Thursday, 23 June 2016

From The Borders To Barn Owls

Besides having an interest, or more obsession with the natural world, I am also very interested in archaeology and history, and if I have the opportunity to visit a historic site after completing a survey I will. As I was working right in the north of Cumbria earlier in the week I took the opportunity to visit Hermitage Castle in the Borders of Scotland and you can find a few pictures below of this magnificent and imposing castle.

 Hermitage Castle (above & below)

I had a survey that was borderline in terms of wind strength this week in southwest Cumbria and after recording two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, a Sedge Warbler and a Siskin the highlight was an Osprey lumbering overhead carrying a very large fish! None survey work near Brampton on the same day yielded a calling Cuckoo in the rain, but nothing else.

On Tuesday evening I called to see my good friends Diana and Robert at their farm near Nateby to check their Barn Owls. For some reason the Barn Owls didn't rear any chicks last year but this year it was pleasing to note that they had three chicks. One of the chicks was a lot smaller than its siblings and I don't rate its chances of survival I'm afraid. The two larger chicks were ringed, but the smaller chick was too small.

 Barn Owl

Barn Owls are afforded special protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and a disturbance license is required to approach the nest and ring the young, which of course I have. There are records of the activities of non licensed observers published on the bird sightings page of a local bird club website. These people are acting completely illegally, and they know it, but they continue to disturb Barn Owls at the nest. I understand that the police have been informed of this, so let's hope that they take some strong action!

After checking the Barn Owls we checked a Kestrel box on the edge of some woodland and it was pleasing to find it full of three healthy Kestrel chicks. There was a sad outcome at this box last year as one of the adults died and just one chick survived to fledge with some help.


Ian and I checked another Kestrel box at a school where we ring the chicks every year and this box has lost it's male bird. The staff at the school, after taking advice, have been feeding the chicks with raw liver and this has worked well. In fact the female has been coming in to the box and picking the liver up and feeding the chicks with it. The school have a camera on the box that is viewable on a screen in the science lab for the students to look at. The beauty of this is that we can check the box without climbing a ladder! When we checked in the week there were five fully grown healthy chicks about to fledge, so they remained unringed. At least we know there is going to be a happy outcome!

Later in the week I was surveying some predominantly arable land in Cheshire. I recorded a range of farmland birds including two Stock Doves, four Whitethroats, 61 Sand Martins, 50 Tree Sparrows, a pair of Yellow Wags (lovely to see), four Song Thrushes, a Skylark, three Buzzards, three Ravens (the biggest surprise), three Blackcaps, six Yellowhammers and four Nuthatches.

As I post this the UK is gripped with EU referendum fever I'm afraid, but not this blogger! In fact I am fed up with all the nonsense being spoken on both sides, and I am very unpleasantly surprised at some of the anger and hatred being spouted from the mouths of friends through the cyber protection of Facebook! One thing is certain, and that is the fact that wildlife don't observe political borders and they need our help and protection wherever they are in the EU! I'll be glad when it is all over so things can get back to normal and I'm going to try my damnedest to avoid hearing the results! I wonder how long that will last?

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