Little Gems

July 29, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Little Owls
I had almost forgotten what a joy it was to watch young Little owls being fed and learning how to fly. Several visits have been made to an old barn where I found a family of young owls. At times the young owls flew to within five feet of the car and  provided me with some delightful photos. Click here. Sadly in recent years my local Little Owls have disappeared from several locations which I put down to the massive increase in the number of Buzzards.
After last weeks photos of a male Long Eared Owl I have been asked how did I know it was a male as there is no discernible difference between the plumage of the sexes. Luckily, when I found the nest earlier the female was on the nest and looked down at me with yellow eyes. As soon as the young Owls fledge the nest they are usually fed by the male who had deep orange eyes. The eye colour of Long Eared Owls differs considerably and during the winter of 1976 I was lucky enough to catch 6 Long Eared Owls in a mist net, for ringing purposes and each one of them had different shades of orange/yellow eyes.

Oh What A Night!

July 22, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Long Eared Owl
After a lifetime of visits into the Pennines in search of wildlife to film I have lost track of the number of evenings when you return home having seen and filmed nothing. If you are lucky you might flush a Meadow Pipit from a nest or perhaps encounter a Twite. However, nothing prepared me for one night last week when I returned home with film of three species of Owl.
Initially I set out to check a plantation for Long Eared Owls. Before I arrived at the plantation I passed a ruined barn and spotted four young Little Owls on the roof ready to fledge! After filming these I reached the plantation and found a male Long Eared Owl hunting the moorland edge. Calls from the forest gave away three young Owls and it was up to the male to satisfy their hunger. To me there is no more spectacular Pennine raptor than a hunting male Long Eared Owl. He did not disappoint and provided me with the best photos I have ever had of this illusive Owl. Click here for the photos
It was 10.00pm as I made my way back home on a winding country road. As I rounded a corner a richly marked Tawny Owl was on a drystone wall looking for prey. I upped the ISO on my camera to 4000 and took a few photos of my third Owl species of the night – How can I possibly beat that? Next weeks gallery will be devoted entirely to the Little Owls.

House Martin Mystery

July 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

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One of the most welcome signs of summer are the return of House Martins nesting under the house eaves. Unfortunately over the last ten years their numbers are down by half and no one seems to know why. In many cases the nature of our summers produces extremes of weather which has resulted in the mud used for their nests being of inferior quality and as a result nests falling down with disastrous results. The erection of artificial nest-boxes for House Martins may well be one answer to the problem. Some years ago now I watched House Martins feeding young in a nest on our local estate in the last week of October – sadly these birds have long since gone.
This weeks photo is from a nest under a stone window sill, not under the eaves where they normally nest. Both Martins were catching large flying insects over a meadow nearby. click here

Ant Eggs For Lunch

July 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Green Woodpecker
After raptors, a day in the Pennines can be highlighted by good views of Woodpeckers, especially the Green Woodpecker, who is more often heard than seen. In nearly fifty years of filming I have still only ever filmed half a dozen Green Woodpeckers at the nest. The recent dry, warm weather was perfect for ants, which are the Green Woodpecker’s main source of food. With a nest-hole only six feet off the ground it was a perfect combination to await the young Woodpeckers leaning out of the hole to receive the ant eggs. Even though the young were about to fledge the male Green Woodpecker still insisted on going into the nest-chamber to give it a clean, as shown in the gallery photos. Click here


July 2, 2017 at 2:23 pm

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Although most wildlife watchers go to Islay in summer to see the raptors there is no doubt that there are a whole host of other birds that will capture the attention of the visitor. Top of the list will be the Chough as Islay has more than fifty breeding pairs plus many non-breeding birds.
Wading birds breed in profusion on Islay and there are still good numbers of Snipe, Lapwing and Redshank. Skylarks sing in all parts of the island and this weeks gallery shows one in full song amongst cotton grass. During our recent visit we encountered good numbers of Black Guillemots together with Otter, Lizard, Adder and plenty of Hares.Click here