Sunday, 9 May 2010

badgers, peregrines and eggs

It's been a busy week winding down from my museum job before I begin working for the University of Bristol in a few weeks time - I'll be starting as the Bristol Dinosaur Education Officer! Still, I'm getting there clearing out my drawers, files and e-mails! Meanwhile, I'm also doing an inventory of the bird eggs we have in the learning collection - I've been really absorbed identifying and labelling them and amazing to see the huge variety and handle some very old and unusual eggs such as little auk, stone curlew and red-backed shrike.

Last night I went out badger watching with some friends in the Chew Valley - we got sat ready by 8.45pm and at 9pm, while we could still make out colour, a badger poked its head out of a hole and sniffed around. There was a light wind and our scent was being carried in their direction. It disappeared for a bit but reappeared before having a long poo and scuttling off up into a field nearby. As we waited longer, three more appeared, again poking their heads out and gradually coming out further. By 10pm when it was too dark to see them we had seen six or so. We were also treated by seeing them on a thermal imaging camera courtesy of Howard who had brought it along. We saw two or three venturing out in the dark despite not being able to see them with our naked eyes. We also found a bird roosting up in a tree, looking like a white sphere!

This morning I led a walk at the Newport Wetlands for the Bristol Naturalists Society joined by volunteer wardens Roger and Julie. We had a great time watching the birds and seeing some of the special plants and insects. Some swifts and house martin flew in and fed very close by while pochards, tufted ducks and dabchicks fed in the water. We heard a very distant cuckoo and saw a lovely female marsh harrier. Meanwhile, we watched a peregrine pursue a pigeon and bring it down - a first for many to see. Later, we watched the 2nd year bird just gliding and circling low over the foreshore. Meanwhile, a distant osprey moved in over Cardiff from the estuary.We were lucky to see the caterpillar of a scarlet tiger moth and see the first leaves of a southern marsh orchid. After a quick cuppa, I nipped down to Goldcliff with another member to see the avocets, redshanks and lapwings. We were also treated to a summer-plumaged spotted redshank (splendid bird), a turnstone, male shovelers and many other birds. Finished off watching house martins coming down to collect wet mud by the side of the road!

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