The last couple of weeks has proven to be a somewhat frustrating time which started with a heavy cold and led on to ten days with significant hearing loss. For most of the time I was house bound, but this last weekend I decided that I would venture out for some fresh air. Not wishing to travel far, I decided to start with a spot of patch birding and soon found out just how difficult it was to bird with very limited hearing.
I travelled to Botley Wood and could just about hear a common chiffchaff singing about three metres away, finding it, without any sense of direction proved to be even more difficult. I continued along the main track and was rewarded with very little, other than a wren, song thrush and the resident blue and great tits, but it was tough going. Fortunately, the warm spring sunshine made it ideal conditions for raptors. At least seven common buzzards were enjoying the thermals and sparring with each other.
The sparring buzzards took my mind off my deafness and as I tried to get some photos I noticed a common raven in amongst them. There has been a pair loitering in the area in recent weeks; this bird was making it very clear that they were still around, and they didn't like the buzzards being there.
|Common Raven with two Common Buzzards|
The expansion of the common buzzard in the UK has been one of the avian success stories of recent years. Unfortunately its success has been met with anger from the gamekeeping fraternity and there are increasingly regular reports of persecution. The aerial sparring between the buzzards and raven kept me occupied for a while, but they soon got bored with each others attention and drifted off.
The warm spring conditions were proving ideal for butterflies too. Brimstones were the most abundant with the bright yellow males patrolling the woodland edge. Peacocks too were fairly abundant, seeking out the blackthorn flowers to feed. I recorded two other species on the day, comma and an unidentified small white, which vanished before I could make out whether it was a green-veined or small white.
|Great Crested Newt egg - This species is protected under European law|
and therefore it is an offence to disturb them. I hold a Natural England licence
that allows me to survey for the species.
There are a few ponds dotted around the patch, and two of these support breeding great crested newts. Newts begin to return to ponds to breed in early March so I thought I would check out one for evidence. It took about 30 seconds to find my first egg and confirm that they were still breeding. A female great crested newt can lay as many as 250 eggs a season, and will lay around 10 a night as the air and water temperatures increase. This early in the season a female may only lay one or two eggs a night.
The warmer day and night-time temperatures has seen an increase in moth activity too. Two nights moth trapping in the garden produced 128 moths of 18 species. The majority of the species were ones that I had already trapped this year; the new species were streamer (above), blossom underwing and early tooth-striped (below).
|Early Tooth-striped Moth|