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!