Sunday, 1 June 2014

Lots of Ravens!

It's that time of the month again, so despite being sleep deprived by moth trapping all night, Friday, it was up at 02:30, this morning, into the car and up to Blaen-nant by 03:15, then the walk to the count point, getting there at 03:30 and setting up ready. The skies were clear and starry, with a pale blue glow in the N.East, hinting at the dawn to come. I sat on my camp chair and waited, all the while listening to the song and calls of  Skylark, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Cuckoo and Robin. Staring at the horizon, which is the crown of the hill on which the roost is situated, \I noticed a brief flurry of wings against the lightening sky, paying more attention, I saw a large bird hovering, low over the ground, with flapping wings, then drop, but by the time I'd wrestled the rain guard off my bins, there was no sign of it above the horizon and it was too dark below it to be able so see anything. I continued to scan the horizon, half expecting to see a Nightjar, which is what I thought it had probably been, but when I picked it up again, revealed was the unmistakable silhouette of a distant Barn Owl, becoming even more distant as it flew purposefully away from me, possibly taking prey back to its brood. I've seen Barn Owl there, once before, a few years ago, but this one was a particularly welcome sight, as it was a year tick for me.

The normal pattern of the fly out at the raven roost is for a steady stream of small groups, consisting of two or three birds to leave over an hour or so, with a few longish gaps and the odd larger group. This time, however, things were a little more spectacular, with most of the birds leaving in three large groups, interspersed with a few smaller parties. The first bird appeared at 04:15 and was quickly followed by a mass exodus that filled the sky with ravens. It lasted about five minutes and in that time 189 birds had been counted, but then there was a twenty minute gap until the next ravens appeared: a few small groups, then another sky full. So it went until the last couple of pairs, at 05:35, by which time the count had reached 426, which is comfortably the highest ever June count and only one short of the highest ever count for the roost.


It will be interesting to see if this trend continues through into the peak months of August and September.

By the time the count was coming to an end, the sky had been invaded by a thin cover of Cirrus and Cirrostratus, in which, with the sun still below the horizon, I spotted this bright, 'V' shaped patch in the sky, directly above the sun and connected to it by a very, very faint sun pillar, which isn't very visible in this photo.

 The 'V' patch is called an Upper Tangent Arc and is usually attached to a 22 degree sun halo at the bottom end, but in this case, the halo hasn't formed. Tangent Arcs are formed when sunlight is refracted through columnar shaped, hexagonal ice needles falling in a horizontal position.


  1. Brilliant report as usual Mark. I reckon you will beat the record for the ravens in the next few months. Sad to say I haven't seen an owl in the UK this year so jealous of the Barn Owl.

  2. I'm going to make you sick, then, when I tell you that moth trapping in Cwm Taf Fechan, Friday night, I had two fledged Tawny Owls sitting and squeaking on a branch almost above the trap and at least one adult calling to them, nearby.

  3. You can go off some people lol.

  4. Excellent report and pics Mark, sounds like a beautiful morning. As usual at this time of year I'm being used as a nocturnal midge attractant.

  5. I could have done with you at CTF, on Friday, Mike. The repellent I had with me had been in the car for about four years an was somewhat lacking in its efficacy :¬(