Wildlife notes – 24 Aug 07

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Some of our wildlife is taken for granted – it’s ordinary. Some signpost the seasons, others are silent and invisible.

Take soil microbes, for example, sitting unnoticed beneath our feet, an ecological treasure trove whose unfathomed biochemical sorcery keeps us all alive. Of course we all tend to pay attention to those who shout the loudest. Proving the point, this week a pair of Raven made their presence known to all, as they cawed atop the larches next to the conference centre. Ravens are the largest type of crow in our countryside, larger than a Buzzard, and despite their vulgar voices they seemed rather regal.

Ironically, last night I discovered some very loud, abundant creatures that I have been close to many times yet never noticed them. And despite the fact that now I know they are there – I still don’t exactly know what they are! Whilst walking around with a bat detector, listening to bat ultrasound , I could hear a repetitive rasping in the grass. There were hundreds of hidden crickets, shouting across to each other, but all avoided being spotted in torchlight. And when I switched off the bat detector I couldn’t hear a thing! So when Jason Bryan (poultry foreman) passed by, I had to explain what I was doing staring into the dark grass and to prove I wasn’t nuts, demonstrated the ultrasound phenomenon. Hopefully he left convinced.

Swallows, eagerly welcomed symbols of Spring, perhaps merge into the background in August (their screams dominate The Archers on Radio 4 right now!) but some of them are still busy rearing their last brood of young before migration time. The family of swallows nesting at my place have 4 chicks almost ready to fly, on a platform close to the front door. Next week they’ll fledge, and I hope to see it happen. Watch the 4-second video clip below, from our growing collection on YouTube.

 Jason Ball

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