Tag Archives: kestrel

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.


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.





It seems like progress

Now that it’s settled we’ve edged the keyhole bed (well almost…), planted it and watered it.

As you will see from the photograph and the “well almost…” my calculation of the circumference based on 2 pi r is slightly at fault. I think it’s the radius that’s at fault rather than the calculation but it’s a bit annoying and calls for another trip to the Poundshop tomorrow morning. Once that’s in place we can start adding more soil. All we need to do is find the soil – it seems a bit of a cheat to buy more when we’re trying to be sustainable but you can’t grow veg in poor soil and principles. We’ll be talking about that tonight I suspect.


As for the watering, we’ve transplanted some veg from other places so it looks like it’s established and they needed quite a lot of water to help them get over the shock. If only I’d known it was going to rain this evening I wouldn’t have carried quite as many cans. 

We’ve even started to refill the compost heap.


The trench left from fitting the biomass heating system to the farm cottages (which has been the subject of some discontent over the last two months) is now filled and the equipment has also been used to put tarmac down at the back of the centre so we don’t look like a building site any more.


All in all it’s looking like progress, and when you add the weeding and tidying we’ve also done today, and the fact that I’ve been able to tick eleven jobs off my office list I’m going home tired but happy. I’ve also taken a booking for a cookery group and agreed the catering for a meeting this weekend – eight people, one requiring gluten free sandwiches, and all keen to try nettle soup!

Finally, I saw my first swallow of the year this morning and as we left the allotment tonight a female kestrel circled round us at head height. Where else can you get that sort of job satisfaction?


More statues

It’s been a good week for birds, though a poor week for photography means I don’t have much to show for it. I do, however, have a decent shot of the kestrel and two jackdaws on The Neighbours. We’re still waiting for the nest box so I fear we’re going to miss out if we don’t get a move on.

Fortunately I borrowed Julia’s camera so I did a bit better than usual.



The smaller of The Sweepers appeared in the Nottingham Post today as a reader’s photograph, so it seems like the statues are taking on a life of their own.

We had another group out too, for more lamb fondling and such. Julia did a spinning and wool craft workshop to round off the day while I sat down to go through the list of allergens we use in the Saturday Cafe (open 9-1 on Saturday mornings if you are close enough. Don’t stay too long because I have a group of Guides coming down to make nettle soup and soda bread in the afternoon and I don’t want any hold ups. Yes, you’re right, I’m not a natural in the world of hospitality.


Friday Feeling

It’s Friday and that’s time for quiet reflection on the computer again – Level 3 catering this time as part of the soap opera that attends the running of the Saturday Cafe on the farm.

I’ve seen the lambs, I’ve had a word with B (though she may be Bea – I’ve never been sure) at Shipshape Arts, I’ve watched an empty bird table and I’ve fired off a couple of emails. I’ve also eaten lunch and doughnuts, done some proof-reading and wrestled with a spreadsheet that won’t save the work I do on it. Either I’m an idiot who can’t use Excel or the sender is an idiot who can’t use Excel. As I don’t usually have trouble entering a few details I’m coming to an inescapable conclusion about the sender, but don’t let me influence you…

I’m rapidly running out of excuses so I’ll load some pictures and try to put off the evil hour. Note the kestrel picture – we have someone making a nest box which we’re going to place in the statue, so fingers crossed we get some interest.


Nest boxes and planning…

It’s a crisper day today, still nice and bright but with lower temperatures and higher winds than yesterday.

It’s National Nestbox Week this week – does the cornucopia of bird-based activity never end? The group has been helping out, resiting an old nestbox that was donated to us. If you look closely you can see one of last year’s boxes on the tree to the side. We have a couple more to put up, including one for the flycatcher that lives behind the recycled bus shelter, but they are in a box near my front door, where I forgot to pick them up this morning.

We now have a volunteer to build us two kestrel nest boxes, and along with the volunteers to put them up it’s looking good. One is going to be built into the statue where they roost and we’ll have to look for somewhere to put the second. I entered the kestrel I saw yesterday in the national kestrel count. They don’t really need it because the Midlands are thick with sightings, but you have to make the effort don’t you?

Meanwhile it’s full ahead on tidying up. We have a farm talk tonight and we just realised how much the grass has grown.



Now that we’ve finished with the bird count we’re moving onto trees as a subject. They’re certainly easier to count as they don’t flit about and hide in hedges.We have the Woodland Trust coming down next month to give us some training on trees so we want to be properly prepared.

A day for poems

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things”


You may well recognise the poem as High Flight by  John Gillespie Magee, Jr, and if you do you’ll probably be wondering why it’s appearing in a blog about life working on a farm, seeing as I definitely didn’t fly to work this morning.

Well, to be honest, I arrived, I looked up at sky and mentally quoted the peom to myself. I could have muttered “I remember Adlestrop“, despite it being a bit early in the year, and the lack of trains.

