Friday, 23 March 2012

Short-eared Owl upgraded and the First Chiffchaff

Friday 23rd March 2012
This morning the first Chiffchaff of the year was singing loudly from a small isolated willow next to the orchard. Bees buzzed around the pollen-filled catkins. In the background, a Yellowhammer belted out its song from the top of a bush.  Two tortoiseshell butterflies cavorted in the meadow and a brimstone fluttered through the garden. Spring is most definitely arrived.

Short-eared Owl Upgraded
I'll jump straight to the most exciting event of the day. As I returned from work, I was scanning the ducks in the dyke when a Short-eared Owl appeared to spook the teal. I never tire of watching owls - there's something very magical about them. Anyway, I lost it behind a copse, so carried on along the road. Shortly after, a second owl crossed the road in front of the car. I pulled up and watched this one land in a small bush. I put the scope up, intending to snap a picture, but by the time I got set up there was a crow in the bush where the owl had been. I scanned around searching for the owl, only to spot it perched on a white post. Hang on a minute! That post is on my land. The bird flew off straight over the forest of plastic tubes on my farm. Short-eared Owl has been getting closer and closer to the farm, but finally one was briefly on the farm. As it flew over the rape field next to my land, it sped up its flight and flushed a female Hen Harrier from the field. This then also flew straight through my land. Only the second hen harrier of the winter. After both birds had departed in opposite directions, I continued along the back road, wishing I had actually been on my farm when these birds flew across. The views would have been amazing. Shortly after crossing Coy Bridge, a third Short-eared Owl was hunting over a field by the road.  Three Short-eared Owls and a Hen Harrier on the way home from work. Not bad.
And when I got home, the Chiffchaff was still in the same small willow, five hours after it had first flown in there.

This tiny willow held the year's first Chiffchaff for five hours today.

This was all after I had dropped in to see a Great Grey Shrike in a small copse by the A47 at Thorney. It was distant and not in good light, but it's a scarce winter visitor and one which I would love to find on my patch.
Record shot. If only it had sat the other side of the copse.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, the piglets continue to grow at an astonishing rate. They are intelligent, inquisitive creatures. Most have now grown into their saggy skin and they are starting to play, climb, poke and prod. I think we have six or seven boys again - I do know how to tell the difference, but counting them is proving difficult.
Hopefully they can move outside next week, when it will be easier to count them and separate them.
"I wonder what's in here."

"Look, green stuff. Must stand on it, then eat it."
And finally...
The white linnet put in another appearance. Feeding on the ground in Don's orchard, it was more reminiscent of a Snow Bunting. This bird is so distinctive, I don't give it long given the number of raptors around here. Odd birds like this tend to get snapped up quickly, though it's managed to avoid capture thus far.

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