Saturday, March 1, 2014

Spring Signs

A morning is always off to a flying start with a hunting Barn Owl. Soon after first light I was travelling north through Pilling when I saw a Barn Owl ahead, the bird using roadside posts as lookouts. It’s a dangerous manoeuvre for a Barn Owl with morning traffic passing quickly by when collisions with vehicles forms a major component of untimely Barn Owl deaths. 

My heart was in my mouth as the owl hunted along the grassy edges of the busy A588, up and over the hedgerows and then finding new vantage points from where to wait for prey as vehicles raced by. At one point the owl lifted up from the verge carrying a mouse or vole and then sped off. The owl must have quickly swallowed the prey whole because within seconds there it was again playing the same dangerous game with passing vehicles. I watched the bird hunt for four or five minutes before it disappeared over the fields and back to a daytime roost away from danger. 

Barn Owl
 
I carried on up to Cockerham where the flooded fields held interest. Most of the birds were a good distance away with lots of comings and goings, much of it sparked by the regular dreads of the 100+ Lapwings. Also here were 65 Curlew, 40 Redshank, 60 Golden Plover, 2 Dunlin and 3 Ruff, the latter being two burgeoning males and a duller, smaller female. 

In Spring male Ruffs develop their exaggerated head plumage, the two today being quite pale around the head even at a distance of a couple of a hundred yards, their colour, size, structure, scalloped appearance and general jizz marking them out from nearby Redshanks. 

Ruff - Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA

Redshank

There’s been a marked passage of wagtails this week, continued here this morning with a minimum of 24 Pied Wagtails on the flooded field. Circa 200 Starlings on the same fields and 6+ Skylarks, a few of the latter in song despite the cool and frequent showers. Across the way at Crimbles Lane I found 80+ Fieldfares chattering in the tree tops and a Stock Dove. 

Pied Wagtail

It hadn’t been the best morning of weather and by Conder Green I was dodging almost continuous showers but managed to find 90 Teal, 45 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Curlew, 15 Oystercatcher, 18 Wigeon, 8 Little Grebe 2 Tufted Duck, 1 Grey Plover, 2 Spotted Redshank, 6 Meadow Pipit and 1 Little Egret. 

A tiny Sparrowhawk created something of a panic, appearing from “nowhere” then flying very low across the marsh towards then up and over the hawthorn hedgerow bordering the cycle track. It’s a superb hunting technique that Sparrowhawks and other Accipiters employ, a modus operandi stolen by the military in recent years for the design, production and perfection of “stealth” aircraft. 

 Sparrowhawk

The constant showers sent me back to Pilling where I stayed close to the car. On the flooded maize - 30 Lapwing, 60 Redshank and 1 Snipe. A long-dead Fox was not a pretty sight. 

On the shore and in and around the trees were 16 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Jay, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Greenfinch and 1 calling but unseen Siskin. 

All in all a good morning’s birding with welcome and clear signs of Spring in the wagtails, pipits, Fieldfares and Ruff. 

More soon from Another Bird Blog - read it here first.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog. She'd rather be birdin' - who wouldn't?

26 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Great post, Phil. The barn Owl is one of my favorite, great shot. And the Pied Wagtail is a cutie! I would love to see a Ruff! Maybe someday. Awesome photos, happy birding!

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

Some owls are so darn pretty that they almost appear to be a stuffed animal that you'd like to cuddle and pet. They don't seem like creatures of prey...what a lovely shot you got of this one!

The happy wanderer. said...

You do see amazing numbers of birds. I'd love to see the Ruffs developing their breeding plumage. How long will it be before they fly north?

David Gascoigne said...

Superb reporting. My heart was in my mouth just reading about the Barn Owl, let alone seeing it!

Kay L. Davies said...

I agree with Deb about the barn owl. It's lovely, and I'm glad it survived the traffic while you watched.
I still want a pied wagtail as a pet, although I've given up on having my own barn owl.
Definite similarity and equally definite differences between the ruff and the redshank with the two photos shown together. I love the reflection of the redshank.
K

Christian Perrin said...

I would love to see a wild Barn Owl - you're lucky to have them so easily observable there, though I hope they are clever with the traffic.

Brilliant Sparrowhawk shot too, and I love the hunting technique description.

Karen said...

Lovely shots. That barn owl is a handsome guy/gal.

Carole M. said...

yes you would be heart in mouth pre-empting a not so good ending to the owl in it's quest for food source. Lovely to see! An eclectic mix of birds here to enjoy; thanks again Phil...

Gunilla Bäck said...

Beautiful birds all of them, but the owl is my favorite.

Isidro Ortiz said...

Hola Phil,primero decirte que estoy bien,solo que ando bastante ocupado por lo que casi no tengo casi tiempo de hacer comentarios en los blog.Bueno sobre esta ultima entrada te dire que me gusta mucho la foto de la preciosa Lechuza.Un abrazo

Anni said...

I always become so envious when bloggers post images of the pied wagtails...they're so unique and so pretty!! Love the Ruff...quite a difference in markings from the redshank...I'd know the difference right away...[right! you keep thinking Anni] Love the pose of the barn owl....and the sparrowhawk is so regal.

Stuart Price said...

Spring coming here Phil.............well it is above freezing..............

BiffBash BOSH said...

Hi guys I'm from Wiltshire only 13 and keen birder wondered if you could check out my blog it would be greatly appreciated.

Santi said...

Posts in country side are very important to barn owls here in Castilla y Leon (Spain) as well, but roads always are near and too many birds dead.Thanks for your great post.

Kelly said...

...glad you are seeing signs of spring! They are few and far between here. Loved the photo of the barn owl!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Did you say Spring Phil? What is that, ha ha we are still in the middle of Winter mix, just so tired of COLD...
I would be holding my breath with a lump in throat watching those hunting maneuvers of those beautiful Barn Owls, such a thin balance of life and death for them...heart wrenching! Your Sparrowhawk looks very much like our Coopers Hawk, that we fondly call Coopie. Happy week to you and yours ;)~

Cynthia said...

I enjoyed your birds, especially the barn owl. We used to have them in our barn, but I haven't seen them for years.

EG CameraGirl said...

I am so jealous that you have photographed a barn owl!

carol l mckenna said...

Intriquing Barn Owl photo and description of behavior and great bird shots ~ xxx

artmusedog and carol
www.acreativeharbor.com

Laura said...

I love seeing the barn owl… there is something very dear about owls to me… but I'm not a small rodent, I suppose that would change my perspective.

Jo said...

Hi Phil, I'm not sure where your blog is situated, but amazingly I had a Barn Owl and its mate in my garden last night! (I live in Northern Tanzania, East Africa) Your Pied Wagtail looks a lot like the White Wagtail which I used to spot in Northern Africa when we lived there. Great photos. Who wouldn't rather be birding... Regards Jo

A View From A Brown Dog said...

Beautiful bird photos. We have Barn Owls and I love to watch them too. What magnificent creatures they are!

Fun60 said...

What an exciting start to the day watching that Barn Owl.

Shey Wicklund said...

Awesome report and fantastic captures. Love all of these captures.

chai-and-chardonnay.blogspot.com said...

I love barn owls…they are so rare these days. Beautiful capture and what a glorious start to a day!

Adam Jones said...

Brilliant post Phil and some cracking shots there. Love the Barn Owl.

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