Volcano delays Migration

April 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Black Tailed Godwit

Yes our week on Islay started with a strong Northerly wind and volcanic dust and ended with the usual South Westerly wind and the wet stuff.

Thousands of Barnacle Geese were held up with the wind when we arrived and most only left on the twenty first of April. To get to Greenland they have to fly through the volcanic dust cloud and at present no one knows what the effects might be and whether or not they will make it. Whooper Swans have also been held up and there has been a great passage of Black Tailed Godwits – all waiting to fly to Iceland. Hundreds of Brent Geese have been passing through but as their route is to the Canadian Arctic they have not been affected as much by the volcano.

Despite the North winds we saw our first Cuckoo on the seventeenth and at least one Corncrake has now arrived. Hares were boxing well one morning and we had a good view of an otter on another.

Some good flocks of Golden Plover have been filmed, one flock consisting of five hundred birds. Hen Harriers are back on their breeding sites with all the Buzzards now incubating eggs. THe highlight of the week bird wise has been watching a male Short Eared Owl giving a spectacular wing clapping display over his breeding site. It is twenty years since I last enjoyed this spectacle but I have not forgotten how dramatic it was.

Flower wise it is going to be the latest season ever with most Primroses only just appearing as a result of the severe Winter that Islay has just had.

The White Pheasant

April 17, 2010 at 4:11 am


Whilst in the Ribble valley this week I saw two different white Pheasants and managed to obtain a quick shot of this one – the other was three miles away and a complete albino. Sadly the albino Carrion Crow that has lived by the M65 for more than ten years is missing this year and must have died. Like most albino birds it was always very wary and I never got the film I wanted of it.

On the eleventh in Bowland I saw my first Redstart of the year and on the twelfth on Hopwood both Blackcap and Whitethroat were singing and a Buzzard was present. The Buzzards have been in the area now for more than five years but I have yet to see a successful breeding.

In the hills I have now seen my tenth Long Eared Owl in less than two weeks which must be a record! The first female is now brooding young and hopefully this year most will have survived Easter. Ring Ouzel and Little Ringed Plover are back on their breeding sites with a pair of Nuthatches using an old Green Woodpecker hole in a valley one thousand foot above sea level, which must surely be a Pennine altitude record!

Arctic Flower Flourishes

April 11, 2010 at 3:16 am

Purple Saxifrage
Purple Saxifrage

Three times in the last seven days I have walked to the top of one of the Yorkshire Dales three peaks to search for Purple Saxifrage, one of my favourite Arctic plants! This year’s flowers have been exceptional and like everything else three weeks later than normal flowering. On the long walk to the top I saw my first Wheatears and Ring Ouzel of the season with nine Golden Plover on the top.

I continued my search for Woodcock in Bowland and actually flushed two birds together but still no nest. I did see my first Swallows of the year with Willow Warblers in full song nearby.

Today, tenth April, the temperature peaked at 20°C and as if by magic I saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, six Peacocks and one Comma. It always amazes me how butterflies appear as soon as there is a significant rise in temperature.

It always depresses me when I see birds as roadside casualties. During the week I saw two dead Tawny Owls only ten feet apart on the M65 near Burnley. I can only surmise that these were two males chasing each other and hit some large vehicle. If this was the case then their respective partners will now fail as a result of this tragedy.

In the garden this week a male Goldcrest was in full song in the pine tree. Could it possibly stay to breed. I have had a request as to how do I attract so many birds to such a small garden. Without going into great detail I would say that you need plenty of feeders around the garden. There should be some good cover nearby for birds to resort to if any Sparrowhawks appear. In addition there should be no cats in the garden (ours is surrounded by a chicken wire fence!) Forty two years of feeding birds in the same garden also helps.

Winter Returns

April 4, 2010 at 3:01 am

Reed Bunting

Yes a return of snow in the garden on the thirty first of March with deep snow in the hills.The whole week has been cold but this has resulted in a resurgence of feeding in the garden. On the thirtieth of March twenty five Starlings fed plus a pair of Siskins, the first we have had in the garden for some years. Greenfinch numbers have increased to nine but better still was a record three pairs of Bullfinches all feeding together on the thirty first of March. At least three Reed Buntings feed daily.

In the hills I now have four pairs of Dippers on eggs but the usual search for Woodcock has yet to produce a bird. Lapwing numbers seem to be well down this year but Curlews are calling in all the usual localities. One of the joys of bird watching at this time of year is watching and listening to Summer visitors like Chiff-Chaff as Winter visitors like FIeldfare are still about.