Sunday, 7 March 2021

Shenington and Balscote Quarry:: 05-07 March 2021

I worked through lunch and then had Friday later afternoon off - so what to do? I decided to see if I could catch up with the barn owl that has been reported hunting near Shenington, reliably seen along a valley.

I had good instructions and set off through the village and out into the fields. A green woodpecker hopped around in some rigs on the way there and a small flock of redwing fed high in the tree canopy of a large willow. I reached the spot I'd been told to wait and surveyed the area in case it was already on the wing. Buzzards with a red kite soared around, and some yellowhammer kept me company while I waited.

In about 20 minutes she appeared and rested on a tree ahead - already very happy. She took off and made a couple of passes across the field to my left and then disappeared behind and out of sight.

Barn owl

She was gone for about 20 minutes and then reappeared in the corner of the field to my right, cruising past me at about 50m distance. Twice around the field to my left and then up the hedgerow and to an area of scrub on a slope where she hunted for some time. Great to spend some time watching the elegant and effortless motion end in sudden dives into the grass.

Barn owl
Barn Owl
Barn owl
Barn owl

I left and still made it home in time for dinner.

The next morning I got up early and headed for Balscote Quarry. Iain Brown had posted in the WhatsApp group that a couple of curlew had been roosting there the previous night and he'd seen them leave around 7.00am. When I arrived he and Mike Prentice were already there so we distanced and enjoyed the two curlew that had returned - eventually the curlew departed (later) at 7.20am. Mike and Iain left but I stayed to count the bramblings.

Barn owl
Brambling
Brambling

Lots of finches were feeding and these were joined by some stunning yellowhammers.

Yellowhammer

It was then time for home and breakfast.

After lunch my wife had agreed to meet a friend and they had agreed to have a walk locally - things to talk about. With current restrictions I wasn't allowed to join them and so set off on a walk from Shenington to Temple Pool, eventually returning to where I had seen the barn owl - I stopped and waited - soon Mike Hunter and Gary past and took positions further along the valley. The owl duly showed and gave some views as it worked it's way back out and behind us. She could still be seen quartering an area behind us but eventually went out of sight, only to reappear to my right after 5 minites. This was a brief sortie and it was another 5 minutes before she cruised past and into a tree.

Barn owl
Barn owl
Barn owl
Barn owl

A dog walker (aka 'muppet') then spoiled the fun, really not long after it started - walking directly under the tree in which the owl was perched and forcing the owl to scarper. I was happy that I'd managed a few photos on these few runs we'd watched. Needless to say, the owl didn't show for the remaining daylight hours.

I was awake the next morning and decided to have another go with the curlews - I left a bit earlier but again Mike and Iain were already there. As I stepped out the car I could hear the curlew calling and I was informed that one of them had already made a couple of circuits of the water. It looked like they would earlier than the day before. They were much more active and swapped places regularly.

Curlew
Curlew

Roe deer were feeding on the opposite side and flushed snipe from the scrub. Soon after, one of the curlew set off again but didn't seem commited, or it's partner didn't follow - it returned to the water and the four then moved further along the pool. After some time, two left heading for Shenington and 5 minutes later the other two left too.

Curlew

I stayed to count the brambling again but as I did a couple of green woodpecker showed - Iain had said that he hadn't seen them for a few days so I took a couple of photos to post to him.

Green woodpecker
Green woodpecker

I packed up to leave but on a last scan I spotted three snipe feeding more in the open than I've seen here of late. Back home for breakfast.

Snipe

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