Thursday, 25 May 2017

Evenings are magical!

Evenings are magical. I loiter by the whispering river to watch the swifts hurtle through the zig-zag air and soon I am covered by hundreds of ghost-white flies and the evening is thick with them. And out of no-where, a barn owl, tinged pink in the last of the glow from a superb sunset hunts his way over the flower-thick fields. As I head home I glimpse him once more, this time mouse heavy, a mouse black shape dangling limp from his talons, as he draws a line between a death among the sweet flowers and the lives it will grow, a line that leads to the clamour of hungry owlets.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The woods are a-wash with bluebells!

Get out there when you can for the woods are awash with that amazing delicate yet vibrant bluebell blue (or is it purple..see here). Bird song throngs the forest and I was delighted to hear the thin, wispy call of a firecrest again this morning. Over on a patch of heath, my first tree pipit of the year was in full silver song. And from the hole of a dead sweet chestnut tree I spotted the cheeky beak of a great spotted woodpecker peeking back out at me; Spring is in full swing!

Ravens are Go!

Ravens nest early. And what fine big stick nests they have! The great stick nest contains a very cosy lining or nest cup which keeps eggs and young chicks warm during harsh early Spring weather. On a fine late April afternoon we visit a raven pair we have watched for some years now. We hike in to the forest under the watchful eye of the adults who circle high above us. On a previous visit I had crept in unnoticed to hear the strange, deep-throated chatterings and gulping noises of the young ravens. Guano was splattered on the nest edge just in case I was in any doubt of what was up there.

Our visit to the nest tree is as short and sweet as we can make it: I quickly climb up to the nest (Blake's Hitch on 13mm arb line DRT and my amazing CT foot ascender) and lower three fine, plump bellied pulli in a big old rucksack to the ringing team below. We measure, weigh (1.23kg, 1.05kg and 0.91kg) and ring them and return them back up into their cosy nest.

Our next visit is to a tall, thin Scot's pine. There are good-sized chicks up there shown by a vast zone sprayed white under the tree. The climbing is way more exciting - gulp! - and clinging to a branch I peer around the great stick pile to see four fabulous ravens. This bigger brood of slightly smaller ravens (1.06kg, 0.92kg, 0.69kg. 0.65kg) is significant as it is the first here for some years. This pair built a nest in 2016 (we recognise the female by a particular damage to one wing) but produced no chicks. Hiking back to the car we are happy to see both adults soaring over the wood, and we leave them to their dinner.

That was a few weeks ago. The fully grown youngsters soon leave the nest, sitting further and further out along branches, proving how independent they (almost nearly!) are. By now the young ravens will be testing those shiny new flight feathers out. Today there is a fine warm breeze; I wouldn't be surprised if Ravens are already on the wing!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sitting tight come rain or, erm...snow!

After the hot summery days of mid April we are back to snow. And the sight of Loch Garten's osprey EJ sitting up to her neck in snow is quite some sight! And tough as it gets for those incubating birds, they just have to sit tight. See how she is getting on on the Loch Garten WEBCAM. And it is the same for raptors on the other side of the pond: peregrines nesting on the Rachel Carson Building in Pennsylania are also sitting in snow! Follow live webcam here. On this day back in 1950, a big snow storm landed in Berkshire, UK and the effects on various species is detailed in this little paper here. And do check out thism a couple of years ago a bald eagle pair also sat out the snow to keep those eggs warm - see the incredible image here!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Forests are treasures, focus on Bialowieza

On this International Day of Forests 2017 I read that Poland is to report on the impacts of felling in Bialowieża Forest in 2017, as advised by IUCN. This is after Białowieża Forest, a place of great wonder, complex biological relationships and marvellous biological richness, faced a great threat in the form of gouvernment sanctioned logging! (see previous blog here) Let us hope that this great treasure can be fully recognized and fully protected again.


 Summer & winter predator-prey foodwebs in Poland's Białowieża Forest.
With kind permission of Serguei Saavedra.

PERMANENT: wolf, lynx, red fox, raccoon dog, otter, polecat, and northern goshawk.
SUMMER: badger, lesser-spotted eagle.

PERMANENT: red deer, boar, hare, squirrel, mice, voles, shrews, passerines, fish and amphibians.
SUMMER: small passerines, reptiles, and insect.
WINTER: European bison.

International Day of Forests 2017!

Today is International Day of Forests 2017: to all those who found themselves walking in woods, what did you notice? Did you hear the sweet chiff chaff song of a tiny bird fresh from an African migration? Did you notice the first leaves bursting out of the sycamore buds? Did you feel the all too brief warmth of the Spring sun on your face in between rain showers and a wind with still a bite to it?

And to those who spent time indoors or only glanced at the woods and forests around us, go visit them soon!

Here are a handful of photos from my great Canadian adventures with Mark and Melissa in the woods of Algonquin last Fall, and what amazing vast expanses of forest they still have, for now.

The great White Pines
And a plethora of Big-toothed Apsen leaves