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Easter Disaster

April 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Long Eared Owl

This male Long Eared Owl in the photo was found roosting by his incubating female on Easter Saturday and looked quite proud to be protecting her while she incubated the eggs in an old Magpies nest. Their world was turned upside down the next day when youths pitched three tents under their nesting tree and resulted in failure of breeding for this year. In another plantation near Oldham the same thing happened and another pair of Long Eared Owls failed.

The lesson, of course, is that good weather when Easter falls in April can be a disaster for our local breeding Owls – not just Long Eared but Tawnys as well. Next year Easter does fall again in April so lets all hope we have four days of pouring rain – if only for the benefit of our breeding Owls.

It is good to hear Blackcaps singing in the woods and we now wait with trepidation to see if any Wood Warblers return.

Lekking Blackcock

April 12, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Black Grouse

Further to last weeks blog the real reason to visit the Northern Dales was to wait for a perfect morning to film lekking Blackcock. Well it came along and I entered my hide at 4am in total darkness.By 5am the valley was alive with the calls of Waders and by 5.15am the first Blackcock flew into the lek. It was nineteen years since I filmed this lek and I had forgotten how awesome the calls of lekking Blackcock were as it came light. I was treated to fighting males in front of me. When the sun came up their colours looked even more immaculate. In all the fighting I failed to see a female but I am sure they did! At 8.10am they all flew off and the spectacle was over with for that morning. It was a great deal of effort but the performance of the birds and the weather had been perfect and over half an hour of video was obtained of which I will have to find the best minute for my Pennine DVD.

In wildlife filming not everything goes according to plan , I was in position to film a scene in Bowland, the sounds were perfect with Curlews and Lapwings calling on the moors. I was about to start filming when more than a hundred motor bikes came over the hill and drowned out all the calls. It was twenty minutes before everything returned to normal and I could finish the sequence!

A big effort has been made to find Woodcock and finally today an off duty bird was flushed. Despite a thorough search no nest was found but I will bet the female was down on eggs somewhere. I may have to return with my Golden Retriever to seek some canine help!

In the last week there has been a massive influx of migrants with Willow Warblers singing everywhere. The last two days have also produced Redstarts, Blackcaps and a male Pied Flycatcher in full song by a nest box.

Along the river Hodder a fresh spraint from an Otter was a good indicator of their presence and on the same day two Hares boxing were the first I have seen doing this. Amusingly I also came across a Hare sat three foot off the ground in the fork of a tree.

In the hills a female Merlin was back on her nesting territory and the spectacle of a hunting male Long Eared Owl at dusk was one not to be missed. It’s all beginning to happen now.

Wader Extravaganza

April 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm


Good weather has returned this last week and I have spent two days in the Northern Dales filming waders including the Snipe on the blog. It was amazing at dusk and dawn to see and listen to displaying waders that included Woodcock, Snipe, Redshank, Lapwings, Oyster Catchers and Curlew. Many of our local hills had these waders thirty years ago before overgrazing led to their disappearance.

An outing one evening this week resulted in a male Long Eared Owl being seen carrying prey to a female and there was some vocal activity. It was good to see the return of Wheatears to the hills.

Searches for the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have drawn a blank on two occasions and I now fear that this tiny illusive bird has been lost to the areas I have known for a lifetime.

In the garden Reed Buntings are the stars and we must have at least half a dozen different birds now feeding at different times.

Can You Spare A Feather?

March 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Long Tailed Titl

A wild and windy week but it has not stopped the Long Tailed Tits gathering feathers to line their nest’s with. All six nests that I have found are now at this stage and when you consider that some one counted more than two thousand feathers inside a Long Tailed Tits nest they have some distance to cover in their search

Whilst in a local wood this week I noticed the face of a Fox inside a hole under an ivy covered tree. The fox left the hole which contained at least five cubs of about a week old and still with their eyes closed. Will she move them now her den has been discovered?

This week-end the garden has been superb with twenty three species being recorded. Included were Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush, Willow Tit and twelve Greenfinches. A Long Tailed Field Mouse was sleeping inside one of the feeders after last nights frost!

Good To Be Nesting Again

March 22, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Long Eared Owl

High pressure all week and I have been actively checking nest sites to the north of Rochdale in perfect conditions. A pair of Long Eared Owls is always good to see and the female must soon start incubating in an old crow’s nest amongst the pines.

A search for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers failed to produce anything other than a Brambling – my first of the Winter!

On the moors Red Grouse are very vocal with the calls of Curlew and Snipe very noticeable and impressive on the calm evenings that we have had this week.

Buzzards have been active on Hopwood and Long Tailed Tits nests are now up to six, with many others not yet found.

In the garden a female Sparrowhawk has been present most days but no kills have been seen so far – not that I would have wished the pair of Bullfinches or the Willow Tit, which are daily visitors, to have been taken!

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.