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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.

Signs of Spring

March 24, 2008 at 7:00 am


A mixed week with one day of continuous rain and three inches of snow on the 23rd March, being the heaviest snowfall of the Winter or now technically Spring!!

A pair of Kingfishers seen locally had a male displaying to the female but unfortunately there are no banks to tunnel into within a mile so where are they going to go? Buzzards have been seen carrying sticks into a wood and upon inspection I found my first local Buzzard nest half completed.

The good news from Hopwood is that two Green Woodpeckers were seen together on the 19th and there is now every likelihood that breeding will occur. Four Long Tailed Tits nests have now been found but all construction work has stopped in the snow.

At Dovestones reservoir Siskins are still present in the pines with six Redpolls joining them. At Pilsworth, slurry being sprayed on a field attracted a mixed flock of more than six hundred corvids.

In many places this week Kestrels have been seen together in pairs and actively looking for places to nest for the coming season. Keep the female under observation and she will lead you to the chosen nest site.

Window watching

March 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Long Eared Owl

A wild week with a raging gale and plenty of rain. As a result of having to spend so much time looking out of the window I was able to check on the activity of the male Sparrowhawk and what activity there has been. Last Sunday he caught a Starling which he ate over the next one hour fifty five minutes, with a rest for ten minutes in the middle! The next day he was in the garden for five hours watching for an opportunity to catch prey. None occured and at one point he was even looking to catch a Long Tailed Field Mouse but missed that also. The following day he caught a Starling again but this time I felt sorry for the Starling and went out to the rockery to intervene. He did not release his grip on the Starling until I was five feet away looking at me annoyingly for intervening. On the Wednesday he got his own back by flying into the lounge window at 6.30am and set the house alarm off! He was none the worse for it as he watched us inspect the window stood on the garden fence.

A visit to the hills during the week has produced pairs of Oyster Catchers returning plus Skylarks moving through. In one plantation a pair of Long Eared Owls were present and will soon lay their eggs in an old crow’s nest. Only one Woodcock has been seen this week but thirty five Fieldfares were moving east back to Scandinavia.

Back to basics

March 13, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Red Grouse

After a fortnight on Islay it is now back to basics with the first hide work of the year. I spent three hours on a Heron’s nest hoping for a changeover on the eggs but the male Heron incubated the eggs throughout my stay. However he turned the eggs twice and some good video was obtained.

During the week I watched two pairs of Goosanders on the river Roch at Bury but failed to find a rare fungi that was the original reason for my visit!

I paid a visit to Queens Park, Heywood and had some good views of up to a dozen Herons as they built their nests on the island in the Lake.

A moorland plantation was searched for Long Eared Owls and although one was seen it flew before any film could be obtained. Three woodcock were also flushed from the high plantation.

The coldest morning of the week produced a low of -5C and by 7am I was on a high moorland in the Northern Pennines looking to film Red Grouse. There were good numbers of displaying Grouse and more than three hours was spent on the high moor. Plenty of video was taken and it was well worth the effort of getting up at 4.30am.

On Hopwood two pairs of Long Tailed Tits are now starting to build their nests in gorse bushes – two days later than last years start date. Many other pairs are ready to follow

Finally, the villain has returned, with the male Sparrowhawk catching his fifth bird in the garden this Winter that we know of and probably a lot more. This time catching a Starling that took one hour fifty five minutes to eat!!!

Wildlife Gems of Islay – Reviewed

March 7, 2008 at 6:49 am





Malcolm Ogilvie in his recent review of the movie for the local Islay & Jura newspaper, the Ileach, wrote:

“I sat enthralled through the film and then wished for more. So I watched it again! This by far and away the best film you will have ever seen of Islay and its wildlife, and a wonderful advertisement for the island.”

Read the full article…

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