Monday, 23 November 2015

Black Kite and Barn Owl

I am just recovering from a bout of bronchitis, so have not been out and about very much recently. However, we decided to go for a drive yesterday afternoon in the hope that we might see a Barn Owl near the River Deben.

Just as we were approaching the lay-by that has proved fruitful for bird watching in the past, we drove under some branches and noticed a bit of commotion. There were people with binoculars watching a large sedentary bird of prey over our heads.

We pulled in when it was safe to do so, but by the time we had parked, the bird had flown off. The people with binoculars told us that it was a Black Kite, and that it had made several appearances in the area. We were pretty excited!

Red Kites were under severe threat when I was growing up. By the time we moved to Wales some 25 years ago, the trend was just beginning to swing back in favour of these majestic birds. We even had one flying over our house, high above Swansea Bay.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Back in 2010, I heard that there was a Black Kite over Gigrin Farm in Ceredigion, but I did not have the chance to see it.

I had only ever seen one of these birds in captivity (see photo above), until yesterday. If only I had had my camera poised and ready!

The Kite was not the only bird of prey out and about. I just managed to take a quick photo of this Kestrel who perched for a short time, high up on a bare branch:

We drove on a little, and as we did so, a huge white sweep-of-a-bird flew on ahead of us down the road. It was, of course, a Barn Owl.

We pulled in safely and watched it quartering an expanse of marshy field. The light was fading fast by this time, and the bird stayed at a distance from the road.

David took this photo below, which is definitely the best! 

We may have had wonderful Red Kite sightings in Wales, but we rarely saw owls. Suffolk seems a good place for them: there is a lovely photo of a Short-eared Owl on the shingle at Felixstowe here (scroll to Monday 16 November) on the Suffolk Birding with BINS blog. John Richardson (of Old Man Minsmere blog) has terrific photos of Short-eared owls here. Owls - what magnificent birds! 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Wonderland White Stuff

I think I can safely say that I have seen my first snowfall of the season! 
No wonder there have been more birds at the feeders. 
It is lovely to have the Long-tailed tits back.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Tree Following - October to November 2015

Welcome to my Tree Following post for October and early November.

These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I am following an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to keep an eye on my Silver birch, B. pendula.

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link on The Squirrel Basket blog, run by Pat English, here ... so do take the chance to have a look!

Perhaps I should begin with my Silver Birch. If we take a flashback to my early November post from a year ago, we can see that the tree still had plenty of green leaves. This year it still has leaves, though for every leaf on the tree there is at least one on the ground below. This year about 97% of the leaves are yellow. I wonder what accounts for this marked difference. I can only speculate: too much rain? too little rain? climate change? too much rain or drought (was there any drought this summer?) at a critical time?

Who knows ... and if you do, please leave a comment!

Silver Birch ... hardly a tint of green left in sight

My Acer negundo has four (green) leaves left. The seed-keys hang from branches that look very bare.

The birds have been very quiet this month. I don't know whether there are better pickings in a neighbouring garden or sufficient berries and grubs in the nearby Nature Reserve, but the only regulars to the coconut feeders on my Silver Birch have been the faithful Blue tits and Great tits. There have been pigeons hanging around, but I wonder what has happened to the feisty Robin, the Long-tailed tits (I miss their chitter-chatter) and the Blackbirds.

On a more positive note, the Jay reappeared, strutting along under the Silver Birch one day, and past the window. I am assuming this is the same bird who has put in occasional appearances, usually to bury or dig up an acorn.

I'm not sure what the Jay has in its mouth here ... Not quite acorn-shaped?

The highlight of this last Tree Following month was a new 'first' for me. The Wren, a semi-regular who hovers in the trellis at the back of the garden, flew over to the wooden feeder that hangs by the coconuts. It flew inside the feeder through one of the holes to find the fat-ball, and after a little while flew out from a different one. It took me by surprise and I was unable to take a photograph, so here is one from an earlier visit to the garden.

Wren near the Silver Birch

Insects have been few on the ground, though there have been sightings of the occasional Ladybirds (largely Harlequins trying to come inside for the winter) and Lacewings. The spiders' webs were superb, particularly on 1 November, but they were draped over the bushes of Box rather than on the trees.

As I write, a storm is on the way, which will doubtless shift some of the remaining leaves. The initial squalls have arrived and I hope that leaves will be the only things to be 'shifted'!  

I will keep my sighting lists for the next Tree Following update (they are becoming rather long and a little unwieldy!). I will leave you instead with the links to my earlier Tree Following posts. Enjoy your arboreal encounters as we race on (here in the UK) through the short days towards December.

STOP PRESS: Within an hour of posting this, the feisty Robin was back on the coconuts after an absence of some weeks! Perhaps s/he is stocking up before the storm.