Saturday, December 13, 2008

The arctic front has really hit the area; Thursday night it was down to minus 5 degrees at Gatwick and the airport was closed due to the ice! This extreme weather can only have it's toll on the wildlife at Scrag Copse, sometimes this toll can be devastating with probably a high mortality of small woodland birds. It also leads to local or national migration; the whole wood complex is alive with redwings, Scandinavian thrushes, uttering their 'hup, hup' calls. These thrushes have possibly drifted down from further up north in the UK as conditions have worsened. They are always evident throughout the winter but it is during cold spells such as this that the numbers get larger and I would say there are several hundred of them now.
I checked out the badger sett yesterday morning, hoping to see plumes of steam issuing from the active areas. Unfortunately, the air had warmed by the time I got there so steam wasn't visible but there were several new and very fresh latrines just outside the sett entrances. I got the impression that the cold weather has meant that they poke their noses out of their warm, cosy home and think, 'no way, not tonight, let's have a duvet night!' Still, they have to do what they need to do, so they travel as short a distance as possible dig a hole, plop and then run back to the warm again. Who can blame them.
While having my lunch in the main hide yesterday, I watched a nuthatch just perched on the top of a log, not moving but evidently alert. This is a little unusual but I've noticed in the past that they do this when a predator is around. I kept watching and within a couple of minutes a male sparrowhawk came through flashing it's orange underparts. It was closely pursued by a female! They then had an aerial spat with some 'hekking' before settling in a dead birch just within my sight. After a few minutes the male took off and swerved around the clearing in front of the hide, again pursued by the female before they dodged through the hedge and continued their chase until they were lost from sight. Again, this behaviour confuses me as I would expect that individuals were perfectly capable of staying out of each others way. So, are they a pair from last year still loosely bonded or are they siblings, parent and offspring? I need to research this more. Still, it was a great spectacle and I was also pleased that the nuthatch's behaviour alerted me to their approach even though they were initially completely out of my sight.

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