All Barn Owl pics (c) 2011 Chris Cox
Record shot of Female Cuckoo
After the ravages of the icy weather in December and January is was clear that there had been enormous fatalities in the local Barn Owl population. Now the breeding population is in full swing, and it appears the Barn Owl has suffered most in locations well above sea level. Populations near the coast and the River Humber, seem to have fared a lot better. Early mornings and evenings are probably the best time to catch a glimpse of these magical birds hunting, and it was an evening late last week when Chris Cox managed to snatch these excellent images. This is a location 6 of the classes have recently visited during the mornings and afternoons, but this bird was nowhere to be seen on those occasions.
Friday's sessions were hampered by strong winds again and a parched location. Virtually the only bird which seemed to be prepared to ignore the wind were Willow Warblers, which clung valliantly to the swaying vegetation, as they poured out their gorgeous cadences. The am group did hear a Garden warbler, and saw young Blackcaps being fed, but the birds were quite few and far between.
On Saturday a slightly less-experienced birder wanted to see Turtle Dove, Cuckoo and Hobby, which would have all have been lifers for him. We met at an unpleasant parking area, where we had to dodge the dog waste for nearly 1/2 a mile, before we got to anywhere interesting. A male Yellowhammer was fairly confiding on a spoil heap, and there were many scolding Whitethroats in the area. Once we reached the reserve Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers could be heard, and then the soft purring of a Turtle Dove broke through the warbler song. Although we stood and waited for several minutes there was no sign of this shy dove breaking cover & showing itself off. We walked along some deep water, and heard the equally evocative, strange mechanical sounds of a Grasshopper Warbler. This too remained hidden, as did the nearby Sedge and Reed Warblers. A male Cuckoo flew over, but the view was too brief to qualify for a lifer for my friend. There were plenty of 4-Spotted Chasers, and blue and red damselflies in the sheltered edge of the woodland, but there was no sign of a predator sweeping them up. We reached a viewing area, but we didn't observe much apart from a female Marsh Harrier, and several Swifts from this windswept location. We carried on towards the eastern limit of the reserve, when David spotted a female Cuckoo. Although she was being mobbed by 2 Meadow Pipits she maintained her position, and didn't fly across into the open. Our walk resulted in a wonderful vocal performance by a hidden Garden Warbler, while there were plenty of distant Black-headed Gulls, and some tumbling Lapwings. On the return journey we saw a male Cuckoo being mobbed by more Meadow Pipits, but it was the second stint at the raptor viewpoint when our vigil was received its just reward. Again there were Swifts, and this time a pair of Kestrels, but the bird of the day was a Hobby, which we watched for several minutes as it snatched and chewed on dragonflies caught in mid-air. The return journey was memorable mainly for the sheltered walk from the wind, when the heat became uncomfortable, and the Turtle Dove which purred its goodbye, and which again failed to reveal itself. Although the weather wasn't favourable we managed a good haul of species in the circumstances.