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Breeding Season Begins

March 14, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Long Tailed Tit

After the harshest Winter for years I have finally found two pairs of Long Tailed Tits building their nests in Hopwood woods – only seven days later than last year.

On the 12th a Pipistrelle Bat was active at dusk as eighty Fieldfares went to roost at Pilsworth – the biggest flock I have seen this Winter.

The garden continues to star with a fine male Siskin feeding on the eleventh and three Reed Buntings together on the fourteenth. Both male and female Sparrowhawks visited separately on the twelfth but thankfully, were unsuccessful in their hunt.

The Villain Returns

March 8, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Sparrow Hawk

This male Sparrow Hawk on the bird bath was one of twenty species in the garden on the third March. A pair of Bullfinches also fed and there was a welcome return of the Willow Tit.

On Hopwood a Woodcock was still present plus a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. A yaffle from a Green Woodpecker was the first for some time.

I could not resist the temptation of Waxwings but missed out at Padiham. However, at Gigg Lane , Bury there were fifty four present on the fifth March feeding on a few yellow Rowan berries that were still left but not for much longer.

Roe Deer At Dawn

March 1, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Roe Deer

An incredibly mild and dull week for our last week on Islay with a maximum temperature of eleven degrees on one day and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on another

We saw a further two Otters but both vanished and gave no chance of filming. The four Roe Deer in the picture were present every day along the shore and gave several good photo opportunities.

I kept providing seed for the Snow Buntings and they eventually found it and sat eating it all day! Unfortunately they were very wary but I got some decent video of them from twenty foot until the wind blew and made it impossible from then on.

A flock of more than two hundred Twite was the largest I have seen for many years and reminded me of how it used to be in the Pennines before they declined.

The 2009 breeding season is underway with the locating of three Raven nests , fully built and ready for laying in.

So it was back home and still Waxwings in different localities – can I resist the temptation?

A Winter Break

February 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

River Sorn

We have spent the past week on our favourite island of Islay.The snowdrops at Bridgend and along the banks of the river Sorn were at their best, having been delayed this year through the cold weather of last month

We watched an Otter on our first day and had good sightings of Hen Harrier, Merlin and Sparrowhawk.

I have spent some time filming a flock of twenty seven Snow Buntings and tried to attract them to seed but they failed to find it.

The presence of more than fifty thousand Geese on Islay is always an incredible sight. On one moorland we saw in excess of one hundred Ravens all attracted to food put out for pigs!

The rarest Islay bird we saw this week was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker – the only one on the island, a rarity so far North

Sixty Kites Are Flying

February 14, 2009 at 9:44 pm


This week I have been on tour in South West Scotland showing films and birding in between. A magnificent afternoon was spent at the Kite feeding station at Loch Ken where more than sixty Kites gather at the 2pm feeding time. It’s only three and a half hours drive from Rochdale and I would recommend it to anyone

This year there are no cones in the forests so there are no Crossbills and only a few Siskins. The bonus being that all the Red Squirrels visit the gardens to be fed on the bird tables, some gardens having more than half a dozen coming. One afternoon whilst watching the Squirrels in a garden a Peregrine flew over a ridge nearby just as the local Barn Owl started to hunt. It saw the Barn Owl and darted after it only to miss as the Barn Owl flew into a thick pine, with two Kites overhead at the same time I fail to see why I am still living in Rochdale!!

After three months of Waxwings in and around Rochdale I gave up the chase of seeing twenty in a village near Newton Stewart. I can only think I must have been ill or something!

The garden has been quiet in recent days except for a record six Collared Doves together on the fourteenth. Long Tail Tits have now paired off and many Mistle Thrushes are in full song.

Forty Year Wait Is Over

February 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Jack Snipe

Yes I have spent the best part of four decades trying to photograph Jack Snipe and on the fourth of February it all came good as I achieved my fourth Grand Slam of the Winter. The day started with twenty eight Waxwings in Middleton in the morning followed by two Woodcock on Hopwood and then a Jack Snipe flushed in the afternoon. I looked carefully where the Jack Snipe was feeding and noticed another one crouching in the vegetation. I did not have my camera with me so I went home for it and returned and the Jack Snipe had not moved! I took all the photos I required and left the star bird where it was, still thinking I had not seen it! A once in a lifetime encounter and of course it was not present the day after. In addition the day also produced a female Peregrine and a male Sparrowhawk carrying prey,Buzzard, Tawny Owl and two hundred Pink Footed Geese flying North – it must be the best Winters day I have ever had.

On the second it snowed all day so I made the most of it by filming the garden birds from the garage. I particularly wanted them on video with snowflakes falling and the Goldfinches on the teasel looked superb. I then walked around Hopwood in the raging blizzard at dusk and forty two Reed Buntings were going to roost in long moorland grasses out of the wind.

On the seventh we had a record fifteen Blackbirds in the garden at dawn. I then spent two hours at Dovestones reservoir in spectacular Winter conditions but only saw a Grey Wagtail on a partially frozen stream. However Chaffinch and Mistle Thrush were in full song. Perhaps Spring is not too far away?