Wild Weather Continues

May 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

This May has been typified by high winds and lack of warmth and sunshine. On the one good day this week I went to photograph the Ladys Slipper Orchid and was only just in time due to its early flowering this Spring. The rare bit of sunshine also brought out a Duke of Burgundy Fritillary butterfly which I had never seen before. The one hundred and fifty mile motorway journey produced sightings of Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.

During the week I was watching a Kestrel nest site in a hole in a barn wall high in the hills. The male Kestrel passed a vole to the incubating female and she then left the eggs and followed him to a patch of earth nearby. They then both dust bathed side by side which would have made an unique photograph and was certainly an event that I have never witnessed before. After a couple of minutes she quickly returned back to the eggs.

In the garden we have had our first fledged Blue and Great Tits together with young Robins. A pair of Carrion Crows feed every day and one of them is shown in the photograph .

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

May 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

It is now peak season for filming breeding birds and what happens? – we have two days of low clouds and rain!

On Monday I sat in the car for four hours waiting in vain for the rain to stop and the cloud to lift, all to no avail. As I sat there a Mallard walked down the road, which was by now like a river, accompanied by ten recently hatched ducklings. I was parked by a cattle grid and when she reached this grid she walked across and the ducklings all fell in between the bars and disappeared. She stood on the other side calling loudly and one by one heads appeared and after many attempts to get out nine were re-united with her. The last one by now hadn’t the strength to climb out and she made a final decision to walk off and abandoned it to its fate. My good deed of the day was to reach down and scoop it out of the grid and re-unite it with the rest of the family.

On Tuesday, with a lull in the rain, I walked through an Oak wood to check the Green Woodpecker hole that I had been filming in early April. The woodpecker should have by now been incubating eggs but a close inspection of the hole indicated that the interior of the Oak was not dead enough to excavate so this hole had been abandoned. It was bad news but within ten minutes elation was to follow. On the walk back through the wood a Woodcock was flushed. Any Woodcock that is encountered in May is likely to be a breeding male with its partner on a nest nearby. Within thirty minutes I had found the female Woodcock brooding four young in the nest. To me a Woodcock at the nest is the Holy Grail of Pennine breeding birds and filming commenced. In the next hour I obtained some amazing video of her with her young, the only complaint being she was wet through!

On Wednesday the elation of the previous day’s Woodcock was dashed when I went to film a pair of Kingfishers that should have had young ready to fledge. Instead the flood waters from the previous day had covered the hole and I feared the worst. I hid and waited for an hour before a Kingfisher appeared with a fish for its young. It entered the tunnel and flew back out still carrying the fish, a clear indication that the young were drowned in the nest. It was a sad moment but hopefully they will have a second brood.

Wind, Wind, And More Wind

May 15, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Our second week on Islay has been typified by the wind conditions that were not favourable to hunting raptors. The male Hen Harriers were leaving it late to find food for their incubating females. One food pass was at 9.25pm which is exceptionally late, being a good fifteen minutes after sunset. The male Short Eared Owl that we were watching last week fed his female at 10pm and we were unable to watch her back to the nest in the darkness.

One solitary Brent Goose was left on Islay because of slight damage to its flight feathers and will not now be able to join its relatives in the Canadian Arctic. Wheatears and Grasshopper Warblers were numerous and very vocal as were the Cuckoos and more film was taken of them.

Back home in the garden two Carrion Crows have been feeding with Wood Pigeons. sadly this year there are no breeding Tits in the nest boxes.

Islay Visit

May 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

Pied Billed Grebe

A week on Islay with five days of full sunshine but always a strong East wind,

There has been a brilliant passage of Whimbrel with up to thirty two in one feeding flock. Amongst them have been Black Tailed Godwits now in full breeding plumage, with all of them feeding rapidly in readiness for the long flight to Iceland.

Three days have been spent searching for Otters and whilst we have seen them on two of those days no film was obtained. On one day a dog Otter was making its way on to the shore to sleep when a car turned up and the occupants walked down to the sea. Needless to say that was the end of filming for that day!

As expected the Spring on Islay has been very early and Cuckoos are calling all over the Island. Some film has been obtained but never enough.

Good views have been had of Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and Corncrake. A lot of time has been spent watching a hunting male Short Eared Owl but he gave nothing away as to where his female was.