Wish You Were Here!

April 11, 2020 at 7:14 pm

In 1976 we visited Islay for the first time and I was captivated by one of Britains most spectacular raptors – the Hen Harrier. Since then we have returned to Islay one hundred and ten times and I have filmed breeding Hen Harriers, at the nest, sixty one times – considerably more than anyone else in Britain!
Sadly, of course, our visit this year has had to be cancelled so after forty four continuous years our long-term study may come to an end. To celebrate those years I have included in this weeks gallery some of my favourite recent photos including a food-pass executed in the most perfect late evening sunshine. click here

Long Tailed Tits and Woodcock

April 4, 2020 at 1:48 pm

Here’s a wildlife fact that I can guarantee you will have no knowledge of and will not find in any of your bird books.  Its all about the close connections every March between Long Tailed Tits and Woodcock.
As we all know Long Tailed Tits are one of our commonest woodland birds and widespread around Greater Manchester. In contrast Woodcock arrive into our area on the first full moon in November and migrate back to Scandinavia and Russia in late March. They feed nocturnally in our field on worms then lie up during the day under brambles or bracken where their cryptic plumage ensures their safety from predators. So you may ask how are Long Tailed Tits connected to Woodcock in March? Well as Woodcock rest during the day, under bracken, they preen. This preening increases just before they migrate in late March and some of the feathers that are replaced are their soft breast feathers. These are just what Long Tailed Tits are looking for, to line their nests with, so as the Woodcock fly back east their old roosting places are visited by the tits and all the soft down feathers removed to their nests. click here

Welsh Crossbills

March 29, 2020 at 11:37 am

Ten days ago we had a week-end break at our favourite place “Rivercatcher” on the banks of the river Dee. A visit to the Berwyn mountains produced good numbers of Crossbills, some of which visited Rowan trees in a gully and provided me with some photos of these very colourful and illusive birds with their unique bills.Finding a Great Grey Shrike in the forest was an added bonus. Since then our lives have changed STAY SAFE everyone.Click here

Boxing Hares and Geese

March 22, 2020 at 11:33 am

Any visitor to Islay in March has to be impressed with the numbers of Geese and boxing Hares. Some years ago I counted 68 Hares in one field and when I mentioned this to the crofter he said” Thats nothing there is usually over one hundred”. He then qualified that by saying “I will have to thin them out” which I viewed with horror. This weeks gallery is the final one from our recent visit to Islay.Which in the present circumstances may have been the last for some time! click here

Spectacular Jura

March 14, 2020 at 8:07 pm

This weeks blog photo was taken at Port Askaig and shows the fishing boats, Calmac ferry and on the right the Paps of Jura covered in the deep snowfall of last month. It is a perfect winter scene but would our visit to Jura produce the wildlife to match? It was exceptional and three hours later when we returned to Islay we had seen 7 Buzzards,4 Sea Eagles, 4 Hen Harriers, 3 Crossbills, 1 Merlin and 2 Otters. The Otters were two dog Otters that came together and fought for ten minutes before resting side by side in the sun!! click here

Dinner Time

March 8, 2020 at 8:10 pm

When we first visited Islay in 1976 we never even saw a Buzzard there were so few of them. Now, more than forty years later, there are more than one hundred pairs. They are so common because on Islay there is no persecution and they will eat almost anything. This weeks gallery includes both Barnacle Goose and Hare as prey, neither of which had been killed by the Buzzard. One was a road casualty and the other had hit a power line. There is more to this than meets the eye as both were provided by me in the hope of attracting a Sea Eagle! – instead all I got was the ubiquitous Buzzard!! click here