Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tempus Fugit Yet Again

It rained on and off all morning so I left the birding and the walks through long grass for later. It felt a bit like work in the sunny but breezy afternoon as I lugged a ladder across the field and erected 6 more nest boxes designed for Tree Sparrows, then checked the other boxes already there. I missed the first broods because I was away in Menorca but there are already three boxes with new eggs and four other nests flattened by now fledged young where the females will probably lay again. Already a couple of my precious hours had disappeared.

Armed with a Schedule One licence I went to check the Barn Owl box put up a few years ago, and my hopes rose as 2 Barn Owls flew from the barn as soon as I entered. Climbing up to the box but with the owls long gone there was no need to tap the timber so as I stuck a torch in, searching around for eggs or small young. The box had neither eggs nor young, just piles of pellets on the floor of the barn below where the owls had spent many hours roosting in the undisturbed building. One of the owls flew across to a nearby fence and watched me for a second or two before it hurried off elsewhere.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl pellets

A pellet is the mass of undigested parts of a bird's food that some bird species occasionally regurgitate. The contents of a bird's pellet depend on its diet, but can include the skeletons of insects, indigestible plant matter, bones, fur, feathers, bills, claws, and teeth. The passing of pellets allows a bird to remove indigestible material from its glandular stomach. In birds of prey, the regurgitation of pellets serves the bird's health by "scouring" parts of the digestive tract, including the gullet. Pellets are formed within six to ten hours of a meal in a bird’s gizzard.

I drove on to the farm at Out Rawcliffe and checked out the Whitethroat nest found a few weeks ago at the egg stage. At last the four young were now just the right size for ringing, with an unhatched egg still deep in the nest.

Whitethroat nestling

Deeper into the plantation I watched a pair of Willow Warblers that eventually gave away the location of their nest with 5 young, again an ideal size for ringing.

Willow Warbler nestling

A quick tour around the remainder of the farm revealed 5 young Mistle Thrush from 2 broods, a still displaying Curlew, 35 Lapwing, I Great-spotted Woodpecker, 4 Buzzard and wow, that local speciality a singing Greenfinch.

Buzzard

Greenfinch

I glanced at my watch and it was 1650, and oh boy how time flies when having fun. But with birding there really is always tomorrow.

6 comments:

Kay L. Davies said...

The nestlings are so sweet, Phil, and the greenfinch is beautiful.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Russell said...

Sounds like a fantastic afternoon. Great pictures and thanks for the 'pellet' explanation.

Seasons said...

The Whitethroat nestling almost looks like you woke it up from a deep sleep. The Barn Owl on the other hand looks as awake as it could be...and oh, that face! I will check to find an audio file of what the Greenfinch sounds like.

Paco Sales said...

Aquí también nos llueve Phil, llevamos dos semanas que parece estemos en invierno, otro bello reportaje el que nos acercas y unas fotos muy simpáticas de estás crías, un abrazo Phil

Ari said...

The nestlings look so adorable! and I just love your photo of the Barn Swallow on your banner!

Stu said...

I've still yet to see a Barn Owl in the northwest.........

Owl pellets, yucky but fascinating.........

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