Thursday, 23 March 2017

The end of winter and the beginning of spring

Hi folks and welcome to another update on my wildlife encounters and sightings, each viewing of my blog is appreciated and as always I am open to answering questions on topics I have raised.

Following my last blog I was contacted by an osprey hide owner with regard to the accuracy of what I stated, he was polite but dismissive until I quoted the openly available facts that were the basis of my comments. Further proof from a respected wildlife trust resulted in him "blocking" me, so much for constructive conversation!

One place has a pond approx 36 x 17 metres stocked with over 2,000 rainbow trout...draw your own conclusions....

Anyway lets crack on with some wildlife, a little nature reserve near home has a stable population of linnets, wonderful little birds...


Teal are seen there regularly too...

Carrion crows with unusual white wing patches...


The juvenile male hen harrier continued to show well at another location...




I love dunnocks and this one showed in beautiful light...
Lapwings are back on my moors...

A nuthatch in the woods nearby...

As you can see I have been covering plenty of habitats and if asked to name my favourite I would have to say.....all of them! This area offers moorland, riverbanks, canal towpaths and some superb woodlands. All of them have brought me some very treasured sightings over the years so each are treated with due respect.

This time of year is close to the start of my peregrine watchpoint volunteering, we called up for a look at Malham Cove and found a peregrine on sentry duty what a great start to the season!

The viewpoint, co-funded by the RSPB and Yorkshire Dales National Park opens on the 1st April and is manned from Saturday to Wednesday with powerful telescopes to help visitors see the birds. Lots of other wonderful wildlife to be seen around the area including green woodpeckers, house martin, redstart, spotted flycatchers and stoats and weasels...

RSPB Leighton Moss is a favourite of ours, good habitat and always something to see...including an otter with a catch, a bit distant but super to see


And a wonderful view of the secretive bittern



Nuthatches abound there too!

Back in my local woods I found a siskin...

We love the east coast, particularly RSPB Bempton Cliffs, a stop off along the way brought a stunning binocular and scope view of a goshawk, too far away for my camera but a treasured sighting nonetheless.

A crossbill was more confiding :-)

Scarborough Harbour provided a great northern diver!

First sighting at Bempton was short eared owl, what a day!





We saw kittiwake, fulmar, razorbill and guillemot and loads of gannets too, more on them plus puffins later in the year.

A bonus on the day...a lovely if lethal weasel!


Regular readers will know of my love of dippers, they are just fascinating as they dive into fast currents searching for food. Now they are paired up, tidying nest sites and preparing to breed again...

Taking a rest occasionally though, but always alert...

The great spotted woodpeckers have been showing well in my local woodland areas, female and male respectively....

In amongst some chaffinches I found a brambling, they will soon be departing along with the waxwings, redwings and fieldfares that have graced our shores in winter. The great season of spring migration is upon us with many favourite birds back or on their way.



 My first wheatear of the year...

And finally...a lesson in patience, the most vital skill in a wildlife photographers kit. My raptor watchpoint has yielded some super sightings of the UK's smallest bird of prey, the merlin. Last year a female perched on a wall not too far away, great but catching one in flight? A couple of days ago all the patience paid off....



I can only try to direct people and photographers to the rewards of patience, after all people have the options there before them. I can only say that this way has no detrimental effects on the wildlife we all love...busy days ahead the first osprey flying through my area has been spotted :-)

Many thanks to all who read the blog, comments are much appreciated but will only appear after coming to me for moderation.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Waiting for Spring and some pleasant surprises

So far winter has passed with no serious snow fall or freezing conditions, occasional flurries of the white stuff and the odd need to scrape the car windows before early morning journeys may be signs of a temporary change in our weather, we shall see!

Bright days have been all too few, we seem to get day after day of dull grey skies that do little to lift the spirits or the shutter speeds. Despite vast improvements in camera technology and the availability of processing software that can enhance an image there is still no real substitute for some real early morning or late afternoon good light.

I ventured over to Wharfedale one morning and managed to get a dipper in fairly close...

This caught me by surprise and I overexposed the shot, losing the detail on the white throat...must try harder!

A male goosander was having a wing stretch...

I spotted a distant kingfisher


At my raptor watchpoint a female sparrowhawk flew in and landed in a tree for a few moments before flying off



A short while later a young hen harrier flew through, distant but unmistakeable to the experienced eye!




Looks like a young male with the slim body, great to see.

We had a day at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, nr Goole and a great day if you are within travelling distance.

Plenty of ducks to see with some wigeon in close...


Stonechat in the reeds

A kingfisher landed close by but flew away before I got the camera on it, heyho :-)

A few marsh harrier shots, mainly juveniles as most of the adults migrate and will return over the coming months...






Back home and out on the moor on a sunny day, the red grouse males are challenging...literally at times!

Red kite are becoming very common sightings for us, happy days!

A peeping grouse...

My new hen harrier site has been visited with some success...





We had a couple of days up in East Cumbria, near the RSPB reserve at Geltsdale. What a stunning place, mile after mile of wild moorland and home to very special birds. A very kind local pointed out a good place to see black grouse so a pre-dawn set off and we found the location, and the black grouse too. They often spend time in the tops of bushes, a female demonstrated that.

We probably just missed the "lek" the males fan their white tails and parade and fight for the attention of the ladies. Male black grouse...

Another shot of a female...

Then it was on to Geltsdale, this was going to be a long day, long walks and lots of binocular checks and some cold fingers firmly crossed.

The reserve is huge with various options for walks, our own experience plus a healthy dose of local advice led us to concentrate on a few walks to good vantage points.


Distant male hen harrier, despite much hard work we were unable to get closer views but what a delight to see.

Scanning around for the harrier we discovered another treasure, a hunting short eared owl, with sightings scarce at home this year this was another delight!





The following day was notable for rain, rain and more rain, enough said!

Since seeing the young male hen harrier at my new location I have been hoping for some decent light to get some really good shots, maybe hope pays off...in the company of a great mate....what an absolute treat and reward for my patience...










Wow, what greater reward could I have wished for, a stunning bird and a delight to see.

The rewards for patience are wonderful, and it feels like almost like nature does reward patience.
I shall never stop preaching this way above the pay per shot hides where artificial shots and values abound, they alter the natural behaviour of wildlife by feeding predatory birds for the pleasure of photographers and the financial rewards that follow, they will say it is no different to garden feeders, believe me it is. The birds that use feeders are able to re-adapt to different foods, seeds, berries etc at different times of the year. Predatory birds need instinct and razor sharp reflexes, if the meal is provided too easily they lose that, and that is passed on in their genes. The young won't move away from an easy food source and so it goes on.

One of the best examples of this is the osprey feed ponds, tiny pools with hides close, these set ups are drawing more and more young birds which are disrupting nest behaviour of previously reliable parent ospreys. The young males, drawn by by easy prey will attack the nest site trying to attract the females attention, several nests sites have failed because of this in recent years...all in the name of photography, really...it saddens me.

If you see birds of prey while you are out at this time of the year it is a great time to watch out for "display" flights from them as they will soar up on thermals to attract a partner or to re-bond with an existing one. Sometimes locking talons and tumbling down together it can be an exhilarating sight.
If the tumbling continues to the ground or near it, this may well be birds of the same sex competing for a partner or territory but this is a much rarer sight.

Please support wildlife by staying away from artificial set ups and by not supporting photographers who use them.

Many thanks to all who read the blog, please don't forget if you do comment that they come to me first for moderation, the support of all readers is much appreciated.