Tuesday 29 January 2013

Osprey eats Raptor...

Looking out of the bedroom window this morning I spotted the Buzzard [Buteo buteo] Buse variable I call "Osprey" busily eating something near to the field seed feeder...

Busy feeding... the white line is feathers!
I went into the guest room to try and get a picture that wasn't through the willow...
But these were the best I could get [at 800ASA in the poor light]... here it is pulling hard at some flesh.

First thoughts were that it had got a pheasant...
but we could see all ten of the Dopey Dorises...
had it taken the Jeremy?

Seven of Ten... the Dopey Dorises under the feeder...
I thought not... the trail of plucked feathers were too white... and then I saw the Jeremy in the field the other side of the Aigronne, parleying with some crows.
were there eleven females around then?

These two shots show why I call it Osprey ...
...the position of the white on the breast and head, front and, here, back... coupled with the colour of the wings...
make it look very much like an Osprey [Pandion haliaetus] Balbuzard pêcheur when it is upright on a post...
 especially by the étang!!

I wasn't going to investigate quite at that moment.... the rain was drifting in sheets across the meadow, in the strong winds!
The buzzard wasn't at all worried by a little rain... it just kept on feeding.
It was there for around an hour... eating all the time.
It then stood there... open beak and hanging wings... panting... trying to cool off...
[all birds do this after a very large meal... their metabolism is such that they heat up very rapidly after a good feast]
... before flying up into a carefully "fallen" tree...
where it rested a while before flying off.

When there was a break in the rain, I put my boots on and went to inspect the kill...

As you can see from the last of the above pictures, it was no pheasant...
not with feet like that!

It was a Barn Owl [Tyto alba] Effraie des clochers... possibly the one that was using our "donkey shed" this summer... who knows?
There was certainly nothing that could be described as identifiable remains of that one...
it was quite a dark morph... but you'd need more than was left here to see that...
the buzzard had eaten all but a few feathers, the pelvis and the feet!

It had also left the next pellet / stomach contents...

I found this when I moved some feathers... so I'm pretty sure that it doesn't belong to the Buzzard.

...that will give me a clue as to what the owl was finding...
not much probably, there are beetle wing cases in the pellet...
the whole valley is thoroughly water-logged...
it's no place for voles!!

There has been standing water since Christmas in all the grazing meadows...
the places that the owl is most likely to hunt...
and in the ploughed [and in some cases, planted] fields that are also in the flood plain...
there are vast open areas on "the tops"...
but even there, you can see the standing water!

This is a hard time for the night raptors that have a major diet of voles...
it is probably bad for the Little Owl [Athena noctua] Chêveche d'Athéna that lives up by Bezuard...
there will be few insects available...
it will be having a "diet of wurms".

If as I suspect, there has been a crash in the vole population....
it is the top predators, in this case raptors, that suffer first.

Our cat has only managed a couple of voles since Christmas...
and just before the last snow, the local Kestrel took a bird as prey off our front door.
So their pickings are meagre...
Baron has his tinned food and the Kestrel has switched to birds.
You should see them scatter when it is about... normally they ignore it!

The Barn Owls are unlikely to try that...

The Tawny Owl [Strix aluco] Chouette hulotte is probably OK up there in the woods...
there will be field mice around...
and possibly Bank Voles...
and probably an "invasion" of water displaced refugees...
so it is sitting pretty!

The Barn Owl can probably hunt on the fringes of the woods...
but it would not be instinctive...
so it is most probable that the poor Barn Owl here was either an older bird...
or one of this years young [the dried feathers will give me some idea]...
but, either way it would be starving and may have succumbed in the last snowfall.

The Buzzard is a well known scavenger and saw its chance of a good meal in hard times.

We can feed the small passerines, and some of the more adaptable insectivores...
the Robin was using the fat balls last year in the freeze...
but there is no way of feeding the raptors...
other than making sure there is a supply of passerines for those that will take them.

So, sad though it is, we will probably see fewer Barn Owls around next year...
they start breeding early in the year and, unless vole numbers increase rapidly...
they won't be able to feed two or three owlets...
so it will take a few years for a good population to build.

Apologies if you found this upsetting... believe me, I did when I discovered that it was a Barn Owl... 

but that's life... and our valley will find more Barn Owls coming by! In fact I have a very large nest box to put up... a Barn Owl box... it will be going in the trees by the Aigronne.

