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Friday, 25 September 2009

Wonderful Migrants part 2


September for me is one of the highlights of the calendar year. With my spare time starting to be devoted to the readying of falcons for the season and the feeding of game on the various pieces of ground that I fly on . But also the birding side of things takes on a different hue, with migrants starting to leave and the countryside looking heavily to autumn and winter. I visited South down farm on one such day and could really feel that pace of change on the wind. Watching the swallows hawking insects on the wing, fattening themselves for the journeys that await them. Because of bad weather the harvest seemed even later than last year .As I drove around the farm, there seemed a hint of melancholy and a wistful lament at the passing of summer. However this was a beautiful day bright, clear and warm. September can be a wonderfully mild month at times and brings certain clarity to the wonder of autumn. I noticed a cock Cirl Bunting singing from one of the many gorse lined hedges near the old quarry, His “Zorro” like markings giving him the feel of a bandit Yellowhammer!! I often hear the Cirls before I see them. They have a dry “zeehhh” or “Zit Zit” calls. A lot of Colin’s farming is aimed at helping the Cirl population here. Ravens croncked over head And Cock pheasants proclaimed their locations around the farm by their chorusing. I watched as the resident pair of kestrels systematically worked the area of wild bird mix that I had seen the Hobby at. The female at one point stooped down and caught something. I watched her return to a nearby post and start to eat what appeared to be bright green lizard. I later identified it as being a male sand lizard. This was a little sad as I found out that they are rather scarce and protected. Obviously not from Kestrels!! Later though I did see a Sparrow hawk actively chase one of the kestrels and it looked like a pretty serious attack as intended on a prey item. The Sparrow hawk did pull off after about 50 yards. Which shows that nature does not favour anyone when it comes to survival?

Further to the North West along the coast is the river Yealm. Every year without fail one particular Osprey makes this his stop off point to and from Africa. Known as Mr Green to some of us he always gives me and a few more serious birdwatchers a wonderful few days each April and September. I do not always catch him every year, but when I do it is always worth it. Some of my friends have been recording his movements for what must be around ten years at least. This year he was joined by a young female for a day or two and they hunted together on the river. She moved on a week ago now. He does not always give us close views but he always seems to have his regular trees that he frequents and he’s a good model when perched in the right place. Soon, as he departs our shores for the warm climate of Africa we will see the local birdlife change in complexity as again more migrants come to our area from the north and so everything shifts again to the pulse and rhythm of the seasons.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Wonderful Migrants

Driving along the tracks of the farm, I watched as a kestrel worked one of the old hedgerows of the farm and its ample grassed margin running out to the track. I stopped the truck and sketched her as she worked towards the vehicle. Swallows whizzed by on flashing purple wings. She was harassed by two Magpies like two troublesome boys picking on the local swat on her way home from school. She ignored their machinegun clatter and peeled back over to resume her work. I drove on towards an area of wild bird mix planted this year by Colin the farmer .It will give cover and food through the harder months that will follow. Skylarks sang around me and I stopped to draw them and the Charms of Goldfinches foraging amongst the thistles at the edge of the crop. The Field known as Decca had been in Oilseed rape this year and now had been cut ,the tall stalks giving perches to the flocks of linnets wheeling then dropping down to feed in amongst its stalks. The flocks did seem restless and soon the reason revealed herself in spectacular fashion. A female Hobby came dashing in from nowhere scattering the feeding Goldfinches which bailed into the cover nearby whilst others scattered like rice being thrown at a wedding. She missed in her attempt and just carried on as if she were just playing tag. What a wonderful bird one of our most spectacular migrants that always brings a bit of excitement to a day in the field.


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