Garden Visitor

May 30, 2010 at 1:23 am

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

The star bird of the garden this week has been this Greater Spotted Woodpecker who has been taking away large amounts of food to feed his young still in the nest on Hopwood.

I have spent the last eight nights filming a pair of Tawny Owls that had two young about to fledge. Normally it becomes quite cold towards midnight but on one occasion I filmed from the hide in a short sleeved shirt. I have never in forty years seen such exceptional weather in May and on the last night the full moon appearing at 10pm made it even more memorable. However, it did not stop the female Tawny Owl attacking me as I packed up my equipment in the moonlight.

On another day I filmed a pair of Nuthatches feeding young in an old Green Woodpecker hole that they had plastered with mud to reduce it to the exact size they required. Feeds were every few minutes and a photo will appear in next week’s blog.

Long Eared Owl Success

May 23, 2010 at 7:04 am

Young Long Eared Owl 2

This weeks photo is of a fledged young Long Eared Owl with a vole in its talons. If last week was all about Dotterel then this week is about Long Eared Owls.

I have spent many nights under a camouflage cloth filming two male Long Eared Owls hunting and on some occasions they were passing over my head without realising I was filming below. If you read the books they say that Long Eared Owls are the most nocturnal of all the Owls but when they have young that is far from correct. One of the males I was filming passed six voles to three young before 7.30pm. That is one and a half hours before sunset. Seven young have now fledged from these two nests but when dealing with wildlife there is always a downside. A third nest had its young taken by a predator that I can only think was human.

With good weather all week I have had some successful filming from my hide of Oyster Catcher, Curlew and a cracking Ring Ouzel. I heard my first local Cuckoo calling whilst filming the later species.

In the garden a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been coming most days and taking food away in its bill to feed its young. We were awakened one morning by a Whitethroat which was perched at the back of the garden, it was in full song. A new bird and great to hear but not at 4.30am! The warm nights have produced three Pipistrelle bats at dusk and they were chasing one another around the houses.

Dotterel Magic

May 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Purple Saxifrage

There are some days while watching birds that only come along once in a lifetime, Saturday 8th May was one of those days. I had been out in Bowland all day looking for nests to film in the coming weeks and was quite pleased with such things as, Redstarts, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Oyster Catcher. However, when I arrived home at 4.00pm there was a message that there were nine Dotterel on a small hill in Rochdale called Brown Wardle. There was no time to lose so it was on with the boots and a drive up to Whitworth. A quick scan of the hill through the binos showed five people sat together near the top, so the Dotterel were still present; it was just a case of a fifteen minute dash up with my equipment and by now tired legs! When I arrived at the summit the Dotterel were asleep and had been for two hours, so I took some film of them as they roosted out of the wind behind tussock grass. It wasn’t long before some cattle approached and coupled with a too close approach by one of the photographers and the rapid fire of his camera they all flew off in a Northerly direction.

With that all five people descended the hill leaving me sat there to contemplate my next move. Thirty minutes later I was about to leave when there was a quick call as all nine birds landed only fifteen feet away. Immediately they started to feed and within a minute I was surrounded by nine Dotterel feeding up to ten feet away. This continued for nearly an hour and was one of the most magical experiences I have ever had in more than fifty years of wildlife encounters. I left them where I found them, roosting behind tussock grass, as the sun set to the West at 8.00pm. I wished them well in their long journey North.

Dippers At The Double

May 10, 2010 at 3:17 am


It is four years since I last filmed breeding Dippers so to film two breeding pairs in the last six days is especially rewarding. The good thing about Dippers is that they feed their young at less than ten minute intervals so you don’t have to wait hours in between feeds as you do with some raptors. The rewarding feature is that they bring different items of prey each time so you never know what will be in their bill on the next feed. At one site the male spent some time singing close to the hide and he had a very varied repertoire. This probably means that he is trying to impress the female again with an eye on a second clutch of eggs. Altogether the time spent on these two pairs was most satisfying especially as they are one of the Pennines most charismatic birds.

A lot of time has been put into finding nests this week and in two days I have found Kingfisher, Curlew, Grey Wagtail, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler and four pairs of Pied Flycatchers – an all time high number of Pied Flycatchers for me.

One of the best birds of the week was a male Black Redstart seen in the high hills East of Burnley. Coincidentally in the same area where I saw a female ten years ago.

There are still plenty of challenges ahead this month and I have yet to find a Golden Plover nest. The search for the Woodcock continues but flushing a roosting male the other day takes me a step closer to finding the illusive sitting female.

Hares Box At Last

May 3, 2010 at 8:53 am


Our last week on Islay and after several early mornings the Hares were boxing. There were six chasing around and sometimes would jump into the air but never caught on camera.

With the wind finally turning South West there has been a flood of birds moving through Islay. Flocks of more than five hundred Golden Plover, two hundred and eighty Brent Geese and hundreds of Black Tailed Godwits, with Whimbrel just beginning to appear. Most of the raptors have been seen but following the severe Winter many are breeding weeks later than last year with a pair of Barn Owls laying their first egg five weeks later than last year.

On the sail back to the mainland twenty eight Great Northern Divers were seen from the boat in only one hour watch.