Monday, 9 April 2012


Monday 9th April 2012
A rainy day

Which is why, yesterday...

Yes, we completed the gargantuan task of planting and trenching up ten rows (that's 500 foot) of maincrop potatoes. It was one of those days when physical exhaustion was to be ignored and the self-motivation of 'just one more row' wore a bit thin between rows six and ten.
We now have Edzell Blue, Desiree, Pink Fir Apples, Orla, Setanta, Sante and Sarpo Mira. The first three of these were very successful last year and have earned themselves a place in this year's plans. The latter four are all supposed to show good resistance to blight, and as such are well suited to the organic grower. We avoided the ravaging effects of this disease last year, but we won't be so lucky every year, especially with the tendency towards warm, wet summers.

Not the only string in evidence today!

There is a vocabulary specifically used by birders. Terms such as gripping off, dude and string all add to the camaradarie of the hobby.
For now, an explanation of string. I guess derived from stringing someone along. String is a noun and a verb. Stringer is a person who strings. Stringing is the art of claiming to have seen a bird which is in fact something else. Usually (but not always) innocently done, it normally applies to inexperienced or desperate birders who, when faced with an identification challenge between a rare bird and a common one, prefer to plump for the rarer of the two.
A classic example is birders who go looking for Goshawks early in spring, see a large female Sparrowhawk circling around (looks similar to the inexperienced), and go home happily with Goshawk ticked off.

So today I am claiming...
Farm Tick 99. Goshawk!
Unexpected, for sure! But I would not claim this if I were not sure. It started when I was chatting to Don. By now, he is used to my eyes wandering to the skies as I talk, and so it was that I saw what appeared to be a large, long-winged sparrowhawk flying over the wood behind him. But the flight jizz was all wrong...and all right for Goshawk. Anyway, not enough to be sure and the bird had gone.

I continued with my work as I had a lot to do today. Ten minutes later, a female Sparrowhawk flies across the field, close. Could that really be the same bird? Ah well. Good try.

But then the bird I am watching flies under another, much larger, longer winged, again flying very differently, three deep wing flaps followed by a flat glide, the same as ten minutes before. But this time I was equipped with binoculars and telescope. Sure enough, I was watching a Goshawk! Amazing! I watched it fly till it was distant and disappeared behind trees. The Sparrowhawk followed it at a distance but did not dare challenge it. Another five minutes later and the Goshawk again crossed the field next to my farm and alighted briefly in the tall trees by the road. Unfortunately, the bird scarer which periodically disturbs the countryside made sure it did not stay for long.

To end a very good day, three Oystercatchers flew low over the farm calling loudly and a Short-eared Owl put in an appearance late afternoon.

Don installed perches and nestboxes into the new chicken house too. 

A long day with lots achieved. Bring on Farm Tick 100. Any guesses what it'll be?

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