Winter and Spring wildlife
End of winter wildlife watching in Boscastle
This time of year might seem cold and miserable, however this is a very exciting time in the wildlife calendar because now is the time when our year round birds and mammals are beginning to pair up for the spring.
Soon one may be lucky enough to witness the spectacle of the boxing ‘Mad March brown’ which may be seen across the lonely stubble fields between now and early April. Where the males are seen vying for female attention, however contrary to popular belief it is the females that do all the boxing by fighting off unwanted male attention. About forty days later up to ten leverets are born already covered in fur and eyes open ready, because a hares den called a ‘form’ or a ‘couch’ is nothing more than a small depression in the earth with a little grass cover, ideal for a wandering fox or a hovering buzzard to locate, as these predators will take full advantage at this time of year.
Other breeding mammals at this time include Badgers, Daubenton Bats, (bats that live around rivers) Foxes, Wood mice Rabbits and even the odd escaped Wild boar!
In the avian world a very underrated bird is on the prowl preparing for the onset of the breeding season, Larus marinus or the Great black backed gull. This is Britains main if not only real kleptoparisite or pirate. These huge birds that mate for life and live in pairs amongst other seabird colonies such as Herring gulls, Gullimots, Razorbills, Puffins, Cormorants and Kittiwakes. They exalt themselves at the top of the food chain as if royalty. One will never witness this flagship gull species ever being bothered by anything around these particular waters, they stalk out, then rob unsuspecting seabirds returning with their quarry, it is amazing to see such a seemingly cumbersome bird become quite agile when the topic turns to freshly caught fish. They are also partial to other bird’s chicks and can even manage to swallow down whole rabbits. They lay their eggs just before the frenzied Herring gull season in order to take full advantage of the rich pickings on offer.
Fieldfares and Redwings our main winter visitors have March to prepare for migration to the Conifer and Birch forests of Northern Europe, they can be seen in large flocks on open farmland along with Corn buntings, Woodcock, rock and meadow pipits (which congregate together in the winter) Wood pigeons and Pheasants.
The period between March and April is the avian version of a shift change where the winter visitors leave awaiting the arrival of the summer species, beginning with the characteristic Chiffchaff, which hails the start of the warmer months.
From the raptors perspective The ‘Pentargon two’ Peregrines are relaxing before another hectic breeding season beginning in May which will hopefully be every bit as successful as last year. At the moment they only need to feed every other day peregrinating as far as Tintagel to hunt for their favourite pigeon prey before returning to separate vantage points high up on the sheer cliffs.
Other birds to spot around the area are the many Kestrels hunting Voles amongst the hillside bracken, Sparrow hawks darting through hedges pouncing on unsuspecting garden birds, (a tell tale sign is a pile of feathers underneath a fence post or a low branch.) Long-tailed tits twittering in medium sized groups inside the canopies of bare deciduous trees along with Goldcrests, Hedge sparrows and the ever present Robin staking claim to his ‘patch’. Down on the harbour rocks along with rock pipits there are also Grey wagtails (yellow in colour) White wagtails (grey in colour) Dippers, Oystercatchers and possibly the solitary elusive Purple sandpiper which prefer to perch a few meters up the cliff above the crashing waver.
Great spotted woodpeckers are slightly more apparent than their larger Green cousins, along with nuthatches and Tree-creepers and in the boggy areas look out for the Snipe nipping out of sight very quickly.
Enjoy the Spring.