I find it a similar sort of poem – uplifting and somehow reminding me of bright skies. There are probably more appropriate poems to quote – but I just don’t know that many poems. I’ve always meant to learn The Windhover, particularly as we have kestrels out on the field, but I can’t get my head round the words: there are too many of them and words like “dauphin” and “chevalier” haven’t lasted well over the years.

Have you got any favourite poems for day to day use? Or any that you can’t get on with?


Drowning in paper

Great day today, if you have the soul of an accountant. I hope I don’t.

We had a couple of teachers to show round today. They are really very nice people it was a pleasure to see them. They will be reading this shortly so I’m not going to say anything else, am I? They’ve been bringing groups for a few years now so they must think we do a reasonable job. They did look a bit nonplussed when I suggested feeding the class a plate of weeds but they soon picked up when I revealed nobody has died from it. Yet.

That was the start of the paperwork – checking food allergies and risk assessment. None of this actually stops us killing a child on a visit, it just means that if we do we can escape most of the consequences by pointing out all the paperwork is in order.

Obviously the parents would be unhappy and it wouldn’t gain me any friends at the school if I sent one of their pupils home in a box. To be fair, I have never killed anyone on a visit yet, and don’t intend to: have you seen the paperwork that sort of thing generates?

I’ve now moved on to sending out booking forms and entering new bookings on the calendar. I don’t know where the time goes, but by the time it’s all checked, cross-referenced and explained that five-minute job seems to take an age.

It’s a tough choice – drowning in paperwork, ten feet from a kettle and warm. Or cold, in the middle of a field, picking up kestrel pellets from the base of the neighbours statues. According to the weather station it’s now 4 degrees Celsius outside and there’s a moderate breeze.

Those kestrel pellets can wait.

Buzzards in the snow

Another trip to Peterborough and not a kite to be seen. There was only one kestrel and that was hunched on a lamp post by the side of the A52 pretending to be a buzzard.

I did manage to get three good views of buzzards.They were all pale forms and they were all puffed up against the cold. It must be a miserable existence being a bird in winter. One of the sightings was unusual because the bird was perching in a tree by the side of a flyover. As I drove past I actually had the strange experience of looking down on a perching buzzard – even if I was only looking down on it by a matter of inches.

It was a good day for magpies, hopping around on ground that was conveniently coloured black and white by melting snow.

Back at home I went through the back of a bird watching magazine, the section where they list all the rarities. Last month we went past a pond and saw a white heron-sized bird. Great white egret, I decided, though it’s nice to confirm there has been one about. I couldn’t see any news of one on the internet but the magazine report shows there were some sightings in Derbyshire, which will do for me. It also shows there were ring-necked parakeets seen in West Bridgford and Aspley, though we haven’t seen any recently.

Glad to say we’ll be starting back in a few days as I want to start getting things ready for the bird watch and the porridge day, and get my Christmas present into action. Yes, it will be all action once we get back…

Kites, ospreys and six degrees of separation

We went to visit family at the weekend as part of the build-up to Christmas but managed to work in a bird watching exercise to tune us up for the Big Farmland Bird Count . We’ve spotted quite a few kites over the years as we visit family in Peterborough, and we generally see one or two around the Stamford stretch of the A1.

We saw seven kestrels, a buzzard and three kites. We could have done with a few more buzzards but as I said to Julia, this just shows how things change. When I was a kid it was a rare treat to see a buzzard and involved travelling a long way to see buzzards and all the way to Wales to even have a chance of seeing a kite. Of course, when you click the link and see there are now 700 kites to see in the area, it’s a bit deflating to think you only saw three.

After that we spent several days being ill with the latest bug going round. This is consequently our worse planned Christmas ever. I went out to buy the main stuff on a shopping trip a couple of days ago but didn’t quite get it finished because I started running out of steam (and because I ran out of space in the small-sized shopping trolley I had selected).

Next day I took a quick run down to Lidl to buy the bits I’d missed.

Now, I don’t want to subject you to a blog on my shopping habits because they aren’t very interesting, even to me, but there is one point of interest. For just under £25 I bought a serviceable-looking telescope, so it looks like bird watching in 2015 just took on a new dimension.

I’m resigned to the fact it won’t have top-quality optics but I suspect it will be better than our current telescope, purchased in the 1970s to watch a squacco heron at Eyebrook Reservoir. That brings back memories…


Sorry, when I woke up this morning I realised there was a distinct lack of Osprey in the post,. On looking again I also see no mention of the six degrees. I have excuses, of course, including three different versions of A Christmas Carol to watch.

I never did see an osprey when I was young, I had to wait until the kids started bird watching and I was able to engineer a holiday in Scotland.

However, having started looking up ospreys I found a link to a blog called Ken’s Diary. It’s about the Ospreys at Rutland Water. It also contains mention of Orton Longueville School, where he used to teach and where he recently went to talk about Ospreys.

That is the magic of the internet, you start by looking for ospreys and end up meeting your old history teacher.