The Safari always keeps a tally of the numbers of birds of prey seen on long journeys- well if nothing else it helps pass the time. In the nearly 1000 miles we did over the weekend we got the grand total of 14 Buzzards, 1 live Kestrel (3 dead ones) on the southbound trip and 11 v 4 (all alive this time) on the northbound journey; begging the question where are all the Kestrels??? Yes Buzzards are bigger fly higher and can be seen at greater distance but aren’t Kestrels supposed to be the iconic bird of motorway journeys to be seen hovering over the verge at the rate of one every mile on each side of the carriageway? What have we done to them? Other decent stuff was very thin on the ground although a Brown Hare was a mammal year tick and a Kittiwake battling the wind near Sandbach services in mid Cheshire vied with the Cirl Buntings as bird of the weekend. Single Sparrowhawks were seen on both the outward and return drives and a Peregrine was spotted on the way down. The only other notables were a couple of Jays and Brimstone butterflies. Once off the main roads on onto the country lanes the Primroses flowering on the steep banks were stunning, like cascades of pale lemon yellow in some places, not something we see a lot of in Safariland. A morning was spent in Tavistock, named after an ancient farmstead on the River Tavy. The town itself has a market which has been held every week going back at least 905 years. There was probably already a market going on when it was given a Royal Charter in 1106, the pannier market so called after the baskets people brought their wares to town in – car-boot sale in today-speak. The town’s most important son is none other than Sir Francis Drake, scourge of the Spanish and defeater of their invasion fleet, the Armada, although the weather did help him, OK he used it to his advantage and he was only second in command of the navy at the time. The rest of the weekend’s action, apart from the small but not insignificant matter of the Safari’s sister’s wedding, occurred at the beautiful and peaceful Prawle Point, the most southerly tip of Devon. What a cracking place – great rocks! The flat area of the beach was full of rockpools and there was a team from the Field Studies Council out there armed to the teeth with ranging poles, ½ metre quadrats and clear bottomed viewing tubes. To the west are steep cliffs highlighted by a superb rock arch. The flat rocks must have been covered by farmland at one time as this tiny uneroded remnant suggests. The wildlife kept us entertained for a couple of hours. Holly Blue butterflies were numerous in the sunshine and an early Painted Lady was seen nectaring on an unusual plant – Thrift; we don’t expect to see it flower in Safariland for at least another month, although our Daisies are just coming out. Finding the Cirl Bunting proved to be a bit tricky as we didn’t get to the site until lunchtime, a little late in the day. A brief chat with another birder gave us hope as he’d seen some that morning but another chap told us that they were a lot harder to find now that three of the four set-aside’ fields they had been regularly feeding in had been ploughed last week. Wifey spotted the first one, which was joined by a Goldfinch then another bird, a female – excellent stuff.
Stonechats sang from the top of the banks separating the fields and Swallows came in-off all the time we were there. Above the knoll two Buzzards circled around and later a pair of Ravens was mobbed by a pair of Carrion Crows, the former’s huge size being obvious when seen in direct comparison. A Stock Dove cooed from the top of the knoll but made a dash for cover when a Peregrine cruised past, as did a few Woodpigeons. Almost back at the car park, from where we could hear a Blackcap singing, we watched two birds in the hedge along the driveway to the cottages having a right old to-do at each other in and out of the dense brambles – fascinating stuff until one stopped and landed on the top of the hedge - another male Cirl Bunting...those guys in the cottage have them as a garden bird! As does the Safari’s brother, but he lives on the Adriatic coast – unfair advantage we think. During the final night at our sister’s gaff a moth attracted to the sitting room lights turned out to be a Water Carpet.
Where to next? No joy at the Patches today so hopefully tomorrow will produce the goods.
In the meantime let us know who's having a to-do in your outback