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Arctic Flower Flourishes

April 11, 2010 at 3:16 am

Purple Saxifrage
Purple Saxifrage

Three times in the last seven days I have walked to the top of one of the Yorkshire Dales three peaks to search for Purple Saxifrage, one of my favourite Arctic plants! This year’s flowers have been exceptional and like everything else three weeks later than normal flowering. On the long walk to the top I saw my first Wheatears and Ring Ouzel of the season with nine Golden Plover on the top.

I continued my search for Woodcock in Bowland and actually flushed two birds together but still no nest. I did see my first Swallows of the year with Willow Warblers in full song nearby.

Today, tenth April, the temperature peaked at 20°C and as if by magic I saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, six Peacocks and one Comma. It always amazes me how butterflies appear as soon as there is a significant rise in temperature.

It always depresses me when I see birds as roadside casualties. During the week I saw two dead Tawny Owls only ten feet apart on the M65 near Burnley. I can only surmise that these were two males chasing each other and hit some large vehicle. If this was the case then their respective partners will now fail as a result of this tragedy.

In the garden this week a male Goldcrest was in full song in the pine tree. Could it possibly stay to breed. I have had a request as to how do I attract so many birds to such a small garden. Without going into great detail I would say that you need plenty of feeders around the garden. There should be some good cover nearby for birds to resort to if any Sparrowhawks appear. In addition there should be no cats in the garden (ours is surrounded by a chicken wire fence!) Forty two years of feeding birds in the same garden also helps.

Winter Returns

April 4, 2010 at 3:01 am

Reed Bunting

Yes a return of snow in the garden on the thirty first of March with deep snow in the hills.The whole week has been cold but this has resulted in a resurgence of feeding in the garden. On the thirtieth of March twenty five Starlings fed plus a pair of Siskins, the first we have had in the garden for some years. Greenfinch numbers have increased to nine but better still was a record three pairs of Bullfinches all feeding together on the thirty first of March. At least three Reed Buntings feed daily.

In the hills I now have four pairs of Dippers on eggs but the usual search for Woodcock has yet to produce a bird. Lapwing numbers seem to be well down this year but Curlews are calling in all the usual localities. One of the joys of bird watching at this time of year is watching and listening to Summer visitors like Chiff-Chaff as Winter visitors like FIeldfare are still about.

Willow Tit Finally Poses

March 28, 2010 at 1:22 am

Willow Tit

Yes the Willow Tit that feeds in the garden finally posed long enough for me to obtain a photo this week. Its visits are now more sporadic and it will soon disappear to breed somewhere else.

During the week I have been searching for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Yorkshire but failed to find any. However, at Moore Nature Reserve near Warrington, I watched a male digging out a hole forty foot off the ground which is no good for any photography. My first Chiff Chaff of the year was calling nearby and bodes well for others to follow on the next southerly wind

A visit to Bowland produced two Dippers nests and a Grey Wagtails ready to lay in – making it a week earlier than last year! Without really trying I now have six Long Tailed Tits nests being built but this is well short of my record of twenty five found in March 1983!! In those days we had some really mild early Springs and also in 1983 we found twenty five species of flowers in March making the less than ten this month pretty poor. So much for Global warming!

Frogs Spawn At Last

March 21, 2010 at 4:01 am


Yes, at least three weeks later than normal, the frogs in a local pool were all active on the 16th. There were at least a hundred involved and the sound effects would have been great but for the motorway near by!

On the fourteenth a female Long Eared Owl was already incubating eggs in an old crow’s nest – making it the earliest laying date I have known for this species. As we know it is the supply of voles that governs the breeding of our Owls and not the severity of the Winter. However, upon checking a Heronry in the Rossendale Valley I find that instead of the ten nests that were there last year there is only one pair, that is a ninety percent reduction due entirely to the Winter we have just had. It is going to take some years to recoup this loss.

In very warm conditions on the sixteenth a pair of Buzzards were using the thermals as a Green Woodpecker yaffled nearby. The following day I flushed two Woodcock and saw a Fieldfare and nine Redwings so these migrants have decided not to leave us just yet.

I now have three Long Tailed Tit’s nests being built in Hopwood woods , the first being started only one day later than last years date and it is very pleasing to see so many around despite the coldest Winter in thirty years.

In the garden the Willow TIt continues to feed every day together with two pair of Bullfinches.

Wildlife At 2000 Feet

March 13, 2010 at 2:29 am

Mountain Hair
Red Grouse

Two more fantastic days this week up on the high Pennines in deep snow and obtaining results. Filming a cock Red Grouse and a Mountain Hare in perfect conditions was all I could have dreamed of. This week the difference being that Golden Plovers had returned and were calling all over the moors despite the abundance of snow.

The big news from the garden is the return of the Willow Tit on the ninth. Where has it been all the rest of the Winter? It has fed on each day since

On the eighth on Hopwood the first Short Eared Owl for years was hunting the rough. It was seen to catch a Short Tailed Field Vole but has not been seen since. Clearly a bird on passage from the coast to the moors.

Breeding Season Begins

March 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Tawny Owls

Back from Islay and what a fantastic weeks weather and birds to return to.

This week’s photo is of a pair of Tawny Owls stood together after pairing off and before the female goes down on eggs. I have only ever witnessed this twice before and never in full sunshine like this pair I found this week. It is a rare moment to be able to film this .

During the week I also had my annual fix of Waxwings when I paid a quick visit to see eight at Bolton. They still remain to be my favourite bird but photographically there was not much I could do with them but I shall never tire of watching Waxwings.

I have spent two days on the moors above Glossop in deep snow trying to locate and film Mountain Hares. It was an hours hard slog to climb 1500 feet to the deep snow and then try to find a white object in the snow! However, the first day I saw a dozen and the second visit only four in conditions that produced -6°C at dawn.

In the garden there were eleven Magpies in a tree one day – a record. Long Tailed Tits have been feeding every day but not in pairs so their season has not yet quite started.

A moorland plantation produced a Wood Pigeon on eggs – the earliest I have ever found but three Long Eared Owls that were there last month have disappeared – perhaps they were Scandinavian migrants?