Spring 2021 Has Sprung

Spring 2021 Has sprung here in Shropshire.

We had a wonderful displays of snowdrops in February, a Spring precursor.

Snowdrop Clump

Snowdrop Clump

We now have beautiful daffodils blooming everywhere. The banks at the road sides have clumps of pale yellow primroses.

Hazel trees are beginning to lose their catkins but if you look closely you will see their tiny red flowers are out.

The catkins on the Alder’s have turned brown from their winter purple. Blossom is beginning to cover the cherry trees and the pale green buds on shrubs and trees look ready to burst open any time now.

Birds busy flitting back and forth with twigs, dry grass, bits of fluff and bits of moss building their nests ready for clutches of eggs.

The fields are filling with bright white lambs on match stick legs, running behind their fleece dams (mums).

I am looking out for all these signs when walking now that Spring 2021 has sprung here in Shropshire.

Long Tailed Tits

Long Tailed Tits are one of my favourite birds. They are gregarious, noisy and so interesting to watch in the garden.

We have lots of Long Tailed Tits around Folly View. We see them most days over the Winter time flitting from tree to tree with their hangers on, the blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits.

The Long Tailed Tit is not closely related to the Tit family but they spend so much time with the aforementioned Tits they have been thought to be part of that genius.

Long Tailed Tits, as the name says, have a long tail which is longer than their small fluffy bodies. They weigh about 7-10grams and have wing span of 16-19 cms and a body length of 14 cms.

At this time of year, winter, Long Tailed Tits are seen flying around chattering noisily in large flocks. They fly from tree to tree feeding on insects and invertebrates. They will in hard winters feed on seeds.

Long Tailed Tits are easily recognised by their long tail but are also easily recognised by their colouring which is a creamy, white background colour, with dark coloured wings of a black brown with a pinky highlighting and punky black stripes on their heads.

At night Long Tailed Tits huddle together for warmth. If they didn’t do this they would not survive . They roost deep in shrubbery such as Hawthorne which also provides protection from predators.

In Spring the large flocks of winter split up and pair off. Long Tailed Tits can start building their intricate nests in February and can take up to three weeks to build. Their nests are made of moss, lichen, feathers and spider silk and are beautifully domed.

Long Tailed Tits have six to eight eggs laid in April, which take three weeks to incubate, with the chicks taking two weeks to fledged.

There is a high rate of predation of nests and Long Tailed Tits will help others if they have lost their nest.

Over the last twenty five years the Long Tailed Tit population has increased by 79%. So if you hear a lot of chittering at this time of year while out walking it is probably a flock of Long Tailed Tits.

The photograph of the Long Tailed Tit and the Blue Tit is from TheOtherKev at Pixabay.

The photograph of a group of Long Tailed Tits enjoying some fatballs was taken by Bill Eccles featured on Unsplash.

Sparrowhawks

I can remember rarely seeing Sparrowhawks when I was growing up. One place we did occasionally see them was along motorway embankments.

Sparrowhawks are now found through out the United Kingdom, even up in Shetland.

We see them regularly around Folly View and down on Onny Meadows.

Many years ago one hit a window at Orchard House. I picked it up to put it somewhere safe, out of reach of cats and dogs. It had a Sparrow in its talons.

I was later told I was lucky not to have lost a finger as they are vicious when handled.

Adult Sparrowhawk With Prey

Adult Sparrowhawk With Prey

We have watched Sparrowhawks using the driveway as a bombing run, all the little birds disappear when this happens but I have learnt recently that this is what is called a rollercoaster flight which the males do to impress the females.

They are a small bird of prey. They are 28 -38 cms long with a wingspan of 55-70cms. The males weigh 110-196 grams while the females weigh 185-342grams making them significantly bigger than their male counterparts.

Their colouring is a creamy background with brown streaks and on the males they have significant amounts of grey. Sparrowhawks have yellow eyes which go darker with age turning orange to red in colour, their talons are also yellow in colour. They have a hooked Bill, good for plucking, which is pale grey with a black tip.

Juvenile Sparrohawk Eye

Juvenile Sparrowhawk Eye

Sparrowhawks swoop on their prey and because of their small size they can get into confined spaces to chase their prey. They catch small birds and have been known to eat pigeons and bats.

Nests are built from twigs and lined with bark shavings. Between May and July they lay four to five eggs which are shiny white with a pale blue tinge. The eggs take four weeks to hatch then the chicks take four weeks to fledged.

The photograph of the adult male Sparrowhawk feeding on it’s prey is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The photograph of the head and eye of a juvenile male Sparrowhawk is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Autumn

Autumn has arrived in Shropshire.

The trees are changing colour with hues of red, yellow and brown appearing in the green woodlands on the hill sides.

