Friday, 11 January 2019

First few days of 2019

Water Rail (c) Bark

The year has started much as it ended with grey skies, low cloud and poor visibility which makes photography a challenge. Despite the less than sparkling weather we got the year off to a respectable start on the first of January with a list of over sixty species for the morning. There was nothing new or especially exciting to see but it was encouraging to note early nesting species starting to show breeding behaviour.

Shoveller and Pochard in breeding finery (c) Bark
A case in point was some typical show off behaviour from a one of a pair of Ravens flying over Greenways, on Saturday what I assume were the same pair feeding together on the ground, with one of them picking up and offering sticks to the other. Red Kites too are calling and appear to be attempting to take possession of the old buzzard’s nest in the oak tree on the eastern side of the reedbed.

Turning up for seed. Yellowhammer (c) Tom N-L Linnet and Bullfinch (c) Tezzer
The feeding programme by the hide is really drawing in good numbers of Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches. We have not spotted anything more unusual with them other than a couple of Bullfinches and a few Yellowhammers. A Water Rail is also popping out onto the track from time to time to pick up seeds, but its visits are always brief.
Water Rail (c) Bark

On Saturday we saw two Marsh Harriers both our regular male and a female, although three individuals had been seen earlier in the week. We were lucky enough to have the Merlin fly through above the first screen on Sunday, it went over the reeds and then off along the hedge on the northern edge of Greenaways. The male Hen Harrier is putting in occasional appearances first thing in the morning as the starlings are leaving the roost and there was a report late last week of a ring-tailed Harrier. Two Stonechats could be seen out on Greenaways and another lone male was perched at the top of a willow in the northern section of the reedbed.

Our odd hybrid Barnacle Goose family was once again evident on Greenaways. The male is to all intents a regular barnacle Goose and is partnered by a female Grey Lag. With them are six identical offspring that most closely resemble Canada Geese. Yet when you look carefully their physical structure is that of Greylag and the markings echo the Barnacle. I wonder if they will be able to interbreed with other greylags when the time comes or whether they will be sterile.
Barnacle family (c) JR

On Tuesday last week the regular New Year Day survey for Brown Hairstreak eggs was held. Volunteers closely examine the same stretch of Blackthorn hedge. They found sixty-four eggs this year which I was told was a good count. A member of the group who had come back down on Saturday to photograph them very kindly pointed some of them out to us and his macro photographs revealed the astonishing structure of these tiny (full stop sized!) eggs.

Above Brown Hairstreak egg and below Lackey Moth clutch (c) Bark
He also showed us a long string of eggs like a bead bracelet that had been wound round and round a thin twig. These were the eggs of the Lackey Moth, the caterpillars of which live in colonial tents of fine silk and can be seen in early summer. Once again it showed that a trip to the moor can result in our knowing more when we left to that which we knew when we arrived!

Fieldfares: above (c) Tom N-L below (c) Tezzer

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