|Kestrel (c) Oz|
When I said a couple of weeks ago that we needed rain I did say that we didn’t want it at the weekends! The weather gods were not listening. The welcome rain came in with an Atlantic weather system that also brought fiercely strong winds. I went down to the moor on Friday evening to look for owls and was battered and buffeted by gales. Over the Closes a mixed flock of Jackdaws and Rooks were being tossed across the sky like wind-blown leaves. With the wind coming in from the south the bridle way was in the lee of the hedge and the force of the wind slowed up any birds flying towards us. Needless to say, we saw no owls.
|Starlings including Marsh Harrier (c) Bark|
What was interesting were the early signs of the Starling roost developing. There were approximately four or five thousand birds coming in, so nothing like the spectacular numbers that we might expect later in the winter. However, the power of the wind shredded and coalesced the flocks in turn, sometimes drawing them out like smoke and at other times pushing them together in tight clouds. The stormy conditions meant that the roosting process was drawn out and at times the birds were low and right over head, and then the thrumming of their wings was louder than the gusting wind. Three different Marsh Harriers were drifting through the Starlings but seemingly not looking to seize any of them. It would appear that they look to spot injured or ailing victims. There were two Sparrowhawks present a large female and a smaller male. They were hunting much more proactively, and we were fairly sure that we saw the female snatch one from the flock. As we were leaving it was very gratifying to see a long trail of children straggling out along the bridleway and heading towards the screen accompanied by parents and carers. They were members of a cub pack and from the “oohs and aahs” that we heard from them as they approached the screen they had not seen anything like the display before. It is vital to enthuse the upcoming generations if we wish them to value wildness and wild places in the future, and they will only do that if they are exposed to and enthused by the real thing.
|Starlings leaving at dawn.(c) Matthew O'Byrne|
Saturday morning was also wet but had given way to sunshine by late morning. We saw very little other than a Common Sand on the reedy island out from the first screen and a party of roughly thirty Golden Plovers. As it dried up on Saturday there were a couple of Kestrels hunting over Greenaways. Although we stood and watched as we slowly dried out in the sunshine we were not lucky enough to spot either the Merlin that had been reported on Thursday or the Hobby seen on Friday.
|Common Sand from the first screen (c) Luke O'Byrne|
Sunday morning was another washout with the heaviest rain of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon when the rain finally stopped a late Swallow passed overhead and two Green Sands were seen at the second screen on the muddy margin that has appeared out on the right-hand side. There are Stonechats out on Greenaways, but no Owls were noted.
|Bittern (c) Dave Stroud|
|Kestrel at the Cattle Pens (c) JR|