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The birds of the pine marten wood (part two)


Last week I began writing about the birds that I have seen near the pine marten wood. There was so much to write that I split the post over two weeks. 

The pine marten wood is on the heather moor high above my village, and it's been fascinating to see how many species survive on what is a very cold and exposed moor with very few forests. It was especially cool to get a glimpse of one VERY RARE BIRD. Read on to find out what that was ! 

Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus)

RSPB Amber status

Red grouse are fascinating. I have seen quite a few of them this year, but hardly any in previous years. They seem to like the exposed heather moors, rather than the farmland, and often you hear them before you see them, singing their "go back" cry. I think this is a juvenile or a female because it is missing something which red grouse are well known for:

...this bright red patch just above their eye !

Their wings move very fast. It almost looks like a blurry H from behind because the wing go from the very top to the very bottom. 

The moors used to be used until recently for game shooting. The grouse left are probably left over from that, but that doesn't mean they are still safe, because of another bird that lives up there....which is....

Red kites (Milvus milvus)

RSPB Amber Status

Red kites are very common around here because of the Argaty Red Kite centre which is about ten miles away. They are very distinctive when in the air because of their huge wingspan and forked tail.

There are only 1,600 breeding pairs in the UK and they mainly eat carrion and worms. I've seen red kites on the lower levels of the hills, but it's only this year that I've seen them right up on the tops. Some red kites are tagged with strips of plastic on the wings which show an ID number as well as where and when they were born with a colour coded system, but the ones I have seen up here have been untagged.

Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus )

RSPB Green status

We have only seen the sparrowhawk a few times before, but it is one of my favourites. They are not very common but sometimes you can see them in towns and cities, and one of my neighbours had one which killed a jackdaw in her garden. Their are about 35,000 breeding pairs in the UK and they mainly eat small birds.

The sparrowhawk seems to live in woods on the lower north slopes of the moor. Dad saw this one last year. It had just snatched a crow chick from a nest, and if you look carefully you can see it in its talons.

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

 RSPB Green status

I have not seen the stonechat much and it it very fast and small so it is hard to spot. This male was on some heather twitching his tail and singing. nearby, this female (in the next picture) was singing back:

There are 59,000 breeding pairs in the UK and they eat insect, seeds and fruit.

Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus) 

RSPB Red status

This was the BIG surprise. I have only seen a wild hen harrier once briefly, about a mile to the west of the pine marten wood, so dad only got blurry photos. Even so, you can tell that it is a hen harrier because of the white patch on the tail. Females and juveniles are brown with that white patch and the males are grey.

There are only 617 breeding pairs in the UK, and in the past they have been persecuted by gamekeepers because they feed on small game birds such as grouse and pheasant.

I'll be definitely be keeping an eye out for these in the future !

Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) 

No RSPB status

Pheasants are very common near where I liv, where they are bred in there thousands to be shot by shooting partied. Males are extremely colourful with  a red face and lovely tail feathers and the females are more drab.

The pheasant enclosures on the moor have been slowly destroyed by storms over recent years, and I don't think there is any shooting which takes place there now.

This sequence of photos is very unusual. It was last year, about a mile east of the wood, and shows two males fighting !

Jays (Garrulus glandarius)

RSPB Green Status

While I had seen jays on the moor, I had no idea there were any in the pine marten wood. I have only seen a wild jay once, but when I started bone collecting a found a amazing jay feather. They are part of the same family as crows and they have a blue streak on their wings. 

The reason I know they were there is that I left some jam sandwiches out hoping to catch the pine marten on video, but instead I got a jay eating the sandwiches within an hour of leaving them ! 

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