Monday, 2 March 2015

Every day is a school day when watching nature.

At the weekend I was out surveying again. It was approaching last light and I was sat watching a barn owl hunting the grassland and scrub on the next ridge when I saw a movement in the grass below, a small bird flew up and landed on a parsley stem, a female stonechat, then the male appeared. Most of the time you see pairs of stonechat in the winter, holding a winter territory to feed in. I then saw another two, hmmm that's reasonably unusual, I sometimes see that number together in an animal penning where there tends to be more insects, but still pretty unusual. Hang on a minute, there are more than that....a sweep with the telescope picked up 17 in an area no bigger than 25 metres by 25 metres! At one point there were eight in the same bush! I've never seen anything like that before.

A read up in my bird books suggests that this has been recorded on the odd occasion, but usually on passage, but not what you expect to see in Wiltshire in February! I couldn't get a picture of the birds, but here are a couple of pictures of a male and female taken earlier in the winter on the Marlborough Downs. (NA)

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