On a lighter note the "smell chequer" didn't recognise passerines... 
it wanted me to put pessaries!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Waxwing lyrical

We haven't seen these here... yet! And probably won't... it would take a very hard winter!
A very, very hard winter...
Although they have been recorded as far south in France as Nice and Biarritz [1988/89]...
but my brother took these wonderful pictures at the w/e ...
he'd been following the waxwingsuk twitter feed...
now... that IS what twittering is for...
and I thought I'd share three of them with you.

Copyright - Nick Ford Photography

Copyright - Nick Ford Photography

Copyright - Nick Ford Photography

The last one is superb... Pauline and I have seen Waxwings in Leeds before... but never this clearly....
There are loads in the UK at the moment... the berries they normally eat grew very poorly this year and they've been driven across in their search for food.

The ones we saw in Leeds noisily stripped out about a dozen, heavily laden Rowan trees... and left!!
And it is unlikely that they'll still be where my bro' saw them either.

Post Note... Nick got the last picture picked up by the BBC today [on Saturday Jan 26... Big Garden Birdwatch.... LIVE TEXT 1352 : Winter visitor ] on their "things happening live" line... well done brother!!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Aw kid! The weather is awful...

Susan "Days on the Claise" commented on her weather report for 2012 that the Orchid season, in the Chaumussay area, was pretty good last year...
but I felt that it wasn't as good as we'd seen...
possibly because of the drought the year before.

Not that that really matters when you get orchids like these...
all these pictures...
including the non-Orchids in the next post, were taken within one kilometre of each other...

I'll use the captions to identify each one... where I can that is.... there are a lot of hybrids at this site...

I hope these pictures brighten this cold, grey period.

Monkey Orchid [Orchis simia] Orchis singe...
one of the most common at this spot... usually
present in great swathes... but not this year.

Monkey Orchid [Orchis simia] Orchis singe...
You can see the faces of the monkeys
quite clearly on these two pictures.

Lady Orchid [Orchis purpurea] Orchis pourpre...
She is a very "loose" Lady this one... there are
numerous different hybrids with both O. simia
and O. anthropophora. This example is close
to type...

Lady Orchid [Orchis purpurea] Orchis pourpre...
...as is this one... but you can see clearly that
the "skirts" are different... both in shape and
in the "pattern"... wave to the Lady, she is
waving at you!!

Not a Lady Orchid ...
this one is probably a hybrid between
the Lady Orchid and the Man Orchid...
a rather suitable hybrid I feel!!

Man Orchid [Orchis anthropophora] Orchis homme-pendu...
the hanged man... not a nice name in French...
but suited to the image.

Pyramidal Orchid [Anacamptis pyramidalis] Orchis pyramidal...
an attractive little plant... the ones on the way into Chaumussay
from Le Petit Pressigny are better shaped and easily seen from
the car, but there is nowhere to park... these ones are not as big
but much easier to photograph.

Caption is with the following picture...

Two Spider Orchids [Ophrys sp.] Ophrys araignée...
Comparing the two pictures you will notice that they are
wearing different "waistcoats" and the arms of the
"teddy bears" are different shapes. These all hybridise
very readily so could be closer to Ophrys araneola
than O. sphegodes... I am basing this assumption on
the very clear face of the "bear",

Twayblade [Listera ovata] Listère ovale...
often overlooked because of its green colouration,
this orchid is not uncommon.

Twayblade [Listera ovata] Listère ovale...
close to, the flowers are really quite attractive.
There is someone else hanging around in this
picture... a small, green spider... hunting the flies
that come to pollinate the orchid.

The little spider is most likely Araniella cucurbitina...
so named for the abdomen's resemblance to a cucumber.
What look like a pair of eyes in this picture are, in fact, the palps.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Twittering again...

Flock of Siskin (Carduelis spinus) Tarin des aulnes working one of the alders [aulnes] near the kitchen door this morning...

Alder Catkins and Pussy Willow... from March 2012.
The Siskins were feeding on the little round "cones"
and not these catkins... but we need a lift and I thought
that the golden sunshine looked warming!

A Great White Egret (Ardea alba alba) Grande Aigrette  in the valley... near Gatault on the D103 on the way in to Le Grand Pressigny... it was in the company of around seven Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) Héron cendré [who were probably saying to each other "Who's that flash b'stard then?"]

