Tuesday 2nd April 2013
The keepers had their first sighting of a wild Red Kite this morning. It flew over Muncaster. It was first spotted yesterday flying near Holmrook. On seeing it, the first thing they did was check whether one of our Kites had escaped. This was set against an unusual background of the man of the house; Peter Frost Pennington walking the dogs and the pigs! Some of the current crop of weaners were following him round the wildlife pond.
The weather is quite settled at the moment, what with high pressure and all that, but the nights are very cold, cold enough for some hard frosts. When I came in on Saturday, the wildlife pond was completely frozen over. There were a few non plussed Mallard drakes walking across the ice. I threw some mixed grain over to them. Normally, we throw the grain into the water near the edge, as the ducks will feed from the bottom, and this way it doesn’t encourage rats, but on this day the grain was laying on the ice. The ducks went over to feed, only to find that the grain was sliding away from them. It was quite funny watching these ducks chasing grain across the ice.
This last week has been very hard on wildlife in general however; last week we had two separate reports of people finding dead Barn Owls with not a mark on them. Over the weekend, there have also been two reports of people finding dead Tawny Owls. Yesterday I met somebody who works at the prison at Haverigg, and he asked me whether we had lost a Barn Owl. He said he was seeing one flying very low over the fields near the prison during the day, and it seemed quite un alarmed by his presence. This is typical Barn Owls when they are desperate for food, hunting during the day. All that heavy snow cover has put the voles out of their reach. This will have had a similar effect on Tawny Owls. Here’s hoping the weather will change soon.
There’s quite a few of our owls which have started breeding now. I can confirm that we already have some American Barn Owlets, as I heard them on Saturday. All being well, there should be a few more species that have hatched. At the moment we can only gauge that by the amount of food they eat. You can make an educated guess by collating when the females go out of sight with the incubation times for their eggs. This way you can usually gauge when they should require extra food. If the extra food gets eaten, you know they have been successful. Here’s hoping for a successful season.
Should you be visiting us during this holiday week, we will be doing 'spot the owl' competitions, and on Thursday we will also be having a 'conservation day', with many activities, including pellet dissection.
See you next week
P.S. Wednesday the 3rd of April 2013.
The Owl Trust staff and I have been watching the Red Kite again this morning, confirming that it's arrival yesterday was no fluke. It put on a smashing display for about 45 minutes, flying directly above the centre. Whilst this is a wonderful spectacle, I have to wonder; why now? There have been several reports of dead Barn Owls, which I mentioned in my blog yesterday, and today I found out from Millie that another dead Barn Owl was found at Muncaster. It was stick thin. A report on the TV stated that the frosts have addled all the frog spawn, and frogs have to spawn again. Also, some wildflowers are almost a month behind their usual flowering schedule. It would be nice to think that maybe this Red Kite has been attracted here by one of our resident Kites, as they aren’t pair bonded. The other possibility is that it is desperate, and has ranged further in an attempt to find food. What appears quite obvious is that this individual is looking for something. We may attempt to throw some food out for it, should it return in the morning. We shall see.
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