Bumping into neighbour Mark Cocker in the Findhorn Valley proved not only how small our world is, but also how valuable the home patch is to us both. We compared notes around our Highland experiences, but attention quickly turned to where we had both come from. "Have you seen the Short-eared Owls?" We both had, and it was this pleasantly nagging thought that kept infiltrating my mind throughout the highland stay. Put simply, inside my head, it went like this: it is great up here, but when I get home I must get down the marsh.
Despite Spring being a leap ahead back home compared to the north, reminders of the season past were hunting Claxton Marsh as we had discussed. The Short-eared Owls had not been present all Winter, and sightings of two birds in April were oddly my first of the year. A background orchestra of Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler was a contradiction, but here were the early birds and a couple simply not in a rush.
I have been taking part in the Common Bird Census. Having been taught the methodology by Ben on a gloomy and uneventful morning earlier in the month, yesterday I set off early with maps and clipboard, more concerned with taking the wrong turn rather than missing a Sedge Territory. It is a real privilege to explore these marshes that although RSPB owned are inaccessible to the public. Climbing fences, following Deer trails and using old marsh man cottages as way-markers are all necessary as fen and marsh are navigated. Two surveys in and few conclusions can be drawn, but a lot has been learned. Take Sedge and Reed Warbler territories. Sedge, not fussed on the whole, singing somewhere in the middle of the reed bed. Reed, always along dyke edges, a more linear outlook. If you are reading this as a seasoned bird surveyor, this will not surprise you. And I think this is a fact I was aware of, but only by mapping and recording accurately has it become crystal clear to me at least. Once complete, I will share some pictures of the completed maps which will illustrate these points and more.
The odd Swallow has been passing through, and some of the local House Martins are back, prospecting the old nest site. A stunning Mullein was in the Moth trap this morning, and Holly Blues and Speckled Woods have joined the Butterfly emergence encouraged by the warm temperatures. Spring is sprung, and what better time to dip a toe into the world of animal husbandry. For now, The chickens need feeding.