800 yards of 'mac. 5) March

March 13, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 Pairing up.



We’re now racing towards the light (of Spring) at the end of the (Winter) tunnel* and it’s all happening along the 800 yards of ‘mac.

*Which may explain the seemingly random photo on this blog's header page?

Truth be told, I’d noticed the honeybees take their first shaky late-Winter flights (from their home in a tree halfway along the 800 yards) in the last week of February but now they’re emerging in good numbers. One assumes they’re getting their scran from the earliest of flowers – crocuses etc.

The honey bees have been living in this tree for at least 5 years now (my eagle-eyed wife spotted them first a few years ago on a drive-by) and don’t look like leaving any time soon. I’ll get a photo in the Spring proper (or perhaps Summer).

I've NOT been noticing the omnipresent (for months now) flocks of fieldfare at the farm and alongside the 800 yards of 'mac, so it's fair to say they all hopped on those strong westerlies in the first week of the month and started hot-footing it back to Scandinavia to pair and breed. Always a little earlier to depart than their daintier cousins, the redwing - but they're off quickly now too. Very often I will hear and see the last redwing head orf East on the same day as I see my first swallow of the year (invariably the last few days of March if I'm lucky and looking).

The bullfinches that are often hidden in blackthorn bushes along the 800 yards have paired up too, although to be truthful again, if I had to name one “songbird” that I ALWAYS see in pairs (at any time of year), rather than singly or in flocks, I’d say bullfinches. They’re spectacular birds (well… the male is anyway) and I’m always pleased to see them, especially as I still work with a few old boys who were PAID to SHOOT THEM (paid by the finch as it ‘appens) in the ‘60s (as they stripped orchards of their buds, so they did).

The larks are starting to pair up now – the males are rocketing into the blustery late-Winter skies and parachuting down towards the stubble, belting out their joyful song as they do, with a view to attracting a mate ASAP. Breeding is a risky activity at the best of times, but if you’re a male lark, fannying-around in the sky, singing non-stop – then you’re just ASKING to be predated by a passing merlin etc.

Below is a clip of Vaughan William’s lark ascending which I like to listen to occasionally at this time of year – it gets me motivated to go and hear the real thing.


Below is a video I shot with my phone (apologies for the poor sound quality) of one of the larks alongside the 800 yards of ‘mac, doing its bid-nid. Again, I’ll try and get a better video as Spring progresses – the eagle eyed amongst you may just spot this randy skylark as a fluttering dot in the sky, in the lower middle of the video frame.

Another bird that I often see along the 800 yards of ‘mac is the red-legged partridge, or Frenchman. I’ve not seen any partridges for what feels like years but is probably months on the 800 yards, but this month I’m seeing them more and more – and all in pairs already!

Below is a video at least in part of a Frenchman getting all pissy with my trail camera when I was filming the breeding little owls alongside the 800 yards of ‘mac five years ago.


Owl (and partridge!) watch - 20th June 2012

It’s also nice to see (as I did yesterday) the most beautiful wild mammal in Britain pairing up in the hedges surrounding the 800 yards of ‘mac. Two stunning roe deer (a young buck and a doe) froze in a field as I walked by yesterday and I’m always bowled over by their beauty.

So… the deer and partridge are pairing up. As are the larks and the bullfinches. Even the winter thrushes are off en masse to pair up back in Scandinavia now. But there’s one other bird that’s paired up in the last few days… and I am VERY excited about this pair, in particular.

I’m regularly walking up and down the 800 yards of ‘mac as a warm down (well… cool down I suppose) after my cycling reps which are meant to make my buggered back stronger. These walks often happen as dusk falls. The video below shows one such walk along 600 yards of so of the 800 yards of ‘mac and was shot in the first few days of March.

At the end of February, I was on such a dusk walk and I became very aware of two barn owls chasing each other down and across the road and around the fields by the 800 yards of ‘mac – right in front of me.

Now I’ve seen THREE barn owls at one time on this road and seen two roost together in their favourite hollow tree a few years ago, but the sight and sound of two ghostly owls on the road that evening (sound really… it was too dark to see much) was superb.

Fast forward a few days and a walk past the barn owl’s favourite roost (I know of at least FOUR hollow trees they roost in along the road but this one is their fave) and I saw TWO barn owls peering out from their secret hidey-hole!

This IS SUPERB NEWS! I assume that if two adult owls start roosting together in March, they are looking to breed? I add the question mark as I certainly have seen two barn owls in this roost before and they didn’t breed then. NB. Barn owls tend only to breed just ONCE in their life – and I’d written this particular barn owl (that frequents this hollow tree on the 800 yards of ‘mac) off as a has bred, won’t breed again, at least two years ago. But was I wrong? Are we about to have baby barn owls on my 800 yards of ‘mac? I hope so!

Please note – I’ve been asked before for photos and videos of the barn owls that I follow. I’m not going to take any (and therefore not going to show you any!) as the barn owl is a Schedule 1 bird, which means you need a licence to photograph or film them, especially at or near their roosts. Now I could obtain a Schedule 1 licence for these barn owls I expect but for now, I just want to watch, from a distance and give them every chance of raising a family, if that’s what they intend to do.

Cross your fingers and toes grapple fans – and hope that I was indeed wrong about the barn owl that I’ve followed for years on this road being an old dog – a non-breeder.

More… I hope… on this in April’s edition of 800 yards of ‘mac.

Catch you in a month....



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