Tuesday 27 April 2010

Snakes alive!

I popped down to the farm after work this afternoon. It was the warmest day of the year and the Adders were getting some rays. This male was taking a bit of a gamble, being out on the pasture several slithers away from the nearest patch of cover. He stayed perfectly still to allow a few photos, then made a dash for the brambles.

Most of the Wheatears have moved through now, but here's a late-ish one. I love to see them perched on gorse.

Saturday 24 April 2010

The Dead Pond comes alive

Four Dunlin were feeding like crazy in the Plantlife pond this morning. Formerly known as the "Dead Pond" (see post below), it has now been renamed "I Can't Believe It's Not Walmsley!".

Nearby a pair of Reed Buntings were looking busy and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling strongly but refused to stick his head above the brambly parapet.

Three Jays were excitedly chasing each other about, making a sort of clucking noise most unlike their normal raucous calls. They are not around during the winter but turn up every Spring to build a nest in the willow scrub.

There are now five Sedge Warblers and three Whitethroats on territory, but we have no Stonechats this year, no doubt as a result of the bad winter.

Sunday 18 April 2010

A day to savour at Windmill Health Farm

Today was one of those Spring days that I look forward to all winter. Perfect days like this are rare and you have to grab them when they come. The Lizard peninsula can be quite chilly in an east wind but this morning it had abated and it was calm, sunny and warm. Not even a dose of man-flu (no comments please ladies), a souvenir of my trip to Scotland last weekend, could spoil my enjoyment of the farm at its best. My arrival in the farmyard was greeted by a Swallow and a Pied Wagtail, both of which nest in the old buildings.

This pond, funded by Plantlife, was excavated over four years ago but the water is very rarely clear. We think this is due to the wind creating constant turbidity in the water which prevents the suspension of fine clay particles from settling out. As a result of the murky conditions, aquatic plants and invertebrates have been very slow to gain a foothold. We came up with a plan to significantly lower the water level, which should allow it to clear. Plants should then colonise it more easily and their roots will help to bind the soil together. A permanent adjustable sluice will be installed this year, but in the meantime we've been drawing the level down with a syphon. So it was great to see a Greenshank and two Dunlin poking around in the muddy margins of the pond all morning and clearly finding plenty of food.

Sand Martins and more Swallows were moving through, skimming the surface of the water for a quick drink before flying on north. Wheatears were gathering on the old pasture, a couple of them perching on the World War II pill-box to look out for passing insects. Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers were singing and Dougy had a female Merlin and heard and saw the first Cuckoo of the year.

Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and several Buzzards came soaring over, disturbing a gathering of 50+ Linnets still finding seeds in last year's arable fields.

Who needs Lemsip when you've got all this?

Sunday 11 April 2010

The warden's away, birders make hay!

Yes, it's happened again. I'm visiting family in Edinburgh for the weekend, and a great bird makes its debut appearance at the farm. For nine years I have dreamt of adding this species to the list. I've seen them at Hayle Kimbro, just a few hundred yards up the road, but if one has ever decided to make the short trip south, it's made sure to do it when there's no-one around. This is an annoying trait which was also recently exhibited by the drake Greater and Lesser Scaups which were on Kimbro for nearly two weeks. I'm talking of course about the reserve's first ever Coot, seen today.

Oh I nearly forgot, our first Woodchat Shrike (of the Balearic race) also turned up this weekend.

I'll be away again for a couple of weeks from May 6th, so there are sure to be some more rarities around. Don't you dare see a Coot at the farm though - that would be too much to bear.