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

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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


July 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

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Although most wildlife watchers go to Islay in summer to see the raptors there is no doubt that there are a whole host of other birds that will capture the attention of the visitor. Top of the list will be the Chough as Islay has more than fifty breeding pairs plus many non-breeding birds.
Wading birds breed in profusion on Islay and there are still good numbers of Snipe, Lapwing and Redshank. Skylarks sing in all parts of the island and this weeks gallery shows one in full song amongst cotton grass. During our recent visit we encountered good numbers of Black Guillemots together with Otter, Lizard, Adder and plenty of Hares.Click here

The Star Attraction

June 25, 2017 at 6:36 pm

The star bird for any wildlife visitor to Islay in May and June is the male Hen Harrier. It is not difficult to encounter one hunting male each day but one day last week was exceptional. In the space of fifteen minutes we came across four different hunting male Hen Harriers. This is the most we have ever seen in such a short space of time and will take some beating. In answer to the question “Where are the female Hen Harriers?” well they are usually confined to the nesting area for seven weeks and do not leave that area until the young are more than three weeks old when the male needs help in providing food. Any female seen during this period is either a non-breeding or failed breeding bird.
This weeks gallery is highlighted by a male on a post which is a rare event to see let alone capture on film.Click here

The King

June 18, 2017 at 11:50 am

Golden Eagle
There is little doubt that the king of all Birds of Prey is the Golden Eagle. From a birdwatchers point of view no trip to Scotland is complete without a sighting of “the king”.
In the highlands the diet of the Golden Eagle comprises of mainly Heres and Rabbits but in the Hebrides the Eagles diet is different. In places like Islay some coastal Golden Eagles feed almost exclusively on Fulmars.They hunt them on the sea-cliffs and rely on surprise and speed to capture their prey. This weeks gallery shows a series of photos of one unsuccessful hunt before the Eagle alights on its favourite rock to rest and contemplate its next foray. Click here

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