Hi and welcome to this week’s update from Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood.

I’m pleased to say I can give you a roundup of activity on the farm. On Monday and Tuesday we were working here quite a bit, so I got a chance to look out for those nests I’ve been following.

The swallow chicks have definitely hatched. I brought the memory card from the camera on Friday and it was packed with great videos, including the first glimpse of the chicks. Unfortunately the files are too big to post on here, but I will post them up on social media, and continue to bring you updates on them through the week. In the meantime, I've taken some still frames to give you an idea.

  Both adults at the nest on Thursday

  Adult feeding chick, but you can't see it yet

  First glimpse of a chick on Friday afternoon. It's head has some fluff, so it must be a few days old

  Adult feeding chick, but now you can see it

The blue tits are almost certainly feeding chicks in the nest box. It’s one our volunteer Andy put up this year and is actually designed for sparrows, who like to nest communally. There are three separate chambers inside. However, the sparrows clearly weren’t interested, so the blue tit took advantage and is nesting in the right hand section, with the other chambers unoccupied. I assure you, although the first picture looks much like a great tit, they are both of the same birds, taken seconds apart, and it was definitely a blue tit.

 

I’ve also discovered a great tit nest nearby. They are making use of a small cavity in the roof of the boiler room. I saw one of the adults perched on a wire just outside with a caterpillar in its mouth, so they must be feeding young too. I managed to get this action shot as it flew back out.

The pied wagtails are also extremely busy now. I’ve seen them catching insects in mid-air, a very impressive feat, but also often running about on the ground in the yard, presumably hunting terrestrial invertebrates. So I can surmise that they also have chicks. Yes, there seems to be a lot of babies around the farm right now.

I was starting to think that the kestrels across the road weren’t using the box after all. I tried setting up a camera there to monitor them but it wasn’t working. After several days with no footage, I swapped the camera for another one, thinking it was possible there was a problem with the first. Lo and behold, the following day, I discovered that they are going to the box. I had the camera set a bit low, so only had sound and a brief glimpse of a tail, but they were there. So I adjusted the camera and… found this barn owl instead.

There was no footage of the kestrels for the two days prior to me bringing the memory card in on Friday, but then this morning I did notice one of the kestrels on the barn roof and then it flew off, so they are still around. I'm not sure what's going on out there, although it isn't unusual for barn owls and kestrels to jostle for space as they will both make use of nest boxes like this. It causes some disturbance to anything using the box for me to retrieve the memory card, so I don't do it every day. However, I will update you on social media if I get anything more interesting happening.

The song thrush has disappeared, but the male wakes me up every morning with his exceedingly loud singing, so I’m sure they are nesting nearby, they’ve just chosen a different site, perhaps one with more cover as there are crows and jackdaws around regularly.

In other news, I’ve been testing my skills this week as a swan herder. We had a slight issue that a swan had nested on a bridge between two gateways, and if we moved cattle through the gates, the nest would get trampled. So we decided to put up a temporary barrier between swans and cows to keep it safe. In order to do this we had to get close to the nest, which the male swan didn’t like at all, so I had to use a large piece of plyboard to keep him at bay while Ashley knocked in a post and tied a gate up to it. We worked as fast as possible so they could come back to the nest and hopefully they will thank us when the cows thunder past and don’t trample their seven eggs.

There was a nice sighting at Greylake this week. Site manager Harry was out early on Thursday morning doing an essential survey to find out where birds were nesting in the fields to help inform us about grazing levels as the cattle start to come out. Shortly after he arrived, at about six o’clock, a flock of six whimbrel flew over. He also found breeding lapwing and redshank, a bittern was booming, curlew were calling and a pair of cranes were hiding in the vegetation, probably nesting. So all in all, a good visit.

That's all for this week. I'll leave you with a picture of one of the glorious sunsets we had over the last week. 

Take care for another week.

Kathryn

P.S. All photos taken by me at home, on exercise or during essential work, or by trail cameras.

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