Saturday, November 12, 2011

Afton Marsh SSSI

Lots of bird stuff has featured on the Blog over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d try to get my first glimpse of the local Water Voles on what turned out to be a beautiful warm, sunny day.

At Afton Marsh it didn’t take long to find a number of signs indicative of an active Water Vole population.

This photo shows the most interesting feature - a closer view provides the detail:

It's a feeding platform that is obviously well used. You can see how the Reedmace has been chewed right to the ground on the right and, to the left, you can see several fresh droppings.

I followed the trail of an obvious run close to the water’s edge and came across these droppings…

…and these short pieces of Water Vole-chewed Sedge close by.

At the far end of this open stretch of water was a small stand of vegetation in the middle of the channel….

…..again, obviously a favoured food supply!!

All in all, I spent several hours leaning against an Alder tree overlooking the feeding platform, but this was the only visitor!

And when I got home this Black Redstart flew over my head as I parked the car. So, even more avian video, I guess, but I’m determined to catch up with a local Water Vole soon – and the signs are looking good!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Peregrine Falcon @ West High Down

During my walks on West High Down I’m very fortunate in seeing a Peregrine Falcon or two at about the same frequency that Mario Balotelli scores goals per game for Manchester City, i.e., pretty regularly!!
This bird was sitting on one of its favourite spots at the top of the chalk cliffs half-way along West High Down. Earlier, I had spent ten minutes watching another bird bullying the local Ravens, gaining height and soaring before launching into a dive and ‘buzzing’ them time and again. I swear it was enjoying itself!!
Other highlights on a relatively quiet morning included 2 Isle of Wight ‘firsts’: a flyover Brambling and 2 diminutive Firecrests….brilliant!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Stinkle in Colwell Bay!

This confiding Rock Pipit at Colwell Bay first thing this morning shows all of the classic plumage features which set it apart from its cousin, the Meadow Pipit. For a start off, it’s a much sturdier bird and the large bill is particularly noticeable at this range. It’s a much darker bird overall, with its dark back, smudgy breast and flank spots, all supported by two black legs!
In some parts of the country the Rock Pipit is known as the Shore Sparrow. And, if you happen to be drinking a cup of coffee by the shore on Fair Isle and hear a local say, “There’s a stinkle, here”, chances are they’re not dissing the establishment but pointing out one of these birds to an interested party!! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

West High Down - November 1st

This morning I had my first opportunity for a while to walk over West High Down…and a glorious morning it was – is it really November??!
There were 2 Black Redstarts at The Needles Battery, including this male perched on one of the interpretation boards. I hadn’t realised that it was only following the devastation of the Second World War that this, originally rocky mountain inhabitant, continued its expansion through north-western Europe and began nesting in London’s new rocky habitat, conveniently sculpted by the Luftwaffe! The first nesting record for Britain was in 1845 but it was as a ‘bomb-site bird’ that the population really began to flourish, giving it the impetus that has led to the establishment of some hundred pairs or so in the south-east today.
West High Down itself was quite quiet apart from a few Wheatears and the odd Stonechat, so I was really pleased to come across my first island Short-eared Owl in the eastern –gorse-dominated – area.

Magic!! Owls always are!