Tag Archives: sparrowhawk

Scone Chronicles 35 (Part 2)

So, the moment of truth…

Was our second visit to Tagg Lane Dairy as successful as the first?

I decided to try a different cake this time, and opted for the Sticky Toffee cake. I cannot lie to you, it was even better than last time. There was plenty of potential for it being too sweet and sickly, but it was not. It was just pleasantly sweet and toffee flavoured.

The cake, with swirls of toffee flavour, was excellent, with a lovely lightness of texture and tiny cubes of toffee embedded in a toffee icing. It was delicious, and, although it probably had a fatal dose of sugar for a diabetic, was just right for me.

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Sticky Toffee Cake

The coffee and walnut cake, which was Julia’s choice was as good as last time, but not as good as the Sticky Toffee cake. You know the bit in Henry V where he says. And gentlemen in England now a-bed, Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day?

Well, if Shakespeare had eaten the Sticky Toffee cake at Tagg Lane Dairy he would have written this speech about the cake rather than wasting it on Agincourt. It was that good. If I was marking out of ten, I’d give it eleven.

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Tagg Lane Dairy

The premises are new and , according to a wall plaque had been built with the help of funding from the EU. People may well want to think of this in the future, as I’m not sure the government will be funding many such projects in the coming years.

Unlike the cafe at Brierlow Bar, or the one at Home Farm (where we used to be based) it was not cluttered with a multiplicity of fashionable junk but was just neat and clean and a pleasure to use.

Finally, as I was taking a few wintry landscape shots near the gate, a female Sparrowhawk flew in to the yard flying so low she actually used the gate. She flew past me at about knee high, so close that I could almost have touched her. She then flew round the perimeter of the farmyard and flipped over the drystone wall to see if she could surprise anything on the other side.

We had Magic on the Marshes two weeks ago, now it’s magic on the Moors. I have been very lucky with what I’ve seen in the last few weeks. I just wish I could photograph it all to show you.

We also picked up some raw milk while we were there. I’m not sure whether it does me any good or not but I know that around half the time I have raw milk to drink my skin seems to improve. It might be a placebo effect, but if it feels better I’ll accept that, even if it’s because I’m deluded. It still feels better, whatever the reason.

 

The Post I Meant to Write…

Just before I opened my email from the Royal Agricultural Society, this is the post I meant to write. The last post was merely a Jacobin rant, this one is about nature. It’s better for me than politics.

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A model of me in the garden

There’s not much to say as it’s late and the pictures can do the talking.

The pop-bottle poppies are still looking good after two years – Julia was going to take them down last year but everyone asked for them to stay up.

This is the “hedge” between the Mencap plot and the school plot. It’s willow clippings with ivy planted to grow through it.

And finally – some birds. There would have been more but a sparrowhawk swooped by and scared them all away.

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Great tits on feeder – Nottingham

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.

 

 

 

 

Bird feeders

We moved the bird feeder last week and the visitors have been building up nicely. For some reason we never seemed to get many birds in the old location but within a few days we have had chaffinches, a robin, blue tits and great tits.

We have house sparrows, greenfinches and goldfinches around so I’m hoping we will see them before long. There are also dunnocks and a wren but they aren’t great visitors of bird feeders so they may not bother.

I’ve seen yellowhammers a couple of fields away and we get occasional visits from long-tailed tits. It would be good to see them visiting too. With my luck we’ll probably have a visit from a sparrowhawk.

They fly over on  a regular basis and we suspect that they have taken a number of young poultry over the years. One morning a female sparrowhawk emerged from a gateway as we drove along the road. She had a pigeon in her talons and was making heavy work of trying to carry it away, being unable to gain height with her burden. I’m not sure who was most surprised by the meeting.

We will set some time to one side on Monday for bird recording and see what comes. One of the group did well identifying birds when he visited a nature reserve last week so we want to maintain his enthusiasm. We might even get a photograph.

In the meantime here is a picture of a grouse from the moors on our break last week. It’s not the best photograph of a grouse ever taken, but it’s a start.

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