Sunday, 30 June 2013

Marsh Harrier tagging and Swallowtails

It has been a frantically busy 10 days at home, work and the Royal Norfolk Show so it was a relief when the weekend arrived. There was still lots to do, lambs to vaccinate, the vegetable garden had virtually disappeared under a lush forest of weeds and the inside of the house had barely seen a cleaning implement in the last two weeks but at least there were no deadlines to meet, so a relaxed weekend was in prospect.
The weekend got off to a good start with the Turtle Dove giving a sustained purring performance from a telephone wire by the sheep paddock.

A Hobby was the star bird on a walk across the marshes but the superstar of the day was a Little Owl which hurtled across the patio to perch on top of our birdfeeder pole as dusk fell! Dragonflies were much more evident with Norfolk Hawkers at the end of the garden and a Hairy out on the marsh.

This morning dawned bright and sunny and it was at last hot enough to get the parasol out of the shed and set up on the patio. Hopefully I'll be able to make use of it and the barbecue in the coming weeks. However there were more interesting things to be done than lounging on the patio.
Today two ringers from the BTO/Hawk and Owl Trust came to wing-tag Marsh Harrier chicks in the two nests we had located from the feeding activities of the adult birds. The project aims to track the movements of individual Marsh Harriers within the UK and beyond by marking young birds with individually lettered/numbered green wing tags. The first brood had just about fledged so the 5 youngsters had spread themselves along the reed bed. Two were captured and after weighing, measuring to determine sex (its all down to the size of their feet) and ringing them, their wing tags were applied. The tagging process looked completely painless to my professional eye I'm pleased to report. This is the first bird we did, a young male:

Followed by his sister DS:

The second brood had much younger chicks about 10-14 days from fledging so all 5 of these were easily bagged. Remarkably the two nests were only about 20m apart and the size and even weights of both broods suggested that their parents were having no problems finding food for them. It was quite something sitting in a reed bed surrounded by baby Marsh Harriers albeit each safely tucked up in an old pillow case.
This is a much downier DX:

And one of its siblings D3:

The other birds are DT, DV and DZ. The chicks were returned to their nest and provisioned with a dead squirrel and a dead mole (provided by my cat) for their trouble. We shall look out to see if any of these birds return in future years. The link for reporting sightings of tagged Marsh Harriers is here.

With the sun shining and the temperature rising I headed to Strumpshaw in search of Swallowtails. I drew a blank at a favoured haunt, the cottage garden along Tinkers Lane, although there were at least good numbers of Small Tortoiseshells. However my luck was in when I walked along the trail through the fen. A single Swallowtail flashed past me and retracing my steps to the Fen boardwalk I had reasonable flight views of one. Walking further along Lackford Run I flushed unexpectedly another from the grassy path in front of me. It fluttered briefly around my head then settled on a bush close-by giving me excellent views of this most exotic of British butterflies, probably my best views ever.

There were also good numbers of Norfolk Hawkers and Black-tailed Skimmers but bird-wise it was rather quiet.
Back at home, on what was for once a warm summer evening, the Turtle Dove was purring away once more.

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