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Young Adders Emerge

September 4, 2010 at 3:31 am

Young Adder

Whilst looking for Hobbies I came across this young Adder. It is about six weeks old and six inches long and I believe it can still give you a lethal bite despite its age. Apparently August is the month when young Adders emerge and they are on their own as soon as they are born.

The Swallow roost continues to impress at more than two thousand birds per night and no predation yet from any raptors. I would expect their numbers to reduce soon as the movement South starts in earnest in September. I wonder how many will reach South Africa and return next year?

Record Mistle Thrush Numbers

August 28, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Great Crested Grebe

More time has been spent this week looking for Hobbies but all to no avail. I have now given up all hope of including one in this years Pennine DVD so we will have to settle for fourteen species of raptor on it and not fifteen!
It was however pleasing whilst in Macclesfield forest to see that some pairs of Great Crested Grebes still had young.

Hopwood has starred this week with a record of fifty two Mistle Thrushes present on the 26th and a Kingfisher on the 22nd. Both Buzzard and a male Blackcap have also been seen during the week. At the same time there are still two broods of Swallows in the nest at the golf club adding to the more than fifty young that have fledged there this year.

In the garden we have had a record seven Chaffinches on the 24th and some nights a Tawny Owl has been present. On the 24th it was a full moon and we lay in bed watching the clouds scurry across the moon at midnight awaiting the arrival of the Tawny Owl but of course it did not show up that night.

Only A Merlin

August 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm


On three good days this week I spent time in the Goyt Valley and on the Staffordshire moorlands looking for Hobbies. Only a female Merlin was seen, which in itself is always a good bird sighting but not what I was looking for! According to the bird press Kestrels are down in number by 53 percent in the last two years due mainly to the two,hard Winters that we have had. Well on one day alone I saw fourteen different Kestrels and as most were young birds they will be a welcome addition to the falling population.

The Swallow roost that I have been watching has now increased to more than a thousand birds as the young birds fledge and join the the existing Swallows that are beginning to head South. I obtained some good video of them against the rising moon on the only night the moon was visible.

On Hopwood on the nineteenth was a record flock of forty Mistle Thrushes feeding on rowan berries. A Whitethroat was still giving alarm calls by a bramble indicating late breeding.

Almost There

August 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

Black Guillemotl

With only its ear tufts to grow this young Long Eared Owl looks very much like an adult. By now it is well able to catch prey for itself and will soon be driven away from the nesting area and will have to look for a wood of its own. There will be many more doing the same in the next few months as they have had an exceptional breeding season which is good news for us as it is always a good day when you find a roosting Long Eared Owl.

Whilst watching Barn Owls a few nights ago at dusk I found a field of maize that was being used as a roosting place for five hundred plus Swallows. It is a long time since I watched Swallows roosting but it is still an exciting sight and to think that this field is just one staging post for their migration to South Africa. Forty years ago this month I was part of a group that caught and ringed more than five thousand Swallows in the reed beds near Wigan. We had many of those birds recovered in South Africa. The sound of Swallows gathering at dusk always brings back good memories of those nights at Wigan. The only difference being that on those occasions there were more than ten thousand birds present each night!

In the garden there are still family parties of Goldfinches coming to feed. Some of the young have only just fledged the nest.

Record Breeding Season

August 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Young Great Spotted Woodpecker

Here is a photo of the young Greater Spotted Woodpecker that visits our garden on its own, now that it has been abandoned by the adults.During the week the Collared Dove record has gone up to twenty feeding together. What is it going to finish at?

In a moorland plantation I heard my only young Sparrowhawks this year begging for food. I understand they are down in number this year and this is the first year for decades that I have failed to find a nest. Three young Dabchicks were a late brood to find especially as this pair had their first nest in April and have had a very successful breeding season despite severe disturbance from youths swimming in their pool in the hot weather on May and June.

On Hopwood a Green Woodpecker called during the week and yet again a year goes by without any proof of their breeding. It was good to hear Goldcrest in the pines but are they local breeding birds or early migrants from Scandinavia? The Sand Martins and Swallows are still producing young with most having had second broods despite the recent poor weather.

Four Into One

August 1, 2010 at 8:11 am

Young Sand Martins

This week I have had several sessions on the local Sand Martins and todays photo shows four young crammed into the entrance of their nesting hole. They have had an incredible breeding season with twenty five/thirty pairs fledging two broods each. It all adds up to more than two hundred young fledged from this one bank on the local golf course – a very pleasing result especially as the whole colony was predated by a stoat two years ago and I thought they would never return to breed again.

In the garden a male Reed Bunting is now feeding regularly along with ten Greenfinches and twelve Collared Doves.

The breeding season is now coming to an end and for most species it has produced record results. The young Barn Owls I was filming last week are now flying around and need some good weather to master the art of catching voles and mice.

The last challenge of the breeding season remains the Hobby so for another week the search continues.