Winter’s Best

March 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

This Winter has not been the best for numbers of birds so I couldn’t resist the temptation to include two of my favourite photos I took of a Hawfinch. I waited a lifetime to capture on film this elusive bird and I have some amazing clips of the Hawfinch breaking open Hornbeam fruit with its incredible bill. It will certainly be one of the highlights of the next DVD on Pennine Wildlife.

The recent high temperatures have brought out four Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the 23rd and four Peacock butterflies on the 24th. Ironically it was in the Ribble valley today, Sunday, that I saw a flock of fifty Fieldfares – the largest I have encountered this Winter! The warm sunshine also gave me good views of a Goldcrest bathing in a pinewood stream.

In the garden the Willow Tit is still a regular visitor, mainly in the late afternoon. The six Bullfinches are now in pairs with at least six individual Reed Buntings feeding.

When you spend a lifetime observing birds at the nest it is always sad when a nest you have been watching is predated, especially when it is an elusive species like a Crossbill. I have spent a fortnight filming both birds going to and from the nest that was thirty foot off the ground on a branch overhanging a road. One day all was well and the young were near to fledging but at 9am the following morning a crow flew from near the nest and part of the nest was on the road below, with no sign of the young. There is nothing we can do about natural predation but you have to feel sorry for the adult Crossbills who spent the last two months totally devoted to rearing their young, all to no avail.

Ptarmigan Surprise

March 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm

A five day non birding visit to Speyside somehow produced the Ptarmigan photo. We had decided to walk up to the restaurant at the top of Cairngorm mountain taking our two Golden Retrievers with us. Unfortunately half way up the climb we took the wrong path, making the climb much longer than it should have been. However, whilst traversing this extra bit we came across seven Ptarmigan that provided me with some good photos, even though the wind did blow my camera and tripod over on one occasion! Thankfully our eleven year old retriever just about made it to the summit and like us was thankful for the Funicular Railway down the mountain.

A day out to view the Dolphins in the Beauly Firth produced no sightings. Clearly, looking for Dolphins produces no more guarantees of a sighting than looking for birds.

The A9 is the main road through Speyside and results in considerable mortality to its wildlife. In addition to an abundance of dead pheasants we have seen the remains of three Mountain Hares and two Pine Martins. Sadly a fast trunk road is a major hazard for local wildlife.

Redpolls Galore

March 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm

During the week I paid a return visit to a friend’s garden near Huddersfield in an attempt to film the Redpolls that he was feeding. Four niger seed feeders were attracting up to fifty Redpolls including the superb male shown in the photo. Unfortunately they hardly ever perched away from the feeders to provide the shots I was after. Two hours was spent trying to obtain video of one perched before it alighted on the feeder but all to no avail. It was an incredible experience to watch so many Redpolls feeding in one small garden.

The day after what should show up on my garden feeder but a single Redpoll – the first one ever to feed in our garden. In fact the week has been good for feeding birds in the garden with at least six Bullfinches and six Reed Buntings coming at different times, the Bullfinches mainly in the morning and the Reed Buntings in the afternoon. On eight of the last eleven days we have had twenty or more different species feeding in the garden.

I have also made trips to the Ribble valley in an attempt to film breeding Crossbills. Two nests have been inspected but despite of having thirty foot scaffolding available both were impossible to film as one was forty foot off the ground and the other was on a branch over a road. One day I might obtain film of this stunning species at the nest but at the moment it still remains just a dream.

Breeding Season Commences

March 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm

In fifty four years of recording breeding seasons this year has produced, on 1st March, the second earliest Long Tailed Tit’s nest. (the record is 24th February 1999). On 2nd March in the Rossendale valley another pair of Long Tailed Tits had just started their nest in a hedgerow holly. Nearby there was a small colony of ten pairs of Herons which were incubating eggs.

On Hopwood two Woodcock were feeding close together and may well have paired off. A Green Woodpecker was very vocal but to date it has never bred on the course. A Fox was seen and five Roe Deer which augers well for their breeding season ahead.

In the garden on the 1st March we had twenty two species of birds feeding including our first two Jays of the Winter and our first two Siskins. A Goldcrest was feeding on bits falling off the fat balls on the 3rd March.

With good weather during the week some time has been spent in the moorland forests checking Long Eared Owl sites. This week’s photo is of a roosting male taken 2nd March. Some of the sites are not yet occupied. On one reservoir was a female Goosander with a spinner and a nylon line hanging out of its mouth. So much for careful anglers!