Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Happy New Ear

To be honest, it’s not particularly happy; but it’s a great deal happier than it has been these several days and, heartened by this change, this afternoon I braved the elements and headed to the Hawk and Owl Trust’s lovely Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve.

The elements could not have been kinder. For the two hours I was there the sunlight oozed like egg-yolk across the landscape, basting birches and glazing guelder roses. The woods were loud with the wistful trickle of robins and a woodpigeon was moved to thump out a few ungainly stanzas of his song.

The first new vertebrate I saw was… a brown rat. A chunky number, waxing fat on the chicken-feed of the neighbouring yard, scuttled across the road as I arrived. My good friend Leanne, who runs the reserve's education programme, beseeched me not to mention the rancid rodent but I was not to be turned from my purpose. I clawed my way back from decrepitude to see that rat and I’m jolly well basking in its glory.

Next, on the feeders at the reserve entrance, was a great tit. Not swinging from the maw of a cat, nor spiked in the talons of a sparrowhawk – no! – a living, breathing great tit, and with him a coal tit. Such transports of delight!  I quip, yes, but one of the curious joys of being ill is the blissful sense of rebirth and rediscovery which comes with getting better again.

And it got better still. A great spotted woodpecker bounded through the blue towards tall poplars; and at the Whittley Hide two pairs of bullfinches, the males the rich carmine of crushed raspberries, visited the feeders, while countless chaffinches fluttered and hopped around them. For the twenty minutes I spent in the hide a water rail preened, bathed and fanned himself in full view, in most un-rail-like manner. Beautiful though he was, and a delight to see, he was not new to this list as I saw no fewer than three water rails at Cley on New Year’s Day. In this sense he was upstaged by the coppery bank vole (or perhaps several sequential bank voles; who’s to know?) who fidgeted into the open to pinch fallen crumbs from the table.

In the meadows over the river a barn owl brooded in a thicket of willow and a buzzard flapped up from the poplars in search of a midwinter thermal. A female sparrowhawk powered past, a treecreeper inched up the trunk of a poplar, and back at the reserve entrance what should be at the feeders? What else but a marsh tit?

Go compare.

Today’s newbies:


brown rat
Rattus norvegicus
bank vole
Clethrionomys glareolus


great tit
Parus major
coal tit
Parus ater
great spotted woodpecker
Dendrocopos major
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
barn owl
Tyto alba
marsh tit
Poecile palustris
Eurasian treecreeper
Certhia familiaris

2012 Totals
Mammals: 4
Birds: 80
Reptiles: 0
Amphibians: 0
Fish: 0

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