Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fog and a Short-eared Owl

Yesterday morning, the view from the bedroom window was like this...

The first fog of the autumn was a sure sign of high pressure. It soon cleared though and the day that followed was a good one. Firstly, we got the mower back, repaired. Even better, Errol is going to fix my Allen Scythe and my trailer too! Then remarkably I found another wasps nest, in the dyke. I was clearing some nettles when I started getting buzzed. Another lucky escape.

One of the guinea fowl keets didn't have such a lucky escape though. Late morning it was struggling to keep up with the others and by early afternoon we were down to ten. We started with twelve, so losses thus far are about what would be expected. The biggest surprise was that of the 20 eggs which were left abandoned, at least a dozen contained fully grown chicks. I'm not sure what happened there. Anyway, ten is enough and there are signs that the other two nests might be hatching soon.

As for the wasps, Sue donned her bee suit again and destroyed the nest (nasty powder puffed into the entrance hole). However, there is still a fairly steady stream of wasps heading into the middle hive. Despite introducing a new queen, I'm not optimistic about the colony's chances of survival. I've already found two wasp nests in three days. Chances of me finding any remaining nests are slim but I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Anyway, back to that high pressure. Hopefully it will mean that the next couple of days stay dry and warm enough to allow me to make headway into the grass which has now grown rather long. I have put the geese into the veg patch to nibble it down a little. They are well happy!

The high pressure extends right over Scandinavia too, and at this time of year that means birds! A large female Sparrowhawk shot low over the farm yesterday. I've not seen one for a good few months and I'm guessing it was a migrant. Could explain where the slow guineafowl keet went.
The Swallows are still with us, though they are out of the stables now and beginning to congregate at the tops of the Ash trees, chattering constantly. I reckon they're giving directions for the journey south.
When I woke up this morning, the garden was alive with birds. There must have been a dozen blackbirds in the Ash trees and a similar number of Great Tits - too many to be accounted for by our resident population. The first lapwings of the autumn were flying over too. But it was to get much better. For when I wandered down to check on the sheep, I took the opportunity to scan the freshly ploughed fields and up from a dyke, chased by a raucous crow, came a Short-eared Owl. A buzzard quickly got in on the act, chasing it into the sky as it flapped lazily over my head and over the farm. As it went over the chickens, quite high now, the swallows all rose to harass it. It's not often that these two species meet here, for the owl is an early one and the swallows will be leaving very soon.

With a bit of luck it will be another good winter for Short-eared Owls. I'll never forget the sight of three hunting together over the farm a couple of years ago.

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