Corncrakes A Plenty

May 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Long Tailed Titl

We have been lucky to have spent the past week on Islay in glorious weather and no midges!

In the superb weather a great deal of time has been spent in the hills looking for raptors. Hen Harriers,Peregrines, Sea and Golden Eagles have all been encountered. Whilst in my hide one morning I had an experience that I often thought might happen. A Cuckoo alighted on the roof and spent twenty minutes calling at full pitch. It was a novel experience to sit inches below it in the hide and I was tempted to tickle its feet from underneath! Cuckoos are still quite common on Islay and one day we saw three together on two occasions.

The Summery weather has produced more Corncrakes calling than normal and enabled me to obtain some good film of them

On the down side the flowers are weeks later than normal due to the cold Spring and two days searching for Otters failed to find any. I often suspect at this time of the year that they become more nocturnal in their feeding due to more people being around the beaches etc.

The Holy Grail

May 20, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Long Tailed Titl

At long last, after hours of searching, I managed to find an incubating Woodcock. Unfortunately she was sat in rushes and white grass with only a handful of leaves to hide her but beggars can’t be choosers and an incubating Woodcock is always the prime target for Spring.

Whilst I have won with the Woodcock I have failed to find a Golden Plover’s nest for the first time in many years. Weather conditions on the moor have not helped and in addition a pair of Short Eared Owls are nesting where the Plover usually breed and they have caused some disturbance to them.

There has been a good show of Early Purple Orchids this Spring, although they are two weeks later than normal appearing. Whilst I was searching for the Orchids I came across a female Tawny Owl brooding young in a hole in the base of a tree. It is always good to find a ground nesting Tawny Owl.

In the garden three recently fledged Greenfinches were being fed by the male. Young Dunnocks have also appeared for th first time this season.

What Happened To Summer?

May 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Long Tailed Titl

Long Tailed Titl

During the week I continued the search for Woodcock and Golden Plover hoping for better luck than last week. On the 11th at 1000 feet the temperature was only 4°C and coupled with the strong wind it was impossible to contemplate a walk on the moor. In fact it was the worse day I have ever seen on the moors in May in forty years.

The only good day of the week was on Sunday 6th May and as this was the Bank Holiday weekend I decided to ignore a walk up Pendle Hill to look for Dotterel and instead searched the top of Brown Wardle, a local hill in Rochdale, where nine Dotterel have turned up in two consecutive Springs. The photo above shows what a perfect morning it was but sadly no Dotterel could be found. In the evening I checked a birding website and admired some wonderful photos of five Dotterel that an eleven year old girl had taken on Pendle HIll that very same morning. Clearly, I went up the wrong hill!

Whilst searching an Oak wood for Woodcock I heard a tapping sound coming from inside a tree. The culprit was a Great Spotted Woodpecker chipping the nesting chamber.

With the cold weather it is not surprising that the garden continues to attract a good variety of birds and on three days this last week twenty or more species have fed during the day. The highlights have been up to four Redpolls and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Depression Sets In

May 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Long Tailed Titl

When you have been filming birds for forty years you expect good and bad luck but this week’s events have been the most trying I have ever experienced. Firstly, last year I had three pairs of Long Eared Owls that between them raised at least nine young. This year one of those pairs is missing and another one has already deserted its eggs due to the annual problem of campers in the wood. One pair left and the other night I spent two hours under the camouflage cloth hoping to film the hunting male for by now they should have had half grown young in the old Magpie’s nest.There was no sign of the male so I decided to check the nest and as soon as I saw the pine tree I knew why he was not hunting. Some of the branches had been snapped off by someone climbing the tree to the nest and removing the contents.

As if the Long Eared Owl situation wasn’t bad enough I checked my Tawny Owl site in the hollow tree . The nest was empty and as I saw a Stoat nearby that was obviously the culprit. Hopefully the female Owl will have left the hole before the Stoat predated the two young. It is a very disappointing outcome after many successful years in this hollow tree and it is bound to discourage her from ever using this site again.

At least I still had my Kingfishers that had small young and both birds catching fish for them.On a perfect morning I spent two hours at the site and only saw one adult and it was not carrying any fish. So I took my torch and looked up the tunnel to the nest chamber, finding that it was empty. The reason was in the mud below the hole, where one could see the footprints of a mink. What a sad outcome for the Kingfishers and a diabolical week for me!!The only good news of the week was obtaining the Whimbrel photo which I took in Bowland and was a new pennine bird for me.

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