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An Active Week

November 29, 2008 at 9:39 pm


Plenty of action this week with Waxwings to find and good numbers of birds in the garden. In fact the garden birds have peaked at eight Long Tailed Tits, twenty one Goldfinches, twenty House Sparrows, thirteen Greenfinches, two male Bullfinches and two Jays, besides the numerous Blue tits and Great tits, one Coal Tit, three Collared Doves, three Blackbirds. eight Starlings, two Robins, three Chaffinches, one Wren and one Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The Golf course has also proved good with a Stonechat catching insects one morning and a Green Woodpecker calling on another morning. At dusk one day there were five hundred Corvids going to roost. Another bonus was finding a roost of over fifty Reed Buntings one night on Hopwood set against the best sunset I have seen in ten years!

Local Waxwings at last at a school in Oldham, there were twelve in a fog. Luckily I managed some film before it became dense with a maximum day temperature of one degree centigrade. It was a tragedy to find that one Waxwing had flown into one of the school windows the day before and died – imagine flying all that way from Russia and then dying in what was probably the first window it was to see!!

A Snowy Day

November 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Snow Bunting

Two days after my entry last week about Waxwings I was filming twelve on Rowan trees near Whalley on the most perfect day you could have imagined. I had almost forgotten what a fantastic bird they are and the three hours behind the camera lens passed very quickly. Although in typical Waxwing fashion I only had ten minutes of video to show for it!

Early morning on the twenty second, as I crossed a moorland road above Burnley, eighteen Snow Buntings landed on a gravel path only to be flushed by the only jogger in the area. These are the only Snow Buntings I have ever seen on my local moors and almost surpassed the views I was to have of the Waxwings.

On day three of the Waxwings a Sparrowhawk flew through the flock and sent them off in a southerly direction not to be seen again that day. The big question is when will they arrive in my area around Rochdale / Oldham / Middleton?

In Hopwood woods more Woodcock have now arrived and in the garden we had both male and female Sparrowhawks on the same day. The male looking like last years gem bird.

Have You Seen One Of These?

November 16, 2008 at 9:05 pm


It must be only a matter of days now before we have Waxwings feeding on local berries with over a hundred in the Penrith area and a northerly wind forecast they should soon make their way South. I checked over a dozen Rowan trees today that had berries on them and every one had a Mistle Thrush guarding them so the Waxwings are in for a fight when they arrive. There is, however, a huge Hawthorne crop and these may be an easy alternative.

I flushed my first migrant Woodcock this week in Hopwood Woods and there should be many more to follow when we have some Easterly winds.

Wherever you go there are parties of Long Tailed Tits and on a perfect morning on the twelfth at Dovestones reservoir eight Long Tailed Tits were the only decent birds that I saw.

During the week the garden has continued to impress with a first visit of the Winter of a female Greater Spotted Woodpecker ,which now seems to be a daily visitor as does the Jay,.Goldcrest and Long Tailed Tits came one morning. We now regularly have more than twenty House Sparrows and twenty Greenfinches.

A Close Encounter

November 9, 2008 at 1:24 pm


Well here we are home again after a spectacular two weeks on Islay and with a heavy month of film shows ahead.

As I drove up the drive to the Golf Club on my first day back I noticed a Carrion Crow feeding in a field to my right, suddenly a Peregrine Falcon flew downwind in front of the car rapidly homing in on the Crow. At the last minute the Crow realised the danger and avoided the hundred miles per hour stoop of the Peregrine – it was like being back on Islay again!

I encountered my first local Fieldfares of the Winter this week – a flock of twenty. There are few Rowan berries this year but the Hawthorne crop is very heavy so it is now the search for the Waxwings as they move down from Scotland. We had none last Winter so lets hope for better luck this year.

An unusual sighting this week was a Roe Deer on the Golf Course at dusk. The first I have encountered overwinter.

Whooper Delight

November 2, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Whooper Swan

After last weeks stormy weather the last seven days have been much better with the last two being the best Autumn days I have ever seen on Islay. We have had four days with snow on the hills which is unique for October

At long last we were able to film a large gathering of Whooper Swans resting and feeding in a stubble field. It was interesting to watch some of the young feeding whilst sat on the ground – their flight from Iceland had exhausted them so much they could not stand up!

On one of the two magnificent days we were able to establish a record that will take some beating – seeing seven of Islay’s diurnal raptors in one hour! (Golden Eagle (2), Buzzard, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk (male and female), Kestrel and Merlin)

In the two weeks we searched for Otters on five days and saw one on each of four days which is the best ‘hit’ rate we have ever had.

The largest group of Fieldfares that we encountered was thirty and these were feeding not on berries but on fallen apples in an orchard.

As we drove home on Saturday we received a call on the mobile, from the owner of a garden on Islay where we had been filming, to inform us that six Waxwings were now feeding there – my favourite bird, missed by only hours – you can’t win them all!!

Stormy Weather

October 25, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Port Charlotte

Despite the conditions we looked for Otters on two occasions and scored on both days. One was fishing in raging seas in the South East of the island and the other was disturbed by a fisherman checking his lobster pots, so no film was obtained of either.

The highlights have been filming seventeen Snow Buntings feeding on seeds on a remote beach and finding five Crossbills in a pine plantation feeding on Spruce cones.

A surprise has been finding a Red Admiral butterfly sunning itself during one of the brief sunny spells.