News archive

January 2019

Saturday, 26 January 2019

February Bird of the Month - Little Owl

February Bird of the Month - Little Owl

Lowland farmland with woods, hedges, copses and old trees is the ideal habitat. It also breeds in mature parkland, orchards, quarries and water meadows with old pollarded willows.

Partly diurnal, it may be seen perched in the open on telegraph poles, fence posts, rocks and in trees, but mainly hunts from dusk to midnight and again around dawn. It bobs curiously when alarmed and its familiar dumpy outline becomes more elongated too. The flight is undulating similar to a woodpecker or mistle thrush.

As its name suggests, this owl is small and plump with a rather flat head, short tail and long legs. The upperparts are brown or greyish-brown and are heavily spotted with white, as are the long, rounded wings. The pale underparts are heavily streaked. The eyes have black pupils and yellow irises, which stare out from under white 'eyebrows' and give the owl a fierce looking expression. Sexes are similar.

The little owl feeds on small birds and mammals, insects and invertebrates. It particularly likes earthworms which it hunts on the ground.

The most frequent call is a sharp, cat-like 'kiew-kiew' which is usually heard in March and April during courtship, when the male also gives a pure, single 'woop'.

The nest site is usually a hole in a tree or old building, but they have been known to nest in clefts on rock faces, in holes between tree roots and even in rabbit burrows! There is usually only one brood a year and nesting takes place during April and May with 3-4 eggs being laid.

If you look hard enough you could see this month's Bird of the Month on any of our three organised walks in February!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

January Bird of the Month - Bewick's Swan

January Bird of the Month - Bewick's Swan

Bewick's swans leave their breeding grounds in Siberia and arrive in Britain in family groups from mid-October. Pairs mate for life and breed when they are between four and six years old.

Their lifespan in the wild is up to sixteen years. It is a very vocal bird, especially when in flocks, with soft, mellow yelping contact calls.

In Britain they feed and roost in groups and visit low-lying wet pastures, grassland, salt marsh, lakes and reservoirs. They feed on waste potatoes, carrots and winter wheat, as well as on aquatic plants. They roost on water but also graze in fields at night.

This swan is rather goose-like with a rounded head, smaller bill and shorter neck than the whooper swan. Adults are white with a black and yellow bill. The yellow pattern at the base of the bill is very variable and individuals can be recognised by this feature. It is usually rounder or squarer than the pointed wedge shape on the whooper's bill. Juvenile Bewick's are uniformly grey with a flesh coloured bill, which darkens and becomes partly yellow during their first winter.

Large flocks arrive for winter at Slimbridge and the Ouse Washes, but some can also be found in Kent in the Dungeness area and on the North Kent marshes.

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