Saturday, 17 July 2010

Written to music by the Dresden Dolls...

Having possibly done something good in a previous life, I was allowed out of the office, with the express task of whipping through some basic monitoring at Prawle Point, one of my favourite places in the country. Sometimes life can be kind...! The day seemed to have been badly chosen at the outset, as when I woke up it was sheeting with rain, and the journey down was completed through a series of increasingly hefty showers. I wasn't worried though, because - in contrast to South Brent - it never rains at Prawle. True to expectations, the drop off the South Hams plateau to the coast was accompanied by a general brightening of the day and a lifting of the spirits.

We set out on our task in a stiff westerly breeze, which blustered around us and constantly threatened to remove our work, our coats and ourselves, if we were not paying close attention... Ignoring a couple of Cirl Buntings in the nearby thicket, we concentrated on the cliffs, finding such delights as the nationally scarce Autumn Squill, the dirt-common Rock Samphire and the variably rare Rock Sea-lavender (rarity depends very much on the lines you draw between taxa). We also managed to find a handful of clumps of the exciting (no, honest!) Golden Hair Lichen, which looks to me rather like a pan-scourer which has been steeped in saffron.
Teloschistes flavicans. Golden Hair Lichen.

 Autumn Squill (Scilla autumnalis). The purple one.

Today was another day at Slapton, where ringing continued apace for the season. A bright and early start meant we were in the right place at the right time to catch two Kingfishers and two Magpies on the opening round of the nets. You may find it perverse, but we were rather more interested in catching two Magpies than the Kingfishers... in 50 years of ringing at Slapton, only 7 Magpies have been caught before, whereas we catch up to 10 Kingfishers a season on a reasonable year. All context, you see...

Magpies. What more can you say? The bird on the right of the left-hand picture isn't going blind, it's flicking the nictating membrane over it's eye. Don't know what AJ's bird grabbed, but I'm sure it wasn't as painful as it looks...!

Half an hour later, during a walk round the nets, there was a squeal of anguish from the other side of the open water on the higher ley. Looking up and across the water, I was just in time to see the female Marsh Harrier standing firmly on a juvenile Coot, which was the source of the squeal. Unfortunately - or not: depends on your point of view, I suppose - the harrier lost her bottle when she saw me, so flopped off north up the ley to harass something else.

The rest of the ringing didn't produce any great surprises, though a healthy number of Reed and Cetti's Warblers were ringed again.

Cetti's Warbler. A small one.

Tufted Duck update: the brood of 9 seems to have been reduced in size, but a further three (count 'em) broods were out and about, all of which look as if they hatched at much the same time. So, that meant a brood of 5 tiddlers on the channel between the leys, a brood of 4 tiddlers and a single tiddler on the graveyard pool, and a further brood of 4 not-quite-such-tiddlers on the graveyard with them; I'm choosing to assume that the latter are the birds from 2 weekends back, though this is purely lazy speculation on my part. It'd be good if some of them manage to survive the various predators around the ley and get to adult size.

Female Tufted Duck with downy ducklings. This is the girl on the channel, with proper tiddlers.

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