Saturday, 2 March 2013

Holes and gaps

"Mysterious Hole; Council looking into it", or better still, "Officials get to the bottom of it".

I love puns. You see them in all the papers. When I read "Pilot Badger Cull to Start" I see flying badgers dodging the flak.

This was a good week for filling in holes because the Reserve is finally starting to dry out. Ranger Paul Claydon organised a team to fill in the worst hollows in the Heronry Trail while I had another team repairing the holes in the hedges made by muntjac deer. Matt Hall took a third team up to Pumphouse Pit to fix and extend fences.

I went up to Pumphouse Pit myself on Thursday to inspect the area in advance of a week-end work party. I found quite a few young trees had been knocked over and I think I found out who the vandal was. Can you guess who the culprit is from the photo that I took at a gap in the stock-fence?

After a bleak, cold and grey start to the week, the sun burst through on Tuesday lunchtime and the effect was immediate. A pair of buzzards rose high on a thermal and began miaowing, then the male started swooping and tumbling to show off his best features. Soon, a pair of red kites did their version of the same thing. It's amazing to think that both species were almost never seen here until a few years ago.

Here's another pun for you: "Sofa Ticks". Apparently they don't just attack "couch potatoes" but also armchair bird-watchers. Well, my sofa tick of the week was provided by a small flock of redpolls that has been feeding on the goldfinch-feeder at the visitors' centre. At first they look like tiny, boring brown-jobs, but get you binoculars on them and they become a lot more interesting. Every one is different. Young ones are often just brown and streaky, but the older ones have a crimson spot on their forehead. The males have a flush of pink on the chest too and all of them have a small black bib at the base of their yellow bill. Most of them are warm-brown on the back, but some are duller and just a few are grey. These are Mealy redpolls of the northern race. When I worked in Scotland we had a visit from an Arctic redpoll that looked like it was covered in frost.

Redpolls do not breed around here but, like their green cousins the siskins, they come to us in winter and will visit feeders, though you more often see them high up in alders and birches.