Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Let the good times roll

Sometimes I do venture further afield than Tamworth and with some time off work, I’m  already thinking about how best to entertain myself. Saturday morning was spent with Pete and we decided to visit Middleton RSPB in the hope that the three Avocets that had been reported still present at dusk on Friday evening were still on site. The heavens opened just as we reached the North Pit and we took refuge in the “Lookout” hide. We spent a good hour scanning the North Pit, no Avocets were located.

The weather is forecast to be pretty grim for the nest couple of days. It doesn’t bode well for my RSPB Leighton Moss by train journey on Monday. I will be packing the waterproofs. Sunday saw very heavy rain and gusting winds with some localised flooding. Morecambe bay bound by train tomorrow. All packed and ready.

An enjoyable but very windy day at RSPB Leighton Moss on Monday. Plenty of Avocet present and Black-Tailed Godwit. The Avocets just wouldn’t come in close and in the overcast conditions it was a challenge getting a reasonable picture. I managed a few record shots with the digiscoping gear.




The Digiscoping set-up





Saturday, 21 March 2015

Badger Watching

For reasons unknown to me this blog entry vanished last night. Thank you to the people who informed me it had disappeared.
Regards, Moocher.

I have of late been spending more of my time watching local Badgers. If you have never been close to wild Badgers it's an experience difficult to put into words. Listening to their chattering calls as they communicate with each other in the dark, and being so close to them in the darkness that I can hear them breathing is an amazing experience. I feel privileged being in such close proximity to these amazing creatures. 

They are very active at the moment with the increasing temperatures and have been busy excavating their existing Sett and exploring new areas with exploratory but quite significant digs. I'm not sure if any this group has any cubs yet. If they have, they will have been born in the last 4 weeks or so. They won't be seen above ground until around mid April.

I have tried various ways of capturing their antics on digital camera or video, but all attempts have failed. I didn't want to disturb them with electronic flashes and end up with pictures of startled Badgers. In the end, I purchased an infrared trail camera. I didn't have a lot of luck with the first one, it quickly developed a fault and was promptly returned to the supplier. I replaced it with a better quality secondhand model, and initial results are promising.
I often set up the trail camera and stay in the area to observe the antics of the Badgers. A few images are nice to look at after the event, but nothing beats being there watching their antics. Also, trail cameras aren't cheap and I know a few people who have had theirs discovered and stolen. So, when I have finished watching the Badgers or whatever comes along, on leaving for home, I take the trail camera with me.

My first attempt at capturing some video footage. 

If you know of any local Badger setts it is worth keeping an eye on the area to ensure nothing untoward is going on. Regardless what people may think due to news coverage on Badger culls in Gloucestershire, Badgers and their setts are still very much protected by law. If you know of a Badger Sett, be very selective about who you mentioned its location to. Then, if you feel anything suspicious is happening around the sett don’t leave it to chance, report it to your local Badger protection group or the police. Dead Badgers and illegal acts against Badgers can also be reported to the Badger Trust.

The Badger Trust records all illegal acts contrary to the Protection of Badgers Act, and informs the police and the authorities of the extent of badger crime in the UK, and adds to the gathering of intelligence. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that illegal acts against Badgers don’t happen in your area. In our locality only this week a local birder stumbled upon this sorry sight.
This Badger had been shot at close range with a shotgun. If you find a dead Badger or suspect any wrong doing involving Badgers, report it here.  

A change of subject to Owls.

Pete had mentioned that he had found a very promising looking tree that may be used as an Owl roost or even a nest site. We went to properly check it out on Saturday morning. He was spot on about Owls using the tree. We found Owl Pellets at the foot of the trunk. It looks good for a potential Tawny nesting site. We will keep an eye on it and see what develops. 

I couldn’t resist bringing a couple of pellets home and dissecting them. Its been a few years since I last did this. The pellets looked quite recent and don’t have the sheen on the surface of them that you tend to see in Barn Owl pellets, time will tell what the culprit actually is.

The Pellets


The contents of the Owl Pellets


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Around the Locality

Saturday I was unable to get out in the morning and was unsure if I would be able to get out at all. I did manage a few hours in the afternoon and headed to a WMBC local nature reserve. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours there and managed a year first in the shape of a Water Rail. It remained distant, i just took some record shots with the digiscoping set-up.

