Birds

Suffolk — the ones that got away!

County of wide skies, windmills and huge oak trees.

Long shadows, full stomachs and an evening stroll to disturb a barn owl — flying, ghostly white on silent wings, low across the field. You can’t photograph ghosts and anyway he caught us by surprise!

We’d gone out to find this little owl that Bill had seen before — we scoured all its usual roosts but it was nowhere to be seen this year.

Neither could we photograph the bittern that occasionally flew up out of the reed bed at Minsmere to have a go at the low flying marsh harrier in a spectacular display of territorial aggression. Its great thick, flexible brown and yellow flecked neck bending back to stab at the flapping bird of prey. Here is the harrier recovering from the shock.

Marsh Harrier

He is not holding up a grade for artistic merit (which was an A) but sitting on a marsh label so that other watchers in the hide can say ‘BITTERN — flying left to right above D’ and I can still miss it. Here is something else I had difficulty in seeing clearly although he was definitely there, flitting about in the reeds: bearded reedling… not a tit!

Bearded reedling

Wild horses would not drag Bill from the reserve but the promise of a glossy ibis was too much and we ventured out towards the dome of Sizewell B on yet another wild-ibis-hunt but we did see this fine wild polish konik stallion who looked as if he belonged on an ancient cave painting — look at the thickness of its neck. Not really wild but hardy and not picky when they graze and they don’t mind having wet feet — they were purchased to graze this marshland reserve and tick another conservation box.

On to Dunwich Heath for an ice cream and despite the high wind a wonderful view of a Dartford warbler, which came up and looked at us with its head on one side

J. Dietrich, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Above is a female Dartford warbler photographed in Spain — they are very difficult to catch with a camera, rare and fast and well camouflaged — the male we saw was much more purple — the colour of dry heather, with a grey head like this one, brilliant red eyes and the same bemused expression.

And now — the serious business:

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Ecology, Wales

Sometimes I think I’m invisible!

Cheeky bank vole steeling new friend, Thrush’s fat ball (he’s eaten all the bananas!) — bold as brass, six feet away from me.

Gosh! He moves fast, flitting all about the bank –soon the plants will have grown so much that he will be sheltered from the eyes in the sky –buzzards, barn owls and tawny owls. But watch out! There’s a stoat that visits the bank and next door’s cat. Everything is getting much braver since our dog died.

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Climate, Ecology

Barn Owl 2016

 

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Barn Owl 2016

We have ideal Barn Owl habitat (except of course when we accidentally set fire to it!)

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But our climate is not ideal because Barn Owls, who like to hunt at night and are quite picky eaters, cannot fly in torrential rain;  this is a real problem in Wales!  This is the reason we occasionally glimpse one by day; it is not a good sign, it means it is very hungry.

The population is under threat in our area, despite the profusion of nesting sites and voles in our little valley and the hard work of all the volunteers.  However, inspection of our Barn Owl box revealed one Barn Owl feather in 2016 so, as the Owl Man said, we are on their radar so we live in hope.

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Meanwhile we will only meet at Falconry Displays.

 

 

 

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