls to crusty loaves not to mention the odd cornish pasty or pork pie, past their sell-by date.
We then went over to where it seemingly had left it’s only prey, to discover that it was a mole caught, unfortunately in a brief trek above ground. Rather sad really! We know this mole has been working the orchard for some time now. Doubtless, it’s territory will be taken over by another in short order. We always like to keep a mole around as the soil it excavates makes very good seed potting compost – weed free and very fine. Does Alan Titchmarsh know this tip? Moles are not all bad news!
Fox along boundary hedge
Its on the trail of something
I've been spotted!
Heading back to where it's prey had been left
Looking at the dead mole
Fox, last seen, disappearing into the undergrowth
From the hide at the far end of the loaning this evening, a Buzzard was seen quartering the wet meadow in front of the wood, sometimes coming quite close to the hide. Eventually we noted a Roe Deer had emerged from the far corner of the wood, grazing it’s way amongst the reeds and rushes of the ditch which marks the boundary of the Reserve. Interestingly, the Buzzard seemed to pay attention to this process and began to hover over the Deer, possibly some 30 feet above it - taking itself off from time to time in small circles but always returning.
This was so noticeable as to be beyond coincidence and it continued to follow the Deer as it progressed along the ditch. Eventually it became apparent that the Deer did not welcome this attention, beginning to move at a faster pace out into the meadow. It’s grazing became more sporadic … finally disappearing at a gentle trot in amongst the larger hedges at the far corner of the Reserve. The Buzzard, consequently losing interest, eventually returns to quartering over the wood.
A reasonable assumption of the Buzzard’s behaviour would be that it was happily using the Deer to disturb small prey of whatever type. Alternatively, it was merely enjoying the process of hovering above and irritating the Deer to relieve the boredom of it’s endless quartering of the meadow in the evening.
I leave the conundrum with you!!
This evening (30th June) on our peregrinations round the Reserve, we had the pleasure, quite by chance, of meeting up with Gary Prescott alias Biking Birder, whose fame had preceeded him to our remote corner of the world via the internet.
Our encounter with Gary Prescott, Biking Birder, 30th June 2010
This sturdy sun-tanned figure, complete with trekking bike, was halfway down the loaning between the hide and his tent (and sardine supper) which had become his theatre of operations for the duration of his visit to the Reserve. It transpired that he had set off on January 1st from RSPB Sandwell Valley Reserve in the West Midlands, with the intention of cycling some 5000 miles visiting all the RSPB and WWT reserves plus a number of schools - spending the whole year doing it. This worthy cause is aimed at seeing as many different bird species as possible in a non-motorised way, spreading the message of conservation and ways of combating climate change, and raising money for RSPB, WWT and Asthma Uk. To this latter end he carried a small collecting box strapped to his handle bars.
He immediately established his street cred with us by indicating that, having risen very early, had identified 51 bird species before breakfast – some of which we ourselves had not previously seen. This guy definitely knew what he was looking at. As conversation progressed, he told us that his immediate itinery would include Geltsdale RSPB Reserve, and then round into Scotland to Mersehead and the Caerlaverock WWT and so on up the West Coast. Visiting schools on the way, this special needs teacher is well qualified to spread the gospel of conservation.
Think about it folks … setting off last January with the prospect of the whole of the nation before him - surely this titanic effort is deserving of our admiration. We wish him Bon Voyage!
Follow his progress on his blogspot http://bikingbirder2010.blogspot.com – that is when he can get to a computer.
For more about Gary’s journey or to sponsor him, visit www.bikingbirder.co.uk.
End of June is a joyous time of the year with young birds everywhere filling the hedgerows, meadows, woodlands and ponds
Sedge Warblers are still to be heard singing along the track. One was observed on 27th catching insects in the bushes round the hide – presumably feeding young. Whitethroat with young were seen flying near the 2nd pool screen. A Curlew was seen flying over the track and calling repeatedly on 23rd – it was probably a distraction technique indicating young in the neighbourhood. One of the nestboxes on the hide poolside is still occupied as a Tree Sparrow was observed on 27th, feeding a young bird – it’s red gape was visible protruding from the hole begging for food.
Sedge Warbler catching insects near hide, 27th June
Curlew's distraction flight over track, 23rd June
Tree Sparrow feeding young in nestbox - hide pond, 27th June
The 29th dawned hot and sunny. Adjacent to the first pond, the bushes and hedges were alive with young families of birds, hawking across the meadows beyond and returning to sun themselves on the surrounding bushes - Linnets, Chaffinches, House and Tree Sparrows, all mixing together.
Lots of activity on the 2nd Pool. On that day, watched a female mallard with seven ducklings, an Oystercatcher and a Moorhen all sunning themselves and preening on the side of the island.
Growing Mallard ducklings, 29th June
The next day (30th), in the evening, to our delight, we saw a Little Grebe chick slide out of the nearby reeds to be followed by the adult. They could be heard softly whinneying but only stayed visible for a short while, as the noisy bustling Mallard ducklings appeared in the vicinity making the Little Grebe nervous. The next day, we were able to watch both adults feeding and encouraging the juvenile to dive and feed itself.
Doting Lilltle Grebe parents with chick, 1st July
Further over on the island, a pair of Moorhen were busy building a nest – the male could be seen bringing material up to the nest site and passing it over to the female who was actually building the nest.
The hedgerows now look fine clothed in wild roses and on the banks of the pool stands of Willowherb are starting to flower. A few years ago, part of the hedge on the right-hand side had been laid by Stephen and the workparty. Amongst other things, they had cut back an elderberry bush and replanted cuttings from it along the hedge bank. You will now notice, as you pass along this length, how well they have taken, with a number of thriving bushes in bloom.
Thriving Elderberry saplings in flower, 23rd June
Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies are all visible here on sunny days. On damper days Swallows are hawking for insects along the track in the lee of the hedges., After a night of rain, on 29th, care had to be taken as you walked along, as hosts of very small frogs were emerging from adjacent ditches and pools.
Ringlet butterfly, 28th June
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, 27th June
Meadow Brown butterfly, 28th June
This is one of the larger frogs on the track, 29th June - Watch out for them!
During the course of this last hot week, it had been possible to assess the sort of day it was going to turn out to be, by watching the cattle activity. On really hot days they could be seen, from early morning, trekking out over the sands in long lines presumably to get away from the flies.
Weather vanes, 26th June
Recent sightings of 3 Ravens, 2 Blacktailed Godwits, a Grasshopper Warbler (heard and seen), 30+ Golden Plover and 3 Teal (Saltmarsh pool) have been reported for the marsh front.
On 28th, a Chiffchaff could still be heard singing loudly from the trees near West Common. A Willow Warbler was seen (and heard) collecting insects from the stems of gorse bushes nearby. Its was a day too, for Meadow Brown and Ringlet butterflies.
Visit to the Reserve of Gary Prescott, The Biking Birder, 29th and 30thJune, 2010
Will report more fully next time about our encounter with Gary, on the Reserve. In the meantime you can read about him in an article in the May issue of Birds, on Page 85, under Action pages, or visit www.bikingbirder.co.uk.
Gary Prescott - "Biking Birder", on the Reserve, 30th June 2010