Willow Tit Finally Poses

March 28, 2010 at 1:22 am

Willow Tit

Yes the Willow Tit that feeds in the garden finally posed long enough for me to obtain a photo this week. Its visits are now more sporadic and it will soon disappear to breed somewhere else.

During the week I have been searching for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Yorkshire but failed to find any. However, at Moore Nature Reserve near Warrington, I watched a male digging out a hole forty foot off the ground which is no good for any photography. My first Chiff Chaff of the year was calling nearby and bodes well for others to follow on the next southerly wind

A visit to Bowland produced two Dippers nests and a Grey Wagtails ready to lay in – making it a week earlier than last year! Without really trying I now have six Long Tailed Tits nests being built but this is well short of my record of twenty five found in March 1983!! In those days we had some really mild early Springs and also in 1983 we found twenty five species of flowers in March making the less than ten this month pretty poor. So much for Global warming!

Frogs Spawn At Last

March 21, 2010 at 4:01 am


Yes, at least three weeks later than normal, the frogs in a local pool were all active on the 16th. There were at least a hundred involved and the sound effects would have been great but for the motorway near by!

On the fourteenth a female Long Eared Owl was already incubating eggs in an old crow’s nest – making it the earliest laying date I have known for this species. As we know it is the supply of voles that governs the breeding of our Owls and not the severity of the Winter. However, upon checking a Heronry in the Rossendale Valley I find that instead of the ten nests that were there last year there is only one pair, that is a ninety percent reduction due entirely to the Winter we have just had. It is going to take some years to recoup this loss.

In very warm conditions on the sixteenth a pair of Buzzards were using the thermals as a Green Woodpecker yaffled nearby. The following day I flushed two Woodcock and saw a Fieldfare and nine Redwings so these migrants have decided not to leave us just yet.

I now have three Long Tailed Tit’s nests being built in Hopwood woods , the first being started only one day later than last years date and it is very pleasing to see so many around despite the coldest Winter in thirty years.

In the garden the Willow TIt continues to feed every day together with two pair of Bullfinches.

Wildlife At 2000 Feet

March 13, 2010 at 2:29 am

Mountain Hair
Red Grouse

Two more fantastic days this week up on the high Pennines in deep snow and obtaining results. Filming a cock Red Grouse and a Mountain Hare in perfect conditions was all I could have dreamed of. This week the difference being that Golden Plovers had returned and were calling all over the moors despite the abundance of snow.

The big news from the garden is the return of the Willow Tit on the ninth. Where has it been all the rest of the Winter? It has fed on each day since

On the eighth on Hopwood the first Short Eared Owl for years was hunting the rough. It was seen to catch a Short Tailed Field Vole but has not been seen since. Clearly a bird on passage from the coast to the moors.

Breeding Season Begins

March 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Tawny Owls

Back from Islay and what a fantastic weeks weather and birds to return to.

This week’s photo is of a pair of Tawny Owls stood together after pairing off and before the female goes down on eggs. I have only ever witnessed this twice before and never in full sunshine like this pair I found this week. It is a rare moment to be able to film this .

During the week I also had my annual fix of Waxwings when I paid a quick visit to see eight at Bolton. They still remain to be my favourite bird but photographically there was not much I could do with them but I shall never tire of watching Waxwings.

I have spent two days on the moors above Glossop in deep snow trying to locate and film Mountain Hares. It was an hours hard slog to climb 1500 feet to the deep snow and then try to find a white object in the snow! However, the first day I saw a dozen and the second visit only four in conditions that produced -6°C at dawn.

In the garden there were eleven Magpies in a tree one day – a record. Long Tailed Tits have been feeding every day but not in pairs so their season has not yet quite started.

A moorland plantation produced a Wood Pigeon on eggs – the earliest I have ever found but three Long Eared Owls that were there last month have disappeared – perhaps they were Scandinavian migrants?

Snowdrops Flourish

March 1, 2010 at 4:10 am

Little Egret

We are now home after another week on Islay with brilliant frosty, sunny weather and one day with another four inches of snow – just what the doctor ordered.

This weeks photos show the woods at Bridgend covered in snowdrops that have withstood days of minus 4º and four inches of snow. The Little Egret at Gruinart is also shown as it swallows prey taken from the ditches on the RSPB reserve.

During our travels around the island we have seen most raptors but no Eagles this time. Good views have been had of Brent Geese, Grey Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Twite, Whooper Swans and many more. Fours otters have been seen in total but only the one really performed for us.

We were so tuned in to looking for Hen Harriers that as we passed the Loch Fyne restaurant in Argyll on our way home we observed a female flying overhead!!!