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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?

Snowdrops Flourish

March 1, 2010 at 4:10 am

Little Egret

We are now home after another week on Islay with brilliant frosty, sunny weather and one day with another four inches of snow – just what the doctor ordered.

This weeks photos show the woods at Bridgend covered in snowdrops that have withstood days of minus 4º and four inches of snow. The Little Egret at Gruinart is also shown as it swallows prey taken from the ditches on the RSPB reserve.

During our travels around the island we have seen most raptors but no Eagles this time. Good views have been had of Brent Geese, Grey Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Twite, Whooper Swans and many more. Fours otters have been seen in total but only the one really performed for us.

We were so tuned in to looking for Hen Harriers that as we passed the Loch Fyne restaurant in Argyll on our way home we observed a female flying overhead!!!

An Islay Winter

February 21, 2010 at 3:13 am

Loch Ballygrant

We have just spent a week on our favourite Hebridean island of Islay with incredible Winter weather and four inches of snow on one day. It was an unique experience to walk around the lochs and woodlands with everywhere covered in deep snow and coated in frost

There have been good sightings of Hen Harriers, Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrels and of course the thousand of geese trying to feed in the snow covered fields. Good flocks of Golden Plover, Lapwings and Bullfinches have been seen. Yes, Bullfinches in a flock is almost unique but on one day we watched parties of four, ten and fifteen feeding together in the snow covered heather. They appeared to be eating the seeds deep inside the heather, something I have never witnessed before.

This year with the severe frost in January we arrived on Islay with the snowdrops in Bridgend woods at their very best. As usual it was a breathtaking carpet of white and on more than one occasion was covered in snow!

Two fantastic days were spent on Jura looking for Otters. On one of these days we followed an Otter for four hours. During this time it rested only thirty minutes and fished for three and a half hours with a success rate of one item of prey per minute. Conditions were perfect and some good video was obtained of it fishing, eating prey and sleeping. It is always a great challenge looking for Otters and the following day what was probably the same creature failed to give us any film!!

Who Killed Cock Robin?

February 14, 2010 at 4:48 am

Sparrow Hawk

Yes this male Sparrow Hawk had his second Robin of the Winter in the garden this week. I know he has to live but I wish he would go somewhere else!

Last week I have been on my annual film show tour of South West Scotland with the best weather I have ever had for this tour in more than twenty years. The Kites at Loch Ken continue to increase annually with more than sixty coming to the feeding station each day. The number of young reared last year was apparently twice that of the year before and on that basis the prospects for the future look very good.

During my travel around South West Scotland I enjoyed watching a flock of one hundred and sixty Scaup at Stranraer, a Hen Harrier and Crossbills at Mossdale and on the last evening the spectacle of a million Starlings going to roost at Gretna Green.

Signs of Spring

February 8, 2010 at 2:21 am

Long Eared Owl

Severe frost early in the week but now somewhat milder as I made a first visit to some of the moorland plantations. In one a single Long Eared Owl was found but only thirty foot away from it a pair were together and apparently ready for the breeding season ahead.

Whilst there are still Jack Snipe and Woodcock about there is now a steady passage of Skylarks returning towards the hills and perhaps they know that Winter has finished? We shall have to wait and see.

There has been some movements of Pink Footed Geese in recent days with skeins of up to two hundred generally moving in a North west direction.

In the garden a party of nine Long Tailed Tits fed briefly so these have survived the severe weather of the last six weeks and will pair off to breed in a little over four weeks time.