Friday, 27 May 2011

David and the Owl

A cold and almost frosty morning is a good time to be up at the crack of dawn, especially at this time of year. The world is devoid of human life, at least in our neck of the woods, and the only sounds are birds getting on with the business of the season, which is - well - doing the business.

The latest visit to our shared ringing site paid off with a spectacularly unexpected Tawny Owl in the net. He seemed a little out of sorts, as was only to be expected, but that's all part of the fun of it. Interestingly I've been seeing day-active Tawnies a lot recently, perhaps because food's been hard to come by for them and they have a growing family to feed.

More exciting still than the owl, though, was an unexpected mist-net catch: a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth. Despite being well tangled in the net, we eventually extracted it without major harm - some scales rubbed off the abdomen - brought it back for a quick photoshoot and watched it warm up, and head off into the blue.

Despite the lack of rain in this part of the UK - seems more like the southeast than the southwest - there is plenty going on. Our 'lawn' has come out with a spectacular show of Yellow Rattle. This is a semi-parasitic plant which is often found in good quality hay-meadows, and was a component of the green hay we spread across scarified ground last autumn, hoping for something a bit more interesting than the dog-muck-fertilised Perennial Rye-grass that we then had. The lack of rain hasn't helped much, but a bit of diligent watering and some luck has produced a nice selection of species, including Hairy Tare, Black Knapweed and a handful of eyebrights.

Since this last ringing trip I've been out on the moors doing site assessments, which haven't necessarily resulted in a lot of interesting things to write about. A draggled-looking Pale Tussock caterpillar (I think) on some Soft Rush was a nice find, though I have a sneaking suspicion that it is in fact dead...

...some spectacularly warty lichens growing on the granite...

and some atmospheric Hare's-tail Cottongrass waving in the wind.

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