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December 2012

There are so many great areas for wildlife in Clackmannanshire and Menstrie is no exception. This time of year is great for watching wildlife that may otherwise be hidden by the cover of leaves. Keep your eyes open for the Peregrines on the Ochils just above Menstrie. Just the other day I was watching one being mobbed by crows. These birds are incredible, flying up to 200mph when in pursuit of prey in a controlled dive known as a stoop.

This is also the time of year, with the nights drawing in, when nocturnal animals tend to be out a little earlier. If you are out walking around sunset keep your eyes open for Owls. There is a good population of Barn Owls in the area. These are beautiful birds and easily identified by the whiteness of their bodies as they fly out of the trees. Barn Owls don't make the Twit to woo noise that most people expect from owls (this is actually two Tawny Owls - one calling 'Twit' the other 'To woo'). Barn Owls hiss and screech and can sound a bit ghostly when you are out walking on your own.

Sunset brings with it other animals - Otters, for example, are active from sunset to sunrise and can be found on the Menstrie burn.The Countryside Ranger Service have surveyed it for Otters since 2004 and found signs of Otter spraint). There have also been recent sightings of Badgers, which as a Countryside Ranger I would love to hear about. We don't have a lot of records of Badgers in Clackmannanshire so if you know of any setts that may be active please let us know by emailing us at rangers@clacks.gov.uk.

There is one more thing that I would like to emphasise at this time of year and that is feeding the birds. As the hours in the day grow fewer, there is less time for the day flying birds to find food and food becomes scarce too. If you can, putting out some fat balls will help them a great deal as they have the calories to get them through the winter. It need not be expensive to feed them - you can make your own. A lump of lard will make about eight balls and you can decide on the ingredients that you want to add from the following list - grated cheese, raisins, general seed, sunflowers, breadcrumbs (preferably brown as white has a lot of yeast in it), mealworms (loved by Robins) and squashed berries. You can also use bacon fat instead of lard. Mash up the ingredients until the ball feels fairly firm, tie a piece of string on it and hang it up on a tree. It won't be long before you have a lot of happy visitors.

Lisa Ford, Countryside Ranger

December 2012

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