The day after my Wansfell jaunt, brought another peerless, cloud-free sky. I persuaded B to join me for an afternoon stroll to Haweswater, ostensibly to see whether the snowdrops in the woods there were flowering (which seemed likely, since the ones in our garden were). In fact they were and we’d already found lots of snowdrops in Eaves Wood, long before we reached Haweswater.
As we dropped down along the permission path in this field…
…I encouraged B to drag his heels for a moment or two. “This is usually a good place to see…”
“Green woodpeckers”, he jumped in, finishing my sentence for me. He was right, although, I had just been going to say ‘birds’. It’s probably something to do with the network of ecotones here – the stand of tall trees on the right, the open meadow, the scrubby hedgerows, the reed beds around the lake and the lake itself, but over the years I’ve encountered quite a diversity of birds here. Green woodpeckers, and greater spotted ones too, small flocks of mistle thrushes, a startled heron, buzzards, jays, marsh harriers, and many small birds in the trees, especially nuthatches.
You can see from the photo above that a major feature of the field are the numerous mole hills, not that I’ve ever seen any moles here. Perhaps the neatly turned earth is an attraction to opportunist crows…
…or robins, who I suppose are direct competitors with the moles for worms and grubs etc.
We spied a couple of spotted woodpeckers too, slaloming through the tree-tops. And then, high in a very tall tree, what’s that? In silhouette it looks like a raptor of some sort. The camera might help, but surely, the distance is too great…
….no! A female kestrel. The male has a grey head and is less heavily barred.
On the far side of the lake, we paused to watch the antics of an even more then usually tame robin. It flitted from fence post to branch and then bobbed around the floor near our feet. If anything, it seemed to be as interested in us as we were in it.
If we’d had something suitable to offer as a snack, who knows? – we may even have been able to hand feed it.
B is keen to try that. We thought we might take a cereal bar with us in future, but, on reflection, mealworms would be a much better idea. In ‘The Charm of Birds’ Viscount Grey describes feeding a robin regularly from, I think it was a tobacco tin, filled with mealworms. He used a lengthy habituation process however which I’m not sure I have the patience for.
Full marks, by the way, if you knew that stannel and ruddock are old names for, respectively, a kestrel and a robin. Ruddock, originally rudduc, refers to the “deep, rusty-orange” of robins, whereas stannel derives from stangella which “meant ‘stone yeller’ in Old English”. (Both quotes from Cocker and Mabey’s Birds Britannica)