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A good week for filming

May 2, 2008 at 8:43 pm


A good weeks weather and a hectic time with two ascents of Pendle Hill inside fourteen hours! On one morning I was at the Trig station on top of Pendle at 6.00am and filmed the sunrise on the way up. It was well worth it with a dozen Northern Golden Plover on the summit but more especially three Dotterel. A magical two hours was spent filming these most evocative of wading birds.

Most of the Peregrines in the hills are now awaiting their eggs hatching and numbers are still at an all time high with pairs nesting again in Manchester and also Bolton

After months of searching the moorland forests for Long Eared Owls I had a fantastic encounter during the week by finding one roosting bird completely in the open. Some good film was taken as it elongated its body to look more like a vertical pine branch.

An afternoon was spent filming Herons in the final stages of fledging their young. I find it is always a sad event because of the high mortality of the young in the last few days before flying. Many get blown into the trees and are unable to close their wings, some break a wing and fall to the ground where they will end up easy prey for the local foxes.

Next reports will be from my favourite place of all, the island of Islay – can’t wait!

Dotterel on Time

April 28, 2008 at 1:10 pm


With the wind turning to SW it was time to check the top of Pendle Hill for Dotterel. Unfortunately someone beat me to it and announced on Birdline that there were two present. When we arrived on top of the hill at 8.30am three bird watchers were already there and had already flushed them. Normally they move on but eventually I found them again and took some video from a distance. I would have got some more but a photographer arrived with an enormous white Canon lens, no tripod and no idea how to photograph birds without disturbing them. He insisted on going closer, stood up, fired a machine gun volley of shots and off they went!

The rest of the week has been equally as frustrating with no Kingfishers present on my regular site and the eggs of a Golden Plover being predated by Crows. The continuing search for Woodcock produced the usual NIL Result.

On the plus side I managed to get some better video of a roosting Long Eared Owl which was one of my top priorities this Spring.

On walking around the edge of a moorland reservoir with a friend we spotted a Canada Goose on its nest in some billberries. My friend commented that if it was the last bird left in the world he would not photograph a Canada Goose. As we left the area we walked past the brooding Canada Goose and to our amazement there were five gosling all sat around her. So what did we do? We spent more than an hour filming the family party waiting for her to take them down to the water – which of course she never did!!

Woodcock 0 – Tawny Owl 2

April 20, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Tawny Owl

A cold week with strong easterly winds making this years nesting season one of the latest ever.

Two full days in Bowland looking for Woodcock nests once again produced none, not even a flushed bird. However, all that time searching the ground cover has produced two pairs of ground nesting Tawny Owls. This is a rare find and in the last forty years I have only ever seen two other ground nests of Tawny Owls.

In the garden Blue Tits have started taking moss into one of the nest boxes and we had a record number of six Chaffinches on the lawn.

A visit to the high moors one night was unproductive with no Golden Plover but some snow! I found a roosting Long Eared Owl in a pine and now have film of six species of Owl for the next DVD on the Pennines due out next year.

As I drove off the moors one morning a male Merlin flew over the bonnet of the car and rested on a fence post. It’s a good job there was no traffic behind me at the time!!

A Stop – Start Week

April 13, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Reed Bunting

Still snow on the hills even as late as the 12th April. This is having a marked effect on the breeding season with one pair of Long Tailed Tits only now lining their nest with feathers, having commenced building twenty two days ago! It has been stop – start ever since.

Several days have been spent searching for Woodcock nests but none have been found – it is now four years since I found one! In consolation three Dippers nests have been found and I saw my first three Swallows on the tenth – the same day I saw a Brambling.

An hour was spent under the camouflage cloth trying to film an albino Carrion Crow. I didn’t actually fail as it fed in the field I expected it in, only it would not come closer than fifty feet.

The highlight of a cold, wet week has been four male Reed Buntings feeding in our garden – a record number for us. I suspect they are coming in off the nearby Golf Course where there have been up to twenty nine feeding on an area of burnt grass.

Long Tailed Tits and Health and Safety!

April 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm


At last after last weeks windy weather the 31st March dawned calm and sunny – perfect for filming Long Tailed Tits gathering feathers and taking them into their nests. To save time I provide the feathers for them. Now where do you obtain feathers at this time of the year with no birds in moult – the answer of course is to purchase a feather duster from the Garden Center with plenty of white feathers on it (they prefer white feathers). I received some funny looks from the check out girl when I informed her that the feather duster was not going to be used for dusting purposes. I left her guessing as to its use.

At the first site the pair picked up the offered feathers and provided me with some good film. However the nest was deep in gorse and I could not film them taking the feathers into the hole so I moved on to the Industrial estate where there was a more open nest site. The gorse bush was on the edge of a busy unit with lorries coming and going. I had no cover on the grass embankment so I climbed under my camouflage cloth and got ready to film. Unfortunately a gallery of yellow jacketed workers had gathered to watch. One was nominated to come and ask the question of what I was doing. A suitable explanation was given and all seemed well and I got on with filming. However, after ten minutes, a man in an orange jacket appeared and pointed out I was technically on their property and not covered by Health and Safety if a lorry was to mount the grass verge and hit me!! After some discussion a piece of paper was produced and I signed a disclaimer releasing their company from liability.

A visit to Downham in the Ribble valley produced the first Sand Martins of Spring. There were some splendid spreads of Wood Anemones and Lesser Celandines but on the whole this years flowers are much later than last year. In the hills the first male Merlin was back on breeding territory on the 31st March.

The highlight of the week was a visit to Bowland and the inspection of three Crossbills nests that contained eggs and young. After a life time involved in nest finding it was hard to believe how high in the pines and how well hidden these nests were.

We are now in Summer time!

March 31, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Little Owl

The snow of last weekend remained in places for four days and with the north wind has held back the Summer migrants – only one day of March left and I haven’t seen any yet!

In deep snow drifts I walked the moors east of Burnley. Red Grouse were very active and a Woodcock was flushed from a pine plantation. A search for Long Eared Owls only produced two Tawny Owls and as we know if there are Tawny Owls in a wood then there will not be any Long Eared Owls as Tawny Owls dominate.

More Long Tailed Tits nests have been found but filming has been almost impossible due to a strong wind blowing on most days, the gorse bushes that they were in would not keep still!

One morning I spent an hour under the camouflage cloth along the river Irwell hoping to film a Heron feeding at the weir. The Heron failed to appear and I had to put up with a procession of dog walkers and their dogs – although none saw me.

A local farm at Heywood had a Little Owl calling and establishing its territory for the breeding season ahead. At Ogden Goldcrests were also becoming vocal.