Dogfight under "no weather skies"

March 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I’ve been working all over the southeast of England again this week and after Sunday’s rain (it rained all day but even that only provided about 12 mil of rain) we got a fair old hammering on Wednesday.Our “pool car” had just been washed the day before, but after I drove it to and from Ware (Where? That’s right, Ware) on Wednesday, it looks once more like its been through the Amazon and back, with ferocious driving rain and spray most of the day.

That seems like the only decent rain we’re gonnae get for a while though; I see in today’s Daily Mirror (so it MUST be true, huh?) that Helen Chivers (good  name for a weather forecaster?) has forecast a month of warm, dry weather until Good Friday at least.(I should point out that to me at least, a weather forecast of  more than three days in the UK is generally about as accurate as a Bristol rugby stand-off kicking conversions in front of the posts – i.e. not at all accurate).

We’re still having trouble getting regular frosts though (of any significance) and to that extent, it’s obvious that the grass is growing and the brief arrest of spring plant development has finished. The March full moon made a brief appearance last night, but you'd have been hard pressed to see it, what with the "no weather" layer of cloud we have sitting above much of the UK at present. As I blogged at the time of the February full moon (the "Boney Moon" remember), maybe I should point out my favourite name for the March full moon - "the moon when eyes are sore from bright snow" (Sioux - there may be a few Sioux names for full moons this year on this blog, as I find them amusing). Please also note the photo accompanying this page on the home page of the blog is not of a recent moon - its a shot called "Fly me to the moon" I took some time ago.

The third species of moth I've identified this year in our (not so new now) garden appeared at the beginning of the week - a "Hebrew Character". These moffs are always quite early in the year and are replaced by "Setaceous Hebrew Characters" come May and June.

I’ve stumbled across a gurt big rookery (or more exactly a “jackdawery” (a bit like Jackanory but with more bird mess) in a local copse. There must be 500 birds all vying for breeding space and mating rights – quite a sight to see in this week’s sunsets.

I’ve also noted that the cock wrens are beginning to belt out their songs from the local hedgerows this week – always amazing to me how such a tiny wee bird can produce such a fortissimo song.

Anna and I watched the local kestrels mating again this week (that’s twice in a fortnight now) and the pair of stock doves once again pester the little owls for box rights (more on the “operation noctua” posts on this blog).

The winter thrushes are still around, as can be seen (and heard!) from the chattering flocks of fieldfares taking off into the wind from from tall, bare oak trees or the odd thin “tseep” of night-flying redwing on the hoof back to Scandanavia.

More highlights from my “eye-peeling exercises” this week included a very impressive little egret fishing in the Blackwater through my office business park (its virtually always a heron down there but occasionally the normal morphs into a snow white little egret – always a nice bonus).

Whilst on my pre-work cigaroony on the banks of the Thames at Reading, before 7am this morning I was treated to the sight (and sound) of a pair of kingfishers engaging in very vocal courtship flights up and down the river, flying within two feet of the dark water surface, shrieking to each other - a nice thing to see before work.

Finally, (today as it happens) I was walking through Reading during my lunch break and if I am working in Reading, I always find time to walk past the Thames Tower (opposite the station) to peer for peregrines and black redstarts (in the summer) high above the dingy streets.

Today, myself and an old friend and colleague were treated to -  a) the sound of the tiercel (male) calling in the bigger falcon (female) to the top of the tower and then  -  b) a pair flight ensued as both birds screamed around the building at height, putting all the feral town pigeons in the air.

It didn’t finish there though. If anyone is reading this blog that knows Reading (and its wildlife), they’ll know that Reading has many red kites (being pretty close to a re-introduction site in south Oxfordshire).

I’ve always considered red kites to be pretty masterful in the air – taking the mickey out of mobbing crows as they tend to do, with a tail flick here and a primary twitch there.

Under the leaden skies of central Reading this afternoon though, the peregrines made an absolute mockery of the kite – showing it up to be almost cumbersome in the air. The peregrine tiercel in particular took to harassing the larger raptor and when it had decided that it had reminded the kite (enough) who was the king of the skies, it folded its wings back and shot away like a laser-guided missile. A very impressive sight that was once again completely missed by the hundreds of people milling about on their lunch hour, down below….


You know, I swear the vast majority of Brits tend to either a) only be interested in themselves or their own little impenetrable bubble  or b) tend to waddle through life with their eyes tightly closed……..



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