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23 Jun 2017

Nature in tooth and claw


Or in this case - beak!
Ravens and gulls are scavengers and will eat carrion. They don't kill livestock unless its severely disabled and probably dying anyway. We've had sheep in the fields behind and in front of the house and recently one animal seemed to want to commit bovid suicide by drowning itself in the pond. Three times in one day it got in and was rescued and eventually drowned overnight. The Ravens were soon on the scene with three birds feasting. Not a pretty sight. The farmer wasn't sure of the issue as he'd checked the animal for maggots. Gruesome, but a fact of life for sheep, where the rear end becomes dirty before they're sheared and can result in a maggot infestation. They enter the water for relief from the maggots.

It reminded me of a similar occasion where a sheep succumbed during the winter - this time it was a pair of Greater black-backed Gulls that made the first incision and the Ravens followed.


Below are Ravens feeding on the latest casualty.


19 Jun 2017

Little Owls - who can resist!

More Little Owl shots of the birds behind our house whose young have now fledged! The male bird has started singing again and last evening I spent about an hour watching the birds fly from tree to tree and occasionally drop on the ground for some tasty snack.

 Adult Little Owl.
Fledgling Little owl.

I bumped into an old friend yesterday I hadn't seen for 31 years. He lives in the village and told me he and his wife had a Barn owl hunting over the filed behind their house recently - I've been hoping for one in the field opposite the house so its nice to know they're around.

14 Jun 2017

Little Owl success

One of the Little Owl boxes I put up with Barry's help on a local farm was used again this year. Initially the female was sat on 5 eggs but when we came to ring them there were only three pullus in the box. Steve joined me with his kids as Thomas, his eldest is my ringing trainee and it was the first time he'd ringed Little Owl. A subsequent check of the box revealed all three have fledged successfully.



The box will need a good clean out later in the year as it really was that filthy and rancid on the inside.

I haven't don much ringing at home as I've either been to busy with renovations or the weathers been to windy or wet. Recently, however, we had a small fall of warblers in the garden following a rain shower so I put up an 18ft net. I wasn't the only one interested in the warblers as the first bird out of the net in broad daylight was this male Little Owl. The picture in the hand illustrates how small these little predators are.

 To be hunting so early I assumed he must have young in the nest we can see from the house so I decided to abandon the ringing session. Last weekend I finally saw one of the fledgling Little Owls sat outside the nest hole with one of the parent birds nearby. Another breeding success!  


5 Jun 2017

Puffin Island - 1st trip of the year.

I recently went to Puffin Island with SCAN and the Seabird Ecology Group of Liverpool University. No ringing for me this trip as my main task was to try and photograph as many Razorbill rings for our long term study on adult survival rates. Photographing the rings is more accurate than recording numbers in a notebook as they can then be verified on the computer screen later.
See here for last years report.

It was a beautiful day and I managed a good number of leg and ring shots of Razorbills. Photography was a bit challenging as the sun was reflecting off the rings at certain angles but between Steve & I we probably managed 60-70 different ring combinations.

As usual I couldn't resist a few 'artistic' shots when the circumstances allowed.

One of the more recent avian features along the N Wales coast has been the increase in Eider numbers and Puffin Island hosts a population of around 40 of these sea ducks with the majority spending their time loafing around the beach area! The increase here correlates with an increased number of sightings off Hilbre


 Greater-black Backed Gulls nest on the island and are pretty aggressive towards anyone getting to close to their nesting site. Luckily I was wearing a hat as I got hit several times by birds dive bombing and making contact.

 Guillemots are the commonest breeding auk and there are a few Bridled Guillemots which is a form of Guillemot that gets commoner the further north you go. Here they are very scarce.


 Herring Gulls also breed on the island but aren't as aggressive as their bigger cousins.
 This unfortunate Herring Gull has a massive tick infestation around its face

 Kittiwakes are also part of a long term study and are colour ringed as adults. Hers AXJ at its nest site.

 Puffins have increased in numbers since rats were eradicated from the island although there aren't huge numbers. They're probably the most photographed seabird on the planet but who can resist.......I can't!










 Razorbill!


 Adult Shag drying in the sunshine

 Sub-adult Shags. Non breeding birds born last year (Euring 5) showing the worn pointed feathers on their backs and duller eyes.

The next trips coming up very soon!

2 Jun 2017

Hedgehogs!

Another mammal thats becoming increasingly scarce is the Hedgehog so I was pleased to see one in our garden on several occasions recently. Grey Squirrels are the bane of my life and are constantly destroying even supposedly 'squirrel proof' feeders by gnawing through the metal. Occasionally they hit the jack pot and the destroyed feeders spills its contents on the grass- this is what happened the other day and the Hedgehog must have decided to come and make the most of the feast rather than sleeping during the day.




Although it initially curled up after about 5 minutes sat in the pouring rain it became confident enough to start sniffing around before trundling off into the hedge.


Its really nice to see it snuffling around the garden.

30 May 2017

Hares.

We are really lucky in our new house to be surrounded by fields (mainly unimproved pasture) and we've had a couple of Hares regularly in the field opposite. Its great to see them and unfortunately they're an increasingly scarce sight these days.



Rabbits, of course, are more numerous and when we first moved in we regularly had a couple in the garden. With all the building work they rapidly moved on so I was surprised to look out of the window and see this one hopping across the back lawn!

Great stuff.

26 May 2017

RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands - the Camargue of the N West!

Unfortunately, despite living almost within sight of this site (as the bird flies its probably about 5 miles away),  I rarely get there. These days I prefer birding my local patch or going to Hilbre. However, news that Colin Wells had found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper piqued my interest and a day later the bird was still showing so I played it cool, went to Hilbre and waited until the crowds would have died down later in the afternoon before trundling through the lanes to Puddington.

The Buff-breastewd Sandpiper was showing well but distantly  - this was my 3rd in Cheshire following a bird at Frodsham in 1981 whilst still at Manchester University and a 2nd at the same site in 2012. Alas this one still wasn't close enough to get more than a record shot (unlike the birds we regularly see on Shetland!).




Although the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was the star attraction the real performers were the Great (White) Egrets - one was viewable from the Marsh Covert hide along with a Cattle Egret and Little Egret. Another Great Egret was showing well in a field of cows on the way back to on the reception centre. Both birds were in breeding condition as in non breeding condition the bills are yellow and the lores are paler rather than the vivid green these birds showed. At least one had well developed 'aigrettes'.





Record shot of Cattle Egret below:

Its hard to believe that both these species were, until recently, major Cheshire rarities and subject to scrutiny by the county rarities committee!

As well as the egrets other waders putting on a display included Black-tailed Godwits with one confiding individual feeding on blood worms close to the reception centre.

 Another bird that has only recently colonised Cheshire is the ubiquitous Avocet!
Again, these were once a major rarity in Cheshire with my first birds being seen around 2005 on the Weaver bend at Frodsham.  The RSPB have recently announced at least one pair of Cattle Egrets are breeding on site. With all these species and  singing Cetti's Warbler it really was like the Camargue.