Monday, 31 May 2010

Little Owl

Went to Coal Pit Lane last night about 10pm for our usual walk with Bramble. As we were driving down the lane, a small, grey animal ran across the road, looking for all the world like a small grey guinea pig. It then stopped on the verge and appeared to stand up on its hind legs to look at us. It was only as we got closer and stopped that we realised it was a Little Owl. It glared at us and then took off. I had never imagined Little owls as running around on the ground, even for worms I thought they would swoop and grab, absolutely delighted to see one like this. Also wonder if it is where stories of goblins and things come from, after a few pints, walking home with a flickering lantern on a lonely country road you could have imagined it was a Little Man not a Little Owl. Also watched Pipistrelles flying overhead and swooping quite close, lots of moths out, even Bramble tried to catch one.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Spring birdwatching walk in Brock Valley.

Sunny, breezy spring day so we decided to go to Brock Valley to see the Bluebells and Wild Garlic. The path follows the river amongst Oak, flowering Hawthorn and Lime trees that shade patches of Bluebells and swathes of Wild Garlic with the delicate flowers of Lesser and Greater Stitchwort gently nodding between them. As we walked alongside the river, sometimes the scent of the garlic was strongest and sometimes the delicate scent of the bluebells. Lots of Red Campion out too and the sturdy flower spikes of Butterbur look really ornamental now covered with white downy seed heads. Watched a young Thrush trying to balance on ivy stems waving in the breeze. Right next to the path, with dogs and people walking past, we spotted a Great Tit going into a hole in a tree about 3 ft up from the ground. As it entered we could hear all its chicks calling. Perhaps the people and dogs going past and their scent deters any would be predators, it didn't seem at all perturbed by us sitting and watching it as it came back with juicy caterpillars. We also saw three dippers, one of which was a youngster with mottled plumage, feeding itself. Watched two Grey Wagtails battling in mid-air and bobbing over the rocks in the river bed. Click photos to enlarge

Juvenile Thrush

Grey Wagtail

Great Tit going into nest...

Young Dipper

....and out again.

Young Dipper

Adult Dipper

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Gorgeous sunny spring day, so decided to have a day out looking at some of our wildlife hotspots. Went to Birk Bank Woods near Caton, which are a mixture of upland habitats and oak woodlands. The golden yellow banks of Gorse contrasted wonderfully with the clear blue sky as we followed the path through the mounds of flowering Bilberry. Cool and quiet amongst the oak trees. Found a large empty nest hanging in a gorse. Then we drove past Calf Hill and Cragg Woods then past Caton Moor windfarm where we spoted a Meadow pipit with a beak full of food. Drove on to Holme wood by Barnacre Reservoir near Oakenclough. Mixed deciduous woodland in a dell, with a streamside footpath leading down to Grizedale reservoir. Oak just finished flowering, Rowan, Hawtorn and Horse Chestnuts flowering and providing shade for the carpets of Bluebells, speckled with the white flowers of Stitchwort. Looked magical in the dappled sunlight with Small White and Large White butterflies dancing amongst the flowers. Lots of Chiff Chaff calls and Barrie saw a Nuthatch slip into a tiny hole in a tree and come out with a faecal sac. Walked down to the reservoir, where Barrie photographed either a Chiffchaff or a Willow Warbler (it didn't utter a tweet) catching caterpillars. On our walk back through the woods, I heard a plop behind us and saw something swimming through the stream and scrabbling over rocks, black, wet and glistening and very, very fast, couldn't get a clear view and didn't want to get so close we scared it, hope it was a Water Vole.
Click Photos below to enlarge

Birk Bank

Meadow Pipit

Nuthatch with faecal sac

Holme Wood

Small White

Chiff chaff or Willow Warbler

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Spring may have been late this year, but suddenly everything seems to be happening all at once. Blackthorn seems to have flowered really well this year and a few are still flowering here and there even as the Hawthorns start to flower. Red campion, Marsh Marigold, Garlic Mustard, Wood Sorrel, Violets, Bluebells, and Wild Strawberries are all flowering now and we still have Primroses out. Local woods smell richly of Garlic from the Wild Ramsons that will be flowering soon. Horse Chestnuts are starting to flower and the Apple Trees in the hedgerows are filling the air with their rich scent. It is hard to believe that a couple of weeks ago we were still having frosts and hardly any leaves were out. The Blackbird and Robin chicks have fledged, though I have only seen the Blackbirds feeding one chick in the open. The Robins seem to have done better with two. The Blackbird nest attracted the attentions of the local cats and on one occasion I saw a Sparrowhawk land in the conifer and head for the nest though I couldn't see if it took off with anything. The Swifts have made a welcome return over the past week and the House Martins are already feeding young. Twice during the day and in different areas we have seen Tawny Owls sat out in the open, one around 9 am and the other around 5 pm. Maybe they were after one of the numerous baby rabbits that seem to be everywhere at the moment. On our evening walks we have been delighted by the tiny Pipistrelle bats flitting amongst the trees above us. We are a bit worried that so far we have only seen a couple of hedgehogs, though sadly several corpses on the roads. BBC Wildlife magazine is encouraging people to go for an evening walk and the Forest of Bowland is a beautiful area to do so. Its lovely here at dusk as the sun sets behind Pendle Hill and the air fills with the scent of Apple Blossom, the bats come out and the calls of Curlews and Oystercatchers mingle with the bleating of the lambs.

Tawny Owl

Ramsons (Wild Garlic)