Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Song Thrush versatily and SKY the Lark returns

Tuesday & Wednesday February 26th and 27th 2013 - Diary Sketch
Tuesday 26th February 2013

0600-0700hrs  - A full moon and almost clear skies which made it quite light at early doors.
Also a ground frost this morning, which we did not have the previous night (Monday), although today’s ground frost was by far lighter than we have come to experience in the more recent past.

Coming down Clawthorpe road towards “Sunny Glen” I had six male Blackbirds, close together and holding debate deciding who gets what!!  I’ll bet that debate turned to “scrapping” shortly afterwards.

0900-1200hrs – Dalton, Trig, Lancelot Clark Storth, Storth Woods, Dalton.

I was audience for some fifteen minutes and held spellbound listening to the sweetest of many calls coming from a Song Thrush which was on the highest point of the tallest tree, delivering his continual squeaks, squeals, chatters, wolf whistles and lots, lots, more. I should have stayed much longer listening to him, it was just the ticket!  Probably the best entertainment around and natural and free, and a mean feast to try and understand. He was holding his “high stage” just close to the bottom of the Dalton Crags incline. 

I tried to decipher some of the stuff he was singing, which went something like: 1) weehoo, weehoo, 2) Wee-hoo-wit, wee-hoo-wit, 3) Wit-woo, Wit-woo, 4) her-kleep-kleep, her-kleep-kleep, 5) Chit-chit-chit-chit 6) See-it, see-it (7) The yaffle call of the Green Woodpecker and (8) Lots of Starling chuckling mimickry.  He delivered most of the mixed bag with a “immediate repeat” of the same syllables (as shown above), and would then start to sing them all jumbled up.  But really there could have been lots more on offer if I had stayed longer. In these very fortunate situations I really do need to spend more time “listening and taking it all in” for today it had certainly started my “adventures” off in the most cheering and refreshed of mind.

(It also took me back to 29th June 2011 when I was listening to a versatile Song Thrush over at Pickles Wood, and this one did the most wonderful of impressions of the Curlew and the Oystercatcher, but the best of all had to be the impression of the  “Trimphone”.  I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The Trimphone came out in the 1970’s and had almost ceased production by the late 1980’s yet here we had a Song Thrush mimicking the call exactly, and the year was 2011. So had the bird inherited that talent from its ancesters and having been handed down through its genes, or could there possibly have been some other reason. Whatever the reason I am sure the 2011 bird was not 40 years of age!)

(Back to Tuesday 26th February 2013)
By now the morning had turned so pleasant, with sunshine all around, and
Hurray! a Skylark was seen crossing over Dalton from East to West, another Pecker (Great Spotted) was heard drumming from near where the Charcoal Burners used to be.

And whilst climbing up through the deforested track, I was met with what at first appeared to be lots of “little white fairies” daintily dancing in the vertical at various stages.  They were almost silver in true colour and a lot larger and far longer winged than the conventional “midge”. But whatever they were obviously they had been a fresh “hatch” this very morning.
A Green Woodpecker was “yaffling” from down at Dalton Woods, with its sound almost drowned out by the gaggling calls made by two passing Greylags overhead traversing from East to West.

At the Trig Point, another Song Thrush was in full song, again on the highest branch on the tallest tree some 200 yards North West in line with the pathway which leads to the Cairns.  Also another Green Woodpecker was “yaffling” from somewhere over towards Park Wood direction.

sketch whilst at the solar panels
Crossing over into Lancelot Storth and breaking any surface ice in the large black cattle troughs.  I decided to do a small ten minute sketch of the solar panels and the water tubs and its surroundings.   Whilst doing the sketch I had a bird constantly singing from further back beyond the panels.  Although I could hear it reasonably clear, I just couldn’t see it although I did recognize the “type” of call to be conducive with a member of the “Bunting” family. Instead of going down and checking it out like I would normally have done, for some reason I just get so ingrossed with my sketch and by the time I had finished it the bird had flown.

