Monday, 2 March 2015

Wandering The Moors

It's been a while since I posted, and a while since I've been out birding. I made good use of the mid-term break, spending nearly all hours out of doors. The best birds seen during the week off include a spotted redshank and a nice 1st winter Iceland gull at the Mutton Island Causeway. The Iceland was a welcome addition to the Patch list for the year, given the very low numbers of white-winged gulls turning up here this year.
    I spent a lot of time in the bog during the week, looking for the Red Grouse that I know are present. Despite the many hours spent scanning, walking and listening in the bog, I unfortunately drew a blank. They are definitely there however, their presence betrayed by scat, to be found abundantly all over the bog. The last time I saw a grouse here was a few years back, when one happened to be flushed in my direction. Here the density is base line low, the only time they are seen is by a few dog walkers I know who go through the bog and flush the secretive birds, a shame really, since they are lovely birds. On my wanderings through the bogs and moors I came across a few curious items. the first was a nice little Northern/Oak Eggar caterpillar, a very early record. The next and most interesting find was up on a high tussock in the bog. I came upon the site of a kill, a few feathers snagged on the heather and a largish pellet lying on the turf. Needless to say, I was delighted. I collected all the feathers and put them in my camera bag, and sealed the pellet in a sandwich bag for later inspection. When I returned home, some study of the feathers and online advice informed me that the unfortunate victim was most likely a woodcock.
    The pellet was the interesting part. Before I divulge into pellet dissection, let me stress that a pellet comes out of "the front end" of a bird. These are the indigestible parts of prey, such as hair and bones, that are coughed out by birds such as Crows, Gulls and Birds of Prey and Owls. The study of pellet contents can give great details about a birds diet and even the identity of the predator. Inside the pellet I found the following:
Fur - about 80% Lots of fur mean that small mammals played a large part in this birds diet (Owl?)
Bones - Not too many bones, but those I could identify included those from frogs, bird wing bones, and small mammal bones
Feathers - Not easily discernible but present all the same, mixed in with the fur
Seeds - Some heather seeds, probably picked up while plucking the prey
I will put photos of all the above below. Until next time!

One pristine 1st winter Iceland

1st Winter Iceland in the overcast evening light

Probable woodcock, deceased

Pellet Content Representation

Oak/Northern Eggar Caterpillar

My Kingdom, You can wander here all day and not meet a soul, bar maybe a disgruntled snipe or two

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