Monday, March 16, 2009

1st Migrant

Today, I heard the first spring migrant bird at Scrag, a chiffchaff. It has flown from its wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa to arrive at Scrag sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning. I heard no chiffchaffs on Saturday at Woods Mill reserve while I was working but heard one yesterday and have heard 3 more today so I feel I can safely estimate their arrival time. They have a very simple call, even irritating after a while, but it is certainly a notable day when I hear the first one of the year.
I also found the first slow worm at Scrag today under one
of the reptile refuges I put out. I thought I would find some reptile evidence especially as it got up to 15 degrees today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I apologise for my somewhat sporadic blog entries of late; I have recently started phase 2 of a big woodpecker survey across Chidingfold Forest in West Sussex. It is actually a woodpecker hole survey and involves finding and mapping as many woodpecker holes across all the Forestry Commission owned woodland in the area. In this way, the trees and possibly the surrounding areas can be saved from felling. This is not actually to preserve woodpeckers as they make many holes through the year and always nest in a new one; instead it is to preserve the trees so they can be later occupied by 'secondary hole-users' such as bats. The area to be covered is great and the terrain hard. Combine this with the need for it to be done before bud-burst due to the visibility and it means I am spending as much time as possible surveying.
Scrag, however, is looking very spring-like at the moment with increasing numbers of primroses poking through the leaf litter. Hawthorn is just bursting into leaf; it leafs before it flowers, whereas blackthorn flowers before it leafs. There is a lot of pair-bonding behaviour among the birds with groups of birds chasing eachother through the canopy. As a reminder of winter though, there are still flocks of redwings and fieldfares flying over. One fantastic sighting on Tuesday was the lesser spotted woodpecker feeding and calling in the top of a birch! I wish it would come down to the feeding area.
In all spring is really here, very obviously now and heart warming; I just hope with all the other work going on I can enjoy it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Hunt!

On Monday, as I was trying to find a woodcock that settled just in front of me, I caught sight of a man on a quad bike speeding across the neighbouring area of woodland; I think he realised I was there. This is the reconnaissance run.
Then, yesterday, according to a local resident, the whole hunt went through with up to 30 dogs. This has chewed up a the public footpath as well as the access track that we all rely on to occasionally get vehicles into the woodland for the 3 months of the year that it is not too wet. I have not followed the obvious trail to see if any gates or hedges have been destroyed as I am waiting to hear from other woodland owners to see if they have given permission. The worse hit area appears to be my neighbour at Tilgate Wood.
Apparently, at one stage there was so much squealing that it is felt a kill was made.
This angers me on a number of levels; the damage, the disturbance to wildlife as well as to my photography workshops that form part of my income. It is also the sheer arrogance. Maybe I should turn up at their stables and drive across their fields churning it all up, driving through fences and hedges! Maybe they will rely on their argument of being 'custodians of the landscape' - yeah right. Can you detect that I am somewhat annoyed?