We are now in Summer time!

March 31, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Little Owl

The snow of last weekend remained in places for four days and with the north wind has held back the Summer migrants – only one day of March left and I haven’t seen any yet!

In deep snow drifts I walked the moors east of Burnley. Red Grouse were very active and a Woodcock was flushed from a pine plantation. A search for Long Eared Owls only produced two Tawny Owls and as we know if there are Tawny Owls in a wood then there will not be any Long Eared Owls as Tawny Owls dominate.

More Long Tailed Tits nests have been found but filming has been almost impossible due to a strong wind blowing on most days, the gorse bushes that they were in would not keep still!

One morning I spent an hour under the camouflage cloth along the river Irwell hoping to film a Heron feeding at the weir. The Heron failed to appear and I had to put up with a procession of dog walkers and their dogs – although none saw me.

A local farm at Heywood had a Little Owl calling and establishing its territory for the breeding season ahead. At Ogden Goldcrests were also becoming vocal.

Signs of Spring

March 24, 2008 at 7:00 am


A mixed week with one day of continuous rain and three inches of snow on the 23rd March, being the heaviest snowfall of the Winter or now technically Spring!!

A pair of Kingfishers seen locally had a male displaying to the female but unfortunately there are no banks to tunnel into within a mile so where are they going to go? Buzzards have been seen carrying sticks into a wood and upon inspection I found my first local Buzzard nest half completed.

The good news from Hopwood is that two Green Woodpeckers were seen together on the 19th and there is now every likelihood that breeding will occur. Four Long Tailed Tits nests have now been found but all construction work has stopped in the snow.

At Dovestones reservoir Siskins are still present in the pines with six Redpolls joining them. At Pilsworth, slurry being sprayed on a field attracted a mixed flock of more than six hundred corvids.

In many places this week Kestrels have been seen together in pairs and actively looking for places to nest for the coming season. Keep the female under observation and she will lead you to the chosen nest site.

Window watching

March 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Long Eared Owl

A wild week with a raging gale and plenty of rain. As a result of having to spend so much time looking out of the window I was able to check on the activity of the male Sparrowhawk and what activity there has been. Last Sunday he caught a Starling which he ate over the next one hour fifty five minutes, with a rest for ten minutes in the middle! The next day he was in the garden for five hours watching for an opportunity to catch prey. None occured and at one point he was even looking to catch a Long Tailed Field Mouse but missed that also. The following day he caught a Starling again but this time I felt sorry for the Starling and went out to the rockery to intervene. He did not release his grip on the Starling until I was five feet away looking at me annoyingly for intervening. On the Wednesday he got his own back by flying into the lounge window at 6.30am and set the house alarm off! He was none the worse for it as he watched us inspect the window stood on the garden fence.

A visit to the hills during the week has produced pairs of Oyster Catchers returning plus Skylarks moving through. In one plantation a pair of Long Eared Owls were present and will soon lay their eggs in an old crow’s nest. Only one Woodcock has been seen this week but thirty five Fieldfares were moving east back to Scandinavia.

Back to basics

March 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Red Grouse

After a fortnight on Islay it is now back to basics with the first hide work of the year. I spent three hours on a Heron’s nest hoping for a changeover on the eggs but the male Heron incubated the eggs throughout my stay. However he turned the eggs twice and some good video was obtained.

During the week I watched two pairs of Goosanders on the river Roch at Bury but failed to find a rare fungi that was the original reason for my visit!

I paid a visit to Queens Park, Heywood and had some good views of up to a dozen Herons as they built their nests on the island in the Lake.

A moorland plantation was searched for Long Eared Owls and although one was seen it flew before any film could be obtained. Three woodcock were also flushed from the high plantation.

The coldest morning of the week produced a low of -5C and by 7am I was on a high moorland in the Northern Pennines looking to film Red Grouse. There were good numbers of displaying Grouse and more than three hours was spent on the high moor. Plenty of video was taken and it was well worth the effort of getting up at 4.30am.

On Hopwood two pairs of Long Tailed Tits are now starting to build their nests in gorse bushes – two days later than last years start date. Many other pairs are ready to follow

Finally, the villain has returned, with the male Sparrowhawk catching his fifth bird in the garden this Winter that we know of and probably a lot more. This time catching a Starling that took one hour fifty five minutes to eat!!!

Wildlife Gems of Islay – Reviewed

March 7, 2008 at 6:49 am





Malcolm Ogilvie in his recent review of the movie for the local Islay & Jura newspaper, the Ileach, wrote:

“I sat enthralled through the film and then wished for more. So I watched it again! This by far and away the best film you will have ever seen of Islay and its wildlife, and a wonderful advertisement for the island.”

Read the full article…

Order your copy of the Movie

Islay re-visited

March 3, 2008 at 9:42 am

Winter on Islay

We have just returned from two weeks on Islay, mainly to establish outlets for the sale of the DVD. There are now six places where the DVD can be bought. It was also given a superb review in the local Islay newspaper, more about that later.

During the fortnight on Islay we had everything from the most perfect Winters day to raging gales and heavy seas.

We covered more than a thousand miles before we saw a Hen Harrier, this being only one mile from the ferry as we left the island! An Otter was seen in front of the cottage, with a female and young watched on another day.

The highlight of the visit was a party of four Snow Buntings that were feeding along a farm track at Ardnave. We watched and filmed these on several days but they were quite wary and we never got nearer than fifteen feet before they moved on further up the track.

On another day a Golden Eagle was admired as it stood on a fence post contemplating its next meal. The Geese of course are always a spectacle on Islay at this time of year.

Its now back to a heavy programme of talks for March when I shall be taking the Islay DVD around with me.