Thursday, April 12, 2007

Local Patching

After going on about Florida and Powys I decided it was time to get back to some more local wildlife - why say it's a blog about Monmouthshire and beyond if it is all beyond!

We've had a few walks recently, and whilst there hasn't been anything stunning it's lovely to see signs of spring everywhere. The blackthorn lights up the hedgerows - you can tell it from hawthorn because the blackthorn flowers on bare stems.

Primroses and dog violets abound this year

and this patch of bank was covered with celandine and violets, with cuckoo pint in the lower left of the shot - yet to flower.

We wandered through various local woods - I was trying to see if there were any nest holes obviously in use - and the anemones carpeted the floor, frantically getting their growth in before the leaves above unfurl and take away all their light

In one small area we found several patches of what the Americans would politely call 'scat' - or shit as a shovel man might say. After some puzzling it dawned on me that these must be badgers dung pits - communal latrines often established where two or more territories meet. No sign of a sett, but something worth exploring over the coming weeks.

Venturing slightly further afield I paid a visit to Northwick Warth, just over the old Severn bridge. Some Merlin had been seen fairly regularly over the rough grassland, but none were in view. There was a male wheatear in the distance, but most of the action was in the hedgerows.

The bullfinch played their usual game of hide and seek, with this sadly being the best shot

but the chiff chaffs were back with a vengeance, singing their little hearts out from any natural spire they could find

Small flocks of linnets twittered past, occasionally pausing, but usually out of range for snaps.

They seem to be a bird widely ignored on on the sightings lists - too common and unspectacular I guess, but I like them. Last year in the same area I caught one in the evening sunlight framed by blackthorn. Technically it could be a better and sharper shot, and the bird is too far away, but in terms of the glowing colours and background it is a favourite still.

The rookery at Pilning is in full flow, although the birds were twitchy even when I was shooting pictures from the car

Back to Monmouthshire and I made an early morning run down to the Caldicot levels

When I first started this blog I wrote about little grebes and their reported habit, when startled, of diving into weed and hiding with just their bill sticking up. I've still never seen it, but this moorhen did something similar, staying buried mostly underwater for probably a minute before it emerged to swim away, tail flicking in what I took to be an avian V sign.

The fields mainly contain sheep

but one given over to arable contained something that caught my eye. I never got a better view than this shot through the scope, but from the behaviour and size I presume this was a hare that had found a form to lie up in for the day

Again the hedgerows chiff-chaffed away, and wrens and tits were everywhere.

A lone wheatear kept it's distance

but the highlight for me was my first ever sighting of a little owl. It kept a beady eye on me, but still seemed quite relaxed and would pause in it's stare periodically for a little preening.

Nice to be reminded that the grass can be green on your own side of the fence as well as further afield.

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