With the weather as it is most birding is seen through the windows.These pictures are of species seen today, although they were taken in the early spring. Feeding the birds is important in winter, and although I do put out fresh water I suspect that there's enough around at the moment>
Every Autumn Kent receives visitors from the north, and one of the most spectacular is the Short-eared Owl. Here at St Margaret's they tend to be just short term tourists as there isn't a great deal of their favoured habitat to hold them. A couple times I have watched one coming in, over the sea, escorted by disapproving Gulls. They move on to areas like Worth Marsh and Sheppey where there is a lot of rougher grazing that holds the small mammals they need. The main food here is the Short-tailed Vole, hence the country name of the Mouse Owl. Although they will hunt at night they are most active just before and after dawn and dusk, (crepuscular). and least active around noon and midnight. In Scandinavia the Lemming forms a large part o0f their diet and, like many small mammals, lemming populations fluctuate cyclically. Hence the numbers arriving here probably is dependant on two things. Did the Owls have a good breeding season. because there were lots of Lemmings, and of course is food short at the beginning of winter. If you are really lucky, especially on a fine calm day following a wet and windy one, they hunt while the light is still good enough to get a few pictures.
Although with the increase in Buzzard numbers I suspect that Kestrel numbers may be slightly on the dow, I don't really now if there is any connection. Round here they still seem to be doing quite well and I was lucky enough to get a few pictures of this female or juvenile with a short-tailed Vole.
The Green Woodpecker can really live up to its name with a beak like it has, but most of the tree basking it does is for nest creating, not feeding. It mostly feeds proding into the ground where there are ants, and using its long tongue to extract them. Often the call is the first thing that lets you know that one is in the garden. The loud Yaffle, like a mad laugh, is unmistakable..
Not any birding today, the call of the shops in Canterbury was too great. A few weeks back, (3rd November), we were lucky enough to have Great Grey Shrike that instead of doing the normal trick of staying only for a few minutes, or at best an hour, stayed around until the13th. It was first found at the Gun Site by Jack Chantler and Simon Wary and it then moved to the Freedown.
Yesterday, when the weather was decent, we, that;s me and the dog (Betty), took a slow stroll along Kingsdown Road towards Kingsdown. Not a long walk, just 2.5 km each way, but Betty has only got very short legs. At this time of year there is always the hope that we'd come across some winter visitors,such as Fieldfares or Redwings. Although both were in evidence on Worth Marshes a couple of days ago we only found a few Song Thrushes and lots Blackbirds in the horse paddocks.
The birds at the back of the fields, eating berries were the common Wood Pigeon, not the hoped for winter thrushes.
The fields are often full of gulls, in the summer and when the ploughing is going on they are mainly Herring Gulls, with some Black-headed Gulls. Now that all is quiet and the tractors have finished their work, there were just a few gulls quartering up and down the fields looking for food. The Common Gulls are mainly visitors from breeding further north arriving in the autumn and departing in spring, although jsta few do breed in Kent.
In many ways they are patterned like small Herring Gulls, but with a slightly darker mantle and a much gentler looking face.
Getting towards Kingsdown there were one or two group of mostly Black-headed Gulls roosting, and the Common Gulls occasionally dropped in to join them.
Here two Common Gulls, at the back, have joined the black-heads, their darker grey mantles and slightly large size are apparent.
Oneof the Black-headed Gulls on patrol
As we walked back a Kestrel hovered over the rough ground by the Golf Course.
Although still one of our commonest birds of prey I get the feeling numbers have dropped a little over the last few years.