Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tuesday 29th May, A surprise on the moor!

There is nothing much more relaxing than a couple of hours out in the pleasant evening sunshine, with a new site to explore it is even better. Parking the car I was greeted with this lovely view over Chelker Reservoir towards Beamsley Beacon.

I decided to explore a little deeper into the trees and it was rough going, felled trees had been left to rot, brambles grew wild and moving quietly was nigh on impossible! A couple of roe deer bolted ahead of me, attempts at stealth were futile and I was getting scratched sweaty and midge bitten, oh what fun:-)) I decided to halt for while and settled in some cover by a tree, almost immediately I was rewarded. In quick succession a female redpoll, a willow warbler and a robin appeared in range of the camera.

The midges were becoming a bit of a nuisance after a while and I moved on and back onto the main track, on the way a red grouse appeared briefly.

I sat again for a while by a clearing and this proved a very good move but it also highlighted the difficulty of trying to photograph birds in treetops bathed in bright but low sunshine as a male redpoll appeared very close to me.

I wandered on westwards to the point where a view over Skipton and up the Dales opens up...

I switched my attention away from the woods on my return, the fields on the other side of the track contain skylarks, lapwing and curlew none in close attendance on this occasion unfortunately but a meadow pipit had gathered a tasty meal!

How lucky was I a couple of minutes later with my attention in this direction as a short eared owl appeared hunting over the pastures:-)

Heavily cropped and not at a perfect angle the shots are all I could manage as I was in the open and there was no cover anywhere near, a splendid sight though and a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

RSPB Leighton Moss 26th May 2012

Me and Mrs Wildlife love Leighton Moss, we have learnt so much about birds and wildlife in general from our visits there, having not been for over a month we decided a trip into Lancashire was overdue!

Very warm weather at this time of the year is not ideal for watching wildlife, birds in particular, with renewed foliage on bushes and trees making them hard to see and most either sitting on eggs or feeding youngsters sightings and photographs can be few and far between.

Even the feeding station at Leighton Moss did not have the usual number of visitors when we checked it before setting out into the reserve, thsi lovely great spotted woodpecker was having a good feed though.

Of the various hides that can be utilised we decided to visit two on a short loop in the morning, enabling an easy return to the car for lunch and replenishment of water supplies from a freezer bag we had stored in the boot of the car. A very hot day, a breeze was coming in from the coast but with a big viewing scope, binoculars and camera to carry it was warm work!

We had the expected views of various ducks, swans, moorhens and coots from one hide, nothing of note and little to photograph as they were all a long way away. We moved on to another hide...good timing as a red deer appeared from the reeds and fed for a while.

Soon after this we noticed some movement in another reedbed, cameras and binoc's were trained where the motion was happening and then this cutie appeared!

I had one effort at a long range shot of some black tailed godwits...

We decided on a refreshment break soon after this and wandered back to the car park, the feeding station is always worth checking and this visit yielded a greenfinch and a nuthatch.

Our afternoon loop is down the longer side of the reserve, the Lower Hide is about a mile from the car park, not a long walk but not one you want to do twice on a very hot day! Checking another hide on our way down we were treated to a black headed gull extravaganza, hundreds of them with their raucous calls made it deafening and not a place to linger too long!

Leighton Moss has quite rightly received a lot of plaudits for its conservation and restoration work, the results of the work are evident in the number of dragon and damselflies to be seen.

A broad bodied chaser, large red damselfly and a blue tailed damselfly, please correct me if I've incorrectly named these!

We had a brief sighting of a male marsh harrier as we wandered on towards the Lower Hide, a wonderful graceful bird and we were optimistic of a better view later. Once across the causeway most of the walk is done but it is worth pausing along the way, some of the channels can be full of wildlife, not on this occasion though:-)

The shelter of the hide was most welcome after our hot trek, I took the opportunity to practice my birds in flight photography as black headed gulls hovered briefly to catch insects on the water.

It is a difficult skill to master especially with a relatively new camera but soon afterwards I was glad I had done some preparation as a male marsh harrier came into view. They do fly quite slowly as they hunt for food and I had chance to find it in my viewfinder, the unease they show near people was superbly demonstrated as it accelerated past the hide and I had only the chance for one close shot.

Little else was seen despite close inspection through the scope and we decided to pack up and walk back, a reed bunting was spotted along the way.

We called in at the public hide which is about the mid point of the walk back to the visitor centre, more black headed gulls were in evidence.

A bit of a commotion on one of the islands caught my eye, a great crested grebe which must have ventured a little too near their chicks.

We then saw a four spotted chaser, another dragonfly, as we neared the car park.

Another check at the feeding station resulted in a lovely male bullfinch feeding greedily!

Another superb day at Leighton Moss, a thoroughly recommended place to visit if you are in the area.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Thursday 24th May 2012, chasing cuckoos!

No real thoughts of what I might see today as I set out late morning under a blazing hot sun, what I knew I would not get was long distance views as there was a real haze in the near distance.

I can normally get a good shot from Nab End, the Silsden part of the high ground of Rombald's Moor more famous for Ilkley Moor which is another of its components.

Trekking on upwards I met one of the usual moorland suspects, a meadow pipit.

Sightings were a bit slow for the next hour or so, the heat seemed to be keeping the birds under cover and I could appreciate that as I toiled onwards! Small ponds on moors are always worth checking as they are a natural home for many creatures. There seemed to be nothing around as I approached carefully towards one such pond, stopping for a moment for some water I spotted a subject...Large Red Damselfly.

