Seconds before the kill

August 3, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Hen Harrier

I couldn’t resist including this last shot of a Hen Harrier from Islay. The eyes of this attacking male are the last thing that a poor Meadow Pipit will see before it is captured. What a way to go. I decided to avoid contact with his talons!

Locally this is now a quiet time from a filming point of view , after a very hectic breeding season. On the local Golf course whilst there are still Willow Warblers singing all the Whitethroats have now become silent. It would appear that they are not having second broods this year and I have read a recent article in one of the bird magazines that claims they are returning south earlier these days and this could certainly confirm this. A Kingfisher on the stream that traverses the Golf course was an added bonus.

At Dovestones there was still a flock of up to thirty Crossbills feeding in the plantation. They seem to be feeding on the Scots pine cones now which have ripened later than the Larch cones what they were feeding on in June.

Another week on Islay

July 22, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Tiger Moth

We have just returned from a week on Islay which went very quickly compared to the five weeks of our Spring visit

It is always nice to return to a nest that you were filming earlier in the year and carry on again until the young fledge but in the world of wildlife filming this seldom comes to fruition. The Black Guillemots nest had been predated during my absence of five weeks but there was better news with the Hen Harriers. I spent many long four hour sessions in the hide until the young fledged the nest and took their first flight and even better there were five of them! It is good to have been able to follow this pair of Hen Harriers from nest building to fledging their young all in a nine week period. How I wish some of our local raptors had been as successful.

This weeks photo is of a Tiger Moth that we encountered on our way across to the Harrier hide. I have no idea how rare they are but this is only the second one that I have seen on Islay. It was not very active and I suspect that the abundance of rain last week had partially drowned it. In fact on one occasion I had to turf out of the hide a large toad that must have thought it had found the most perfect spot to escape the rain!

The only other filming on Islay was of a Kestrels nest with three young about to fledge. This nest was on a cliff face and it is always worth the challenge, especially when you consider that there are more breeding Hen Harriers on Islay than Kestrels.

Spitsbergen Voyage

July 10, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Hornsund Spitsbergen

I have just returned from a ten day cruise of the Spitsbergen fiords and the photo shows our boat entering Hornsund on the most perfect Arctic day you could ever imagine. This Arctic habitat is the most pristine on earth and we were blessed with eight days of superb weather; although it did snow on one of the other days!

I would recommend anyone contemplating this voyage to allow an extra day beforehand in Longyearbyen. I filled my spare day visiting a Little Auk colony, filming nesting Barnacle Geese and Arctic Terns, found more than ten Grey Phalaropes, five King Eiders and also had some good views of Reindeer and Arctic Fox – all before the Cruise started! The only passerine in Spitsbergen is the Snow Bunting and they are everywhere.

We should have cruised all the way around Spitsbergen but this year the whole of the east side is blocked with ice. Before anyone says “What about Global Warming?” this is only year old ice and will be gone by August 1st. In fact some of the glaciers I last saw when I was there eight years ago are now only two third the size.

Polar Bears are most peoples reason to come to Spitsbergen and finding them in pack ice is almost impossible. After days of searching we only saw three and one of these was swimming away from us. However. Walrus are now very common and we sat by one rookery with more than one hundred and fifty Walrus present. Unfortunately they were up wind from us and the smell was horrendous!

We called at Ny Alesund, the most Northerly village in the World, and I staked out a house that had a foxes den under it. Although there were supposed to be nine cubs under the house only one appeared for twenty seconds – after a cold wait of eighty minutes.

We had a barbecue on the deck of the boat in Hornsund on the most perfect day you could imagine but where were the Polar Bears that should have appeared at the smell of dozens of Lamb chops!!

It was a fantastic visit to Spitsbergen but the reckoning came on the journey home – twenty one hours of travelling through five countries, including an abortive take – off at one airport. Give me MacBraynes ferry to ISLAY anytime.

View the full sized picture of Hornsund Spitsbergen as it is amazing.

A load of Blubber

June 28, 2008 at 6:29 pm


No local news this week as I am on tour in Spitsbergen

Better news for the Long Eared Owls

June 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Young Long Eared Owl

Two very wet days this week have curtailed some filming activities but there are still plenty of challenges around if you are prepared to put time in.

A moorland plantation near Burnley provided fledged young Long Eared Owls which is a nice plus after those near Oldham have been taken. I would urge anyone reading this blog to keep a sharp look out for anyone with young Owls in captivity. Remember all captive birds must have rings on their legs that are registered with the authorities. To put it simply any without rings are held illegally and police should be informed.

I spent two sessions filming young Kestrels being fed in a hole in the gable end of a rest home near Burnley. Three and a half hours on the 21st produced a feed every half an hour but none of the prey could be identified as it was passed to the young quickly and with their backs to the camera.

A gale blowing today, twenty seconded, produced some wonderful views of Crossbills at Dovestones. Whilst the moving branches were a major problem at least it made the birds feed lower down and gave bigger images.

A Better Week

June 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm


After last weeks disappointment with egg collectors this week has been more rewarding and the weather has remained dry and sunny all week.

Locally three different Whitethroat’s nests have been found and some great video of one pair with five young about to fledge. What a joy it is to film a species that feeds its young every few minutes rather than a three hour wait for a Merlin feed. Talking of Merlins I have had an unsuccessful attempt to film the male Merlin’s plucking post but this weeks picture shows I had better luck last year! – What an absolute gem he is.

The highlight of the week has undoubtably been filming Green Woodpeckers with young about to fledge. Only the female fed the young at thirty minute intervals and one or two of the young would lean out of the hole to meet the female, calling loudly, it was all action and on one occasion a Great Spotted Woodpecker came to the hole but soon flew off when a young stabbed at it.