Monday, 22 February 2016

Easy as....1, 2 3!

Barn owls, get yir new hoose here! Lots of people have been seeing barn owls this winter. Part of this is from all the wet weather and the owls have been getting desperate: friends have reported seeing owls hunting all daylight hours. Thankfully, after those hard winters a few years ago, barn owl numbers are also slowly building up again. So we got out and managed another three boxes this weekend. Fingers crossed for some happy house-hunting owls prospecting in the neighbourhood. Here is a lovely adult from one of the boxes last year.

At one site there were splashes of white and some fine, big black pellets, a tell-tale sign that a barn owl has been about, either roosting or hunting rats in the barn possibly. The farmer was keen to have owls on his farm and with a fair swathe of rough ground around the barn and not a road in sight, it is a perfect spot for the owls to nest. We opted for a box inside the shed, and one on the outside. That way, the owls can decide which des res they fancy, and if the jackdaw hog one, there is always  Plan B!

Next stop was some lovely pals who rustled us up a tasty lunch and steaming mugs of tea before we started back outside to put up their owl box. Their box got a new lid then we hauled it up (easy using the false crotch rig) and bolted it onto the NE face of a fine big ash. The landing platform was already fixed in place so I added a layer of hemcore bedding and shut up the lid; all ready for go!

We went back to the house and supped hot chocolate and chatted. Buzzards called and circled overhead outside and we all caught a flash of gleaming white as a stoat in ermine dashed past and disappeared under the patio. Ans on the way home, we spotted a gos high above the forest, it had been a great day of small acts and small wonders.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Forest Bathing fifty feet up a Redwood

Today was a real day of wood things. After a couple of hours of learning more amazing stuff about ash in The Man who MADE THINGS out of TREES I pulled on big boots and stomped a path up through the crusted snow. The sky was cloudless and blue and the sun shone so bright off the snow. I headed to the woodshed: I felt the urge to chop wood, to feel the immediacy of handling wood in the here and now, the rawness and age-old tradition of sawing timber for firewood. The bow saw made short work of the big old apple limbs from last week and standing up to take a breather, I looked across the valley. Towering over most of it's neighbours was a tree I've had my eye on for some time - today would be the day to go for an investigatory vimble!

The fav Black Diamond Haulbag was quickly packed and I hiked out to S2, the as yet unclimbed Giant Redwood (aka Giant Sequoia). Took a little figuring out as to how to get up as most of the branches slope and curl DOWNwards; this is not great when you want to run a rope safely! An hour of fun problem solving later I found myself in a tasty little spot, only 15m up, but WHAT a gorgeous place to be: the curves and twists of the limbs, the deeply incised red bark, the clusters of fat cones, the nearby sounds of birds calling, of a woodpecker drumming; and the soft, evening light of a sinking sun on my face: happiness, my form of forest bathing or shinrin-yoku.

15m up and wished I could stay up for hours more but that would have to wait for another day. My toes had got pretty cold as the sun lost all warmth so I zipped on down, landing on the forest floor just as the sun dropped below the horizon.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentine's is the best time for a bit of boxing!

Valentine's Day is a grand time for a bit of boxing and with Feb 14th also the start of National Nestbox Week, it is a great time to get those nest boxes made and put up, in time for prospecting birds. Here are some designs from the BTO. With the first songbirds of the season already singing, Spring seems just around the corner. Or at least, it we have several inches of snow! Anyhow, there was a robin, a wren and blue tits active and calling as we rigged a false-crotch system (see below), hoisted up the big triangular box and bolted it into position, about 10' up a larch. The landing platform complete with drainage holes was screwed into position and for the final touch we added a layer of the finest wood chips for as bedding.
Our grand plans to zip round the county putting up more owl boxes today was a little over ambitious in the face of relentless blizzards so we settled for a tally of one. Never mind, it is a top spot for owls here with lots of field margins and rough grass and check this - a barnie has been seen hunting very close to this site most days this week - so fingers crossed for a new tenant one day very soon!


Here is my (ahem) beautiful diagram of our false-crotch system that makes hauling the boxes up the tree so easy. A micro pulley (red) attached by a 'biner (grey) to a rigging rope (blue) needs to 'float' a few feet above the spot on the tree where you want to attach the box. Your hauling rope (green) runs through the pulley with one end tied around the box and the other end for your pal to pull on. You also can run this end through a progress capture device like a Grigri tied off to an anchor.

Friday, 12 February 2016

February and another fine Oak!

A light frost on the grass, a crisp blue sky, and the warmth of a mid-morning sun - perfect conditions for a climb! I'd had my eye on a couple of nice oaks. One of them has some damage high up bu both were sound as a pound at the base. So a couple of big hand-throws later the 8oz bag sailed through the big fork and whistled down to the ground on the far side of the tree. And what a difference using the shiny new ZING-IT throwline - it ran like a dream - none of the kinking and memory of the stuff I'd been swearing at for weeks!

I ran a  twin line for added safety, TIP@ c.18m, and just below the fork hopped over onto a DRT set-up on 11mm Blaze for the top section. The next bit was totally fine tho it did need a bit of head scratching as I'd left behind the big sling I could have used as a foot aid.

The trusty ole' Distal hitch and Pinto set up thru a ring on my rope bridge.

Ended up in that top fork and used my magic measuring stick (very low-tec - more on this in another post) to reach up to the tip tap top of the King Twig. Wind wobbled the line of the tape something crazy making it drift way out from the tree so I had to add a steel 'biner as extra ballast to the 6oz bag: final height c.25m.

What an awesome morning and I've just spotted the next beauty for a another day very soon - a tasty Sequoia!