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Eighty Degrees North

July 27, 2009 at 5:22 am

Professor Molchanov

The next two weeks I am in Spitsbergen, cruising the fiords on the Professor Molchanov and making shore landings by way of zodiacs as shown in the photo.

The aim is to obtain good views of such things as Polar Bears, Walrus and Ivory Gulls but nothing is guaranteed. On last years visit the weather was exceptional (see July 08 blog) but I notice that this year, snow and sub zero temperatures are predicted!

Recently in the garden the male Sparrowhawk has visited along with Greater Spotted Woodpecker and the almost daily sightings of the Willow Tit.

Thirty Three Hour Bird

July 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

Male Merlin

Thirty three hours,. Yes that is how long it has taken, sat in my hide over the last two weeks, before I finally obtained any film of the male Merlin. What a performance he put in by bringing three items of prey to the branch and because the female was not present he had to pluck the feathers off the prey himself and then, which is an exception, feed the young himself. The next day the female Merlin was back at the site and the male was impossible to film once again!

The big news from the garden has been the re-appearance of the Willow Tit, feeding on several days. Has it bred locally?

On Hopwood a pair of Oyster Catchers have been present and both Whitethroat and Bullfinches are still rearing second broods.

Flycatchers In Decline

July 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Spotted Flycatcher

These are the only breeding Spotted Flycatchers I have encountered this year. They have young that are about to fledge and it is sad that one of the most charismatic birds of Summer has now disappeared from many of its former breeding sites.

During the week I have spent many more hours in a hide trying to film the male Merlin. So far the total is twenty eight hours and I have yet to see him! On some days the female has only fed the young once in five hours and the fact that there are only two young has stacked the odds of my seeing the male heavily against. Still I shall continue to wait, weather permitting!

The four young Kestrels of last week have now flown from the hole and are flying around in pursuit of the adults when they arrive with food. Very soon they will be on their own having to find food for themselves and it will be a steep learning curve to survive.

In the hills it was good to find that a pair of Ring Ouzels have fledged their second brood of young. The period in between first and second broods was so short that the female must have settled on the second clutch of eggs whilst the male was still feeding the first fledged young.

In the garden was the first Comma butterfly of the Summer so lets hope there are many more to follow.

Hole In The Wall

July 5, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Young Kestrels

This week I have spent six mornings looking at a hole in the wall. Inside were four young Kestrels and during the week they have been appearing at the entrance and are now fledging. Prey has been voles, mice and a frog and both adults have shared the task of providing the prey but visits have only averaged out at thirty minute intervals, so there has been a good deal of waiting. Kestrels in general this year have had some success with another site nearby also with young. The hot weather has provided voles and mice with good breeding conditions and the Kestrels have benefitted.

The one day I did not spend on the Kestrels I visited the North Staffordshire moors on a day of fantastic clarity and a maximum temperature of thirty one degrees! It was good to watch two juvenile Peregrines being fed by the female on a rocky outcrop. Perfect conditions for Hobbies but none seen. One of my favourite flowers, Bog Asphodel, was just beginning to flower.

Along the river Hodder Kingfishers are now contemplating second broods, Common Sandpipers have young and in the meadows nearby we have many Meadow Brown butterflies that have been enjoying the recent hot weather.

Long Wait For Jack

June 28, 2009 at 7:09 am


One of the pleasures of a lifetime in bird photography is the privilege of being granted a licence to film illusive species like the Merlin. The male (Jack) Merlin is one of the ultimate challenges and last week I spent more than twelve hours in my hide high on the Pennine moors in temperatures of more than twenty five degrees to fulfill this challenge. Unfortunately my Jack Merlin would not land where I wanted him to so this weeks photo is from last year!

Most of the Pennine Kestrels now have young at various stages of fledging. I have found three nests to date and I am now ready to spend more time in hot hides awaiting the visits of the adults with prey. At least with Kestrels you never know what prey is going to be brought in next.

It has been pleasing to see Little Ringed Plovers with young around the edge of one moorland reservoir. Ring Ouzels are now considering whether or not to lay a second clutch of eggs.

Even though we have had some hot, sunny weather this week we have yet to see good numbers of butterflies.

Young Everywhere

June 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Young Kingfisher

This weeks photo shows a young Kingfisher that has been out of its dark, smelly tunnel for only a couple of hours. It was one of three that were on a riverside branch and allowed my approach to six feet. Sadly at this stage young Kingfishers are oblivious to the dangers of the outside world and are very easy targets for Sparrowhawk. Lets hope this one survives.

After the success on Islay with Short Eared Owls it must be the bird of the year. As I watched for Kestrels in the hills yesterday I couldn’t believe it when I found a pair of Owls feeding three well grown young.

How times change for I met a team of RSPB researchers last week looking for the nests of Twite. In a week they had found nine nests after many hours of watching. Thirty years ago I could have found that many in a single night around Rochdale – but not any more!

In the Ribble valley today I found a Spotted Flycatcher’s nest over a farmhouse door. These are the first I have seen this year and there is great concern over the dramatic reduction in the numbers of this once common Summer visitor.