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 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, 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.


  1. Brilliant photos and heart-felt sentiments Dave. How wonderful for you to be able to capture such gorgeous shots of the short eared owl. Despite this somewhat grey winter, you have been rewarded for your patience. No idea where your Cumbrian reserve of Geltsdale is situated, a new one for us.

  2. A refreshing read with great images. I completely agree with your view on wildlife ethics. Too many people out there now who just want the image whatever the cost to the subject.