There were plenty of birds around the feeding station and in the open meadow, a few Stock dove.



Sunday morning and i met up with Jon and we stayed very local, checking out the usual areas. On the return route we deviated from the track to check out an area we have recorded Wheatear in the past, hoping to locate an early bird. There were no Wheater yet, but Jon noticed a male Stonechat on the fence posts. The light wasn’t great, but I attempted some pictures with the Canon SX40 bridge camera.



Sunday afternoon was very overcast, I headed to Kingsbury and a wander about resulted in a Kingfisher darting across one of the pools and a hunting Barn Owl. There was a flock of around 100 Shoveler on one of the pools too. 

I hope to encounter local Wheatears soon, and anytime now I expect to record Sand Martins on the local patch. My thought are again returning to Badgerwatching, I hope to have some pictures soon. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Elusive Owls

Elusive Owls seems a bit of stretch of the truth actually, its just me they seem to be eluding. Pete has seen a Barn Owl on the Moors every time he has been to look for it. I have not had a chance to pay it a visit yet. On the other side of Town, on another site I frequently watch, another friend is seeing a Barn Owl every evening hunting the meadows. I have tried twice to see this Owl, still no luck. The closest I got was Thursday evening when Pete and I went to look for it. Two of our friends were already there when we arrived. As is usual the words, “If you had been here 5 minutes earlier,” were uttered by our friends as they described how it had flown in, perched on a fence post opposite them, and only left the area as we appered.

To be honest, we would probably have been 5 minutes earlier than we were if Pete hadn’t talked me into walking a route that he assured me was less muddy! As it was dark, neither of us had remembered a torch, and he sounded convincing, I went along with Pete’s suggestion. I should have asked the question, “Less muddy than what?” It was certainly less muddy than the Infamous Morecambe Bay Mud Flats, but there wasn’t much in it! Obviously It made for an interesting walk in the dark and an even more colourful conversation than usual as we slipped, slogged and squelched through what shall from this day be known as Pete’s quagmire route.

I am hoping to catch up with one of these Barn Owls soon. Hopefully, this weekend .

Having heard loads of Tawny’s calling over the past few weeks, I managed good views of one this week. Sitting in its daytime perch in an old Owl box taking in the morning sunshine. It saw me and dropped deeper into the box and out of sight. I did however see it again later in the day sunning itself again. It was in dense branches and vegetation, and i just couldn’t get into a position to clearly digiscope it. I also saw my first Ringed Plover of the year, well 4 of them actually.


Distant Ringed Plover and the well hidden Tawny

I didn’t meet up with Pete for our usual Saturday morning mooch about and I didn’t think I would get out at all on Saturday. I did however manage a quick wander over the Moors in the late afternoon. The sun was shining and I could really feel its warmth on my back. This made me think that maybe some of our native reptiles may also be basking in its warmth. I went to an area Pete and I have found Grass snakes before and it also looks ideal for Adders. I had a good look about but no joy today. It may have been that the first bout of warm afternoon sunshine on a Saturday had brought out every fair weather walker with their dogs in the district and the disturbance had sent anything I may be hoping to see heading for cover. There were so many walkers this afternoon, I didn’t even hang about to try for the aforementioned Barn Owl.

2012 was the year we had a nice little drop in of Wheaters on the Moors and they spent 3 or 4 days feeding on the ploughed fields. The farmers decided not to plough the fields in early 2013-14, and no Wheatear were record. I was thinking about this as I walked around and noticed a few ploughed fields. Late March early April is when we first recorded them, so I hope we may get a few Wheatear sightings on the patch this year.

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Some of the Plough and Snake country.

Sunday - A general walkabout this morning, just me and Taz. Nothing of real note about. A Single Male Goosander on the Anker and a mixed flock of about 90 winter thrushes, mainly Redwing. There were a few busy Nuthatches along the riverside trees, and Woodpigeons billing and cooing all over the place. Spring is here. Towards the subsidence pools at Alvecote, 14 Shelduck and 23 Snipe were the highlights. I may try for that Moors Barn Owl later.

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I managed to to pop out late afternoon and headed to the Moors looking for the Barn Owl. The light was dropping as I arrived ai its hunting grounds. I didn’t have to wait too long.

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Barn Owl Hunting.