Tag Archives: buzzard

Natural History from the Car

As I drove to Newark this afternoon I noticed a group of rooks whirling aimlessly round the sky. On looking closer I realised they weren’t being aimless, but were in fact mobbing a buzzard. here were about 20 of them, though it wasn’t that easy to drive safely and count rooks at the same time.

Shortly after that I passed a roadside tree full of strange ball-like growths in its leafless branches – mistletoe in its natural state.

A bit later in the same journey I had to brake sharply when a large fox decided to run across the road. You don’t see many foxes in the middle of the day, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to put the brakes on to avoid one. It looked healthy and well-fed so I’m not sure why it needed to be out and about. Sometimes things are meant to remain a mystery.

The only other bit of natural history was a buzzard roosting in the roadside tree. Always nice to see, but let’s face it – they aren’t rare these days. It just goes to show what’s about, even on a grey day of driving round doing errands.

The picture is a random pansy. They are out in the garden so I thought it would be OK to show one.

 

 

A Ride in the Country

In the middle of the day I first dropped Julia off at work (she is going in to familiarise herself with the garden) and then went for a drive.

I saw an Orange-tip on the verge and a Buzzard perching in a roadside tree, which was a good start.

It was a good day for free range pigs, warm but not too sunny. I always worry about them getting sunburn when it’s too hot. Obviously it’s nothing like as painful as being grilled, but it must be fairly unpleasant , particularly as they have short legs and no way of getting suncream on their backs.

When I have stopped and looked at them before there have been hundreds of birds abou (Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Rooks and Black Headed Gulls), but apart from a few gulls there were none about today. I must start looking on a regular basis to see if it’s seasonal or if today was just a one-off.

Further down the road I stopped in a lay-by for a look round. I tried a few flowers and some still life shots but the butterflies wouldn’t stop to pose and all the birds were hiding in trees, though they were singing their hearts out. If only I could recognise more birdsong, or more flowers.

The only bird I actually saw was a Buzzard, and that was too far away to get a decent shot.

It was good to get outside for a spot of nature therapy. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it the fresh air and actually having to think about things. Sitting at home watching daytime TV is not something I’m keen to keep doing.

 

They promised me Ravens

We went to Wales today. Derby first, then Burton, Lichfield, Cannock, Telford, Shrewsbury…

Didn’t actually see any of them as the roads now just take you past instead of through them. If they didn’t, we’d still be travelling. The road follows a lot of the Watling Street route. This was originally a grass trackway used by the Britons. The Romans paved it and subsequent generations of academics have argued over its route.

It may have gone to Preston, it may have gone to Holyhead. Who cares? They are both nice places and have roads that go to them. For now, let’s say that if you are on the A2 in Kent or the A5 in the Midlands, you are part of a travel tradition going back thousands of years.

In AD 60 or 61 Queen Boudicca, or Boadicea, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, faced the Romans somewhere along the road. Nobody is quite sure where (there are several possibilities) but after burning London, St Albans and Colchester, and killing an estimated 70 – 80,000 Romans, she was finally defeated.

We then struck out into Wales, where we visited Rhayader before travelling up through Snowdonia to Bangor. We’re currently sitting in the Bangor Travel Lodge drinking Aspall’s Suffolk Cider from plastic glasses after a meal from Burger King. Tomorrow I am intending to send a stinging rebuke to the Travel Lodge head office.

The details clearly state: “Guests can enjoy a variety of food and drink choices within easy walking distance from this hotel. ”

Translation: “There is a Little Chef (which closes at 8pm), Burger King and shop at the filling station.”

It’s not quite what I was expecting.

Anyway, the bird watchers among you will have stopped at Rhayader. It’s the home of Gigrin Farm, where they feed 300 to 600 Red Kites every day.

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I’ll post a few photos to give you a flavour of the day, but most need some cropping as I has to hold back on the zoom to give myself room to keep the birds in the frame. If you crop it too tight the bird flies out of shot. I have photos of grass, photos of sky and photos of tail feathers.

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I’ll tell you what I don’t have – photos of Ravens.

They promised me Ravens and I had to make do with 300 Red Kites.

Sometimes you have days like that.

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Barn Owls and Peace – an Unlikely Story

This is an interesting link about Barn Owls. They are traditional thought of as wise birds, though I’ve never seen one on The Chase, and this is the first time I’ve seen them linked to politics and the peace process. I particularly liked the bit about bats at the end of the article.

I used to see Barn Owls regularly cruising the Fens when I lived there, and we had several pairs around the farm, including one that became involved in a synchronised flying display with a Buzzard. I’m still not sure what that was about but the superior manoeuvrability of the owl enabled it to give the Buzzard the slip.

There are links to this sort of behaviour here and here.

On a day  that the UK is gradually learning more yesterday’s terror attack, and a couple of days after the death of Martin McGuinness, I suppose I could go on to discuss peace, but I have nothing useful to say. I’m sure that most people agree that peace is a good thing but violence never seems to go out of fashion.

I’ll just leave you with this.

Big Day for Buzzards

I always like to look out for Buzzards on the way down to Peterborough as there are plenty of places to see them.

When I was a youthful birdwatcher, around 10 or 11 years old, I was fascinated by Buzzards, which were not as easy to see in those days. From Peterborough we had to go to Scotland, The Lakes, Devon or Wales before finding any. Even then they weren’t common.