I had reached Rivock Forest now and decided it would be worth exploring, clearance of large areas has left it looking a little scruffy but it also looks like a potential wildlife haven. I must have been wearing my clumsy boots as first a small herd of roe deer, then a couple of hares, plus two kestrels and a jay all fled before I even had the lens cap off, my excuse...too much to look at!!!

Next came a real fun couple of hours, as I sat in the shade eating my lunch I heard a cuckoo  and as there are paths in all directions in the forest I decided I would try and locate it, a sighting would be good and a photo opportunity a bonus. Listening carefully I thought I had a fix on it and feeling refreshed I packed up and set off in a slow and careful pursuit.

It is a good job other sightings were in short supply as I was now solely tuned in to the cuckoo's sound, reaching the edge of one portion of the forest I had a brief sighting through the binoculars but that was it and off it flew:-( Misguidedly stepping on what looked look some dried up mud was a mistake, only about the top inch of crust was dry and my boot plunged into something decidedly wet and smelly! Ah well at least I smelled of a genuine forest aroma now!! On with the hunt and I took another track down a sweltering line of forest, sounds indicated I was on the right track but a good while later I heard the cuckoo again but from somewhere else. I had a decision to make, water and food stocks were good and energy levels were OK, onwards we go!

More forest track slogging ensued before I emerged into another clearing, this one boulder strewn and up in some rocks small birds seemed to be unnerved by the presence of a larger one, cuckoo! Now I had to work out how to get close enough for a decent photograph, I located some dry ground which was out of the cuckoo's sightline and dropped onto hands and knees for fifty yards, emerging by a large boulder below the cuckoo's position.

Phew!!! The cuckoo then flew off and I thought that was it, my route was up and through the boulders where it had been, as I reached the highest point there was a beautiful red grouse perched on a rock.

I had a lengthy walk back home now and it was time to head that way, keeping to the shaded side of the forest as much as I could reduced the heat factor a little though. A small puddle of water was alive with pond skaters, fascinating little creatures!

I was now passing through an area above Keighley before heading for the canalbank to get back to Silsden. It is lovely area for lapwing and curlew normally and they did not let me down:-))

Another meadow pipit and a swallow on a telegraph wire completed my wildlife photographs for the day.

Not long from where I saw these I was on the towpath and trudging homewards, there are always birds on the canal, I know I photograph them regularly. Today I was hot, tired and all photographed out after a seven hour walk in the heat and I had no appetite for more pix!

A grand wander, my longest walk for a good while and some special sightings and pix too:-)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wednesday 23rd May 2012, My local moor

I have walked over a track on my local moor near Silsden lots of times, mostly in my fellwalking days as a pleasant means of keeping hillfit. Now as mainly a wildlife watcher and aspiring photographer I have discovered I walked past a little wildlife haven so many times without noticing anything I am amazed!

First sightings tonight were a redpoll and a robin, one of them a welcome first clear shot!

Lovely melodic birdsong rang out around me as I walked carefully, offpath now and wary of breaking twigs. The descending notes of a willow warbler are amongst the easiest to identify, closer contact with this lovely bird has allowed me to learn how to get a little closer even when not in camouflage gear.

A small flock of goldfinches were in evidence, in gardens they can be surprisingly approachable here in the wild this was the nearest I got!

Two more willow warbler shots follow, different light and angle gives the bird a different appearance which highlights the difficulty of identity sometimes...the light colour of the legs is the key.

Time for home now as the sun begins to set, luckily there was just enough light for another redpoll shot as I spotted it on some gorse at fairly long distance.

Oh the setting sun...

Not really my forte but I like to have go, more usual for me a daft one to finish with....sunset o'clock!!!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Malham 20th May 2012

After a week away there were a few jobs to be sorted before we could get out today, car cleaned thoroughly and garden weeded and tidied made it after lunch when we set off for Malham. A free parking place with relative ease of access to the Cove had been spotted on a previous trip, we made use of that today and enjoyed a gentle stroll through pastures and limestone scenery on our way.

With the grass now green and the sky today showing some welcome blue the limestone scenery is at its best and probably my favourite. Reaching the top of the Cove we moved around to the Eastern edge which offers views down onto the ledge where the peregrines appear from their nest site back under a shelf, very quickly one of the chicks wandered into view:-)

It wasn't long before Mum appeared and ushered the wandering youngster back under the safety of the shelf, fortunately she then lingered long enough for a couple of pix.

We waited a while with no further action before descending the steps and meeting the RSPB team again, one of the volunteers quickly spotted a great spotted woodpecker which was lovely but never in view long enough for a photograph. A little owl was also seen high up in the fields, more of that later.

The male peregrine was seen in flight with brief landings in trees and then some calls were heard which were answered by the female, she then took to the air and we were privileged to witness a very high speed food exchange mid air, spectacular but no chance of photographs.

It was time for us to be thinking about a return to the car now and we climbed the steps, pausing part way up as we were now a lot nearer to where the little owl had been spotted.

A stroke of luck and it even turned it its head towards us! The day had been welcomely warm and despite the fine weather there had not been too many people about as shown in this shot of the normally crowded limestone pavement at the top of the Cove.

Just a short wander to the car remained although I did spot this lovely wheatear along the way:-)

A fortuitous switch on of the radio as we enjoyed a coffee in the car, the road from Skipton to Keighley closed due to an accident, local knowledge allowed us just a short detour round some back roads and then home to enjoy the photographs of the day:-))