|Kestrel coming in to land|
This was the only usable picture I managed to take this afternoon, mainly because I'd not changed my exposure compensation settings from a previous day, and so they were nearly all overexposed. However, this one has not turned out too badly.
I started off down Moss Lane where the first bird I saw was a Kestrel (not the one above) sitting in a low tree right next to the road. I stopped the car and had look through my binoculars before reaching for my camera - of course as soon as I wound the window down to take a shot, it flew off.
Further down Moss Lane there were 200-300 Starlings gathering for an early roost at around 2:30pm. They lined up along the telephone wires in the fields south of the lane, and occasionally a group would descend on the field. Further groups made the numbers swell until there was no space at all between the two main supporting telephone poles.
I had a flashback to a scene from Pixar's short animation called 'For The Birds' and all it needed was a buzzard to come and sit in the middle of the line to ping all the starlings into the air! Then suddenly all the birds took to the air and flew together in a formation resembling a puff of smoke - a wonderful sight! I saw them again later in trees on the opposite side of the lane.
There were also 20-25 Carrion Crows in a tree in the fields north of the Lane. There was not much else down here except for a flock of 30-ish Pigeons (including one very white one), a couple of creaky male pheasants and a stream of traffic to-ing and fro-ing from Turf Nest Farm at the end of the lane.
I left Moss Lane and headed for the feeding station at Rindle Road. On the way back I saw the Kestrel again (I assume it was thew same bird that had flown back) and had quick look through my bins, but I didn't bother trying to take a photograph.
On arriving, I parked up and went for a walk towards the level crossing where I was met by a horrible sight in the field just before the cottage - there were 14 small carcasses in various states of decay strung up along a barbed-wire fence next the the small stream. At first I thought they were rats, but there were no long tails. Next I thought they might be bank voles but their paws and claws didn't seem right. Then it clicked, they were moles and the poor creatures had been hung by their snouts on the fence. By the look of it they'd been there a while, with some of them seemingly scavenged by local animals.
When I got home I used the internet to find out that this is called a 'gamekeeper's gibbet' and it was done to prove that the gamekeeper was doing his job and so that he could get paid. The only other time I'd seen this practice was in the Yorkshire Dales some 20 to 25 years ago - in this day and age it seems barbaric that it's still done by some people. Does anyone know if this is still legal?
I returned to the feeding station to discover that some new bird feeders had been hung in the bushes along the track, but they were almost completely empty - I thought to myself that I must bring some seed for them next time I come. There were six Collared Doves sitting in the tallest tree, a few Blue Tits and a male Chaffinch in the bushes but apart from that not much else. I decided not to stop, but to go into Rindle Wood in search of a Treecreeper which I 've seen only once before and here as it happens.
After walking through the wood and seeing nothing but a few Woodpigeons, I emerged at the far end to the sound of a flock of Long-tailed Tits in the trees at the edge of the pools. After spending some time trying to photograph them but with little success, I turned round and saw another Kestrel perched on top of a distant aerial. I tracked with my camera it as it flew off over Astley Moss and disappeared, but none of the shots were any good - I hate moving birds!
After this I walked a little further along the edge of the pools and saw a Yellowhammer perched high up on top of one of the dead silver birch trees. After taking a few shots also I noticed a Buzzard perched on a tree top on the far side of Astley Moss. I took a few record shots, but it was too far away for anything decent.
I was just about to head back to the feeding station, when the Kestrel reappeared in the distance over the Moss. In a series of hovers it gradually got nearer to me until I managed to take the only decent picture of the day (shown at the top of this post) when it landed on one of the dead trees. The sun was setting and the light was failing fast, but that makes the picture quite an atmospheric silhouette.
Finally I made my way back to the feeding station where I came across six Fieldfare in the tall tree, as well as a Willow Tit, several Tree Sparrows, a Great Tit and two Blue Tits. Nothing new today, but a nice little list for an hour and a half in the area.