Another pair of Green Woodpeckers were reverse calling to one another from further down and across to the North West side close to the Burton Fell boundary.

At the rear of the Dalton hamlet from within the Storth woodland, there was such a enormous explosive cackling noise came from overhead when four male Blackbirds were chasing one another and having a scrap in the process.  It really does look like bullying tactics may be used here!

Wednesday 27th February 2013.
0600hrs – 0700hrs – Heavy ground frost today.

(0630hrs)  Saw a Brown Hare going down the lane towards Henridding which then jumped over the wall into the fields.

A lovely singing Song Thrush was calling from Russell Farm in Dalton, to the rear of the “ancient stone circle”, and it was still singing away from the same spot later at 0830hrs.

Also it looked like being the morning of the “Dunnocks”, because on Vicarage Lane they appeared to be singing from everywhere.  It certainly suggested today for some reason there was definitely something starting to happen with this species.

A pecker (Great Spotted) was heard again drumming,  and also another fabulous singing Song Thrush were calling from Curwen Wood at the “Claw House corner.  Also a Bullfinch was quietly “piping” away at The Woodlands.

0830hrs-1200hrs – Dalton Hamlet – Trig – Lancelot – Pickles Wood

Disturbed three Lapwings within the fields of Russell Farm, they noisily ascended and headed off to the West.  Also heard the quiet piping of Bullfinch at nineteen trees.  Yesterdays Song Thrush at Dalton Crags was again “serenading” with his versatile repertoire.

And whilst climbing up through the “deforested” at Dalton, a lovely surprise awaits with the melodious greeting from SKY (our resident Skylark at this spot) who broke into full song along with another bird nearby which after seeing them together earlier, presumed the other bird to be SKY’s good lady.  In fact on my approach there were actually four birds, one of which left the others and traversed high and to the West.

On my approach to the Trig and whilst there, even more Skylarks could be heard passing overhead North.  Still no Mipits to mention.

A Green Woodpecker “yaffling” from Lancelot bottom close to Pickles Wood and further Bullfinch “piping” on my return past Browside on Vicarage Lane.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Red - poll needed the Ice Breaker

Thr and Fri Feb 21st and 22nd 2013 - Diary Sketch
On my way up through Dalton Crags to Hutton Roof summit, I have found it necessary during these past few freezing mornings to break up the ice and remove it from the cattles drinking trough, easily attained with my well worn "walking stick", the ice has ranged between 3/4" to 1 1/4" thick.

Today I was doing it on the Dalton trough, and it obviously makes such a racket breaking up the ice. Within minutes I could hear from over the nearby wall and from within Lancelot even more cattle, and they had started "mooing" away, which obviously had only started on account of hearing the noise of breaking ice.  I got the immpression they where actually communicating and telling me in their language, that they also wanted their ice breaking up. So I then went over into Lancelot and started breaking and clearing the ice on their trough too.  Within minutes of me breaking their ice, they were participating in taking a drink.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Deer Ticks, Peckers, Daphne and Other Birds

Wednesday February 20th 2013 - Diary sketch

Wow! It came as a surprise yesterday to find a full adult deer tick well embedded in the upper arm. And again today more ticks comfortably attached in the lower leg regions of my moleskins…
Nothing new about “deer ticks”, I certainly get my fair share of them, especially during the late Summer months, but didn’t really expect to get them on a cold freezing frosty February early morning. 

This morning Peckers (Great Spotted) were going at it! from all directions of Dalton in fact I counted five separate birds drumming their territories which had no less than two hundred yards between each of them.  This was only a very small part of Dalton, so how many can there be throughout.  I might just try and get around and survey the “drumming birds” in the full Dalton area tomorrow.

Prior to two days ago I had not heard any drumming this year and heard my first only yesterday on the edge of Curwen Wood, followed two hours later by a couple more just to the back of Plain Quarry within Dalton Crags. They must be sending their messages “by relay” to one another.

