Nature Notes

Oct 1, 2018 | Bits & Bobs

The sound of crows calling is constant here in the daytime, as are the cries of buzzards, so I didn’t take any notice of them the other morning. No notice that is, until they escalated to a fever-pitch!   I looked up – the buzzard’s calls were so persistent – and above me was a vast crowd of birds. They were crows, and caught amongst them was the buzzard, flying to and fro in an obvious attempt to escape. It’s always very hard to judge numbers, especially high up, but there must have been a hundred or so, wheeling and darting in towards their larger less agile victim.   I started calling to the buzzard  – “go higher” –“ fly away for goodness sake” – “get out of this crowd!”, but it seemed weary and slow compared to its tormentors.  Knowing that years ago a flock of crows brought down a heron in the fields nearby, by pecking through its eye, I feared the worst. It couldn’t escape the crows as they drove it back and forth. Just as I felt it must surely tumble down (and that my neck might give out!) – over half the crows flew off together.  The thirty or so remaining went on wheeling and diving, but at last they too seemed to tire and drifted away. I managed to bring my chin back down and watched as the buzzard, probably a youngster, recovered a little and flew off over the fields behind us. Crows have destroyed their nests here in the past, but I’ve never seen a wholesale attack like that. There really was a big, big crowd of them!

In complete contrast, that very evening, I took the ancient dog for his bedtime totter down the lane. There was a blanket of soft grey across the sky, and the only sound was the rustle of wind through the poplar trees opposite. It was a lovely moment of peace after a hectic day.

A few good sightings this month. A house in Skiff Lane regularly hosts a pair of house martins, and this year four have fledged, with three surviving so far, and the fourth by a passing hobby!  Sad, but they must eat too. A stoat has visited, and on a recent sunny day they saw two grass snakes swimming round their pond. With the water level low, the larger female had to coil itself round several times to push up and out. The smaller- a male(?) – eventually followed on behind.

And with swifts returning, there are now three nests under the eaves of the old Forrest Stores – hooray!   Our hedgehogs are doing well – the cat food is always gone, so the next job is to choose where to put their winter quarters – as far from the road as possible I think.  It’s hard to get a photo in the dark, but here’s one from a Harsfold household. This one was lying doggo – or should that be hoggo? – when the resident dog discovered it one evening!

On that terrible pun I’ll leave you in peace till next month.

Sue J

P.S. Sadly, since writing this, our hedgehog has been run over outside our house.  Can I make a plea for everyone to be aware, when driving at night, that hedgehogs are on the move looking for their winter quarters so please keep an eye open for them.