Gamekeepers killed so many that they were confined to the north and west of the UK by the end of the 19th century. Things eased up a bit after the Second World War – said on the RSPB website to be due to a new enlightened attitude to birds of prey, though it might have been more to do with the decline in country estates and a lack of keepers.  At that point other factors came into play, such as lack of rabbits (due to myxomatosis) and problems with pesticides (which caused thin egg shells and reduced hatchability).

From the 1960s, with the withdrawal of the pesticides and the increase of rabbit populations, Buzzards started to recover. From the 1990s they started to expand. First I saw them in Derbyshire, then Sherwood Forest, then over Bulwell Golf Course…

Now I can see them all the way down to Peterborough.

Of course, they weren’t the only bird to suffer – Peregrines, Red Kites, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers and other birds of prey all suffered. Red Kites were down to 10 pairs in the 1930s (up to 500 pairs by 2006 due to the reintroduction programme started in 1989). Marsh Harriers were down to 1 pair in 1971 (now up to 360 breeding pairs due to habitat restration). Peregrines slumped to 360 pairs in 1963 (now up to 1,400 pairs, often nesting on tall buildings instead of cliffs. You can watch them on a number of video links from Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Norwich if you don’t mind the detritus of dismantled pigeons around the nestlings.) Even Sparrowhawks and Kestrels declined significantly.

Things aren’t all good, though. Sparrowhawks declined again in the 1990s, though they are now stable. Kestrels are currently in decline. In both cases this is thought to be due to a decline in prey species. That’s the trouble with being a bird of prey, you can only expand to the limit of your food supply.

My count was three Kestrels, two hovering and one flying by the roadside.

I also saw eleven Buzzards. Yes, eleven. One in a tree followed by four perching on the lamp posts as the A52 comes up to the A1. There was another in a tree, two more on a field looking for worms (they have no pride) and an ninth as I neared Stamford. That one was flying, and I initially hoped it would be a Red Kite. If anyone had told the young me that I’d be disappointed to see nine Buzzards on a trip to Peterborough I’d have laughed. There were two more to come, one on a road sign (I’ve never seen them do that before) and one in a tree.

Finally, soaring over the site of an old Roman town, I spotted a Red Kite. Just the one, but it was nice to see.

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Red Kite over Northamptonshire

The Buzzard photo is from the lawn at Rufford earlier this week, and the Kite from Northamptonshire last summer.

No photos from today, as  you can’t do much photography at 70 mph.

 

 

 

 

What we did next

So, what have we been doing apart from egg-based humour?

Well, we ate doughnuts, made Halloween masks, and I tried to take a photo of a green woodpecker through dirty triple glazing. The doughnuts and masks were successful. The photographs weren’t, as the glazing and dirt mess with the autofocus. When I went out to try for some clearer photos the woodpecker (a) hid and (b) flew away.

 

 

later I saw a kestrel perching on the brush shaft of the hooded youth statue. I got my camera, I switched it on…

…and got the Battery Empty message.

So I swapped batteries…

…and got the same result.

I then remembered that I hadn’t recharged them, because they’d run out late one day – too late to recharge at work and too stupid to remember once I got home.  Bah!

Can’t really complain though, as we got great views of kestrels and a buzzard perching by the roadside on the way to work. The buzzard was on a fence post along the new A46, perching at about eye level. We couldn’t have asked for a better view.

Later in the afternoon we cleared some beds, played a Dracula-themed snakes and ladders game (Julia kept winning) and finished off Monday’s biscuits. They had kept well, and we really should have left them a few days longer, but you know how it is.

I can vouch for most of my biscuit recipes lasting three days. If you ever find me vouching for them lasting longer, ask yourself why they are still not eaten.

At least, having seen two small falcons today, Julia was able to make a quip about the coming of night and the fact that we would be having Orkestrel Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Pop music puns can be tricky as they are sensitive to the age of those listening, but for those of us who remember the band, it’s a quality pun.

The sun is shining…

It’s starting to feel like Spring again, with blue sky and sunshine, though the temperature gauge in the car was showing 2 degrees Centigrade outside.

As we passed East Bridgford there was a buzzard in a roadside tree. Later we passed around 200 Lapwings in a field by the side of the A46 (the most we’ve ever seen there) and as we turned into the lane there were a couple of Fieldfares sitting on fence posts. We hadn’t seen any for a couple of weeks and I’d assumed that they had moved on to prepare for the trip back to Scandinavia. The fact that they were perching on the posts is new behaviour (we normally see them in the fields, so they may well be getting ready to go). It seems that  they may stay as late as may, though I don’t recall ever seeing any at that time, and that a couple of pairs a year stay and breed in the UK. That makes sense – I know I’d rather stay here than fly across the North Sea every spring.

Topic of the morning was what runs faster – a hare or an ostrich. No, I don’t know how we narrowed it down to those two. The hare is our fastest land mammal – top speed 50 mph and sustained speed up to 35 mph. The ostrich, which can take strides up to 12 feet long, can manage 60 mph at top speed and can maintain 45 mph. Considering the relative lengths of their legs I would say that the hare is doing well.

Back to boring paperwork for now, will see what the rest of the day brings…