Great White Egret from February of last year.

Also seen so far this week... male and female Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus) Busard Saint-Martin [on separate occasions]... quartering the fields and our meadow...

Male Hen Harrier also from February of last year.

Coming shortly... a post to brighten this weather.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

2012 - A Terrible Year's Weather

A Yearly Summary for period January 1st to December 31st 2012

January 2nd - A Showery Start

Temperature (°C):

Mean (1 minute)  9.8
Mean (min+max)   10.1
Mean Minimum     6.4
Mean Maximum     13.7
Minimum          -20.6 on 07/02/2012
Maximum          26.7 on 15/03/2012
Highest Minimum  21.1 on 18/06/2012
Lowest Maximum   -6.8 on 07/02/2012
Air frosts       41
Rainfall (mm):
Total for period 777.0
Wettest day      371.4 on 16/03/2012
High rain rate   165.6 day 08/08/2012
Rain days        79
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     45.4 on 05/01/2012
Average Speed    1.2
Wind Run         2045.4 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1048.1 on 07/03/2012
Minimum          1002.4 on 23/10/2012
December 29th - Sunshine At Last!!

Month by Month
January 31st - A Frosty Finish

Summary for January 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  5.4
Mean (min+max)   5.6
Mean Minimum     1.2
Mean Maximum     10.0
Minimum          -6.8 day 31
Maximum          14.8 day 10
Highest Minimum  8.7 day 04
Lowest Maximum   1.6 day 31
Air frosts       14

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  37.8
Wettest day      30.0 day 05
High rain rate   25.2 day 05
Rain days        12
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     45.4 day 05
Average Speed    1.5
Wind Run         982.3 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1046.0 day 10
Minimum          1022.6 day 05

February 7th - The Coldest Day

Summary for February 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  0.0
Mean (min+max)   -0.4
Mean Minimum     -7.1
Mean Maximum     6.2
Minimum          -20.6 day 07
Maximum          18.6 day 24
Highest Minimum  3.3 day 29
Lowest Maximum   -6.8 day 07
Air frosts       19

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  12.6
Wettest day      8.1 day 20
High rain rate   54.0 day 25
Rain days        5
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     33.1 day 29
Average Speed    0.9
Wind Run         363.1 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1047.4 day 29
Minimum          1024.3 day 29

March 7th - The Potager

Summary for March 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  10.4
Mean (min+max)   11.6
Mean Minimum     3.7
Mean Maximum     19.4
Minimum          -4.7 day 04
Maximum          26.7 day 15
Highest Minimum  17.3 day 17
Lowest Maximum   10.6 day 01
Air frosts       5

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  395.1
Wettest day      371.4 day 16
High rain rate   81.0 day 12
Rain days        8

Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     33.1 day 04
Average Speed    1.7
Wind Run         449.2 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1048.1 day 07
Minimum          1023.8 day 16
April - Sunshine and Showers [and, yes, the Walnut is that bent!!]

Summary for April 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  16.7
Mean (min+max)   16.4
Mean Minimum     14.2
Mean Maximum     18.6
Minimum          9.6 day 11
Maximum          25.6 day 05
Highest Minimum  18.8 day 18
Lowest Maximum   12.4 day 11
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  9.9
Wettest day      6.0 day 26
High rain rate   50.4 day 26
Rain days        3
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     17.3 day 18
Average Speed    0.5
Wind Run         9.5 km

Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1028.1 day 02
Minimum          1021.6 day 26
May - The Storms Continue.

Summary for May 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  17.7
Mean (min+max)   17.7
Mean Minimum     16.0
Mean Maximum     19.3
Minimum          12.4 day 12
Maximum          23.4 day 19
Highest Minimum  18.8 day 21
Lowest Maximum   15.7 day 07
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  9.6
Wettest day      4.2 day 19
High rain rate   50.4 day 14
Rain days        6
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     14.8 day 28
Average Speed    0.8
Wind Run         13.4 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1029.6 day 06
Minimum          1022.1 day 21

June 21st - The Longest Day

Summary for June 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  17.7
Mean (min+max)   18.1
Mean Minimum     16.4
Mean Maximum     19.8
Minimum          13.4 day 26
Maximum          24.6 day 18
Highest Minimum  21.1 day 18
Lowest Maximum   14.5 day 27
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  16.2
Wettest day      10.2 day 22
High rain rate   50.4 day 07
Rain days        8
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     11.2 day 07
Average Speed    0.1
Wind Run         1.0 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1026.5 day 07
Minimum          1015.5 day 29
July 7th - A Cauliflower Omen.... but they haven't hearted up yet!!

