Sunday, 11 May 2014

Swifts, Swallows, Yellow Wagtails, Grey Partridges, Little Owls and a Hawk Moth

Getting any work done outside today has been a trial. At times the showers have been so frequent that someone forgot the dry spells in between.

But as I was unloading bagfuls of horse muck I was delighted to note a trio of Swifts scything through the air. It was only yesterday that I saw my first of the year along the North Norfolk coast - a very successful journey in search of lambs - more later. Swifts are the last birds to arrive back from their wintering quarters. They arrive en masse and suddenly the skies seem full of screaming devilbirds. True masters of the air, they only land to nest, even mating on the wing.
And so they wheeled over the veg plot, briefly mingling with the Swallows which are ever-present now that they are building their nests in the stables. These two species mean that summer is on its way, not that you'd know it right now.

Another harbinger of summer comes in the form of the delightful, always busy Yellow Wagtail. Most summers a pair nests in the crops and spend much of their time in the pig enclosure. Occasionally they encounter Swallows collecting mud for their nests.
One summer visitor we've not heard back yet is the cuckoo. One usually turns up most years for a few days, but they're having a hard time of things at the moment and numbers are falling.

With all this talk of summer's visitors, I mustn't forget some of the farm's regulars. The Little Owls have been more showy of late. They probably have young to feed and so are forced to be active during daylight hours. If I get up really early in the morning, they too can be seen using the posts around Daisy's enclosure as hunting perches.
More surprising, about a week ago, was a sudden announcement by several grey partridges, conspicuously calling and chasing each other about for a whole afternoon and evening. I guess it was males full of bravado, but goodness knows where they came from after an absence of well over a year. And true to form, I've only had two brief encounters with them since. Still, it's very nice to know they are still about. Quite a rare bird these days.

And finally, summer brings other surprises too. The spring seems to have been a good one for butterflies, with tortoiseshells, brimstones and orangetips in good numbers, but this creature is no butterfly. It spent a day perched on one of our window frames. It is a Poplar Hawk Moth. Not rare at all, but still very nice to see.

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