Take That

April 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm


Boxing Hares were not what I was expecting to encounter on Islay in late April but with the extreme weather of late no boxing had taken place so far this year as many of the hares had failed to perform! I was extremely lucky to find  a group of eight that gave me plenty of action over a thirty minute period. There was no repeat the following day as the farmer had put his sheep into the field and the Hares had promtly dispersed.

This year Spring on Islay is a good four weeks later than normal and it was strange to see thousands of Barnacle Geese and Redwings feeding in the same fields as Wheatears and Swallows. With strong North winds and sleet showers it remains to be seen whether these Summer visitors survive and as we left on the 27th several Cuckoos and Corncrakes were calling with little or no cover to hide in.

An Iceland Gull was still present on the island after making its tenth annual visit and I should imagine there will be no rush for it to return to the Arctic to breed.

We made two determined efforts to find Otters and on both days succeeded so increasing our hit rate percentage for this fascinating creature. There was no point keeping a flower list even though we did find some Bluebells! Let’s hope the seasons catch up before our return visit in Summer.

To view more photos taken while I was on Islay click here

Route 59

April 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Barn Owl13a

Last month on the way to a film show I came across a Barn Owl that was actively hunting the roadside verges in good sunshine. It coincided with those nights of -5°C and clearly the Barn Owl was forced into hunting in the afternoon sunshine when its prey was more active. I went back several times and on my Facebook you will see some of my photos taken by the A59 and elsewhere in the Pennines last Winter. I trust you will agree that they are very photogenic subjects.

Spring has finally arrived in the Pennines this week and a trip to the Ribble Valley produced lots of Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and a Pied Flycatcher. I also came across a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and my first Slow Worm in more than ten years.

Nearer to home a Common Sandpiper was on the canal on the 19th April. In the garden Siskins are still coming in good numbers plus three Redpolls with the Willow Tit last seen on the 15th.

To view my Barn Owl photos click here

Latest Ever Breeding Season

April 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Long Tailed Tit13

With two months of freezing easterly winds it is not surprising to find that very few birds are nesting. So far I have found only one Long Tailed Tits nest – that being in gorse on Hopwood. Following the exceptionally mild Winter of the 1980 I found twenty five Long Tailed Tits nests before the end of March! The photo is one of the pair that had been lining their nest with feathers – a good three weeks later than normal.

During the week two Woodcock have been seen, including one on Hopwood. Normally an April Woodcock would be a breeding bird but with Springs’s cold weather it might still be a Scandinavian migrant. On the 12th I also saw my largest flock of Fieldfare this Winter as sixty birds headed eastwards over Hopwood.

There is no doubt that the garden has provided us this Winter with exceptional quality of birds and this week it has continued. On the 10th we had a record ten Siskins feeding together plus three Dunnock, followed on the 12th by seven Bullfinches – all record numbers after forty five years of feeding. In fact since mid November we have never had less than twenty species feeding daily in the garden in an area twenty feet by fifteen feet!

To check our more photos from this week, visit my Facebook Page by Clicking Here

April Waxwings

April 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm


With frost every night this last week and a strong East wind it was no surprise to encounter a late flock of sixteen Waxwings on the 5th. They were in a tree above a bush that had its berries eaten more than a month ago.As I watched they were eating, on the ground, those berries that had fallen on their previous visit. They were extremely hungry birds so I gathered the berries together and put them in a pile enabling the Waxwings to descend en-mass as seen in the photo. In order to film I had to drive my car onto a grass verge and park between two trees. Twice in the next two jours I had passing motorists stop to enquire whether I needed an ambulance as it looked like I had crashed my car into the trees!

During the week I have had two unsuccessful attempts to film a Kingfisher. It now looks like it is going to be a repeat of
last year with only one bird present at a nest site that has traditionally been used for more than thirty years. I did, however, manage to obtain a photo of a wren that was nest building nearby. I also heard my first Green Woodpeckers of the year.

In the cold weather the garden has continued to attract more than twenty different species per day peaking at twenty four on the 4th. These included our first two Redpolls of the year, plus five Siskins, male Blackcap and the Willow Tit on its latest ever date.

Out of the wind, in warm sunshine one afternoon two male Adders were waiting for the emergence of the first females. Clearly everybody is waiting for the arrival of Spring.

To check our more photos from this week, visit my Facebook Page by Clicking Here