Goodbye Dear Friend

September 27, 2019 at 2:58 pm

On Wednesday we were given the sad news that my lifelong friend Brian Oldfield had passed away after a long illness. We are all devastated that one of the nicest men you could ever meet is no longer with us.
I first met Brian in 1980 in a pine forest in Rossendale. I was twenty foot up a pine tree, at the nest of a Sparrowhawk, when he appeared at the base of the tree and thought I was about to take the young. We had an exchange of words and I climbed down the tree to explain that I was just ringing the young to identify them in case they were stolen. It was apparent at that first meeting that Brian and I shared the same values and I asked him if he would like to join me and photograph birds from my hide something he had never done before. He jumped at the invitation and so started a friendship that would last 35 intense years. During that time I made 30 one hour cine films, produced 5DVDs and took thousands of photos, none of which would have been possible without Brian putting me in hides and taking me out hours later.In return Brian was able to photograph, under my License, breeding birds he could only dream of before such as Merlin, Barn Owl, Kingfisher and Little Ringed Plover.
Brian never learned to drive a car and during our 35 years I wore out a dozen cars and drove over half a million miles! During that time we never had one argument and swear words were not in his vocabulary. Our travels took us to Islay, Skomer,Bass Rock, the Farne Islands and all over the Pennines. We even slept in our hides at a Blackcock lek awaiting the Black Grouse lekking at 3.00am! At the end of all our outings Brian always produced tea and biscuits and there were only a couple of occasions when we ended up drinking hot water because Brian had forgotten to bring the tea bags! It would have been Edna’s fault!!
Brian was ten years older than me but his fitness was incredible. In his seventies he climbed Pennyghent to photograph Purple Saxifrage and walked along the Striding Edge on Helvellyn. Our last outing was to the Farne Isles and Brian was in his eightieth year – with Brian climbing about the Pinnacle rocks as if he was still in his teens! It has truly been an honour to have been in your company Brian during the last forty years.
None of the photos in this weeks gallery photos would have been possible without Brian – thank you. Click here

A Mega Twitch

September 21, 2019 at 6:50 pm

In wildlife filming there are times when you can be at the right place at the right time and one of those days occurred on Tuesday.
For several years I have been planning to visit Blacktoft Sands the RSPB reserve on the Humber in Yorkshire to film the abundance of Marsh Harriers that breed there. Tuesday’s weather was perfect and with a good drive along the M62 I was parking my car before 8.00am, with only two other cars in the car-park. I set off north along a path that led me to a good hide overlooking a pool full of Teal. I had it all to myself and watched for two hours but no Marsh Harriers. A yorkshire birder then told me that the best place for Marsh Harriers was a hide at the southern end of the reserve so off I trekked and 20minutes later I settled in this hide – but still no Marsh Harriers. Suddenly the whole area was full of smoke that blew down-wind from an area that the wardens were “managing”. Reluctantly I was forced to abandon this hide and walk back to the original hide and settled into the same seat that I had vacated earlier. By now there were several good birders in the hide.
After a while there was a movement in the reeds on the far side of the pool – a good 300 yards away and a bird the size of a Starling could be seen as it fed at the base of the reeds. It came into the open long enough to be identified as a female Little Crake – the last one seen in Yorkshire being 73 years ago!! Word of its presence was put out on the Birding web-sites and I took a record shot through the heat haze before making my way back to the car park, passing dozens of Birders on the way who were almost running with their scopes and cameras towards the hide.All of a sudden the journey back home along the M62 seemed much more attractive!
To celebrate last weeks blog anniversary this weeks gallery includes some of my favourite and most amusing photos of the last decade. Click here

Anniversary Time

September 15, 2019 at 9:22 am

It is twelve years ago this week-end when I started this blog and there has been an entry every week since! Realistically it will be impossible to carry it on at that rate – the hills get higher and equipment seems heavier!! My fitness is not what it used to be and I have to accept the fact that I can no longer leave Rochdale and be stood on the top of Pendle Hill in 59 minutes – unless I get a faster car! So if a weekly blog does not appear you will understand why
In recent weeks birds have been returning to the garden to feed in good numbers. This weeks juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker has been several times. In addition we had a near record count of 42 House Sparrows plus 15 Blue Tits. The highest counts always coincide with wet weather which is difficult to explain why. Four Hedgehogs feeding one evening was just reward for all the food that we have put out. Click here

Wildlife Bonus

September 8, 2019 at 7:41 pm

During the last couple of weeks we have seen the successful results of endless hours spent in a hide or under a camouflage cloth waiting for Kingfishers or Long Eared Owls. In truth you are not always successful and on many occasions you go home frozen and without taking a photo. However, while you are out there in the wilds other forms of wildlife come within reach of the camera and is always worth a photo – if only to relieve the boredom!! All of this week’s gallery photos, together with the Whitethroats in the blog, were taken while I was hidden away waiting for something else!
Luck does not always go your way – one night I was under the camouflage cloth waiting for the Long Eared Owl when I heard alarm calls from Carrion Crows. I looked down the forest ride but there was nothing – had I looked up the ride I would have seen an Osprey being mobbed by Carrion Crows and all three eventually flew over my head, with my camera still trained on a fence post waiting for the Owl!!’ Click here