On dry days piles of leaves are gathering in corners ready to be collected in wheel barrows and allowed to break down in compost bins. Or you can run through them, kicking them in the air.

When I walk Hettie and Dillie in the mornings the tops of the hills are shrouded in  Autumn mists and the grass in the Meadows is heavy with dew.

The Long Tailed Tits and Their Hangers On flit from one tree to another tweeting their high pitched call as they go.

The apples are ripening, the cookers making apple crumbles to have with custard on cold Autumn evenings.

Autumn walks, on sunny days are the best, damp, still, grey days are not so good. These are Days for jobs in side.

So here I am doing a blog on Autumn, with a heavy drizzle outside, Hettie and Dillie curled up on the sofa after a quick walk before the rain arrived, looking forward to the next sunny Autumn day.

Kingfishers on the Onny

I walk every day with the dogs along the Onny River. I have over the years regularly seen Kingfishers when we have been out walking. This year I have not seen them until this recently(first week of September).

I had stopped on the bridge over the River Onny down Corvedale Road and saw a flash of blue. There it was on a branch over the running water before of it flitted up the River again .

A photograph of a Kingfisher

Kingfisher

I have been lucky enough to watch a kingfisher diving several times for fish from a branch over the River Onny just past Kingfisher Corner on the Onny Meadows.

Kingfishers have a bright blue back with a copper orange breast, it is usually a flash of blue that catches the eye.

They have stout bodies, large heads, short stubby tails and long dagger like bills. The males have a black bill and the females have a orangy/red bottom Bill. Their wingspan is 25cm and they are 16cm long.

Kingfisher have no song but make a high pitched peeping sound when flying low over water.

Kingfisher nest in burrows on the river bank, which they both excavate right near the food supply. They can have between 3 and 10 white glossy eggs which they both incubate, over 19 to 21 days.

The chicks take 24 to 25 days to fledge, eating between 12 and 18 fish each per day. In years when food is scarce they can take up to 37 days to fledge.

Kingfishers couples divide their Summer territory between them in Winter. They have a territory of about a kilometre each, this can be as much as 5kilometres. They need to eat 60% of their body weight each day.

Kingfishers are very territorial and will display on branches. If they have to resort to fighting they hold their opponents beak and try to hold it under water.

Around the World there as ninety species of Kingfisher but we in Britain have one of the most beautiful.

The image used in this blog post is from Wikimedia and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Peregrine Falcon in Craven Arms

I had an email from a friend in Craven Arms in which he told me of his encounter with a Peregrine Falcon.

He had been watching the birds in his garden when they all disappeared, something flashed past him and he was aware it was grey.

A couple of days later he spotted a bird on his roof apex and took the photo below of it, it was a Peregrine Falcon, lucky him.

A photograph of a Peregrine Falcon taken in Craven Arms, Shropshire on Sunday 30th August 2020.

I thought I would share a few facts about Peregrine Falcons with you.

Peregrinus in Latin means ‘ to wander’. Some Peregrine Falcons do over winter in other countries on the Continent however they can be spotted in Great Britain all year round.

They are our biggest Falcon at between 40cm and 54cm in length, the female being bigger that the male. They have an impressive wing span of 102cm

Peregrine Falcons are very striking birds. Yes they are grey, which makes them sound boring but they are beautiful.

Their back and wings are a dark slate grey and are white below with black bars across their breast and belly.

They have white cheeks and throat, with a black mask round their eyes and a moustache to match.

Peregrine Falcons start breeding when they reach two years of age. They have clutches of 3 to 4 eggs which are incubated for 31 to 33 days the chicks then taking 39 to 40days to fledged.

They can be found nesting in towns and cities, using tall building instead of cliffs which would be their natural nesting place.

Peregrine Falcons can be found in most areas of Great Britain.  Judging by distribution maps the only area that does not have many is East Anglia.

Peregrine Falcons are one of the fastest birds reaching up to 200miles per hour. They prefer to take their prey on the wing and dive down to catch their prey from great heights this is called stooping.

One of their favourite prey is pigeon, there are plenty of them round here. They also like collared doves, their numbers have only recently started increasing again.

In 1999 Peregrine Falcon were taken off the Endangered List as numbers have been steadily increasing since the banning of DDT.

The use of DDT(Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was banned in 1984. It was used as a pesticide and resulted in the decline of Peregrine Falcons among others. It caused the thinning of egg shells which would get broken while being incubated.

Peregrine Falcons are still persecuted. Egg collectors will climb down cliffs for their eggs and they are poisoned in areas of grouse moors.

As we saw earlier they can be seen around Craven Arms and they can be spotted through out Shropshire, we have seen them at Folly View as well. Happy Bird watching.

Birdlife

On Sunday morning Lyndon opened the bedroom curtains to see a family of Bullfinchs feeding on the greengages Mum and Dad and four fledgling.

