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Newsletter December 2009

December 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm


Another year comes to a close and what a year its been. In 40 years of filming wildlife I have never had a better year.It started off with a classic Winter with snow and frost on many days. Coupled with that there was an invasion of Waxwings and New Years day started off with a spectacular hoar frost and 100 Waxwings feeding on Rowan berries at Offerton.

The highlight of February was the filming of a Jack Snipe in a local marsh. I have spent a lifetime trying to obtain film of Jack Snipe and finally I spotted one on the ground before it saw me and flew off as all the others have done! February also brought with it my lecture tour of South West Scotland for the Scottish Ornithologists Club. Good weather for that produced some good film of sixty plus Kites at the feeding station on Loch Ken.

Somehow in a busy month we also made our annual February visit to Islay. It was great to see the Geese in their Winter quarters but the highlight was filming a flock of twenty seven Snow Buntings, another bird I have been after for a long time.

At the end of March I visited Teesdale to inspect the Blackcock lek that I had filmed eighteen years ago. This time as a professional I had to pay a fee to put my hide up . On the morning of the 1st April I was in my hide and this turned out to be a morning I would never forget. The calls of the wading birds in the valley as it came light were unbelievable and when the Blackcock started to display it was truly amazing. I had the option of going back to obtain some more film but that one morning produced all I needed.

During the year our garden has produced plenty of birds with up to 33 Goldfinches feeding together on one occasion. The highlight, however, has been regular visits of a Willow Tit and on one occasion I did obtain some film.

In the local Pennines I had in mind filming Woodcock, Ring Ouzel, Kestrel and a male Merlin and managed to obtain good film of them all!

We spent five weeks on Islay during Spring and were blessed with fantastic weather and the best year for Short Eared Owls for twenty years. I obtained some amazing film of them together with that of Hen Harriers and Buzzard that will be saved for a future DVD.

In late July I joined an expedition to Spitsbergen and again had some fantastic weather with the sighting of 26 Polar Bears during circumnavigation of the islands. On the 30th July we saw 7 bears in one day with a female and her two cubs spending more than 2 hours around the boat in perfect conditions. I have never before taken more than an hour of video and 250 still photos in one session and probably will never again.

Since returning from that voyage Pauline and I have spent nearly 3 months producing a new DVD entitled ‘Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen’. details of that you will find on my website

Polar Bear DVD

I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


Woodcock Return

December 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm


Not much to report this week following on from the wettest ever November with more than ten inches of rain recorded on Hopwood Golf Course rain gauge.

The first Jack Snipe of the Winter was flushed on the thirtieth of November and prior to this two Woodcock were seen on the twenty eighth of November. It was good to see these but where are the thrushes?

Fourteen Long Tailed Its were seen on the first of December in Hopwood woods and five later in Tesco car park!

The Hollingworth Lake Great Northern Diver is still present and putting on a good show – if you time your visit right! Unfortunately I have been thwarted by anglers on one occasion and a rowing regatta on another.

On Hopwood on the tenth two more Woodcock were flushed from different places and four Redpolls were feeding in some birches. A Buzzard was seen plus a Hare and a Fox.

In the garden the Collared Doves have now increased to nineteen and the first Reed Bunting has fed.

Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen DVD

November 29, 2009 at 7:45 am

Polar Bear Cover

After many months of editing my DVD ‘Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen’ it is now available for sale.

Spitsbergen is the most accessible part of the high Arctic and in Summer is home to more that two thousand Polar Bears, over a million sea birds and some of the Arctic’s most stunning flowers. All flourish in the short Arctic Summer

We were blessed with some incredible weather making the encounters with Walruses and Polar Bears truly amazing, especially against the backdrop of the midnight sun.

View Preview Movie

Details of how to order Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen – DVD are available on our Order page.

Almost There

November 23, 2009 at 5:19 am

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Last weekend was spent at Banchory in Aberdeenshire attending Mike Madders memorial service on the Monday. A beautiful part of the country but not much seen in the way of wildlife.

In the garden the Collared Doves have increased to a maximum of seventeen with a Great Spotted Woodpecker a regular daily visitor.

Full launch of the new DVD Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen will be made next weekend but if anyone wants to post me a cheque for £16 to 3 Saxonholme Road, Castleton, Rochdale. OL11 2YA I will forward the DVD by return of post. It will be possible to pay through my website next weekend.

Shades Of Summer

November 15, 2009 at 7:47 am

Great Northern Diver

Not quite as spectacular as this photo of a Great Northern Diver in Summer plumage but it was good to see one at Hollingworth Lake this week. It has been there now over a week which is a long time for a vagrant passage bird.

In Hopwood this week a large party of Tits comprised of a least twenty one Long Tailed Tits – the most I have seen together locally for many years. A Woodcock was also flushed on the fourteenth and a Green Woodpecker seen on the eleventh. One flock of thirty two Fieldfares is still the biggest I have seen this Winter and all the berries are still waiting to be eaten.

In the garden there is now a young female Sparrow Hawk coming as well as the old male bird. She spent some time one day trying to entice the House Sparrows out of the thick privet hedge but with no success.

A Week Of Rain

November 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm


Last weeks note about the Sparrowhawk was somewhat premature as he returned twice during the week and on one occasion he caught a Goldfinch on the rockery at the back of our garden! Despite all this the Collared Dove total has now increased to fifteen and there seems to be no end to where they are coming from.

On Hopwood a Buzzard was seen on the seventh. Flower wise there are still Foxglove and Red Campion in flower – global warming I suppose.

It has rained nearly every day this week with more than two inches having fallen. There are still very few Winter thrushes about and it looks like Bramblings are going to be the star birds this Winter.