Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gwdihw at Sculthorpe

Monday July 4
Plenty of fireworks - of the experience variety.
We'd signed up for an Owl evening at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, owned by the Hawk and Owl trust. We'd been promised a talk on Owls and then, witnessing an owl ringing session.
We were offered a cuppa and biscuit on arrival, after being directed through to the impressive education room.
The session started 10 minutes late as others hadn't allowed enough time for the disruption caused by work at the Fakenham roundabout. Warden, Nigel, did the talk, using a hypothetical brood of 101 Barn Owls as illustration of the casualties inflicted by road traffic. A mere 33 survive after 5 years. Operation S.W.O.R.D. (Save Wild Owls from Road Death) where the public can report all owl species road deaths, can be found on the website:  http://www.hawkandowl.org/.
Two groups of 15 were then taken on a bit of a route march. Leaving the boardwalk soon after Old Gits Corner, we crossed some rough grazing before trogging off across a trackless field left to grow thigh high grass and flowers. Parts of it were very rough and uneven, just as well Pam had returned to the car for our sticks. Along the way, the lead volunteer gave us a couple of interesting talks about the management of the wooded area and the pasture for insects - butterflies, moths, invertebrates etc -  and small mammals for the owls. An extremely pleasant and knowledgeable young woman from the East Winch RSPCA, who walked with us for some of the way, is trapping mammals in the field so as to ascertain the variety and number for the owl population - not enough numbers - nor variety - at the moment. We  were also able to question one of the older volunteers - wish we'd asked his name - about the wildlife on the reserve. He works at fencing and tree cutting.
Eventually - last of course - we arrived at the nestbox. The ringer was waiting at the foot of a ladder. The nest had originally had 3 chicks , now down to two. Now 6 weeks old, they can be ringed at 3 weeks as the legs are fully grown by then.

After a short introduction, he climbed the ladder and extricated the first owlet, placing it in a bag before climbing down.

The ringer was another very affable, knowledgeable and pleasant man who proceeded to show the owlet to the group, ensuring that all who wanted to, could take photographs and see the bird well. It was very thin, its breast bone protruding and sharp. Also very quiescent, apparently typical of Barn Owl chicks. When he laid her down she closed her eyes! Female as she had a few spots under the base of the wing - not because she was malleable and closed her eyes when laid down! Placing the bag on the floor, he ringed a protruding leg, it's easier to ring them in the bag, more controllable.


The second chick was also a female and very thin. They can be fed day old chicks (Nigel said), but would probably die anyway when fledged if there was insufficient food in the area.
This one was rather livelier enabling us to see the wing development.

Pam and I left a few minutes before the others, in order to get a head start across the rough terrain. Very quickly, we were joined by the lovely fence work man who'd accompanied us on the way out. (His name is Geoff, I now know). White hair and a stick garners assistance - even when it's not wanted nor needed. Much appreciated on this occasion as we got lots of info. All the volunteers we met were great. Again we got more information about the reserve and it's ongoing work. I love this reserve, especially in the winter when the variety of birds is greater. The Willow Tits have done very well this year, as have the Bullfinches.
The now tail-less male Golden Pheasant was - typically -skulking near the Woodland Hide. He's on his own at the moment but another has been seen the other side of the river.
When we got back to the reserve, gate entrance works building, the mammal woman (wish we remembered her name, I think it was Lyndsey), came out with a 10 day old Pipistrelle bat. Its mother had a broken wing when it was admitted by the RSPCA, and had fed its offspring well for the first few days, before dying. Hayley is feeding it on cat milk and meal worms. The pictures show firstly, its minute size and then, nibbling on a worm.

Pipistrelle Bat

Much enlarged Pipistrelle baby

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