This is Mr and Mrs Bullfinch’s second brood.

A photograph of a Bullfinch eating a seed

The swifts have gone for the Summer. I saw one solitary swift last Friday night, it is very unusual to see just one.

Our belligerent Sparrows have finally quietened down, I lost track of how many broods they had.

Yesterday I was looking out the window into the green gage tree a family of Blue Tits were feeding on the fruit. We are happy to share.

Last night we had our Bubble friend over for tea, it was her birthday, a baby when flew in, then flew upstairs. We searched upstairs but couldn’t find it, the Windows were open wide so assume it flew out.

August is quiet for birds they go through their moult but I thought you would like to hear about our recent encounters with the local birdlife at Folly View.

Little Egret

A photograph of a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) taken by Shantanu Kuveskar

There has been one Little Egret around for three or four years. While walking the dogs on Halford Meadow along the river bank we disturbed three Little Egrets. I thought I had seen two earlier in the year but wasn’t sure as I didn’t get a clear view. Two of them flew off together while the other one flew off alone. Little Egrets look like small white herons when flying. Herons always remind me of pterodactyl when they are flying.

So I thought I would tell you about Little Egrets.

Little Egrets were once a rare visitor from the Mediterranean. The first confirmed breeding of Little Egrets in Britain was in 1996 in Poole Harbour in Dorset. They are now well established in Britain with well over five hundred pairs.

They became extinct in Northwest Europe and scarce in Southern Europe after being hunted extensively for their long head plumes in the 19th Century. At one point in time Little Egrets plumes were worth more them gold. After being given protection their numbers increased and spread.

Little Egrets are found mainly around the coast line and esturaries of England and Wales. It is increasing in numbers and spreading further North and inland. It has been discovered that some of these beautiful birds can migrate and can go further North after the breeding their breeding season.

Little Egrets are easily recognised as they are a brilliant white. On the top of their head and neck they have long white plumes during the breeding season. They are about 60cm long with a wing span of between 88cm to 106cm. The bill and legs are black in colour and they have yellow feet, these are red in the breeding season.

They prefer to breed in colonies as they are social birds, so will often been seen in heron colonies. Little Egrets build a platform of sticks in trees, bushes or reed beds. They produce three to five eggs of a bluish-green colour which are incubated for three weeks by both parents. The chicks fledge at six weeks.

Little Egrets prefer open locations and will not be seen in dense cover. Hence why they are seen on Halford Meadow and not on Onny Meadows.

They stalk prey in shallow water shuffling their feet to disturb small fish- they will run through the water or stand stock still and wait to ambush. Their diet is mainly fish but includes frogs, toads, reptiles, small mammals, birds, crustaceans, molluscs, insects, spiders, worms, and ticks of livestock.

So look out for the Little Egret around your local rivers, canals, ponds, lagoons, marshes, the coast and  the shore of lakes, as long as it is not densely covered.

The photograph of a Little Egret, latin name Egretta garzetta, at the top of this post was taken by Shantanu Kuveskar and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Feathers and Flight

A red kite in flight

Here at Folly View Let we are keen birdwatchers and I’ve blogged several times before about the birds we’ve seen in our gardens including:

We are also lucky to be able to see a wide variety of birds on the nearby Onny Meadows at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.

Feathers and Flight

To coincide with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre are holding a Feathers and Flight event on Sunday 28th January 2018 from 11:00 to 15:00.

This event offer the opportunity to soar above the beautiful Shropshire Hills in a hot air balloon for 90 minutes (depending on the weather).

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground there is the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of birds pf prey. Chris Neal’s Falconry Birds of Prey will be providing flight displays and the chance to photograph these truly wonderful birds.

Red Kites

In this part of South Shropshire we are often treated to the sight of Red Kites.

The photograph of a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) at the top of this blog post was taken by Tim Felce at Gigrin Farm in Wales and is used under under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Spring has Sprung

A Chiffchaff - Latin name: Phylloscopus collybita

A Chiffchaff – Latin name: Phylloscopus collybita

The birds are gathering moss, dog fur and twigs for nest building.
The Chiffchaffs are chiff chaffing, chaff chiffing.
The Housemartins and Swallows have arrived and are flying around together.
The blossom is out on the fruit trees and the Wistreia has lots of buds ready to burst.
The Wood Anemones are flowering which means the full force of Bluebells is not far behind.
I’ve seen Comma, Small Toiseshell, Orange Tip Butterflies.
A huge White Tailed Bumble Bee has buzzed round my hall trying to find a way out.
A Queen Wasp came in the kitchen for a visit, thankfully it went straight back out.
The Sun is beginning to have some warmth in it, although there is still a nip in the air.
Hettie and Dillie are going and sitting on the grass enjoying sunning themselves.

The image of the Chiffchaff is from Wikimedia Commons and is included under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.