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A Hen Harrier Week

May 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Hen Harrier

Dry and sunny weather on Islay all week but with a strong easterly wind

Good news from the Peregrines, they have now hatched – at least three young and possibly four. Both birds have been filmed together on the eyrie with the female brooding continuously but on one occasion the male has also brooded for a short while. Unfortunately the strong easterly wind has made filming impossible for the last five days.

Five days have been spent on Hen Harriers obtaining some very pleasing shots of the male bringing heather to the nest. This has now stopped and he merely flies over the nest when the female is away eating the prey he brings for her. Unfortunately long waits for me are involved with the male visits at three hour intervals!

No Otters this week, the rough seas making it impossible to search. Most of the Great Northern Divers have now flown to Iceland with the south east tailwind.

A search for Islay’s most illusive flower the Narrow Leaved Helleborine produced only one plant in flower ,which is better than some years when there are none.

Filming is going well

May 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm


Another superb weeks weather on Islay with warm conditions early in the week then turning cooler with a freshening southerly wind.

Some good encounters with Corncrake during the week with plenty of good video and photos. With the vegetation now increasing rapidly finding a good view of a Corncrake is now getting much harder and I have decided to leave them alone as too much time is involved. Cuckoos are everywhere and I have had one good session which produced a good minute of video

I am filming the Peregrines but their four eggs have still not hatched. The next few days will be crucial as to whether we carry on filming

Male Hen Harriers are now encountered all over the island and we had a brilliant display flight put on by one male, high over his breeding site. It is a very late season with some females only just starting to incubate their eggs.

The highlight of the week was filming an immaculate Wood Sandpiper in perfect conditions and only fifteen feet away. It is only the second one I have seen with the last being 1972!

A good week

May 11, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Heron and young

Here we are on Islay and after rain last Sunday we have had four fantastic sunny days with temperature up to 22c and no midgies yet!

I spent some time filming a colony of Herons on Jura and with small young in the nest it indicates what a late season it is this year

A female Otter and her young were watched for two and a half hours until they climbed into their holt for a well earned sleep

I have spent two days filming a Peregrine on four eggs on a cliff face and now await the hatch but this pair have had infertile eggs for the past two years and this may not happen.

We have walked through woods with a magnificent carpet of primroses and bluebells looking for Woodcock but it appears we are out of luck again. Our ground nesting Tawny Owls have laid eggs in a different site this year and for some reason have left them just when they were about to hatch.

One day we saw seven male Hen Harriers during the day and on one occasion even watched a pair copulate and another male doing display flight.

Best of all have been the Corncrake with good numbers now arriving and one night I filmed one feeding and preening from only twelve feet away for ten minutes! It can’t possibly get any better than this, can it?

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!!