Summary for July 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  12.7
Mean (min+max)   12.9
Mean Minimum     11.2
Mean Maximum     14.6
Minimum          6.8 day 29
Maximum          28.1 day 03
Highest Minimum  15.6 day 01
Lowest Maximum   8.7 day 26
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  15.0
Wettest day      5.1 day 12
High rain rate   36.0 day 03
Rain days        6

Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     14.8 day 12
Average Speed    0.8
Wind Run         9.7 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1025.7 day 26
Minimum          1013.2 day 12
August 4th - Another Cold Bright Morning!

Summary for August 2012
Temperature (°C):

Due to a loss of data
there are no temperature records for August

Highest Minimum 
Lowest Maximum  
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  30.3
Wettest day      14.1 day 19
High rain rate   165.6 day 08
Rain days        8

Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     14.8 day 22
Average Speed    0.4
Wind Run         5.8 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1021.6 day 05
Minimum          1003.4 day 19

September 3rd - More Cold Misty Mornings - good for pictures... not for plants.
A ground frost a fortnight later had us barrowing in the Pumkin crop!!

Summary for September 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  13.3
Mean (min+max)   13.2
Mean Minimum     11.5
Mean Maximum     14.8
Minimum          0.4 day 02
Maximum          29.7 day 29
Highest Minimum  15.8 day 29
Lowest Maximum   11.9 day 22
Air frosts       2

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  7.8
Wettest day      3.6 day 13
High rain rate   21.6 day 13
Rain days        4
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     17.3 day 06
Average Speed    0.7
Wind Run         11.2 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1020.3 day 02
Minimum          1010.8 day 13
October 5th - Cold, Misty and Damp

Summary for October 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  12.1
Mean (min+max)   12.2
Mean Minimum     10.2
Mean Maximum     14.2
Minimum          0.2 day 29
Maximum          22.4 day 23
Highest Minimum  15.6 day 11
Lowest Maximum   1.0 day 29
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  84.6
Wettest day      49.8 day 23
High rain rate   149.4 day 06
Rain days        7
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     31.7 day 23
Average Speed    0.3
Wind Run         15.7 km

Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1038.7 day 31
Minimum          1002.4 day 23
November 3rd - Who Spilt The Coffee?
The already water-logged ground from the October rain couldn't take any more...
so the flood plain did its work!!

Summary for November 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  7.2
Mean (min+max)   8.4
Mean Minimum     3.8
Mean Maximum     12.9
Minimum          -0.3 day 04
Maximum          17.7 day 10
Highest Minimum  11.2 day 28
Lowest Maximum   1.8 day 02
Air frosts       3

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  87.6
Wettest day      78.0 day 17
High rain rate   16.2 day 26
Rain days        6
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     30.6 day 10
Average Speed    0.5
Wind Run         112.5 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1040.6 day 06
Minimum          1007.5 day 28
December 15th - The Remillion washes out the grazing meadow.
Three weeks earlier, the beasts were up to their hocks in mud in this field!!

Summary for December 2012
Temperature (°C):
Mean (1 minute)  10.4
Mean (min+max)   10.4
Mean Minimum     8.4
Mean Maximum     12.3
Minimum          4.5 day 28
Maximum          16.2 day 29
Highest Minimum  11.7 day 01
Lowest Maximum   8.5 day 10
Air frosts       0

Rainfall (mm):
Total for month  75.8
Wettest day      18.9 day 28
High rain rate   113.4 day 12
Rain days        6
Wind (km/h):
Highest Gust     40.3 day 28
Average Speed    1.9
Wind Run         72.0 km
Pressure (mb):
Maximum          1030.7 day 16
Minimum          1006.9 day 01
December 29th - A Cold Bright Morning!
Hopefully 2013 will bring us better weather!

Pauline wasn't sure about the max temperature for August and September... I checked against the actual readings and discovered we had no temperature data for August!
We definately had a 30°C day...
But it is those average [mean] temperatures that show the overall chill of this year... we've not worn "Summer" clothes much at all... and whilst the crops grew... many went straight to seed in an effort to reproduce and survive!! Nothing could be said to have thrived!