Friday, 31 October 2008

Always keep watching...cos you end up smiling!

Yesterday it was dry and sunny, and having spent over an hour in the dentists chair and he still hasnt sorted out the problem he created, I was not a happy birder. Infact I was very miserable driving back to work but the M57 is a wildlife haven if you can drive and watch at the same time. Slow and thermalling buzzards with magpies hassling them is a good sight but then the cast of jays, great spotted woodpeckers, canada geese wasnt bad, but I was still not happy. As I drove toward switch island I noticed an owl being mobbed by magpies. As the end of the motorway loomed the bird drifted closer and a smile came over my face looking at this wonderful short eared owl. No more pain!


Picture courtesy of RSPB images.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance

As some of you will know I carry out bird surveys on two local farms for the VF&A section of RSPB. This means that I walk the farms each week, especially in the breeding season, and report my sightings so that it forms a small part of the overall data collated by the society.

Quite often, and in winter in particular, it means I get cold and wet ! However the rewards can be superb. Watching a buzzard get harried by a sparrowhawk is one such instance, another is seeing an adult wren feeding it's newly fledged young with insects. This year a highlight was seeing three newly fledged swallows sitting on the branch of a tree over a pond and the parent birds flying in to feed them without even stopping to perch.

The best so far though was to find barn owls breeding in a box up in the apex of - yes, a barn!

Not only that but seeing the four owlets ringed, thanks to Chris and his myriad contacts.

Last Thursday evening saw us assemble with the ringer and the farming family and watch the owlets brought daown in bags, weighed, ringed, sexed and their age determined. Did you know that barn owl chicks can be aged to the day by measuring the length of a primary feather from its unfurling point to the tip? These four were from 37 to 43 days old and they hatch at two day intervals.

Although late in the year for breeding ( it is thought that this is a second brood but not in the same site) the chicks were well developed and weighed between 350 and 450 grammes each.

They will fledge in another 30 or so days and probably be still dependant on the parent birds for another month after that.

It's sights and experiences like this that make it all worthwhile.
Enjoy the pictures
Phil Antrobus

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Field Trip to Frodsham marsh.

The night before the group outing to Frodsham it rained and rained but you should always know that the weather is a fickle thing. Sunday was dry and warm under all the waterproofs. We heard kingfisher on the Weaver but didnt see it, but as we walked down the river I quickly noticed a flock of redshanks and a smaller bird with a white rump. As we got to view the waders were they stopped I managed to find 2 curlew sandpipers in full winter plumage. We walked around the marsh finding farmland birds and other waders. Later on we came across an Ariel with a kestrel on the top a buzzard on the bottom and a sparrowhawk flying past. A good day out to a wonderful place. Chris

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Frodsham Marsh - 5/10/08

A visit to a relatively local venue. Meet at the garden centre on the way into Frodsham. Hopefully a good mix of birds will be seen, with both Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint on number 6 tank recently.

Farmland birds should also be noted and the Weaver Bend will give us a chance to catch up with some freshwater species.

Walking should be easy, if a little muddy in places after the recent rain! There will be no facilities on site, so wrap up warm and bring some lunch!