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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Swan Family

Somerset Levels

On a field trip to the Ham Wall and Shapwick reserves yesterday, the weather was kind and we had great views of Bittern, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and this delightful swan family! which was not amused as the local herd of highland cattle approached from one direction and our group came from the other. After trying unsuccessfully to head off the cattle, they walked towards us and then crossed the path and led their cygnets back to the water.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Magical evening

I took a walk on the one dry,calm evening this week and at one point I stood listening to three different Song Thrushes singing loudly from their different high spots. They seemed to be competing to see which could make the loudest and most complicated sound and it was lovely to hear.

A few Swallows swooped around me and I saw a shy deer watching me from a gateway. Something spooked it and it ran across the field and back again to disappear into the long grass. As I crossed the field I noticed a number of wild orchids.

Next I was delighted to see a Barn Owl quartering some fields and as the light dimmed I heard the sound of young Tawny Owls calling their parents with their wispy squeak. After patiently waiting I saw movement near the field boundary and as I crossed toward a stile, I saw two fluffy babies and an adult altogether in one tree.

Time to start to head for home and I entered another field and followed the footpath uphill near . Turning to look back I spotted another (or maybe the same one?) Barn Owl in the air. Amazing, I have never seen one in the parish before and now I get two sightings in one evening! Magic!

As I walked back home along the lane in the gloom Bats were swooping between the hedgerows greedily catching insects, which have been in short supply during the cold,damp weather we have been experiencing for what seems like weeks now. This is bad news for much of our wildlife as no insects mean the young birds will suffer and the bees aren't pollinating the flowers. Let's hope summer comes soon!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

House martins at last!

The arrival of the House Martins has been late this year in the village and even the Swifts beat them! This week they have been swooping over the newly mown fields, including the school sports field, and have been seen making their mud nests or taking up residence in specially erected nests on local houses. I have still not seen evidence of the Swallows returning to their nests in the church porch, although there were a pair hawking for insects over the graveyard one morning, so perhaps they will still make an attempt. I'll keep watching!

Wildflowers in SSW now include masses of Yellow Rattle, ox-eye daisies and some beautiful Foxgloves along the bank by the steps. The May blossom has been beautiful in frothy white and pink but as we enter June it will begin to fade,so here is a reminder from the edge of the "Humpty Dumpty field"!


Buzzard nest update

Those who came on the Combe dawn chorus in April may recall we glimpsed a Buzzard sitting on a nest near Combe Wood Lane. One morning this week I thought I would see how they were faring and at first glance with the trees now fully clothed in leaves I thought they had disappeared. However after patiently waiting for a while I heard the unmistakable "mewing" sound and then an adult flew into the tree close to where the nest was hidden. I guess it was taking in food for the young, so they must have had a successful season. With the controversy earlier in the week of DEFRA first announcing they were going to allow birds at the nest to be shot to protect pheasant poults which had been reared for shoots, then rescinding the order, it is worth noting that Buzzards feed mainly on rabbits and carrion. They will take young birds, but are not usually fast enough to take them from the air and rely instead on the element of surprise, by dropping on them on the ground from a perch or high branch. Compared with the number of Buzzards, the huge number of pheasants reared for sport far outnumber them!