Saturday 29 June 2013

Patch Walk

A scary thing happened this morning. 

When I got up at 06:30 it was chucking it down with rain. While I was having breakfast and waiting for my laptop to boot up my thoughts turned to friends of mine who had been up here for a week on holiday and who were heading for the ferry terminal to catch the ferry back across to the Scottish mainland to start their long drive back down to Lancashire.

With the laptop ready I checked the Met Office weather forecast to see what the weather was going to be like for their journey. It was forecasting sunshine from 07:00. Another look out of the window at the dark overcast sky, in all directions, and the rain running down the window made me chuckled at how wrong the forecast was.

Then the scary thing happened.

At 07:05 the sky suddenly brightened, the cloud started breaking up and the sun was out!! The bad weather was heading out into the North Sea and to the West bright less cloudy sky was heading my way.

I decided it was about time I went out and had a bit of a wander around part of my patch. A couple of weeks ago I found a Swallow nest in an old wartime building which had four eggs in it. As I had raised a nest record for the nest I needed to go back and check on it's progress.

I set off up the hill and saw the ferry leaving the harbour, my friends were on their way home. As I wandered up the track I passed a colony of Arctic Terns. So far when I have been up the track the colony has got airbourne and kept an eye on me and then very quickly started to settle down again as I passed. Today they were a lot more vocal and some of them actually flew over to the track and started to buzz me. That response plus seeing a few terns flying into the colony with food in their beaks is a pretty good sign that they are breeding and have young.

I quickly moved further up the path and the reception party returned back to the colony and started to settle down.

When I got to the top of the hill I looked down onto the area that had held the Black-headed Gull colony, it was now void of any gulls. There were a few Black-headed Gulls and some Common Gulls a bit further South of the where the colony had been.

A pair of Bonxies (Great Skuas) were patrolling over head and came over to take a look at me before moving out over the moorland.

Oystercatchers and Curlew were also being very vocal with lots of alarm calling but I did't see any young moving about in the heather.

Meadow Pipits and a couple of Twite were flitting across the heather
A couple of Arctic Skuas were flying along the ridge where I have seen them before, they seem to prefer that area to the land on the North side of the moor.

A couple of Swallows flying overhead reminded me of why I had come to this part of my patch. Arriving at the site I entered the building and good see that the nest was well lined with feathers.

I got my new gadget out of my pocket and switched it on. I then carefully placed the probe over the edge of the nest and on the screen I could see a wide gape of a young Swallow after food. A quick look around the nest revealed four chicks. So all the eggs have successfully hatched.

In case you are wondering what gadget I'm using, it is a hand-held endoscope with a colour monitor. The tiny camera has a ring of LED's around it that allow the user to light up what the camera is looking at. It is designed for use around the home for looking into cracks and crevices but makes an excellent tool for inspecting hard to access nests.

Hand-held Endoscope

On the walk back home I saw more Arctic Terns taking food back to the colony which is an encouraging sign.

I also heard a tern call that was different to the Arctic Terns that were flying around. I was quickly able to locate the bird flying against the breeze and a look through the binoculars confirmed it was a Little Tern. There are only a handful of Little Terns seen up here so to see one flying over my patch was an excellent end to the walk.

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