Winter Wonders

December 29, 2009 at 7:58 am


On the nineteenth of December I had the best local day ever for two species of wader with four Jack Snipe together in the Thornham fields and an amazing ten different Woodcock in Hopwood woods including five together!

Following the nineteenth we had snow, in fact ten inches fell in four days followed by minus ten degrees,. I sat four hours from 7.00am in my hide and obtained some spectacular film of Snipe feeding along the only stream not frozen. I have been filming at this stream for nearly forty years and have never really felt the cold. It is in fact thirty years since I put a hide up in the dark and hoped that Snipe would fly in to feed at dawn and thankfully they did not let me down with eight Snipe present along the steam but always feeding apart. Realistically this may be the last time I ever put my body through these extremes as I am not getting any younger!!

This weeks photo is of Goldfinches feeding on the teasels in our garden during one of this weeks blizzards. We have also had two Carrion Crows feeding, a female Bullfinch and a record five Robins at once on one day. There was a maximum of twenty three Goldfinches and twelve Blackbirds also during this week with a single Song Thrush.

In Hopwood woods during the snows there have been Kestrel, Buzzard, four Redpolls but sadly the Long Tailed Tits have gone silent or are the conditions too extreme and they have died? Let’s hope not.

Newsletter December 2009

December 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm


Another year comes to a close and what a year its been. In 40 years of filming wildlife I have never had a better year.It started off with a classic Winter with snow and frost on many days. Coupled with that there was an invasion of Waxwings and New Years day started off with a spectacular hoar frost and 100 Waxwings feeding on Rowan berries at Offerton.

The highlight of February was the filming of a Jack Snipe in a local marsh. I have spent a lifetime trying to obtain film of Jack Snipe and finally I spotted one on the ground before it saw me and flew off as all the others have done! February also brought with it my lecture tour of South West Scotland for the Scottish Ornithologists Club. Good weather for that produced some good film of sixty plus Kites at the feeding station on Loch Ken.

Somehow in a busy month we also made our annual February visit to Islay. It was great to see the Geese in their Winter quarters but the highlight was filming a flock of twenty seven Snow Buntings, another bird I have been after for a long time.

At the end of March I visited Teesdale to inspect the Blackcock lek that I had filmed eighteen years ago. This time as a professional I had to pay a fee to put my hide up . On the morning of the 1st April I was in my hide and this turned out to be a morning I would never forget. The calls of the wading birds in the valley as it came light were unbelievable and when the Blackcock started to display it was truly amazing. I had the option of going back to obtain some more film but that one morning produced all I needed.

During the year our garden has produced plenty of birds with up to 33 Goldfinches feeding together on one occasion. The highlight, however, has been regular visits of a Willow Tit and on one occasion I did obtain some film.

In the local Pennines I had in mind filming Woodcock, Ring Ouzel, Kestrel and a male Merlin and managed to obtain good film of them all!

We spent five weeks on Islay during Spring and were blessed with fantastic weather and the best year for Short Eared Owls for twenty years. I obtained some amazing film of them together with that of Hen Harriers and Buzzard that will be saved for a future DVD.

In late July I joined an expedition to Spitsbergen and again had some fantastic weather with the sighting of 26 Polar Bears during circumnavigation of the islands. On the 30th July we saw 7 bears in one day with a female and her two cubs spending more than 2 hours around the boat in perfect conditions. I have never before taken more than an hour of video and 250 still photos in one session and probably will never again.

Since returning from that voyage Pauline and I have spent nearly 3 months producing a new DVD entitled ‘Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen’. details of that you will find on my website

Polar Bear DVD

I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


Woodcock Return

December 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm


Not much to report this week following on from the wettest ever November with more than ten inches of rain recorded on Hopwood Golf Course rain gauge.

The first Jack Snipe of the Winter was flushed on the thirtieth of November and prior to this two Woodcock were seen on the twenty eighth of November. It was good to see these but where are the thrushes?

Fourteen Long Tailed Its were seen on the first of December in Hopwood woods and five later in Tesco car park!

The Hollingworth Lake Great Northern Diver is still present and putting on a good show – if you time your visit right! Unfortunately I have been thwarted by anglers on one occasion and a rowing regatta on another.

On Hopwood on the tenth two more Woodcock were flushed from different places and four Redpolls were feeding in some birches. A Buzzard was seen plus a Hare and a Fox.

In the garden the Collared Doves have now increased to nineteen and the first Reed Bunting has fed.