At 10am on the 26th March I stood on the top of Cairngorm one of Britain’s highest mountains at more than 4000ft. The views in every direction were spectacular and there was hardly any wind which is a rarity on this mountain as it has recorded Britain’s highest wind speed at nearly 200mph. I had of course not come for the view but to film Ptarmigan and I was not disappointed. During my two hours around the summit I encountered more than a dozen individual birds with the males already moulting from their pure white Winter coat. It was extremely icy at this high altitude and on one occasion I slid more than twenty foot still clutching my equipment. With a chip on the lens Cairngorm has now left its permanent mark!
Two days before the successful ascent I tried to walk to the summit from the ski center below but was beaten back by a strong wind that produced white-out conditions. On the way down I encountered Red Grouse and Mountain Hare both of which provided some good photos. Click here The ski center car park had over fifty Snow Buntings feeding on the 24th but all had gone by the 26th.
This Spring has come early in Speyside with several Ospreys already back at their nest sites. Crested Tits were very elusive as most had returned to the deep forests to breed. Even on the coast all the Long Tailed Ducks were out on the sea ready to fly back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia. There is no doubt that this area is a very special place for the wildlife enthusiast and to have the weather we had was exceptional.
This week’s photo is of a Kingfisher regurgitating a fish bone pellet following its last fish supper. It was taken this week as I spent three hours on my birthday sat in my hide in a remote Pennine stream with a pair of Kingfishers digging out their nest chamber, What better birthday present could you wish for than a pair of Kingfishers perching in exactly the right place in full sunshine? My elation was further enhanced as I heard a splash in the next pool and upon checking discovered it was a fishing dog Otter, my first ever sighting on a Pennine stream. The only down side was finding an enormous Mink further down the stream as I left. I understand once an Otter appears on a stream it gets rid of any Mink so let’s hope so. Click here
During the week I have spent time in the Pennine forest searching for breeding Long Eared Owls. So far I have failed to find any but pellets under one tree may indicate that migrant owls have been using that forest and have now set off back to Scandinavia.
On the 18th five Adders were enjoying morning sunshine with a Peacock butterfly doing the same on a drystone wall .
At long last a week of dry weather and good sunshine giving the best photo opportunities this Winter on the 9th I checked my Adder site and was pleased to find two males enjoying the warmth. A Woodcock was also seen with Green Woodpeckers very vocal. Both Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were active in the sun.
The best two days weather of the week were spent at Pennington Flash and Martin Mere but the birds targeted were too far away for the camera. I did film some of the species present but these were only the regular ones.Click here.
The garden has sprung to life this week with twenty three different species feeding on the 14th, which is the most this Winter and included our second Brambling. A Tawny Owl was present at 3.30am on the 12th! On Hopwood at dusk on the 15th three Buzzards were soaring and were very vocal.
All birds have to drink and bathe on a daily basis to remain in top condition. Whilst engaged in this activity they are vulnerable to predation and so are always wary of a camera and cameraman. During the last few months, having already failed to film Crossbills feeding,I have concentrated on Siskins and Bramblings. With the abundance of water this Winter I have had many blank days but perseverance has paid off. click here
On Hopwood the first frogspawn appeared on the 6th which is two days earlier than last year. A Weasel was seen on the 8th the first sighting for over a year. Scarlet Elf Cup fungi is out in greater profusion than ever this year.
In the garden Siskin, Redpoll and Reed Buntings are feeding in much lower numbers than last year at this time. A Sparrowhawk made a meal of a Collared Dove on the 6th. Buzzards circling high over the house are now a regular occurance.
Last Friday as we were driving to the ferry to leave Islay a juvenile Sea Eagle was eating a Barnacle Goose on the salt marsh at Bridgend. It was only 8 o’clock and the conditions were appalling with driving rain in a strong wind but I took some record shots of what is the third largest Eagle in the world and sometimes called the flying barn door because of its enormous wing span. It was competing with a Raven and a greater Black Backed Gull. Click here.
Back home in the garden we had our largest number of different species feeding this Winter on the 26th February with 22 different birds. These included our first Siskin of the Winter and an increase number of Reed Buntings.
On the 28th February I visited Morecombe Bay hoping to film the large wader flocks that used to gather there some twenty years ago when I last visited. Sadly none were present except for small gatherings which I have included in this week’s gallery. Perhaps the massive sea defence boulders have moved them elsewhere in the bay?
During the week I have searched for frog spawn in all my regular sites but I have found none which is surprising in view of the extremely mild Winter. I have often felt that many of our wild creatures can predict severe weather to come so could it be that we have not yet finished with Winter?