Red polls

Wed 8th May 2013

Female red poll

Sorry I didn’t catch up with you all last month. The end of April was very busy as I was getting ready to go up to the Aigas Field Centre in Scotland again. This year the Swarovski weekend was arranged for the first weekend in May rather than later in the month as last year.

Julie and I had a wonderful time. We love it up there so much and would like to thank everyone who joined us and all those who made it possible. Sir John and Lady Lucy Lister-Kaye were excellent hosts and it was lovely to see them again. The weather wasn’t too bad, although there was still snow up on the mountains.

We saw lots of different animals and birds, including ospreys, beavers and six beautiful golden eagles. One of the eagles swooped down quite low so we got a really good look at it.

I’m concentrating on birds with my filming and photography at the moment. In the past few weeks I’ve seen three red polls, a cock and two hens, which I’m delighted about. I’ve included a couple of pictures for you. The one with the most red on it is the male bird. I’ve never seen them around here before but I know a few people who have. They are sometimes seen with siskins. I’ve also seen a pair of linnets which can easily be mistaken for red polls.

There are lots of goldfinches about at right now. They are such pretty little birds but I’m really not sure how you tell the difference between the male and the female. A friend of mine says they come into her garden to eat dandelion seeds and she’s decided to leave lots of dandelions for them this year. Sounds a good excuse for not weeding. They also love sunflower seed hearts. I put out a lot of shelled sunflower seeds as they attract many different types of birds.

It’s lovely to have some better weather at last and to be able to enjoy the sunshine, but we do need that that rain as well for the spring shoots to grow and provide food for the deer and other wildlife. Everything is about three weeks behind down here in North Devon after the long, cold winter. The bluebells are coming out now but are very late this year.

Our pond up on the land is looking good and the irises are coming up. I’ve done a lot of work there over the winter and have cleared a woody area to give the birds a better flight path in and out. Hopefully this will encourage more ducks and geese to visit. We already have herons visiting, as I’ve mentioned before when I told you about then eating the fish. Lots of carp have also gone missing this year which I suspect is down to the otters.

The other day I was out in the middle of a field on the edge of Exmoor when my dog Megan started to squeak. I looked across the valley and saw 27 young spring stags. What a sight that was. Some had lost their antlers, others hadn’t and there was one who had just one antler left. This can happen if they shed one antler and then the weather changes. Then they may hang onto the second antler for a bit longer.

The other thing I must tell you about is seeing three small badger cubs on the 3rd May. It’s always a lovely sight to see.

I’m sure you are all seeing lots of young birds about being fed by their parents. I’ve certainly seen several young blackbirds flying around. There are also signs of adults building for a second clutch which is a good sign.

Well, keep enjoying the wildlife out there and I’ll catch you again soon.