Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Saxon Mill - A photo diary

Today I thought I would highlight some of my sightings with photographs to illustrate them.

As soon as I had locked up my bike I could hear the shrill call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I was very familiar with this particular call as I had heard it many times over the years. It was the cry of a juvenile woodpecker calling for its parents to bring it food.

I had suspected that there was a nest nearby because last week whilst I had a drink in the Mill I watched a pair of woodpeckers ferrying wood. With a little bit of searching and following my ears, I found the nest hole and waited for an appearance. No adult turned up but eventually, the youngster poked his head out.

You can tell that the individual is a juvenile due to the red crest on the forehead. By adulthood, this red patch will disappear and one will grow in on the nape of the neck.

Moving along my usual route I passed the Jackdaw tree where two sets of parents were busy feeding young. The warm and wet weather had caused the vegetation to grow greatly and I had to forge a path along the riverside through the nettles. As I moved I stirred up clouds of Banded Demoiselles that took to the air as I disturbed them. Each week I try to count them, a task which can be very difficult.

I counted 612 individuals all told and I am certain I missed many. Of those counted, 77% were male, resplendent in the deep blue coloration. After years of watching these delicate damselflies, this was the first time I spotted actual mating. The following three photos show the male in blue grasping the female in green behind the neck with his claspers. The grip is strong and the pair are able to fly in tandem. The male secretes a packet of sperm from one segment that he transfers to his penis in his thorax. The female then bends her ovipositor up to make contact and allow the sperm to connect with her eggs. This behaviour creates a wheel-like formation. This can last for up to 6 hours whereupon they will move to the waters edge and the female will deposit her eggs on reeds using her ovipositor.


I paused halfway along the river to sit and watch. Here the smaller woodland birds began to show, I saw a pair of Goldcrest, Blackcap, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Wren.

The little bird was singing intensely and was shifting its tail in agitation, in fact, they had the stiff upright tail pushed forward more than I had ever seen before.

Along with the Whitethroat in the meadow, I heard and then saw a Sedge Warbler, a species first recorded last year. Sadly it was too fleeting a glimpse to get a photograph, a task for next week I think.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Natures ups and downs

This week after some difficulty with getting data from my trail camera I have started to get data again and excitingly a new species has been captured.

At 20.47 on the 14th May, a Roe Deer made an appearance. I have seen very few of these striking Deer over the years and I was very surprised that such a deer was spotted on my patch.

The deer's slender legs and short body depth suggest that this is a young female, probably one of last years young. As a species, they prefer woodland and forest and field edges. In this part of Warwickshire, I have only seen them at Warwick Castle Park. I suspect this individual was moving along the railway line or perhaps came down from Gallows Hill.

On the downside, the swans that nested on my patch have lost their nest. Heavy rain during the week as suspected led to the nest being washed away. The two nests at St Nicholas Park also seem to have been abandoned although not as a result of rising water. On the canal however, the pair have successfully hatched 7 cygnets.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Not a good place to be a vole!

The Saxon Mill, whilst a haven for all kinds of wildlife is becoming a less and less secure place to be a vole.

My last post retold my sighting of a Grey Heron hunting and catching a Bank Vole. Today whilst down on my patch, I saw a male Kestrel appear carrying a vole of his own.

The Kestrel looks like a young male to me. He has excellent plumage but seems quite small. The vole he has caught is just under half his weight. Judging by the length of the tail in relation to its body length I think that he has caught a Field Vole, furthermore the brown upperparts and grey underparts further distinguish it from a Bank Vole.

As I watched I was surprised that the Kestrel did not just eat the vole. In fact, he just sat there. Occasionally he would pick it up in his mouth as if he was about to take flight but didn't. Acting on a hunch I moved away down the path and stopped observing him directly. The tree he was in has been used as a nesting site in the past and last week I saw a pair of Kestrel by the tree. Once I was a bit further away the male picked up the vole and swooped down to the trunk of the tree.

I could then hear all sort of squawking and then out flew a female Kestrel carrying the vole. She took a perch lower down a tree and then flew off, the male, however, did not emerge.

It is my guess that the pair of Kestrels are nesting in the tree and the female was sitting on eggs. He was out hunting to feed the female. He returned but felt uncomfortable entering the nest itself whilst I was watching. He took the vole in and took his turn brooding the eggs enabling her to feed.