Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Woodpeckers, ravens, a fox, hares and a rat

Senni, Brecon, Powys, Wales

After a gap of some years, I am going to write again about interesting natural history events here in my home in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. Perhaps the first thing to celebrate was my first good sighting of a green woodpecker here. I have heard them many times and seen them fleetingly, calling as they fly across the fields. This view was spectacular as it was on the back and then the side of a nearby tree. As I watched it with my binoculars, a small head with a red colour on the nape appeared quite close to it: a greater spotted woodpecker. I soon saw why they were there. Two crows, which are regular inhabitants of that tree were on the top branches and the woodpeckers had come to investigate them further.

I'm sure the birds take a great deal of interest in each other, looking at each other's feeding habits, predation strategies and flight patterns, providing information about possible predators and opportunities.

A few days earlier, at least 10 ravens were filling the sky above the mountainside behind the house with their raucous cries as they interacted in flight, doing their remarkable flip turns and graceful dives. I guessed that these were probably this year's young ravens, setting up partnerships which I have read are lifelong.

Several sheep have died in the field behind the house over a short period while I was away. The farmer has removed the bodies of course, but I noticed a fox which was interested in the places where a carcass had been lying by a springs.

I am disappointed that this food supply is no longer available to the scavenging animals and birds here.

A neighbour let his dog out at night and as it was coming home in the dark in the same field, his torch lit its bright reflecting eyes but behind it was another pair of reflecting eyes shadowing it as it came back to the house. Perhaps this was the same fox.

I have been clearing up leaves from the grass in the field in front of the house. I am impressed at how decaying leaves inhibit grass growth. I wondered if there was a direct inhibitory effect of the fungal bodies on grass or whether this was simply because the blackened mat of leaves cut out the light.

A young hare met me on the road as I drove at night to a neighbouring town. These are well known in the area and the shooting party who cover some of the fields, always spare the hares. They are a good source of information about where they are normally found.

A dead hedgehog in the road was a sad sight for me. I was not so unhappy when I saw a large dead rat in the road in front of the house. I suspect this was the male rat which has been feeding from my ground birdfeeders for at least a year. Rats live for about two years and can grow to quite a size.. I suspect it was too slow climbing the wall up into the hole where I have seen it scrambling previously. Two other rats continue to exploit my food source.

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