Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Loons

Having grabbed some food I decided to head for The Loons for the last hour on Monday evening. Good decision. I was interested to see if the Swallow roost was still active and if it was how many birds were now there. I haven’t watched many hirundine roosts in recent years and estimating the numbers as they become more and more panicked as the dark approaches is a tricky business. The birds were much closer to The Loons hide, making estimating the number even more tricky, but there seemed to be considerably more than last week. Swallows were rapidly touring the whole reserve area and beyond but I reckoned that about 3,000 was a reasonable guess. As it got darker a few hundred birds attempted and eventually settled in front of the hide. At the last moment as the last few settled a Merlin shot through and caught one. With the Swallow in its talons the Merlin struggled to fly but eventually made a fence post across the reeds with its prey. It then dropped down and when next seen was without its prey, or maybe there were two Merlins. There followed a series of unsuccessful attacks on the roost, the Merlin tearing around the reeds in front of the hide in the half light. At one point several tens of Swallows got up in a panic confusing the Merlin even more. Also present were at least one Greenshank, Water Rail, 4 Grey Heron, 11 Snipe and possibly a Spotted Redshank, although it was heard but distantly and mostly drowned out by farm machinery engaged in crepuscular harvesting.

On the mammal front a large Brown Rat swam across the pool in front of the hide.

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