I spent a few hours at Lake Farm today, first of all with Sue and Jasper the bird-dog, and then with Corinna and Mark.
Sue told me some very interesting news. The work on building the new school has been halted while archaeologists examine a section of a wall that has been uncovered. What will this mean for the new school, or for Lake Farm in general ? Only time will tell. The huge great yellow machine that I've seen there on my last three visits, has gone, as have all the construction workers. All that remains is a solo portaloo, and large dug up areas surrounded by fencing.
Sue and I had a wander around the gated off construction site. The new school is meant to be built to one side of the path that cuts across the park, but deep trenches have cut across the path and into an area where I 100% know, Skylarks nested in this year. Looking at the state of the ground now, the Skylarks wont be nesting in that particular area next year.
Above. Is this the mysterious 'wall' (middle of photo) that has stopped construction at Lake Farm ?
Below. The area to the right of the path is not part of the new school. Its not meant to be built on.
Bird-wise, it was fairly quiet for Sue and me. We watched a couple of Linnets posing for a while, and tracked down a skulking Common Whitethroat.
Jasper the bird-dog
Sue and Jasper left shortly after, and Corinna joined me for a wander. We found a small group of juvenile House Sparrows within the construction site. They had vacated the area when the construction work began, but now its all quiet, they've moved back. Juvenile male below.
Mark joined us at this stage. We had a gander around the BMX track, and were rewarded with six Linnets and a solo male Northern Wheatear (below).
We were chatting by the BMX fence when Corinna noticed all the feral pigeons go up at the other end of the park. Amongst them was a much bigger bird, and as it pulled away from the flock we realised it was a Red Kite. And it had prey. When we first saw it, it was quite near the ground, so our only assumption was that it had swooped and caught one of the many feral pigeons that feed there. Or maybe there was a dead pigeon already on the ground, and the Kite had come down and taken it. Either way whoever was driving or walking along Botwell Common Road, must have had quite a shock witnessing that !
The Kite flew over to where we were, but annoyingly chose to soar close to the sun so sadly my photos are not clear, we could see more detail through our bins. The Kite was plucking its prey while soaring on the thermals. We really thought it would try to find somewhere to land to finish eating, but it didn't, and by the time it soared away towards Stockley Park, it had completely eaten its prey, bones and all. Red Kites are capable of digesting bones and large feathers. The Kite we saw today did pluck a few feathers, but certainly not all of them.
I've watched Red Kites from Watlington Hill, and seen them often going over Cranford Park, and Lake Farm, but I have seen them pluck and eat on the wing. I'm glad that three of us witnessed this behaviour. I don't think anyone would have believed me if I'd been on my own !!