I couldn’t wait any longer I know its nearly the time for “Daphne” (Mezereum), and so decided to trundle my way across the Roof in earnest!  Oh! this year is going to be somewhat special for this species.  I found several of the well established small shrubs, its soon became obvious I was premature with my visit and that I was perhaps up to ten days to early. Still I could witness with amazement the solitary flower presently “open”, yet lots and lots of beautiful red/purple buds, in near readiness for exploding into delicate bloom which together will bring the sweetest of aroma to the fortunate. By the way my wife regular quizzes me for more information wanting to know who Daphne is!! 

Birds really did seem a little subdued this morning with a nil count on any passage birds in the skies.  I can only think that maybe the sudden change back to freezing cold temperatures during the recent nights, have now put a “pause” on the movement of Larks and Pipits coming through, yet would expect this to change after the weekend.

Also today listening so closely for the “little bit of bred and no cheese” and half expecting the Yellowhammers to be back at their sites, but no signs yet.  I was to early because it was 29th February when I recorded them back last year (2012).

Still no signs of the Great Grey Shrike and probably to early, its usually about March when he comes back, but still worth checking out his usual “perches” including his favourite “The Shrike Tree”.

 “Zigzag”  with a “kwa” the Woodcock made his presence again today, as he hastily made his retreat.  I don’t think I can ever remember seeing so many of them.  Every day I seem to be flushing them from the “verges of the pavements” or in between the grassed intermediate broken pavements.  A most beautiful bird

Monday, 18 February 2013

Skylark Is certainly not Larking about

Skylark is not "larking" about
A couple of days late for me but so what! He's arrived almost right on cue!

Today for me the first Skylark could be heard from far high above Dalton (deforested) with just a faint rolling “churrup” call. This tells me that plenty more will come through during the next couple of weeks.
Now then, I am left wondering whether this one today was a far away breeding bird just crossing over the Roof, and when would “Sky” our Dalton regular arrive back on his favourite territory on the Crag House side of Dalton?

I walk through the Crags daily to reach the Hutton Roof summit and I know that any morning now I will hear him (Sky) burst into song from high, and higher, and to his gracious highest! What I am sure is, he will not be doing his “Tree Pipit” mimic calls this week or next week, in fact I would not expect that perfect imitation to at least the second week of April.

Coupled with these fresh, sunny February mornings, the “Lark” singing away, always brings so much cheer to most of us, giving us his special melodious welcoming in preparation of the fast approaching start to “ Wake up and get out its nature time once again”.

I know exactly when things started to change for the better, it was Friday last the 15th February!

Every morning up and out well before dawn, there's been little going on for me on the bird front  other than the odd low flying “Oystercatcher” or the high flying “Golden Plover” passing overhead, the only other species to be seen or heard in that early morning darkness was Terence the Tawny Owl who kept his guard at various points along “Nineteen Trees”.

After leaving Dalton Lane and turning into “The Trees” you would regularly see him perched in the higher branch of one of the ancient trees. Your headlights would just about catch his presence and he looked so light coloured, which makes me suspect he is of the “brown phase” and not the “grey phase”. I think most tawnie’s in these parts are of the “brown”. Slow driving is essential here, because just now and again he will swoop down almost as if to attack the car headlight, but thankfully would quickly change his direction seconds before to narrowly avoid disaster.

Another great friend in those early hours especially during the latter part of January but far more so during early February was Robin who would sing his little heart out, at regular points quite near to street lighting. There were several of them competing with one another, especially as you start to descend Vicarage Lane. You never once saw them in the darkness, but could hear them clearly and with regularity.

But like I said before it was on Friday last, especially during the final hour of darkness and just as dawn approached, not only Robins were much in evidence, but it was as if all the birds in the neigbourhood had burst into song and it was obvious I was witness to perhaps the first of the years spectacular “Dawn Chorus”.

In addition, over the past couple of days I have seen lots of activity with the local thrushes and much aggresive fighting amongst a pair of Blackbirds, and also noticed a Crow carrying twigs and House Sparrows with nesting material in their bills, all in readiness for nest building.