Popular Tags:

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?

Grandson’s First Twitch

February 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm


Just imagine seeing your first Waxwing at eleven weeks old. That’s forty three years earlier than I saw my first Waxwing! Well I couldn’t resist taking my grandson,Marcus, two hundred yards from his home in Heywood to see twenty seven in a tree in the next avenue. What a privilege but will he remember?

On the twenty fifth there were eighteen briefly on a yellow rowan in Middleton but were these the same Heywood birds that have now been around for nearly a month?

In the garden both male and female Bullfinches have appeared briefly so they are still in the area. Also the Willow Tit and Goldcrest are still around.

A motorway trip to Stoke produced four Buzzard sightings and a nice flock of at least seven hundred Lapwings in a neighbouring field at Sandbach. Sorry couldn’t give an accurate count passing on the M6 at eighty mph!

On Hopwood sixty five Magpies were roosting in willows at dusk on the thirty first.

Lapwings Refuel At Tesco

January 24, 2009 at 11:12 pm


This photo shows part of a flock of one hundred and forty Lapwings that spent several hours on the roof of Tesco’s petrol station in Oldham. They are normally on the roof of the Indian Ocean restaurant nearby!

It was good to see the return of the Willow Tit to the garden this week with several visits but only briefly

On Hopwood on the twentieth the Redpoll flock had increased to thirty two – feeding from birch tree to birch tree. A Woodcock was also present

A single Fieldfare feeding on hawthorne berries provided me with some film on the twentieth until a dog walker with two alsatians brought it all to an abrupt end. It was still there the day after but so was the dog walker!

I have now gone a week without sighting a Waxwing and I am already suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Whilst Walking The Dog

January 18, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Water Rail

Who would have thought that after intensively watching an area for more than forty years you could find a new bird whilst walking the dog. Well, on the sixteenth at dusk, I threw a biscuit into the local Trub brook to encourage my golden retriever to dive in to get all the dirt off him. As he plunged into the water a Water Rail flew out from under the bank and was last seen flying off towards the sewerage works – the first Water Rail I have ever recorded in the area!

Waxwings are still around but berries are now few and far between. On the fourteenth I filmed sixty feeding on yellow berries at Hyde and on the seventeenth seventy were feeding on white berries in a cemetery at Oldham. How much longer they remain with us remains to be seen

At two thirty pm on the twelfth, ten Whooper Swans flew over Hopwood from a North West direction and disappeared East in the direction of Tandle Hill. I understand that a few minutes later they landed on Hollingworth Lake.

In the early hours of the fourteenth I was awakened by a Tawny Owl calling in the trees outside our bedroom window. This was answered by several House Sparrows chirping in our attic! Did they know they were safe?

Wanderer Returns

January 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Stocks Reservoir

Since last weeks entry we have had eight wonderful frosty and sometimes snowy Winter days. The highlight has got to be the return of the Willow Tit to the garden on the second after an absence of more than two years. It came daily until the sixth but has not been seen since. Blackbirds peaked at thirteen one morning with twenty four House Sparrows seen together another day

What about Waxwings? Well a hundred at Offerton on the third of January followed by at least fifty on the fourth, only one on the fifth. However, on that date there were seven back in Middleton and these increased to eight on the sixth then down to five on the seventh. None seen since.

On Hopwood there was a good flock of twenty four Redpolls going to roost on the eighth January and amongst the vast flock of Corvids there was an albino Carrion Crow.

A visit to Stocks reservoir on the fifth January produced a great sunset but the Starlings there did not perform for the camera. The feeding station there had at least twenty Coal Tits present plus a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Two Little Owls were seen including one on a fence post by the roadside as we drove home over Pendle Hill.

The North Staffordshire moorlands had a fantastic hoar frost on the tenth and two forlorn Kestrels trying to find prey at dusk. A Woodcock flew across the road in front of the car well after sunset on its way to feed.

Yesterday I spent twenty minutes washing bird droppings off the car but was delighted to do so as they had been produced two hours earlier by seventy Waxwings sat in a tree above the car. It was like falling hail in a Summer storm!!

Tuned Into Waxwings

January 2, 2009 at 8:47 pm


Since last week’s blog it has been non-stop Waxwings with some incredible Winter weather with minus seven degrees one night and a maximum day temperature on the thirty first of minus three degrees. Not the sort of weather to spend three hours in the open in a Rochdale garden waiting for Waxwings!!

After last weeks finding of Waxwings in Tweedale Street the next day they peaked at thirty two before all the berries had been devoured and they moved on to Norden, where a new peak of fifty three occurred at Caldershaw Road on the thirty first December. Whilst filming these in a garden I was amazed to find two male Blackcaps feeding on the same berries.

New Years day produced an incredible hoar frost and my third grand slam of the Winter with a Jack Snipe at dawn in the Thornham fields, fifty plus Waxwings at Offerton in the late morning and two Woodcock in Hopwood woods at dusk. What a start to the year!

The garden continues to attract daily eight to eleven Long Tailed Tits, Jay,Wren, Goldcrest and the first Reed Bunting of the Winter but, unfortunately, the male Bullfinches have stopped coming.