Sparrowhawk wins a meal and a surprise visitor

Witnessed a Sparrowhawk take a Starling, I was outside changing the gas bottle when I heard a noise behind me, which sounded like a very muffled explosion. In the field behind me was a compact ball of Starlings the ball was much denser than the ball the form when moving around feeding and the sound was much louder. At first I only saw the Starlings and then a fraction of a second later I saw the Sparrowhawk swoop at the ball  from the right with its back to me looking like a fighter plane, part of the ball fragmented with a few Starlings peeling off from the group one in particular headed to the left as the main group headed to the right. The Sparrowhawk with a few twists and dives was immediately on the tail of this one Starling heading left. There was a few microseconds of move and counter move with eventually the Starling flying low over the ground where it was overtaken in mid flight and I lost sight of the Sparrowhawk  with its prize as it went into the trees.

Whilst taking Louise to work we spotted a white bird feeding with the sheep next to the track the bird turned out to be a Little Egret. It was very tame suggesting it was very hungry/exhausted unfortunately we only had the compact camera with us but got a photo from the car to prove it had existed, amazed at how yellow its feet are, which unfortunately are hidden in the grass. Sadly it was gone by the time I got back.

Little Egret
Little Egret

Getting ready for Spring

Decided to revamp the pond before any frogs turned up. Last year we had a single male take up residence and over about a week, five lots of spawn appeared. So dug out the waders baled out some of the water into water butts along with some of the pond weed and algae. Then waded in and started digging, managed to deepen the centre by about a foot, so  now it is about one meter deep in the centre when full. I was hoping to add a liner but the pond was filling so fast I gave up on the idea. Not too worried as last summer I only had to top it up a few times though the level did fluctuate dramatically.

Pond

Also hard pruned a section of the boundary hedge amazingly this has added about one and a half meters to the wet meadow area.  Important to get this done before any nesting activity starts. The bird ringers visited us on Sunday and over a hundred new birds were rung, mainly Coal tits as usual. The injured Starling is still with us the wing is noticeably still drooping but it seems to be flying OK. A Brambling turned up the day after  the Garden bird watch (typical). Now starting to see a few Siskins and Gold finches. Robins are pairing up, but occasionally make mistakes and attack their partner.

The wild primroses in the stream bed have put out a few flowers but in the garden the only things in flower are the Snowdrops and Dames violet which has never stopped flowering all winter.

Wild Primrose

Discovered today the rats or mice have been eating my chainsaw, my fault for using vegetable oil as chain lubricant.

 

Big Garden Birdwatch

Highest number seen in the garden at one time

backbirds 4
Blue tit 5
Chaffinch 6
Coal tit 12
Dunnock 2
Great tit 4
Long-tailed tit 10
Robin 4
Starling 1 (this is the injured bird which looks to be getting better it can now fly up into the trees but the wing is still noticeably drooping)

Also seen Nuthatch, Great spotted woodpecker and the ubiquitous Phesants and luckily two Buzzards flew through the woodland bordering the garden. Behind the house there is a flock of about 50 Starlings. Also early this morning saw a wagtail but could not tell which type. The Rabbits have started to venture into the garden to nibble on new shoots starting to emerge I will have to get out the chicken wire cylinders, to protect some of the more vulnerable plants.

Have recently caught and dispatched a couple of rats who had moved into the barn presumably after sheep feed. Unfortunately the rubble filled walls of the barn are continuous with the walls of the house so there is no barrier to them being able to get into the roof space. When we first moved in we had quite a large colony establish themselves in the roof that took some shifting.

Another justification for controlling rats is they have an impact on the small mammal population, I am not happy about using poison because it also poisons Woodmice and Voles which in turn also poisons Owls and Kestrels.

Return of the Lapwing

16th Jan on the way to Clitheroe saw a flock of about 60 Lapwing presumably on one of their reconnaissance  flights from the coast. 17th Jan the Great spotted woodpecker is drumming on the tin plate capping a telegraph pole. Raked all the leaves off the gravel meadow and gave it a quick mow to knock back some of the grass and rush and both to help reduce the fertility of the soil.

A talk prompts a rediscovery

Went to a talk on Cross hill and Salt Hill nature reserves Clitheroe by Phil Dykes. The rich diversity of wildflower species was an eye opener  and now a firm promise to myself to pay these two sites much more attention. The talk was hosted by Clitheroe Naturalists and there hopefully will be a guided walk lead by Phil in the summer.

This sudden cold spell has made the feeders even busier. The wounded Starling is still with us and can fly a bit, it managed to get about 30cm off the ground today.

Not sure if it is related to the cold weather but we haven’t seen any Starlings flying over the house for a few days. Also today saw a Buzzard in the Ash tree by the gate, this is the closest we have ever seen one to the garden.

Looking forward to the Big Garden Birdwatch

Very simple to do sometime between 28-30 January watch the birds in your garden for an hour and record what you see. You can get full details and a free pack from https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch by post or you can download it.

Currently in our garden we are getting Blue and Great tits, Coal tits, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Longtailed tit, Robin, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Dunnock. We also have lots of Phesants!

In the woodland outside the garden we regularly also see Tree creeper, Tawney owl, Jay and Magpie and in the fields Starlings Fieldfares and Redwings as well as Crows and Rooks. Above us we see Buzzards, Ravens and recently Kestrels.

The injured starling is still about and is starting to fly a bit so fingers crossed for it making a full recovery.

A great help is this BTO collection of youtube videos on how to identify birds, the good thing about these is they show you how to tell the difference between easy to confuse species. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE3B611F475AA00AF

New Year at Crow Wood Farm

Had a quick look around for wild flowers in bloom yesterday and found none. A look round the garden found the following garden plants in flower Dame’s Violet (Hesperis matronalis) Primrose and Wallflower both garden varieties. Over the last couple of weeks a male Sparrowhawk has been a regular visitor sitting on the bird table, in a vain hope his dinner would come to him. Not seen him for a couple of days which is fortunate for an injured Starling that appeared the garden three days ago with a drooping wing and unable to fly. Talking of Starlings every few days large flocks fly directly over the house on their way to roost, possibly they are part of the roost at Blackpool. As they regularly fly directly over the house and sometimes low enough to hear the wing beats, we wonder if our house is used as a landmark. The sound of a flock of Starlings overhead is possibly one of the most magical sounds in nature along with the buzz of insects in a meadow. Went for a walk on Boxing day but the only thing of note was a Hare we disturbed.

Going back to Starlings we have a small flock that feeds in the fields behind our house and we see varying numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares about the fields and hedgerows.

The Friends of Bowland have published their programme for 2017 you can download it from their website www.friendsofbowland.org.uk.

Beavers in Bowland?

Well done Scotland for giving Beavers protected status.  How about a Bowland reintroduction scheme next. How about Dunsop or Roeburndale I can think of a few other places that could be suitable. They could be a great help with flood prevention if managed well.

Sustainable Tourism

Went to the Forest of Bowland Sustainable Tourism Forum last night. This is an annual event for Tourism businesses who support the aims of the AONB and want to be more environmentally friendly. The night was also the venue for the annual meetings of two organisations. Bowland Experience a business support network of which I am a Director and Champion Bowland a charity which gives small grants for environmental projects. One of the speakers was Amanda Parker from Browsholme Hall who had just won the Lancs. Tourism Sustainable Tourism Award.