A Winter Break

February 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

River Sorn

We have spent the past week on our favourite island of Islay.The snowdrops at Bridgend and along the banks of the river Sorn were at their best, having been delayed this year through the cold weather of last month

We watched an Otter on our first day and had good sightings of Hen Harrier, Merlin and Sparrowhawk.

I have spent some time filming a flock of twenty seven Snow Buntings and tried to attract them to seed but they failed to find it.

The presence of more than fifty thousand Geese on Islay is always an incredible sight. On one moorland we saw in excess of one hundred Ravens all attracted to food put out for pigs!

The rarest Islay bird we saw this week was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker – the only one on the island, a rarity so far North

Sixty Kites Are Flying

February 14, 2009 at 9:44 pm


This week I have been on tour in South West Scotland showing films and birding in between. A magnificent afternoon was spent at the Kite feeding station at Loch Ken where more than sixty Kites gather at the 2pm feeding time. It’s only three and a half hours drive from Rochdale and I would recommend it to anyone

This year there are no cones in the forests so there are no Crossbills and only a few Siskins. The bonus being that all the Red Squirrels visit the gardens to be fed on the bird tables, some gardens having more than half a dozen coming. One afternoon whilst watching the Squirrels in a garden a Peregrine flew over a ridge nearby just as the local Barn Owl started to hunt. It saw the Barn Owl and darted after it only to miss as the Barn Owl flew into a thick pine, with two Kites overhead at the same time I fail to see why I am still living in Rochdale!!

After three months of Waxwings in and around Rochdale I gave up the chase of seeing twenty in a village near Newton Stewart. I can only think I must have been ill or something!

The garden has been quiet in recent days except for a record six Collared Doves together on the fourteenth. Long Tail Tits have now paired off and many Mistle Thrushes are in full song.

Forty Year Wait Is Over

February 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Jack Snipe

Yes I have spent the best part of four decades trying to photograph Jack Snipe and on the fourth of February it all came good as I achieved my fourth Grand Slam of the Winter. The day started with twenty eight Waxwings in Middleton in the morning followed by two Woodcock on Hopwood and then a Jack Snipe flushed in the afternoon. I looked carefully where the Jack Snipe was feeding and noticed another one crouching in the vegetation. I did not have my camera with me so I went home for it and returned and the Jack Snipe had not moved! I took all the photos I required and left the star bird where it was, still thinking I had not seen it! A once in a lifetime encounter and of course it was not present the day after. In addition the day also produced a female Peregrine and a male Sparrowhawk carrying prey,Buzzard, Tawny Owl and two hundred Pink Footed Geese flying North – it must be the best Winters day I have ever had.

On the second it snowed all day so I made the most of it by filming the garden birds from the garage. I particularly wanted them on video with snowflakes falling and the Goldfinches on the teasel looked superb. I then walked around Hopwood in the raging blizzard at dusk and forty two Reed Buntings were going to roost in long moorland grasses out of the wind.

On the seventh we had a record fifteen Blackbirds in the garden at dawn. I then spent two hours at Dovestones reservoir in spectacular Winter conditions but only saw a Grey Wagtail on a partially frozen stream. However Chaffinch and Mistle Thrush were in full song. Perhaps Spring is not too far away?

Grandson’s First Twitch

February 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm


Just imagine seeing your first Waxwing at eleven weeks old. That’s forty three years earlier than I saw my first Waxwing! Well I couldn’t resist taking my grandson,Marcus, two hundred yards from his home in Heywood to see twenty seven in a tree in the next avenue. What a privilege but will he remember?

On the twenty fifth there were eighteen briefly on a yellow rowan in Middleton but were these the same Heywood birds that have now been around for nearly a month?

In the garden both male and female Bullfinches have appeared briefly so they are still in the area. Also the Willow Tit and Goldcrest are still around.

A motorway trip to Stoke produced four Buzzard sightings and a nice flock of at least seven hundred Lapwings in a neighbouring field at Sandbach. Sorry couldn’t give an accurate count passing on the M6 at eighty mph!

On Hopwood sixty five Magpies were roosting in willows at dusk on the thirty first.