Bird Notes by Bill Johnston

TEN years ago my wife and I retired and moved into our cottage here at Mossies - don’t ask me where those ten years have gone to but gone they certainly have. However I do have records of those years – I have for most of my life kept a diary, always very handy when someone says ‘when did so and so get married?’ or ‘when did so and so die?’ etc. And then, of course, I have also kept, almost daily, records of birds and other wildlife I see, never moreso than since retiring here to Mossies. Now these records have often featured in my Bird Notes, anything of interest or exciting duly reported to you, my readers.

The months of May and June have both been rather interesting as well as a wee bit exciting - so referring to my well used Mossies Log-book - during May I recorded 37 different bird species, one of the best months since moving here. The most unusual one was a red-legged partridge which appeared one evening, stayed for about ten minutes then wandered off and disappeared. Now I know that the red-leg is not a rare bird but for this particular patch it was in fact a first – a new tick for Mossies! When I think about it I haven’t seen or heard a common partridge round about here since April last year!

I was also delighted to record two rather interesting butterflies again - both firsts for Mossies - a Small Copper butterfly, and a lovely Orange Tip – certainly not rare but nice to be able to add them to my home list.

On May 23 at 11.40 hours, as we were enjoying a coffee in our sitootery, a magnificent, sleek stoat came dashing down the road, always an exciting animal to see. When it reached the dry-steen dyke, which I rebuilt a few years ago, this proved to be of great interest to it and it proceeded to investigate the holes and spaces amongst the stones. Sheila and I sat enthralled as this active hunter searched the dyke, disappearing for a few seconds then re-appearing again. After a few minutes it crossed the road and disappeared into the grass.

Another interesting tiny mammal appeared at dusk on the 26th of May, a hunter par excellence, a pipistrelle bat. What wonderful creatures they are! It is the smallest European bat, its body length approx. 45mm, just under 2 inches. They produce only two young once a year, and really are very exciting animals to watch as they flit amongst the tree tops chasing insects and moths.

As I prepare these Notes with a week to go of the month of June, the number of bird species recorded so far in the Mossies Log-book is 33.

Our boiler-shed swallows, whom I mentioned last month, have hatched, fledged, safely left the nest and are now fending for themselves. They do of course return to roost every night in the said boiler shed, and I’m sure I don’t need to describe the consequences...!

Both Sheila and I have spent quite a bit of time over the last two weeks watching a male great-spotted woodpecker attending to two very demanding youngsters – a most interesting and delightful spectacle to be so close to. They certainly seem to be enjoying our peanuts, I have to replenish the nut baskets about every second day at the moment!

Then, for about three days in the middle of the month, a party of six beautiful long-tailed tits decided to feed on the peanuts as well.

While this June has been pretty good for birds, it will be remembered here at Mossies as being very poor for butterflies, with only small green-veined whites and large whites so far recorded. However the real exciting event of the month occurred when I wasn’t here! Sheila was enjoying a fly-cup in the sitootery when a dog fox appeared on the grass in front of the house. As our hens were all out on the said grass, Sheila made a speedy and noisy exit from the house which scared off the fox and probably saved the hens!

I just wish he would catch some of the multitude of rabbits we are currently plagued with...