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Last to Fledge

August 23, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Young Barn Owl

This weeks photo is of the last Barn Owl to fledge from the five that have flown locally. The tiny black specks down the flank of the young indicate that it is a female – the males breast being completely white. What with the extremely wet weather this week and the Olympics I have only managed two visits to the site this week and there are now only two birds present, these being the adults. The young having been driven away from their breeding territory.

In the garden there are fourteen Greenfinches feeding and the first two Jays have now appeared but very few Goldfinches.

On the local Golf Course Skylarks are now moving through and a Wheatear was on the first tee one morning this week. A family party of Kestrels were also mobile looking for voles.

Barn Owl Success

August 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Young Barn Owls

This weeks photo shows four of the five young Barn Owls that have fledged locally this year. After a gap of thirty five years Barn Owls returned last year and fledged two broods. This year they started a little later and probably only have one brood but to have five young flying around is a magnificent sight and one I have waited a long time to see. Lets hope now that they have some dry nights to learn how to hunt for themselves because after ten days they will be on their own. It’s a sad fact that no more than two of these young will survive to this time next year. I wish them well!

During the week a Green Woodpecker has returned to feed on the golf course after going somewhere to breed but where? Good numbers of Siskins are also present and seem to be feeding in the Silver Birches.

Foxes Everywhere

August 10, 2008 at 7:22 pm


The local wildlife event of the week has been the continued presence of Fox cubs both in the woods and on the local golf course. By now this years cubs are quite big and one in particular is in superb condition and very bold. Most of the golfers have got used to it and some offer tit bits on their way round. One golfer approached a tee, teed up his ball and was watched by the fox. When he walked back to his bag for a club the fox cub ran over, pinched his yellow ball and ran off with it. I would have liked to have got this on film but I was laughing that much it was not possible!

Bullfinches can be heard in the bracken and I have in the past found two Bullfinches nests built in the canopy of new bracken growth. It’s a challenge to find them but I am sure that there are second broods waiting to fledge – whether they survive the torrential downpours of the past few days we will never know.

For the second year running Swallows have fledged more than fifty young from the buggy shed at the local Golf Club.

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.