Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scrag is now looking particularly beautiful; the autumn is rapidly approaching the peak of colour and fortunately we haven't had a blow so the golden leaves are still firmly on the trees. Field maple is probably the first to go really yellow, followed by hornbeam and then oak. I have been out capturing the colour on camera and will attach some images in the next day or so.
I have also been busy trying to coax a robin to a regular perch; I have done this before very easily in gardens where the birds are habituated to people, but in Scrag it has been taking some time. Eventually, however, the resident robin around the storage shed has started taking the bait, mealworms in this case. So, I intend to keep this up and re-build the unsuccessful robin hide nearer this location; this will provide another shooting hide for photographers.
The birds in the general baiting area are now in good numbers after a slow start at the beginning of the month. I think the chilly nights, sometimes down to freezing a couple of times have triggered this. The cold nights will be killing off some of the invertebrates so the feeders are becoming more attractive to them. All groups on the woodland birds workshops are getting plenty of great spotted woodpecker opportunities. The nuthatches, however, are proving less reliable; they are very much present in Scrag generally but are visiting the feeders less often than they have in the past, possibly it is just a question of time.
The group of photographers I had last Thursday were lucky to witness a sparrowhawk kill right in front of the hide. After a scream of alarm calls and frantic commotion in the edge of a hornbeam, the male sparrowhawk then swerved across the front of us showing his cinnamon barred underparts and prey gripped in his talons. He took his meal to the back of the hide area to consume before gliding, 10 minutes later, down to the pond for a post meal drink. Dramatic stuff!
As far as work goes, the badger platform now has a set of safer steps running up to it instead of the step ladder; I always had my heart in my mouth as members of public negotiated the step ladder in the dark! I have also stapled chicken wire to the bridge where the public footpath crosses the stream; another dangerous spot, especially in the wet! I want to get all these jobs done well before the winter takes hold.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I know, I know, I have neglected the blog and a couple of people have reminded me of this. I apologise but I was away in Brazil as usual at this time of year and returned to unreasonable jet-lag and the start of the beginners photography workshops for both Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
Anyway, what about Scrag? Well, I have been very surprised at just how dry it has been there of late; in fact it is the driest I have ever known it. This is great for getting the van closer but perhaps not so good for the wildlife. At this time of year the badgers put on another 50% bodyweight to help get them through the winter (although badgers do not hibernate). They will often get this from the harvest of nuts and berries but as usual they do rely on the worm supply and with it being so dry the ground is rock hard and cracked and I assume the worms are deep. This may affect the badger's mortality over the winter if they struggle to get their reserves up and if we have another brutal winter like last year.
Anyway, the drop of rain we had today was very, very welcome though I think it has only managed to soften the surface; at least when we get a decent amount of water it won't just run off. I noticed today as well that there was an explosion of fungi due to the rain; I'm hoping to see a few good species over the next few days as this moisture seeps down.
The woodland birds' photographic workshops have started again and there are fairly good numbers of birds coming down to the feeding areas. There do seem to be less woodpeckers this season though, but that just may be because I haven't seen them. I had a great view of the male sparrowhawk as it made a killing run towards the feeders; it came in 'contour hugging' just a foot or so off the ground before darting up past the nut feeder. On this occasion it missed but last Thursday I saw him successfully devouring one of the small birds. Apart from that all the usual suspects are there and the marsh tits are back; they always disappear from the feeders during Summer.
Overall, there is a general yellowing of the leaves, especially the field maples and hornbeams. The bracken is also yellowing and giving the whole place an autumnal feel, especially with the low slanting sun. Despite this there are still dragonflies zipping around and slow worms under the refuges when it is sunny. However, I sense there is a definite advancement of autumn now that we have had a couple of cold nights and a bit of rain.