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spuggies and jackdaws and hedgehogs and frogs


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4 hours ago, Shadow said:

Mrs Shadow and I drove down the A34 from Oxford to Winchester on Sunday and lost count of the number of Red Kites we saw, they have really increased in numbers over the past few years.

And rapidly becoming close to commonplace closer to home for you and me, Shadow.  I have seen them a few times over the A36 near the Landford junction, over my house at Morgan's Vale, and drifting above the main road through Downton.

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A small but positive increase in bees in the garden this year. I moved two new houses onto the garage wall as they were getting no use elsewhere. And even though they are supposedly not facing the right direction they are filling up. Happy with that little result 

Edited by voteronniegibbs
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Wibble

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Just back from a few days in the Peak District. Great walk along the river Bradford with families of coots and mallards, across the hill via Arbor Low to Lathkill Dale and peacocks, nesting coots, swan families, grey wagtails and the fantastic site of a shrew crossing the path behind us (Mrs S spotted it nip out and return to the undergrowth as we approached so after walking by a few yards we stopped and waited patiently for a few seconds before it reappeared and scooted across the path).

Edited by Les Tonks Sidestep
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  • 4 weeks later...

Our proper go at a bee friendly garden this year is paying off. We've seen 4 different types and have 2 bee boxes on the garage wall each about a 3rd full. Sunflowers, borage and sweet peas are popular with them. 

This year's junior sparrows seem to have taken a liking to chomping the flower heads out of me runner beans. ..

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Wibble

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  • 2 weeks later...

Best ever kingfisher sighting at Fairburn Ings near Castleford yesterday. Watched it fishing from a branch for about ten minutes. Also saw a chiffchaff on the feeders. You hear them everywhere but hardly ever see them.

Today's excitement was provided by a roe deer running across the road at Melton.

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Old Faithful we never lose at Wembley

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1 hour ago, Ullman said:

Best ever kingfisher sighting at Fairburn Ings near Castleford yesterday. Watched it fishing from a branch for about ten minutes. Also saw a chiffchaff on the feeders. You hear them everywhere but hardly ever see them.

Today's excitement was provided by a roe deer running across the road at Melton.

Lucky you. Despite being just up the road from Fairburn I've never had the luck to see a kingfisher. 

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On 24/07/2021 at 21:57, voteronniegibbs said:

Our proper go at a bee friendly garden this year is paying off. We've seen 4 different types and have 2 bee boxes on the garage wall each about a 3rd full. Sunflowers, borage and sweet peas are popular with them. 

This year's junior sparrows seem to have taken a liking to chomping the flower heads out of me runner beans. ..

Disappointed that I've not got a bee nest on the allotment this year (although it means I get more done rather than just sitting watching their comings and goings!). If you've got the space I'd recommend a globe thistle, the bees and hoverflies love them. Heucheras are also popular if you've a small space to fill. 

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1 hour ago, Les Tonks Sidestep said:

Lucky you. Despite being just up the road from Fairburn I've never had the luck to see a kingfisher. 

Felt pretty privileged TBH. I've seen them flash past on the River Hull and the River Ouse before but this was something else. The speed it went in and out of the water was almost impossible for the human eye to track. Watching it manoeuvre the fish round in its beak so it could swallow them was fascinating.

Old Faithful we never lose at Wembley

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48 minutes ago, Ullman said:

Felt pretty privileged TBH. I've seen them flash past on the River Hull and the River Ouse before but this was something else. The speed it went in and out of the water was almost impossible for the human eye to track. Watching it manoeuvre the fish round in its beak so it could swallow them was fascinating.

The first time I visited my future in laws (they live in Preston about 50 yards from the Ribble) my future wife suggested we went for a walk up the river to kingfisher bridge. My excitement was shortlived as we headed along the riverside path when it became apparent that her mum and dad had seen one once, about 30 years previously!

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Almost any article on bird life in the New Forest will have pictures of a nightjar and a Dartford warbler.  From early May to early September, the former are not hard to hear, and quite often to see; it's just that the window of opportunity each day is limited to about two hours - one each round dusk and dawn.  Nightjars, of course, are quite widely spread in summer throughout England, albeit in quite specialist habitats.

Dartford warblers, by contrast, are very much a bird of south of England heathland.  They are resident all year round; indeed, they, sadly, have a potentially suicidal inclination to stay put, even in the worst winters, and not even flit across the English Channel.  They can also be fearfully hard to spot.

So, Mrs WWD and I struck really lucky yesterday, on our daily dog walk in the forest, on this occasion, the track across Fritham Plain.  We thought we saw a pair flitting about some bushes near the track and then one came out and stood on the track only about 20 yards ahead of us.  It only moved away when disturbed by two oncoming walkers and their dog.

Once you think you have seen one of these warblers, it is easy to say quite quickly whether or not you really have.  They are very dark, but actually have a lovely maroonish-orange chest and a striking red eye.  In profile, the long, typically cocked tail is a bit of a giveaway too.  Here is a link to the RSPB page about them:

Dartford Warbler Bird Facts | Sylvia Undata - The RSPB

Over 25 years hereabouts, Mrs WWD and I have probably seen them on average about once a year.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mrs WWD and I had our daughter back for a long weekend the other week, and went for our usual morning dog walk in the New Forest, at Turf Hill; it's the nearest car park to us and only a five-minute drive.

We were reminded of one of the most unobtrusive features of the forest's animal life as we walked along a gravel track which had warmed up nicely in the early morning sun.

Mrs WWD, Miss WWD and Poppy, our Catalan sheepdog (is there any other dog breed for a fan of Les Dracs?  But I digress!), had happened to be on the left hand side of the path and a few steps ahead of me.  

