Long Wait For Jack

June 28, 2009 at 7:09 am


One of the pleasures of a lifetime in bird photography is the privilege of being granted a licence to film illusive species like the Merlin. The male (Jack) Merlin is one of the ultimate challenges and last week I spent more than twelve hours in my hide high on the Pennine moors in temperatures of more than twenty five degrees to fulfill this challenge. Unfortunately my Jack Merlin would not land where I wanted him to so this weeks photo is from last year!

Most of the Pennine Kestrels now have young at various stages of fledging. I have found three nests to date and I am now ready to spend more time in hot hides awaiting the visits of the adults with prey. At least with Kestrels you never know what prey is going to be brought in next.

It has been pleasing to see Little Ringed Plovers with young around the edge of one moorland reservoir. Ring Ouzels are now considering whether or not to lay a second clutch of eggs.

Even though we have had some hot, sunny weather this week we have yet to see good numbers of butterflies.

Young Everywhere

June 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Young Kingfisher

This weeks photo shows a young Kingfisher that has been out of its dark, smelly tunnel for only a couple of hours. It was one of three that were on a riverside branch and allowed my approach to six feet. Sadly at this stage young Kingfishers are oblivious to the dangers of the outside world and are very easy targets for Sparrowhawk. Lets hope this one survives.

After the success on Islay with Short Eared Owls it must be the bird of the year. As I watched for Kestrels in the hills yesterday I couldn’t believe it when I found a pair of Owls feeding three well grown young.

How times change for I met a team of RSPB researchers last week looking for the nests of Twite. In a week they had found nine nests after many hours of watching. Thirty years ago I could have found that many in a single night around Rochdale – but not any more!

In the Ribble valley today I found a Spotted Flycatcher’s nest over a farmhouse door. These are the first I have seen this year and there is great concern over the dramatic reduction in the numbers of this once common Summer visitor.

100 Hours Of Sunshine

June 12, 2009 at 9:31 am

Hen Harrier

One hundred hours of sunshine. Yes, that is how much sunshine we have had in the last week, although there has recently been a coolish North East wind.

If last week was Short Eared Owl week then this week has been Hen Harrier week. It is twenty years since I last filmed Hen Harriers at the nest but I had not forgotten how exciting the female is when she is with her young and looking straight at the camera. A full week has been spent on them and some very good film obtained with five feeds of the young in three hours one day.

In addition to Harriers I have also filmed Terns and a pair of Buzzards.

Painted Lady butterflies are everywhere but very few Marsh Fritillaries.

No Otters have been seen on this visit to Islay but with five hours of video taken on Short Eared Owl and Harriers I am not particularly worried.

Trials Of Photography

June 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

Short Eared Owl

Today’s photo of a female Short Eared Owl and her young is the ultimate climax to a week on Islay when we have had to endure every type of Hebridean weather. Early in the week there were strong winds and rain which, when it settles on the camera lens in the hide makes filming impossible. as the weather improved I had two sessions when condensation formed inside the lens which again makes it impossible to continue. If that was not bad enough when the good weather arrived with high pressure the next problem was one I have never had before – midges!!! Two sessions were written off as I could not see through thousands of midges. So many in fact they somehow got into the lens system of the camera making it impossible to remove them. To make matters worse I stood on my glasses as I got out of the hide and had to manage the last few days with them stuck together with tape. However with perseverance I obtained some remarkable film of the female and her young being fed by the male.

It is always good on Islay to see all the male Hen Harriers flying around looking for prey for their partners who are now on well incubated eggs.

As for flowers it is a late season but the recent hot weather will help them catch up. There was however, a good show of one of Islay’s rarest flowers the Narrow Leafed Helleborine.