Posts Tagged "sparrowhawk"

The deep green days

At 5am there had been the faintest sounds of rain. Apologetic rain, the sort of rain that knows it has to fall but feels dreadfully sorry about it so stays small and quiet, hoping its not noticed. By morning it was cooler than it had been for weeks. Cooler and cloudy, a good chance to explore before the sun re-emerged and turned the few spots of rain into humidity.

The lime tree right outside my door has noticeably raced towards seed in the past few weeks, decorating the ground and window ledges with its helicopters where they’ve snuck in through open windows.

At the top of the road the sparrows have fledged, but they’ve not gone far. They’re all in the laurel hedge and flitting down to the grass verge in search of food. Come the winter they’ll head for the beech hedge I expect, but that’s a long way away yet.

On the main road a pair of goldfinches catches my eye, but wait, there’s a sparrowhawk in pursuit of them! They dive into a bush and the sparrowhawk pursues, but they escape. The resident blackbirds in that garden are having none of this, however, and in a cacophony of wing flaps and alarm calls they mob the intruder away. Sparrowhawk flies up to a chimney pot and looks around, but the woodpigeons on the roof ridge and TV aerial seem utterly unconcerned by the presence of the predator, unconcerned to the point of disdainful looks. Apparently its hard work being a fearsome raptor some days.

On the back lane the bloom of flowers has disappeared, replaced by the deep, rich greens of the height of summer. Only the occasional stray avens near the ground or the first ripening blackberries break up the 50 shades of green of the mammoth hedge.

So early, they’re ripening so early, the heatwave forcing everything to rush to seed (and untidly too) it seems.

Even the late starting sweet chestnut in the copse is rushing to catch up, with the ground and the path through the copse littered with its worm-like flower remnants.

These are the green days now, the deep and darkening green days. Summer’s height is here.

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Patch walk, 9th June 2018

Its cloudy and cooler than I was expecting. Feels cooler than the forecast said, which is all good by me. Just plodding along today. I have time to spend and you can miss so much when you move quickly.

The back lane feels full of life today. Where flowering bushes are overhanging garden walls and fences they are busy with bees. Honeybee, Garden Bumblebee and Tree Bumblebee all spotted.

Tiny flowers on this one particular bush, so the the bees are constantly on the move. This makes photographing them something of a lottery! The garden bumblebees already have leg baskets that are filling with pollen, its heartening to see.

The brambles are starting to flower by the hedge that runs the entire length of the lane. Summer ploughing ever on onwards. At the bottom of the lane, 4 long-tailed tits fly across the lane in front of me, from garden to garden. The first long-tailed tits I’ve seen for months. New birds out exploring the world with their parents? That’s a happy thought.

Chaffinch is singing in the copse and that’s the only good news from there today. The woodpigeon nest is empty again today, with no sign of them. Is it another failed nest in the copse this year? It could well be. The possibility of predation by the sparrowhawk in the park over the road can’t be ruled out. The nest wasn’t in a particularly hidden position.

I can hear the sparrowhawk calling as soon as I enter the park. The collection of feathers is still there at the bottom of the horse chestnut, but so are lots of droppings. This might not be a plucking post, this might be a sparrowhawk nest! I can’t see anything from the ground, the leaf cover is too dense, but I’ll try to work out a way to see from higher ground.

Head over to the robin spot and the resident robin is quickly on to mealworms, but not just taking the one and going – they’re filling their beak up with the lot! Hang on, now there’s 2 of them and they’re both hoovering up all the mealworms I’m putting down. Then they’re both flying off to the same rough area of the park. It has to be a nest. Is this what happened to winter and spring’s highly unusual arrangement of 3 robins in the same very small area? Did 2 of them finally pair up and breed?

Before I can even think about going and investigating further, Buddy the squirrel turns up and he’s making it very clear he wants a nut. He pops up into a yew tree when I tell him but now I’m in a dilemma. I can’t go looking for the nest and and risk Buddy following me and discovering where the nest is, for the safety of the birds. I need something that will temporarily make the squirrels want to be elsewhere in the park…and here it comes in the shape of Bonniedog. No squirrel in its right mind wants to be anywhere near her. She’s a lovely-natured dog, unless you’re a squirrel. Its textbook.

With the squirrels safely elsewhere I can can stalk the robins, looking for the nest. It has to be done carefully, patiently, at a distance. Binoculars required, don’t disturb the birds or the nest site. Move slowly, move deliberately, watch where you’re putting your feet. After about 20 minutes I’ve identified which particular bush they’re nesting in. That’s enough for today, really don’t want to go closer and risk disturbing.

Look at my watch, I’ve spent an hour just feeding and watching robins. So, I head onwards, ending up at the black spruce where Buddy escaped to and Braveheart has joined him there.

“Wherever you go, I shall stalk you for nuts!”

Evidence quickly confirms that they’re both pretty darn hungry. Its not surprising, this is a rough time for squirrels, with all of last years stocks exhausted and not much new food emerged yet. Summer can be a real winter for squirrels.

Keeping them separate by feeding them at different points on the tree I give them their first nuts and they do their utmost to plough through the rest of the bag of nuts.

“Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

I’m there for ages, until they both satiated and starting to run off and bury nuts. Feels like its about time for my lunch now too, so its time to head home from a very enjoyable patch walk.

