What’s the best way to watch birds and wildlife? A trip to a reserve? A feeder in your back garden? How about your daily train commute?!
You can see some fantastic wildlife off a train; it acts as a great hide. Open your eyes and take a look, who knows what you might see!
The other day I saw a jay, with its brilliant blue flash and pinkish tinge it looks too exotic to be British. Nothing remarkable in seeing a jay, but it made my journey that little bit more exciting. You can even see some of our reserves from the train (and visit them too!). Imagine seeing a marsh harrier float across the reeds at Lakenheath from the 7.57!
Whether it’s a red kite or a woodpigeon, seeing wildlife brings a smile to my face on the morning commute. The early start suddenly doesn’t seem so bad!
It’s not just birds, there are more elusive creatures out there too, and the morning is the best time to see them. Deer stop and stare as the train speeds past. In spring, before the crops take hold, brown hares can be seen rushing madly about the fields. On the return journey, the lucky few might see an owl, or even a fox hunting rabbits.
So next time you’re on the train, take a look out of the window, it might just make your day!
Ears! We would look ridiculous without them…but, funnily enough, birds don’t!
So why do some birds appear to have no ears? Well, imagine having a conversationon a very windy day, all that wind blowing through your ears. If birds had the same ears as us, the wind they encounter whilst flying would thunder around their ‘ear-flaps’ and they would not be able to hear very well.
Instead, most birds have ear holes, which are covered by tiny feathers designed to cut down that thunderous sound. These ear holes are located at the side of the bird’s head and are sometimes nearly as big as their eyes. Of course, birds can hear very well, about as well as we do. Some birds can even catch food just by listening to creatures scampering across the floor.
Owls are the exception to this as some have small ear-like tufts on top of their heads clearly marking where their ears are.
So having little ears is a small price to pay for being able to fly…and hear that mating call at the same time!
Working in the middle of a nature reserve, as we do here at The Lodge, has a lot of benefits. From lunchtime walks through the woods to being able to watch an impressive variety of birds coming to the feeder outside our window, we are very lucky indeed.
Today, we had an extra-special treat with the arrival of a very unusual and exciting visitor to the newly-created heathland area opposite the shop.
News that a great grey shrike had been found early this afternoon was quick to filter through, creating a real buzz around the place. The great grey shrike is not only a rare visitor to the UK, it is also a very handsome bird. This, thrush-sized pallid hunter is black, white and grey with a distinctive 'bandit's mask' across its face, a long tail and a hooked beak. Shrikes are sometimes known as 'butcher birds' because of their habit of creating a 'larder' by catching small mammals and impaling them on thorny bushes to eat later.
A small number of great grey shrikes had arrived on the East Coast from Scandinavia over the last couple of weeks and this bird had obviously made its way inland in search of a suitable territory. Hopefully, it will hang around and perhaps even spend the winter on the heath.
On this blue-skied, sunny afternoon, Lucinda and I headed down for a quick peek and were lucky enough to see the shrike perched high in a dead pine, keeping a look out for prey and then flying between and posing on some lower perches.
Needless to say everyone that saw the shrike today, both staff and visitors, went home feeling very happy indeed...
I live close enough to work for it to be easy to cycle in everyday. It’s great exercise, convenient, green, and is a top way to get a bit of fresh air into the lungs.
It was a beautiful morning here in Sandy today, and cycling along the bridle path, just as the sun was rising over the trees, and the mist was rolling over the fields was pretty cool. Every time I looked around, there was another photo opportunity, and I wished I had my camera with me so that I could jump off and snap away. I don’t think my boss would thank me for it if I did. I‘d never get here if I stopped to snap everything.
It’s a great time to clear the mind as well. I pretty much have the path all to myself, and any cobwebs from the night don’t last long. It’s just me wheeling and wheezing my way to work. Me and the fox. And the occasional deer. And the peacock. And the squirrels. So it’s just me, the fox, the occasional deer, the peacock, the squirrels, the cows and horses in the field, a few chickens, and all the other birds I’m terrible at identifying.
And I thought it was my minty shower gel that woke me up in the morning...