This year closes out in mild conditions but it will be remembered for its extremely low temperatures in January followed at the year end by the coldest December in more than a century – hard for the birds but excellent filming conditions.
In January I visited Finland to film Golden Eagle in the snow. What I endured was the coldest day I shall ever film birds in with a temperature of minus 31°C at the start and nine hours later it had risen to only minus 26°C! Whilst I was in a wooden hide the extremely low temperatures froze the milk for the tea in my flask and the two Mars bars I was supposed to eat were like house bricks. I am still amazed the cameras worked and I obtained some amazing film with the only legacy being frost bite in a finger tip which lasted about a month.
Our fortnight on Islay in February continued the cold theme with severe frost on most mornings and one day producing four inches of snow. The island in deep snow is breathtaking and we only wish we could have been there in December when there was a repeat performance.
All of this years filming at home was directed towards the completion of the new DVD on Pennine Birds. I had to find a good Tawny Owl site and Little Owl site for the filming and in the end came up with two good sites, perfect weather and young fledging before the camera. The Summer also produced Long Eared Owls hunting before sunset and together with more Barn Owl film has ensured that fourteen species of raptor are included in the DVD.
In all the glorious weather of June I spent five hours a day for ten days filming a pair of Kingfishers and waited for the magical moment when the young would fledge and stand next to each other on a branch. Frustratingly this only happens on BBC films for whilst I did get each young leaving the tunnel they all sat in different places! Try again next year.
In July I returned to Finland to film Ospreys at the nest. I had a magical two days in a tree hide opposite the nest and on one of those days the male returned, with fish, nine times during my eleven hour stay. My visit also coincided with a record high temperature of 34°C making a variation of 65° from my visit in January.
Our visit to Islay in May/June was once again blessed with fabulous weather and good birds. Most of our time was spent on Hen Harriers and we finally filmed a male Hen Harrier visiting the nest with prey, something that has always eluded me in the past.
Having missed going to Islay last Autumn we spent two weeks there in late October. The Geese had just arrived and better still the island was full of my favourite birds, the Waxwing. Much time was spent searching them out. Whilst the weather was pretty wild we did have three fantastic sunsets and the Geese landed exactly in the right position!
During the year the garden has provided me with some good film of such birds as Bullfinches,Jay and Sparrowhawk. The highlight has to have been the return on the 24th December of the Willow Tit. Four times in the last five years this bird has fed in the garden but the question is of course is it the same bird?
For four months, at the later part of the year, we have been editing the new DVD entitled ‘Pennine Birds” It is the culmination of five years of video filming and is the most spectacular film I will ever produce and includes all the special birds you would expect to see in the Pennines. It can be ordered through my website
I would like to wish you all the very best for the New Year. Gordon