The Inglorious Twelfth

August 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm

short eared owl
Today is the start of the Grouse shooting season and as we all know the gamekeepers have been out with their guns well before the twelfth. Apart from the odd Buzzard this weeks Short Eared Owl was the only raptor seen in our recent five day visit to Speyside. The Hen Harriers that once inhabited these moors have been heavily persecuted. In England this year only three pairs of Hen Harriers have bred successfully and all of these were on forestry land not Grouse moorland. It is a national disgrace which this Government seems incapable of solving.
When you are involved with wildlife all your life events happen which you know you will never see again. One such event occurred as we drove south on the A9 – one of Scotlands busiest roads. I suddenly noticed, on the other side of the road, a Woodcock with four day old young that she was about to take across the road! As we sped past she flew over the bonnet of the following car and landed on our side of the road from where she would have called them across to her. Whether they made it we shall never know but as there was a lull in the following traffic I like to think that they did.
This weeks gallery includes a small selection of Speyside photos including the Kingfisher that was present at the Osprey fishing pool and is still there today! Click Here

The Dive

August 5, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Osprey
When an Osprey dives in pursuit of prey the impact at 40 miles per hour is enough to take the bird almost completely underwater as shown in this weeks blog photo. Remarkably the Osprey can then take off with its prey, even though it is soaked through. In comparison the Sea Eagle has to pluck its fish off the surface of the water for it is too large to take off from the sea and would have to swim to the shore if it got it wrong.
Last week I visited Aviemore  to film the fishing Ospreys. The light at 5.00am was not good but apparently was better than it had been on the days before I arrived! There was an added bonus when a Kingfisher turned up one morning and provided action from another spectacular aquatic hunter. Click here

Little Gems

July 29, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Little Owls
I had almost forgotten what a joy it was to watch young Little owls being fed and learning how to fly. Several visits have been made to an old barn where I found a family of young owls. At times the young owls flew to within five feet of the car and  provided me with some delightful photos. Click here. Sadly in recent years my local Little Owls have disappeared from several locations which I put down to the massive increase in the number of Buzzards.
After last weeks photos of a male Long Eared Owl I have been asked how did I know it was a male as there is no discernible difference between the plumage of the sexes. Luckily, when I found the nest earlier the female was on the nest and looked down at me with yellow eyes. As soon as the young Owls fledge the nest they are usually fed by the male who had deep orange eyes. The eye colour of Long Eared Owls differs considerably and during the winter of 1976 I was lucky enough to catch 6 Long Eared Owls in a mist net, for ringing purposes and each one of them had different shades of orange/yellow eyes.

Oh What A Night!

July 22, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Long Eared Owl
After a lifetime of visits into the Pennines in search of wildlife to film I have lost track of the number of evenings when you return home having seen and filmed nothing. If you are lucky you might flush a Meadow Pipit from a nest or perhaps encounter a Twite. However, nothing prepared me for one night last week when I returned home with film of three species of Owl.
Initially I set out to check a plantation for Long Eared Owls. Before I arrived at the plantation I passed a ruined barn and spotted four young Little Owls on the roof ready to fledge! After filming these I reached the plantation and found a male Long Eared Owl hunting the moorland edge. Calls from the forest gave away three young Owls and it was up to the male to satisfy their hunger. To me there is no more spectacular Pennine raptor than a hunting male Long Eared Owl. He did not disappoint and provided me with the best photos I have ever had of this illusive Owl. Click here for the photos
It was 10.00pm as I made my way back home on a winding country road. As I rounded a corner a richly marked Tawny Owl was on a drystone wall looking for prey. I upped the ISO on my camera to 4000 and took a few photos of my third Owl species of the night – How can I possibly beat that? Next weeks gallery will be devoted entirely to the Little Owls.

House Martin Mystery

July 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

H.ouse MartinJPG
One of the most welcome signs of summer are the return of House Martins nesting under the house eaves. Unfortunately over the last ten years their numbers are down by half and no one seems to know why. In many cases the nature of our summers produces extremes of weather which has resulted in the mud used for their nests being of inferior quality and as a result nests falling down with disastrous results. The erection of artificial nest-boxes for House Martins may well be one answer to the problem. Some years ago now I watched House Martins feeding young in a nest on our local estate in the last week of October – sadly these birds have long since gone.
This weeks photo is from a nest under a stone window sill, not under the eaves where they normally nest. Both Martins were catching large flying insects over a meadow nearby. click here

Ant Eggs For Lunch

July 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Green Woodpecker
After raptors, a day in the Pennines can be highlighted by good views of Woodpeckers, especially the Green Woodpecker, who is more often heard than seen. In nearly fifty years of filming I have still only ever filmed half a dozen Green Woodpeckers at the nest. The recent dry, warm weather was perfect for ants, which are the Green Woodpecker’s main source of food. With a nest-hole only six feet off the ground it was a perfect combination to await the young Woodpeckers leaning out of the hole to receive the ant eggs. Even though the young were about to fledge the male Green Woodpecker still insisted on going into the nest-chamber to give it a clean, as shown in the gallery photos. Click here

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