I was on the right hand side and almost stepped on a wooden stick...except it wasn't!  It was an adder taking advantage of the agreeable weather to get a bit of warmth in its body.  The others hadn't even noticed it.  They all came back to look from a distance of about a couple of feet; the adder just lay there.

Snakes, I fear, can have a poor reputation, with many people possibly imagining that they will attack you on sight.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Over the years, in the New Forest, Mrs WWD and I have seen adders and grass snakes a few times and were once lucky enough to find a very rare smooth snake sunning itself on a pathway.  We've also seen a few lizards and slow worms.  

What they all had in common was absolutely no inclination to be aggressive.  They stayed still or just gently slipped away.

Edited by Wiltshire Warrior Dragon
bad English!
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I remember being in Cornwall on holiday and my mum saying "come and look at this". Was an adder curled up and getting warm in the sunshine. It was me that identified it, that zig-zag pattern is distinctive. Eventually got fed up of us and slid off into the undergrowth. You are highly unlikely to have any issue with an adder unless you're being an idiot and poking it with a stick or something.

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  • 2 months later...

To describe an area like the New Forest as one of natural beauty is, at best, misleading.  The distinctive nature of the forest is, to a significant degree, down to how man has interacted with the landscape. (as an aside, I would probably make this point about many national parks and so called areas of outstanding natural beauty)

The calendar of human activity in the New Forest helps to mark the passage of the year for the casual observer.  Autumn means at least two things in this context. 

First, it is the pannage season.  'Pannage' is one of the common law rights of the forest which those commoners, allowed by virtue of the property in which they live to exercise it, can do so, if they wish.  It is the right to turn out to roam (the technical, New Forest term is 'depasture') pigs in the autumn.  The start and finish dates for pannage are set each year and in 2021 they are from 13th September to 14th November.  The reason why pigs are depastured is to eat the acorn crop.  The pigs love them and thrive on them; by contrast, if eaten to excess, acorns can kill ponies.  This year, the acorn crop appears to have been abysmal and I have only seen one group of pigs roaming free in the forest; they were at Eyeworth.

The other activity is rounding up the ponies which, contrary to popular belief, are not wild, but owned by commoners.  The New Forest term for a round-up is a 'drift', though temporary road signs warn motorists of a 'pony round-up in progress'.  I have chanced on one in action a few times over the years; it is spectacular to see, as the more able horsemen among the commoners ride on horseback to corale the ponies to the predetermined collection point.  This is not a full proof process, as some don't get rounded up.

At the collection point, the agisters will be present; these are the forest officials responsible for the health and welfare of animals.  They will check which mares have foals with them and add the latter to the register.  The ponies' health will be checked and remedial action, if needed, will be taken (e.g. hoof trimming).  The ponies used to be branded, and possibly still are.  Perhaps most intriguingly, their tails will be trimmed at the bottom and on the sides, to a distinctive, coded stepped pattern which indicates to which part of the forest they belong.

Soon, there will be pony sales, for instance adjacent to Beaulieu Road Station, and for some ponies it will be the end of their time in the forest.

I knew there was a drift taking place the other week in the part of the forest nearest where I live as the car park I use almost daily as the start of the daily dog walk for Mrs WWD was, according to a sign, closed for a day to enable 'livestock management'.  Oh dear, management-speak comes to the Forestry Commission; what's wrong with 'drift' or, if that seems too obscure, 'pony round-up'?

Edited by Wiltshire Warrior Dragon
poor grammar
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  • 3 weeks later...
55 minutes ago, Shadow said:

May be an image of bird, nature and sky

White Tailed Eagle spotted (not by me) near my village and @Wiltshire Warrior Dragon's place.

Thanks for posting that, Shadow.  I see that one lucky bird watcher had a bird of prey bonanza day on the Beaulieu river estuary yesterday, spotting no fewer than 3 white tailed eagles, 2 peregrines and one each of marsh harrier, red kite and merlin.  I imagine that the one in the photo is probably one of those.

To explain for those of you not familiar with New Forest geography, the direct line of flight from the estuary of the Beaulieu river to Shadow's village is only about 15 miles - nothing for a healthy eagle - and I am about three miles further on.

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Had a beautiful male Sparrowhawk in the the garden last week , it had caught a sparrow and was able to watch it for about 20 minutes , while it ate it . We get them in the garden quite frequently , earlier this year I saw one sat on the lawn , it had something in its claws , a closer inspection told me it was a Blackbird and it was still alive , the Hawk was plucking feathers from its back , the Blackbird didn't try to struggle , it looked in shock , then with the Blackbirds pink flesh exposed , the hawk tore at its flesh , hence , the Blackbird started to struggle for its life , but it was too late , I had to look away because it was too distressing .

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On 29/11/2021 at 11:29, Futtocks said:

 

Thanks for posting that, Futtocks.

It is a good reminder of why the kestrel has the old country name of 'the windhover', which of course the poet and Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, used as the title for his poem inspired by the bird (or maybe, more specifically, God's creation of this bird, as Hopkins would have seen it).  Here is a link to that poem's text:

The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins | Poetry Foundation

I sometimes think that Hopkins creation of hyphenated words and juxtaposing of other words is a precursor of Dylan Thomas's distinctive style (vide, e.g., "Under Milkwood"), but that is no doubt a discussion for another day and another thread.

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1 hour ago, Shadow said:

On my trip to work on Monday I was fortunate enough to see Donkeys, Deer, Free roaming Pigs and a pair of Emus. 

Okay, Shadow, you knew I would take the bait! 

Where were the emus and were they free-ranging like the other creatures you mention?

I have only seen two sets of free roaming pigs in the New Forest this pannage season, presumably because the acorn crop is so small.  The first were at Eyeworth and the second at Brook.

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