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Patch walk, 8th June 2018

Its a cloudy morning and with the temperature rising its already feeling quite close and humid as I step out of the door. Hmm, herring gulls are calling loudly, that’s a little unusual at this time of the year. Part way up the road the reason for all the noisy kerfuffle is revealed. 3 herring gulls are mobbing a buzzard. Its all happening at close quarters, the buzzard trying to flare its claws at its tormentors but constantly giving ground to them. By the time I’ve reached the top of the road and have an uninterrupted view things are changing again. Another buzzard floats effortlessly into the melee. The gulls don’t seem to like this change of odds and swiftly change direction, unwilling to take on 2 buzzards at once.

On the back lane, goldfinch and robin are singing while dunnock and sparrow are foraging where the road surface meets the old hedge. The only singing in the copse today is from woodpigeons. The great tit nest is still devoid of activity, the woodpigeon is off its nest and there’s no activity at the nuthatch nest hole. I suspect I’ve missed my chance to see the nuthatches fledging, they were so close a couple of days ago.

In the park and below one of the huge horse chestnut trees there’s a collection of feathers. Downy feathers, all white and grey.

Handiwork of the sparrowhawk I’ve been hearing so often recently? Seems like there are too many of them to be from the impact of just one kill. Perhaps the sparrowhawk’s favourite plucking post is right above in the horse chestnut? Its definitely worth keeping an eye on.

At the robin spot the resident robin is around, albeit a little reluctantly today as the area is currently overrun with with very active squirrels. She does come down to collect mealworms, but she’s not hanging about, smashing and grabbing, back into cover. Just how fast is she on these forays from the bushes? Faster than the zoom on my camera, I don’t manage to get a shot today.

With appointments to get to later I don’t have as much time on the patch today, so head straight to the black spruce tree and the squirrels…who aren’t there and aren’t appearing quickly from elsewhere in the park when I rattle the bag of nuts either. Still, it gives me time to collect. I do have a bit of a habit of collecting what catches my eye from what flora and fauna have left behind. Right now, with birds starting to moult, there’s plenty of feathers to collect. Crow and woodpigeon feathers are easy to identify, but the last one (all shown above) is new to me. Could it be a buzzard feather? I think it is.

Its too beautiful to leave behind either way, this one is going on display at home.

There’s also the first spruce cones of the season on the ground, not fully grown of course, but the shapes and patterns are fascinating and these are still sticky with sap.

Eventually, after going on a little wander while rattling my bag of nuts, Braveheart squirrel appears and is looking either extremely eager, extremely curious, or both together!

“Focus? Schmocus! I want to do an extreme close up!”

Its not just Braveheart who turns up today though, there’s also the polite squirrel as well as a new one who’s not come to the tree before. He squats down, both paws crossed across his chest, trying to look innocent. Trying, but the missing section of one of his ears suggests he knows how to look after himself. He gets up to the tree stump and has a good look at me, but doesn’t take a nut yet. His approach is to try and chase Braveheart for his nut instead, so the squirrels are all spinning around the trunk like fireworks.

With the sun over the yard arm and appointments imminent its time to head home.

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Patch Walk, 5th June 2018

Bright sun and blue skies, but the warmth of the day hasn’t really built up yet when I step out to go and explore. A perfect summer morning.

Heading up the road it seems like every garden wall has a snail attached to it today. Now I know next to nothing about snails, but I do enjoy seeing the variations in patterns and styles on their shells. Thanks to some top work from Bedfordshire Natural History Society, however, I’m reasonably confident in saying that these are a mix of garden snails and brown lipped snails. Lovely shell patterns all the same.

I can see why they’ve been called “wallfruit” in the past! Can’t help feeling a lot of them are going to appeal to the birds today, parked out in splendid isolation on garden walls like that.

Plodding along at a deliberate pace I soon reach the copse. I stop at the great tit nest site for a good while, but there’s no signs of activity there at all. No parent birds to be seen and no no noise coming from the nest when I step closer to listen. Ominously, there are both magpie and squirrel in the tree tops. Has the nest been predated? If so that’d be the second tits predation in this little copse this nesting season. Its possible, of course, that they fledged, but when I was last this way 2 days ago that didn’t seem even close to happening. Its also possible that I didn’t look long enough, so I’ll stay optimistic for tomorrow.

The woodpigeon, at least, is sitting pretty and sleepily on its nest. There were no signs of activity at the nuthatch nest, but that’s not been unusual over the past few weeks. Walking past the spot again a couple of hours later, however, I did see that little nuthatch face at the nest hole, so they’ve not fledged quite yet.

Into the park and in the spot that, up until a few weeks ago, a highly unusual gang of 3 robins frequented, there is still one robin spending time there. Its getting increasingly brave too, coming down to the edge of the area and coming closer to eat the scattered mealworms I’m putting down for it.

Its very nice to see this robin settling to my presence. Still no sign of the “leader” of the robin gang who would come and feed from your hand. He’s not been seen for weeks now. Very much missed. Perhaps the laughing cry of a sparrowhawk overhead, an increasingly regular sound in the park, has something to do with his disappearance.

Getting to the black spruce tree and Braveheart squirrel is there to greet me. He even heads up the tree when I tell him to, before even getting any nuts out! Once the nuts are out he gets down to the serious business of eating as many of them as he can manage.

Om to the nom to the om nom nom

He’s eating them in between being chased by another squirrel, who can’t quite get up the courage to take a nut from my hand yet, so decides he’s better off chasing and trying to steal a nut from the squirrel who already has one. He’ll come and look at me, but no take yet.

Hmm, not sure about you yet human, think I’ll chase the other squirrel one more time…

Time is pressing today, so I’ll have to leave them to their chasing and head home.

 

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