Woodcock’s Lament

April 15, 2018 at 12:48 pm

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This weeks photo of a female Woodcock settling on her eggs in a bluebell wood is just a past memory. It was taken as a colour print in 2005 when I spent five hours a day in my hide for three weeks waiting for the eggs to hatch. In those days Woodcock bred in most woodlands but today those very same woodlands have none. Instead there are now Buzzards in each of the woods. The birding hierarchy don’t seem to be able to link the 50% decline in Woodcock numbers, over the last ten years, to the more than 50% increase in Buzzard numbers over the same period.
One day before the eggs of this Woodcock hatched I had direct evidence of this threat. Our Woodcock had been relaxed on the eggs for several hours when all of a sudden she crouched flat out in the nest and froze  Seconds later she exploded off the eggs with a Buzzard two foot behind her in full chase. Remarkably twenty minutes later she walked back onto the eggs and continued to incubate as if nothing had happened. The following day the eggs hatched – but Woodcock have not nested in that wood since the close escape.
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Gathering Feathers

April 7, 2018 at 5:29 pm

LT Tit
There is little doubt that the most exciting time to photograph Long Tailed Tits is when they are lining their nests with feathers. The only problem of course is that you have to find a nest at the time when it is being lined which takes less than ten days. This year , because of the extended winter weather, nest-building is about a fortnight later than normal and last week I managed to locate a nest, in a gorse bush, that was being lined. Visits were made by both birds at approximately ten minute intervals and they particularly liked white feathers. click here
On a fabulous day of sunshine this week I found my first butterflies of the year with both Small Tortoiseshell and Comma enjoying the warmth. Chiff-chaffs are now singing in many localities so lets hope that Spring has finally arrived.

The Speyside Gem

March 31, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Crested tit
There is no doubt that the top bird on any birdwatcher’s visit to Speyside is the Crested Tit. Normally by late March they are nest-building and very hard to find in the forest. This year, because of the extended winter weather, some were still coming to feeders and I was able to obtain some shots of this forest gem along with some other Caledonian forest birds.
During our short visit to Speyside we had a classic example of how you should always have your camera readily available to take a photo. A full day in the Findhorn valley failed to find any Golden Eagles so the camera was put away as we returned to the Spey valley and called at Boat of Garden community hall to visit the toilets. As we got out of the car anxious calling from Black Headed Gulls caused us to look up and less than thirty feet above was a full adult Golden Eagle with five Gulls mobbing it!! A passing lady, walking her dog, then informed us that it flew over regularly! Click here

Mountain Hare Spectacle

March 23, 2018 at 7:43 pm

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When you have been involved with wildlife all your life there are days that stand out when everything comes good and one of those days occurred this week. With sunshine, no wind and the spectacle of Scotlands Findhorn valley I climbed up into the snows at 3000 feet with camera, lens and tripod and spent a magical couple of hours in the company of twenty one Mountain Hares. It was absolute magic and made even better when a pair of Merlins had an altercation with a pair of Ravens as I trekked back down the mountain. I had surprised myself in being able to climb to the plateaux where the Hares were feeding, complete with all the heavy equipment needed to film them, but realistically will I ever need to do it again? Click here

Missing Longies

March 17, 2018 at 8:58 pm

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No two years are ever the same in the species that winter in Britain. This winter has seen virtually no Waxwings, a few Fieldfares and hardly any migrant Owls. The photo in this weeks blog is the only Long Eared Owl I have come across despite some searching.It is deep in the cover of a Hawthorne so just to wet the appetite I have included in the gallery some of the most photogenic ones I have come across over the last five years. Click here
If it has been a poor winter for Owls it has been my best ever for Jack Snipe. Todays late sighting has been my 108th since the first on the 10th October which is ten times more than I have ever seen in previous winters in fifty years! With the present weather they will not be flying east too quickly!

A New Garden Bird

March 11, 2018 at 9:10 pm

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Last weeks severe winter weather had a dramatic effect on the number of birds feeding in the garden and we had a record fourteen Long Tailed Tits and six Reed Buntings. What we didn’t expect was a new species to appear after residing in Castleton for fifty years. As our local canal was frozen inches thick in ice a Moorhen decided to walk into our garden and climbed up to the fat balls. It spent two days coming and going to the fat balls until the canal had thawed out and we have not seen it since. Photos in this weeks gallery.Click here
With the return of spring-like weather this week I found my first frog-spawn on the 7th and encountered my first male Adder on the same date even though the temperature was only 8 degrees C and there was snow on the ground!

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