Wednesday, 17 February 2016

16th February

I thought the cold snap would have driven birds on to the Swale but it was quiet with the exception of 21 Cormorants, half a dozen Goosander and three Snipe, my first of the year. The two Mute Swans were still present and there were now a pair of Oystercatchers, the one bird here having caught what I assume is a large freshwater mussel.

In the afternoon I visited the Magic Garden and spotted a Little Egret perched in a distant tree.

I also saw a small, dumpy bird flying high, well above the tree tops. It took me a while to identify it as a Little Owl because that’s the first time I have seen one doing anything much more than bounding low across to its next perch.

Later a Blackbird shot through some vegetation, straight at me. In fact I had to duck (and felt the rush of its wings through what’s left of my hair!). The cause soon appeared, a female Sparrowhawk which veered sharply off as soon as it saw me. It did feel as though the Blackbird deliberately used me to deflect the pursing hawk.


  1. I still haven't seen or heard little owl this year! Annoying, because they're a regular garden bird.

    Re the sparrowhawk... I've observed the opposite twice, where it appears the sparrowhawk has used me as cover/decoy. I once followed one down the track from the equestrian centre; it stayed level with me, in and under the bushes and would surge forward as I disturbed the smaller birds, eventually taking a chaffinch and dragging it under the hedge to eat. The whole time, I was within 20ft of her.

  2. Interesting Chris. By the way where is Thrintoft Ings? Are there footpaths through there?

  3. Thrintoft Ings is the large flat lowland area behind the New Inn, stretching North (marked on an OS map). Don't get excited; it's not like Fairburn or Wheldrake Ings! The area has largely been cleared for agriculture and is heavily drained, mainly with steep sided, JCB excavated ditches. That said, there are one or two wide, open, sedgy dykes that look very promising. We get great crested newts in our garden most early Springs, and I always wondered where they were heading; I'm guessing it's here.

    There are no marked footpaths or rights of way; I rely on the goodwill of the local farmers. The best place to access it is by the small brick bridge (marked Halliken bridge on an OS map).

  4. Never had this with Sparrowhawk, but once a few years ago on moorland above Hawes, I had a similar incident with 2 Red Grouse & a Peregrine. I certainly felt the grouse as you did, the falcon appeared from out of the direct low winter sun, veering sharply away, no doubt annoyed that I'd messed up the hunt! Don't think the grouse purposely used me. Probably
    I was just in right place at the right time for them.

  5. A memorable moment Steve! My most striking encounter with grouse and raptors was in Colsterdale a few years ago. This tight group of around 25 grouse shot past within a couple of feet of me. A couple of moments later the cause appeared, a Golden Eagle! Wish I had carried a camera in those days!