Nature notes from John Holt
The first week of September, muggy nights following a dry August, 37mm of rain recorded in Stoke Charity and 26mm in Alresford. Stoke Charity move to the top of the league for once.
With a dry August I asked Tim Finn-Kelcey to comment on the grain harvest 2016 compared with 2015, his comments were interesting and shared below.
“Compared to 2015 when record yields were achieved across the country, this year’s yields on the whole were back to average.
The earlier July harvested crops of oilseed rape and winter barley (our crop) have produced slightly lower yields than average due to the very wet June and lack of sunshine then. But the later harvested crops have given average yields I believe. The big plus for farmers of course has been the long dry harvest weather which means hardly any expensive drying was required.
We are growing oilseed rape for next harvest and this has already been sown, but until the rain in the last few days the seed has remained un-germinated. So this small amount of rain has been extremely valuable for us.”
– my immediate thought on the oilseed rape was that the Wood Pigeons will have been watching with interest.
The Wood Pigeon is not an endangered species as are many of our feathered friends and I am still picking up the white half shells of the pigeon egg neatly split in half by the exiting chick. Pigeons may lay as many as three times, two white eggs, three weeks to incubate, four weeks to fledge, survival rate pretty high – food, oil seed rape of course, grain, kale and ivy berries in winter. Pan fried (the pigeon that is) with bacon, mushrooms and sauté potato – fantastic.
The end of August brings the shortening of the daylight hours but also occasionally a messenger from autumn by way of drops in temperature and misty mornings. These fluctuate with summer trying to continue in way of muggy nights and channels of warm air but autumn will win in the end. The end of August also sees the gathering of the Swift, Swallow and House Martin clans prior to their perilous journey south – I hate to see them go and by the time you read this they will be gone, wish them a fair wind and a safe return. Their space will soon be filled by incoming Red Wings and Field Fares.
Sighting in August included several sightings of now fairly common Red Kite, a Honey Buzzard (pictured) and a Spotted Fly Catcher seen by Brenda Hargreaves in South Wonston.
Clive Cook of Stoke Charity had the good fortune to see a Water Rail (water bird like a moorhen) on the cress beds and later in the reeds opposite Box Cottage – I must have the windows cleaned. This bird is distinguishable from the moorhen by its light and dark grey horizontal bars on its chest and underside and when it speaks it is like a small pig squealing. The Water Rail is very secretive and is rarely seen as its shape allows it to move swiftly through the reeds – Mickey Frome from Sutton Scotney has over the years since we have been in Box Cottage indicated that he has seen Water Rails at Stoke Charity, it seems he was right – great,
I have at last seen the Kingfisher – only once but a good sighting – no cuckoos this year and no Barn Owls so far.
Image of Honey Buzzard from www.rspb.org.uk