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.

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.

Bird life from Folly View

I thought you might like to know how the local bird life is getting on in Craven Arms.

We have lots of busy sparrows. The sparrows who reside in the swift box are still there and are presently feeding youngsters. The swift box has become two story as there is a nest top of it as well as inside.

We have a sparrow who is nesting in a robin box by our front Windows, or should that be between. Mr Sparrow bangs against the window constantly and occasionally brings back a feather or leaf for Mrs Sparrow!  We think they are now on their second brood. We had less window banging over the last two weeks but it has started again recently. The window is a mess, there is no point cleaning it until they have finished nesting.

When I was walking the dogs recently two sparrows were having a dust up. There were no other birds around, as we got nearer they flew into a  nearby shrub, still arguing, at which point ten other sparrows arrived and joined in. Our sparrows usually argue in the large ever green at the front of the house.

I have sat outside watching the aeriel display put on by swallows, housemartins and swifts. One of our friends found a swift on the ground and helped it by putting it up high.

I have been watching housemartins collecting mud on the Onny River along with the swallows  I have not seen where they are nesting but I haven’t been looking.

I saw the egret on Halford Meadows a couple of weeks ago. I have not seen it with a mate but it has been around for a couple of years. The grey wagtails and dippers are busy on the Onny, I have not seen the Kingfisher recently but that does not mean they are not there.

I heard a skylark on Onny Meadows earlier this week. I have not seen one down there for a long time. I don’t think it was nesting but it was lovely to hear it.

There will be more on Bird life in Craven Arms in the coming weeks.

Wildlife

One of the benefits of staying at Folly View Let is the proximity to wildlife. I have told you about the birds we see in the garden and we will soon be putting out bird food on a regular basis.

However, we thought you would like to hear about our guest who had a surprise when closing her curtains at 10.30pm one evening during her stay.

They were just getting ready for bed and were in the process of drawing the curtains when a badger ambled down under the green gage tree.

Photograph of a badger

A young Eurasian Badger (Meles Meles)

She ran into the other bedroom to tell her friend but unfortunately it had gone by then.

She was very excited still the next morning.

It also explains why our Dillie Dog appears to us to be barking for no reason.

Unfortunately the badgers wandering into our garden will be short lived as we are having the fencing changed soon.

We have known that badgers were about for some time as we had a bee nest in an old tree stump dug out a few years ago and we also have seen their excavations in the drive.

So keep quite and watch and you may see a badger too.

The photograph in this blog post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.