Sunday, 12 April 2015

Snap the Snipe

This week I had originally been working on a post about the sounds of my patch. Whilst I was thinking through the logistics of putting sound clips into the blog however events occurred to change my mind.

Just as I was locking up my bike a shrill call alerted me to something interesting on the mill pond. I caught the flash of a small bird whiz round into the backwater next to the bridge. It was all sharp angles and swift flight. For a second I wondered if it was a common sandpiper. These waders sometimes pass through on their way to and from upland breeding areas but its speed and size suggested it was perhaps the Snipe I had been flushing from my land recently.

Taking up my most stealthy gait I readied my camera and prepared to creep up to where I believed he had landed. Of course my creeping skills were no match for a bird that is used to avoiding the stealthy skills of foxes and the like and it was soon flushed up and out before I even saw it. The snipe angled round and moved to another section of the river. This was good news, normally it left the area. So keeping its location in mind I made a detour to reach a vantage point. Other walkers flushed it but it seemed to return to the same stretch of quiet water on the mill pond.

I set myself up on the bankside and opted to wait it out. I scoured the water line and reeds with my binoculars and then I saw something. The vaguest of shapes, was that the squat body with wings tucked in? Carefully raising my camera I fired off a number of shots before following up with my binoculars. The best shot is shown below - can you spot the Snipe?

If you can you are better than me, because what I thought was a snipe, there in the centre of the shot is in fact just a leaf. The snipe never trotted into view and so still lacking a picture I continued with my circuit.

Down into the main meadow I found a female Kestrel. She was exhibiting some interesting behaviour. I first caught sight of her rising from the grass and into a willow tree where she seemed to be eating something. It didn't appear to be a rodent but could have been a frog or a worm I guess. She then spent the next few minutes moving from perch to perch before diving down into the long grass.

It was particularly windy today and so she had obviously avoided the trademark hovering for a more sedentary perch based hunting that would avoid her using up too much energy on the wing. She made 4 perhaps 5 more attempts at things in the grass, each unsuccessful before wheeling up in to the sky and disappearing.

Kestrel sightings have increased this year and I am certain a pair is now resident in the area, perhaps displacing the Sparrowhawks that I have not seen yet this spring. In previous years the meadow was too overgrown for the Kestrel to hunt in, but with it being cut I think they will do much better. This could be a good year for them and I will keep my eyes peeled.

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