ABERNYTE NATUREWATCH –SPRING 2016
After the warm and wet winter, on 31st January Gordon reported the sound of a Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming on Abernyte Hill. His suggestion that this could signal time to put out deckchairs seemed slightly premature, but definitely a hopeful sign. More good signs of spring followed when Barry heard a Green Woodpecker “yaffling” and a Song Thrush serenading him very loudly on the 4th February. Even before that the Great T*ts were singing their see-saw song, Hedge Sparrows have been seen pairing up and Robins were singing all over the place. Even the January meeting of the Wine Club took place on a bird theme and members, apart from quaffing the very nice wines, were encouraged to take part in the annual RSPB big garden birdwatch. I did a birdwatch on the appropriate weekend but have to report seeing nothing particularly unusual although the Great Spotted Woodpecker and some Tree Sparrows did put in an appearance, but it is always good fun to do a count. This year of the less usual visitors we have had only the odd few Siskins, and a Brambling whereas in a hard winter we would get lots of them. For some reason our Collared Doves have completely vanished. Val in Inchture was doing better – with lots of Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows at the feeders and plenty of Collared Doves around Inchture. You might be lucky and like Elizabeth in Kinnaird find that you have a Blackcap overwintering in your garden. Blackcaps are increasingly overwintering in the UK. They also breed in gardens in the summer. If you like recording the birds you see each week in your garden, you could also take part in the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) garden birdwatch and enter the results online (or on paper if you prefer) each week. I have to say they have a better system of data entry than the two RSPB website which doesn’t give confirmation of what you have entered! However you do have to pay a few pounds or so a year for the privilege of taking part but I think it is worth it as the data collected over the whole country can be used to monitor bird populations effectively.
The night of 3rd February was spiced up by a message on our answerphone. An adult Tawny owl, looking very sorry for itself and sitting on a pheasant watering dish, was spotted by Sue, Ron and Ian whilst walking on the hill, a most unusual behaviour for an adult bird. Several hours later, the “Abernyte Owl Rescue Team” retraced their steps to find that the owl was still sitting in the same position, very weak, able to flap but obviously not fit to fly away. It was easily captured with the help of Ron’s chicken net and rapidly transported down the hill in a bird bag. The SSPCA were summoned as it is difficult to provide an owl with its usual diet of mice or voles. It was great to get the message later that after a couple of days of feeding and nurturing the owl was well enough to be released again. Exactly what had happened to the owl was not clear, however the SSPCA did say that they had had a number of owls brought in a similar condition. The rain and wind makes it difficult for birds like owls which use their sense of hearing to find prey to hunt and weather does not come much wetter than what we have had recently. Well done Owl Rescue Team! The owl lives to hunt another day. We enjoy hearing the Tawny Owls “to-wit to-wooing”. Recently there has been a female Tawny Owl “to- witting” outside the cottage every evening for the last 6 weeks or so, I do hope that she finds a mate. Tawny Owls are very territorial birds. The barn owls have also recently been seen around Abernyte.
And last but not least, an unusual sighting from Linda, Andrew and Jessie, who just after Christmas had a good sighting of a Polecat Ferret in a garden close to Rossie Woods. It seems likely that this has been an escape from a domestic ferret population but has someone lost it or is it living in the wild? One of the many mysteries of Abernyte. Perhaps you have seen something interesting or mysterious. If so do share your sightings with Abernyte Naturewatch!