Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Raptors, hay and other things

Our main task over the last week has been cutting the hay; or for my part overseeing the process! In the past we have arrived late in the summer to an overgrown field and ended up giving the hay away to the local dairy farmer who uses it to feed his cows. This year however, we have had a bit more time to appreciate our resource and start to manage it. The first thing we did was fertilize it and pray for rain. There was a little, but not really enough to get it going. However, by last week the field was as thriving as it was ever going to get this year, and ready for cutting. Our dairy farmer friend arrived with his big tractor and cut the field in a matter of hours. The sound and sight of this tractor attracted every bird of prey for miles, and at one point I counted about sixteen hovering around; diving the tractor to get the fresh grasshoppers as they lept out of the way. After the cutting, they feasted in the field for a few days on the remains of the dead wildlife until they were so full they couldn't fly! As our neighbour said, this must be where the phrase 'having a field day' came from as they gave the impression this was raptor heaven. Mostly they were buzzards, with one or two smaller hen harriers and maybe a kite or two.

A few days after the cutting our farmer friends returned to fluff the hay into piles ready for baling. (I'm sure this has a technical term but we don't know what it is). After fluffing the race was on to bale; Ian with his small tractor and a square baler and the farmer with his larger round baler. The agreement was that he could take 10 large bales in payment for cutting the field and we would keep the small bales for ourselves and to sell. All was going well until the small baler malfunctioned due to incorrect string and in the end the farmer got 12 bales and we got about 230 smaller sqaure bales. We inlisted the help of our neighbours to load the bales onto the trailer while I drove the van and we collected them all up, stacked them and covered them. We were in a hurry to get them in before the rain the following day; only the rain never came.

On the subject of bird of prey, when we were sitting eating our chocolate cake the other week there were two birds of prey circling above us which our neighbours identified as kites. They were then 'joined' by a third much bigger bird. A fight ensued and eventually the bigger bird was driven away. Our neighbours reckon the bigger bird was a short-toed eagle but if so it is a bit off its usual course as they are found more toward the Pyrennes and the mountains. However, the dry weather and shortage of food may have attracted them further East.


mike said...

I wonder what it was about the tractor and its work that attracted the raptors? I found out a few weeks ago that there are loads of red kites in the mid-Chilterns area now. On a 50km ride around the area I saw literally dozens of them. I couldn't go for more than a few minutes without seeing another pair. They're such beautiful birds, with their russet colouring and graceful gliding, seeming only rarely to need to flap their wings. They were extinct in England and the UK other than a few pairs in mid-Wales until a few decades ago, so it's great to see so many of them!

Lovely's Blot said...

Sadly with the tractors I think it's because they destroy the places where the mice, rodents and grasshoppers hide, making an effortless feast. It is lovely to see them though.. as a Londoner I never saw anything bigger than a blackbird when I was growing up!