Sunday, 18 June 2017

The trouble with barn owls

The Safari was out early on the hunt for a scarcish bird to hopefully add to our Year Bird Challenge. We were at the site with the scope set up only a few minutes after 07.00. All was peaceful, the sun was already warm on our back and almost all of the sounds were the sounds of nature. It was good to be out almost like being in a scene that might have been painted by John Constable.
We had a good scan for our intended quarry but to no avail. There were plenty of other waders and waterfowl but not the one we wanted...yet.
 Overhead Skylarks serenaded us and from the hedge behind us a Whitethroat sang incessantly but the most obvious sound was the calls from the group of about four dozen Black Tailed Godwits feeding and resting in the pool right in front of us.

Further down the lane there was a Gypsy lad with a lovely modern horse-drawn caravan - we say Gypsy, he might have been any old bod just escaping the rat race - He came over to see what we were looking at before hitching up his horse and leaving. His caravan had metal cartwheels and made a serious drumming and rumbling noise on the road causing the cattle closest to us to stampede through the pool putting the Black Tailed Godwits to flight.
He also said he'd seen a big pale brown owl earlier which we expected would be back asleep in its barn by now. 
We kept on looking for the Little Ringed Plover that's been reported regularly recently but still had no luck so started to occupy ourselves while the birds moved around a bit by watching a family of Coots.
As luck would have it a Barn Owl flew overhead with prey heading back to its nest - where had that come from surely if it had been hunting in the cattle field we'd have seen it! As it disappeared in to the distance we didn't bother raising the camera to get a pic of its backside. And that was the end of that we thought as it was now nearly 08.00. But no, it snuck up on us again while we were engrossed in watching the tiny Shelduck chicks and the numerous mostly well grown Shoveler chicks. It didn't hunt 'our' field but skipped over the hedge and crossed the normally very busy dual carriageway.
Well what goes out a-hunting must come back and after a good length of time come back it did carrying a vole. Trouble is we very nearly missed it. You see that's the trouble with owls they fly silently and this one came back behind us and we were lucky to catch it in the corner of our eye but being behind us and that meant it was now on the wrong side of the light. We swung the camera round and fired away hopefully. Got it - just!!!

So really good to get a Barn Owl (YBC 139) on our our Year Bird Challenge. Unfortunately the Little Ringed Plover didn't show by the time we had to leave to get Wifey's breakfast on the go.
Later we were out again to try to find out if the local White Letter Hairstreak butterflies were on the wing as they'd been reported from the Southside yesterday, very close to where we'd been on our family duties. being a sunny Sunday morning the pollinator killers were out with their lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, we saw a lawn full of White Clover and Self Heal being scalped followed by a large Santolina bush losing its flowers - why on earth cut the colourful bit off? - and then a Buddleia bush having its unopened flowerbuds removed. We also saw the large grassy area behind the fence has been mown, at the end of last week it was a sea of yellow Buttercups. It really is no wonder the bees, butterflies, moths etc  are struggling. Why are we so terrified of flowers and colour?
It was already hot on Patch 1 and there were a few butterflies about. Most were Large Skippers and they weren't for stopping at all. We also had a few Speckled Woods, a similar number of Common Blues and singles of Red Admiral and Small White, no Meadow Browns yet and although we hung around 'the' tree we didn't see any White Letter Hairstreaks.
Also out n about was a rare 7-spot Ladybird, we've hardly seen any ladybirds this year.
Of more interest was this parasitic wasp
We've got a couple of possibles but are waiting for those clever iSpotters for a definitive ID.
On the way back we bumped into a dead Long Tailed Field Mouse lying on the pavement that wasn't there on the way out. Cat or heat? Or a mixture of both?
Where to next? Back to work tomorrow and we have another Brownie group in the evening so there might be something exciting they've found to show you later in the week. 
In the meantime let us know who's sneaking up behind you in your outback.

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