14th May 2016

Wheatears- It is hard to imagine that these lovelyy, robin-sized birds were trapped and eaten in their thousands in this country, for centuries. Migrating from Africa in early March and returning in September, Wheaters (the name derives from the white rump- from ‘white arse’) boosted the meagre income of South Downland shepherds until the early years of the 20th century. In 1842, for example, sixty dozen were sent to

Wheatear

Wheatear

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London in one day, on the Eastbourne coach. 1,480 dozen were recorded trapped in the Eastbourne area alone in one year. In 1665 the Rev. Giles Moore records buying two dozen, for one shilling, in Lewes. Highly prized as a delicacy, they were often cooked, wrapped in vine leaves, and roasted. They like open ground- we watched this one on the cliff tops in Suffolk the other day. Conditions: Sun, cloud and cool breeze. Temperature: Max 12- Min 7c.

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12th May 2016

Mute Swans, Britain’s largest bird and one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, waste no time scaring other birds, predators or people away from their nests. This Grey Lag Goose sailed too close for comfort to the swan’s nest. First of all, Mute Swans try the ‘parallel swimming’ approach but it didn’t work with the large and also aggressive Grey Lag. So, then the Swan just swam headlong towards the Goose until it took off and disappeared to the other end of this pool at Wicken Fen. Conditions: Warm and sunny. Temperature: Max 20- Min 9c.IMG_0497IMG_0499IMG_0500IMG_0505

9th May 2016

Otters– after years of watching for Otters, we were recently very lucky to watch this one, spotted by Lynn, at Minsmere, for half an hour, fishing. Its speed was astonishing, frequently leaping out of the water and successfully catching many fish. The hide window was closed at the time and no-one dared open it, so the photo’s aren’t great but the experience was! You will see much better shots, probably of this very Otter, on Springwatch at the end of May. Since virtually disappearing from central and south-east England by the 1970’s, due to organo-chlorine pesticides, habitat loss and persecution, they have made a steady recovery, even sighted on the River Don in Sheffield now. Conditions: The hot spell continues. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13IMG_0203

Otter at Minsmere

Otter at Minsmere

Otter with fish

Otter with fish

Otter leaping out of the water

Otter leaping out of the water.

7th May 2016

Bearded Tits- possibly the most mis-named UK bird, being neither a Tit nor having a beard, this beautiful, elusive reed-bed bird can sometimes be located by its ‘ping’ call. This year at Minsmere I at last got some shots, and if you watch Springwatch from that location later in the month they will doubtless show these lovely birds. They nest low down in dense reeds but their long tails and cinnamon colour make them identifiable when they flit from one patch of reeds to another. The male has wonderful black ‘moustaches’ and both male and female cling to swaying reeds with great agility. Badly affected by cold IMG_0063IMG_0060 IMG_0068

Female Bearded Tit

Female Bearded Tit

winters they have fared quite well this year. Conditions: Light cloud and very warm days. Temperature: Max 19- Min 13c..

5th May 2016

Roe Deer- well, although we aren’t experts on Deer id we

Roe Deer Buck

Roe Deer Buck

Roe Deer Buck

Roe Deer Buck

Roe Deer Buck

Roe Deer Buck

think this is a (male) Roe Deer, seen recently at the wonderful Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. Grey/fawn in winter they become redder in summer. The males have small antlers and become territorial; around this time of year. Extinct in England in the 18th century they clung on in Scotland and, since being reintroduced, is now becoming rather overcrowded in some woodlands, which is why they can be increasingly see on scrub-land like this. Their white rump expands when excited or alarmed. They have a black moustache and white chin, as seen in the photos. Conditions: A warm and blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 16- Min 9c.

3rd May 2016

Barn Owls continued– Our most widely distributed Owls, they are recovering since the devastating impact of DDT sprays in the 1950’s and 60’s but to be sure, the Barn Owl Trust wants anyone who sees one to record it on their (very easy) sightings site. Barn Owls have many adaptations to improve huntinglarger wings and a lighter body means they can fly more slowly and even stall, and hover over prey. Extra soft feathers, and hooks on their leading wing-feathers deadens their sound. Asymmetrical ear-placings, with one higher than the other, means they can locate prey very accurately by hearing alone, even catching Voles etc on the darkest night. Exceptionally long legs and talons means they can catch and kill prey in their talons aloneIMG_9359IMG_9429IMG_9368IMG_8610IMG_8612. Some of these photos are in very low light, so blurred, but show their astonishing manoeuvrability. Conditions: More sun and warmth, with some showers. Temperature: Max 12- Min 6c.

2nd May 2016

Version 2IMG_9380IMG_9384IMG_9388IMG_9387Barn Owls- just back from Norfolk and Suffolk, where we had some great walks and nature-watching, including stunning, incredibly lucky views of a Barn Owl at Cley-next-the Sea. The best view was one morning and probably due to the wind and hail that visited us at intervals! Barn Owl feathers are not very water-proof so they will hunt voles, mice and insects in daylight if weather conditions have been unsettled. Magical to watch, it is thought their white under-parts form an ‘anti-silhouette’, the lightness making them less visible to prey, from the ground. More facts, and less clear photo’s tomorrow! Conditions- After a cold spell, with snow showers in Sheffield, so they tell me, a milder spell is on its way.