In the corner of the first meadow is a fenced off area used by the previous owners to keep a horse. We call it the Ant Paddock because the grass has not been cut in there for years and years and it has become very hummocky with some quite large anthills.
It is very different in there from the rest of the meadow and, presumably, rich in rodent life since they will get protection from the grass tussocks that have built up. Certainly it is criss crossed by numerous fox tracks where they clearly like to hunt.
But it seems that foxes are not the only predators attracted to this area. We have noticed that the ivy below the stretch of fence in this photo is splattered with the droppings of a large bird. And there was also a pellet:
What I didn’t realise until today was that it isn’t just owls that produce pellets. A pellet is a regurgitation of all the things that they have swallowed that they can’t digest – bones, feathers, etc and all birds of prey produce them as well as many other birds as well. We pulled this pellet apart and found lots of feathers and a few little delicate bones.
I have done some research to try to discover what bird might have produced this pellet but not had a great deal of success since there seems to be a great deal of variability. My best guess is that it is a Sparrowhawk since we have seen them around and they eat mainly birds and so you would expect a feathery pellet like this. However, Sparrowhawks tend to lurk in places where they are hidden before they shoot out at their poor unsuspecting prey. They don’t tend to hang around on fences.
The other birds of prey that we have seen are Kestrel (doesn’t eat other birds though), Short Eared Owl and Tawny Owl (I think both of these mainly eat rodents as well).
So its yet another mystery to add to the list. We might get a trap camera trained onto the fence over the next few days and see if that comes up with any answers.