Tuesday 31 December 2013

On a day of persistent drizzle a Blackbird was shaking the water off his feathers.

A Shoveller under the bridge was unconcerned. Ducks simply don't get wet.

The male Tawny Owl was in his usual place on the balcony of the nest tree.

This picture clearly shows the small patch of white feathers that the male has grown in this year's plumage, and which now distinguishes him from the female. It may be a sign of aging. He is now at least 11 years old, twice the average lifespan of a wild Tawny Owl, though the oldest recorded age for a wild bird is 17. Or it may be a chance spot and will not reappear after his next moult.

The base of the owls' tree is in the centre of the territory of a Robin, which is now quite unconcerned about visitors and will take food thrown to it.

Here it is rummaging around for bugs in the leaf litter, remarkably well camouflaged by its bright red front.

Since turf was laid around the Henry Moore sculpture, it has rapidly bounced back as a habitat for all kinds of animals that had been driven away by the dismal jungle of misfit plants that was here till recently. It now supports numerous rabbits, a frequently visiting fox, a pair of Egyptian Geese and any of several Grey Herons that like to perch on top of the arch. Carrion Crows are frequent visitors poking around for worms and insects in the lush new grass, and the latest addition is a pair of Moorhens. Here one of them trots around probing the turf for bugs.

The presence of these last two species shows that the new grass is far from sterile, and must have arrived already in possession of a good ecosystem.

Starlings and Mistle Thrushes are briskly polishing off the last of the berries on the rowan trees on Buck Hill.

All the birds have started at the top and eaten their way down, and there are now almost no berries above head height. Does this mean that the berries ripen from the top down, or that the birds feel safer higher up the tree? Neither species is averse to feeding on the ground.

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