Master Builders

March 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Long Tailed Tit
There is little doubt that in the bird world Long Tailed Tits are the supreme nest builders. Firstly they start their nest off with moss and spiders webs then they decorate the outside of the dome with lichens before finally lining the inside with as many as 2000 feathers. This whole process can take up to three weeks to complete then they lay one egg per day for the next ten days. After all that only one nest in ten will finally fledge young. The other nests being lost to either Grey Squirrels, Crows or bad weather. So far this March I have found six nests but this is well short of my all time March record of twenty six in 1999. This weeks gallery shows birds gathering feathers and lichen before taking them to the nest.

As if by magic Redpolls have appeared this week in the garden with a record six feeding together on the 27th. At least four different Reed Buntings are commuting to the garden from the Golf Course to feed. Tawny Owls are this year breeding locally and their vocals are heard regularly overnight.

The best sighting locally this week has been a Barn Owl on the 23rd which was still hunting at 9.00am after a frosty night. No doubt it was one of last years young that is now having to fend for itself. Click here


March 22, 2015 at 6:34 pm

I never intended photographing the eclipse but thin cloud moved in and made it possible without special gear. It may after all be the only one that I ever photograph! I enjoyed the spectacle but only wish I could have viewed it from Spitsbergen where it was a complete eclipse.

This weeks gallery is of game birds in the Cairngorms plus a few views that add to the joy of visiting that area. The male Adder was a local one being the first I have seen this spring.

In Hopwood woods this week Woodcock were still present plus the first singing Chiff Chaff on the twenty first. The presence of a pair of Grey Partridges was good news and the first I have seen in that locality for more than five years. Two Peacock butterflies confirm the arrival of Spring. Click here

Crestie Birthday

March 16, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Crested Tit

A late entry this week due to only just having returned from four days in the Cairngorms. What better way is there of spending your birthday than filming Crested Tits and other birds of the Caledonian pine forests. After -3° overnight Aviemore yesterday was the sunniest and warmest place in Britain  and of course we were there to enjoy it.

Red Squirrels. Mountain Hares, Deer and Goats were all encountered and Cairngorm Mountain was visited but not for long as it was sheet ice and very treacherous . I did however, find a pair of Ptarmigan part way up the slope that gave me some spectacular shots in winter coat which I will include in next week’s blog.

The only downside was that there were very few Crossbills in the forests and there were no longer  Long Tailed Ducks feeding in Burghead harbour as it had been dredged! There are, however, plenty of other reasons to return. Click here

Breeding Season Begins

March 8, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Even on Islay last week, with wintery weather, the breeding season had begun with pairs of Ravens nest-building.

Upon returning home this week my regular Herons were well into breeding with several nests showing the signs and sounds of having young in them. This weeks gallery shows photos I took from this Heronry a couple of years ago when I filmed one nest extensively. It is a time consuming job with feeds sometimes five hours apart!

On the 4th March there was a big passage of Woodcock through Hopwood and in less than one hour I encountered four birds which is a March record. Any left after the month end may indicate breeding birds so we shall have to wait and see. On the same date I watched a pair of Long Tailed Tits building a nest that must have been started in February.(My earliest ever nest was one found on the 24th Feb).

In the garden 5 Bullfinches fed together on the 8th with at least four Reed Buntings now feeding daily. Will we have a return of last years Redpolls in the next couple of weeks?Click here

Goose Feast

March 1, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Another week on Islay and the wildest week we have ever seen with hail, snow, rain, gales and even a powerful thunderstorm that disabled telephone contact for part of the island. Dramatic conditions but good news from a camera point of view with many photos taken.

The Raven is one of Britain’s wariest birds to photograph at the nest and almost impossible to photograph away from it. This last week I have had a hide hidden deep in gorse bushes overlooking a field that I have baited with dead hares and even the remains of a Barnacle Goose. I spent many long hours waiting with only Hooded Crows for company and then at the height of a hail storm a Raven warily landed on the prey. Hunger brought it in and provided me with a wonderful series of photos that I shall probably never repeat.I didn’t always have success and one morning when I arrived at first light to enter the hide a Golden Eagle was already feeding on the Hare. It failed to return to feed and the three hours that I waited seemed more like ten!!

Despite the wintery conditions Hares had started to box and provided me with more photos. You can never tire of Islay. Click here