Saturday, June 21, 2008

20th June, 2008..

A rather mixed day for weather and activities! Early Atlas work produced a few quite interesting records. Whilst we have several "iconic" species on Islay ( Golden Eagle, Corncrake, Hen Harrier, Chough etc ) it's sometimes easy to pay less attention to those at the edge of their range or in small breeding numbers. Confirming breeding Teal ( with chicks ) , Mistle Thrush ( fledged chicks ), Woodpigeon and even two Red-legged Partridge territories was a welcome change. The latter stem from released stock from which low numbers survive and breed but with limited success.

A day then spent on Raven work with a fair degree of success.

Whilst eating lunch time was spent observing an active Hen Harrier's nest from afar. Sometimes adult birds are away hunting for several hours, but not on this occasion!! The female bird swept in and actually dropped prey directly into the nest, which suggests the young are quite well developed. Such precision reminded me of a quite different experience I had recently whilst birdwatching with my son , Matthew, in the Pennines in South Yorkshire. The 16th May, 2008 represented the 55th anniversary of the famed Dambusters raid when Lancaster Bombers were despatched to try and breach the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe Dams in the Ruhr valley. The bombs had been devised by Barnes Wallis and were designed to "bounce" along the surface of the water until they reached the dam wall ( which was the comparison with the female harrier's precise action! At least in my mind!! ).
That morning, as we were walking away from Royd Moor Reservoir, near Penistone, north of the Peak District National Park, we heard the deep throaty grumble of aircraft engines and, seemingly at no distance at all, a Lancaster Bomber did a full turn in front of us. We actually saw it "in circuit" twice more!!
The anniversary date had sparked the occasion of a fly past over the Rivelin Valley Dams , south
of Sheffield by what is now the one remaining plane of that type and where they had practised for their mission during the Second World War. I was absolutely amazed at how powerful it
sounded and thrilled by the close views we had of it , although our plans to go up the Dewent Valley ( where the Rivelin Dams are ) to look for Goshawk had to be abandoned!!! Apparently the event was televised, with large numbers of people "on site" to witness the spectacle. A very welcome memory.

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