The Day Hunter

January 31, 2016 at 4:20 pm

The opportunity to film Barn Owls hunting during the day has never arisen locally before this winter. If the weather pattern of wet nights becomes a norm then perhaps this winters events will not be unusual and filming may be possible every winter. The next problem of course is predicting where the Owl will hunt and then hiding under cover before it appears. On many occasions you come away with no photos and luck has to be on your side. Two days last week I sat under my camouflage cloth and never saw an Owl. I got back to my car in the farm yard and the Barn Owl was on a post by the car waiting for me! On day three I set up on the very same post and never saw an Owl – it was hunting where I had been sat the other two afternoons!! It was , however pleasing to finally have the Owl settle on the right stump and to fire away a series of photos with the Owl totally ignoring me or the sound of the shutter. The only trouble is the sun had gone in so it is still a work-in-progress! Click here

The event of the week-end has been the RSPB Garden Birdwatch. We had seventeen species in the garden during the hour with the top three being House Sparrow(18), Goldfinch(12) and Blue Tit(10). The big surprise was the total absence of both Starling and Magpie. Sadly our long-staying Willow Tit has not been with us this winter.

Disappearing Waders

January 24, 2016 at 6:16 pm

Not only is there a shortage of thrushes this winter but wading birds have also been in short supply. Only this week have i seen my first Jack Snipe and so far I have only flushed two Woodcock. Had it not been for the migrant Long Eared Owls and day hunting Barn Owls there would have been no photographic challenges available and both of these are still work in progress!

As my gallery on Spitsbergen was well received this week I have included photos taken on my last expedition to the north-east Greenland National Park. It is the most stunning high arctic place I have ever seen and in summer the sun never sets. The freedom of exploring for nine hours a day in a place where there are are no other human beings is hard to describe. Click here

Locally on the 19th there were eight Goosanders on a pond by the Rochdale to Manchester railway. On Hopwood a Goldcrest was seen and a Coltsfoot was in flower. Snowdrops were out in our garden on the 22nd January.

Snowy Long Eared Owl

January 17, 2016 at 8:20 pm

In the last week I have spent many hours out in the hills looking for roosting Long Eared Owls and day hunting Barn Owls. After yesterdays snowfall a single Long Eared Owl was a nice bonus in the snow-covered trees. With their eyes screwed-up they always look asleep but this bird is fully aware of my presence.

So far the hunting Barn Owls have failed to fly where I wanted them to or perch in the right place. However, whilst I have been hidden under my camouflage cloth I have obtained photos of a number of other birds who had no idea I was present. These are included in this weeks gallery and even include Pink Footed Geese at dawn that flew high over my head.Click here

This last week I have shown my films for the last time in Rochdale, Glossop and Leigh to societies where I have been going to for more than forty years. The responses from the audiences have been over whelming and at Leigh included a vote of thanks that lasted sixteen minutes!!

Bucket List

January 10, 2016 at 6:51 pm

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Most people have a list of the things they would like to do once in their lifetime. From a wildlife point of view top of the list perhaps would be to sail through the Arctic pack-ice at midnight looking for Polar Bears. It is an experience that is hard to describe and with global warming it may not be available in twenty years time. Promote it to the top of your list and just to tempt you this weeks gallery shows photos from one of my visits.    Click here

Along our local canal Goosanders have been regular visitors this winter. The garden is still producing big numbers of Goldfinches along with Redpolls, Siskin and at least one Reed Bunting.
On the 4th of January in Hopwood woods a Red Campion was in flower!!!

Annual Newsletter

January 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Best Wishes and a Happy New Year to you all for 2016
There is little doubt that 2015 will be remembered for its extremes of weather. We had one of the coldest summers ever recorded followed by a dry, sunny and warm autumn then an extremely wet and dull November and December. All this has a profound effect on wildlife and ultimately what I capture on film.

Our visit to Islay in February had some wild weather but at the height of a hailstorm I managed to film a Raven feeding on a Goose carcass. Ravens are very wary birds and I have been after these shots for years.The Cairngorms in March produced my best ever Crested Tit shots and from a very icy summit of Cairngorm good Ptarmigan photos.

In the Pennines many consecutive mornings were spent on Kingfishers and I was finally rewarded with an action shot of the male presenting a Bullhead to the female which was too big for her to take. At 6.00pm that same evening the photograph was shown and mentioned on BBC television news programme – another first for me!

Our three weeks on Islay in summer produced a maximum temperature of only 14 degrees C. which was infact 1 degree colder than what we had when we returned in late October! I did however obtain some film of Corncrakes and flight shots of Hen Harriers which Mark Avery is now using in his fight to protect this very special raptor.

A week on Mull in July produced the photographic event of the year when an Otter that I was filming caught and carried ashore a five foot Conger Eel. A couple of pictures I took of the event I subsequently sold to a national newspaper which was another first for me – although it didn’t provide me with a fortune!

During a short period of good weather in June I had a rewarding day trip to the Farne Isles to film the seabirds. At the same time I spent many hours in my local hills before I was finally able to film a male Long Eared Owl hunting in full sunshine – something I have been after for a long time.

In the latter part of the year I stayed up specially to film the eclipse of the moon which was most rewarding. On Islay in October I found my first ever roost of Hen Harriers and when I arrived home to the Pennines I found a roost of Long Eared Owls – so much for a quiet year!!

My twelve favourite photographs of the year are included in this weeks gallery. Click here

2016 will see the end of my winter film shows after 44 years. Perhaps after that life will become a little quieter?