Thursday, 28 March 2013

Just plain, dumb, luck.

Rob Martyr
Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. Mostly, you are two minutes too late. Even if you are on the spot, your camera is usually somewhere else, but today it almost all came together. I got lucky.

I spent the first part of the day furiously dealing with phone calls and e-mails, most of which were about  a possible visit by the BBC's One Show next week. If they come, it will be to take footage for a short feature on cormorants, known to anglers as "the Black Death." Of course we love our cormorants and would like to know why their numbers are declining so rapidly at Paxton. It could be quite confrontational for the RSPB, but anyway, it can't do any harm to provide some nice footage of our colony. I'll keep you posted.

The up-shot of all this was that I went to scout for locations with our new ranger, Rob Martyr who officially starts here next week. We saw several buzzards, a pair of tree-creepers and quite a few other birds but no spring migrants and no sign of the nuthatch that was seen on Tuesday. However, the redpolls were still feeding voraciously at the feeders outside the visitors' centre and there was a redwing in the meadow. We heard a Cetti's warbler shouting from the village side of the Hayling, just before a fat ginger tom-cat emerged from the undergrowth.

I had intended to spend more of the day on paperwork, but needed to do the patrols and litter pick at Barford Road Pocket Park. I don't think Rob was impressed with the amount of litter or the view near to Tesco's. He asked me, point-blank, "Why do we have this site, then?" I said, "Lizards, skylarks, grass snakes, Cettis warblers, snipe, water rails...." and he seemed to brighten up. But I don't think he believed me.

Sure enough, we soon put up a snipe and saw quite a few gulls and other birds. For a bleak winter day, it wasn't at all a bad place to be.

Back at Paxton Pits I had a cup of tea with the Voluntary Wardens, Ian and Mike, and we watched the redpolls for a bit. Then a muntjac wandered under the window, which seemed pretty special to us.

Hide-and-seek sparrow hawk.
Suddenly  there was a flurry of activity and all the birds left. A flapping ball of feathers plummeted to the ground right in front of us and resolved itself into a female sparrow hawk with a collared dove in its grasp, very much alive and kicking. The hawk spotted us but wasn't giving up at such a critical moment, so it tried to despatch it's prey behind a leg of the bird table. I outwitted her by changing my position while she subdued the dove, got her hooks into it and then carried it off.

The pictures were taken through double glazing in poor light so I had to tweak them a bit, but I'm pleased.

I understand that I missed a brilliant talk last night when Jeff Harrison showed his amazing pictures of kingfishers. Sadly, my sinuses packed up at the wrong time. (Is there a right time?)