Thursday, 1 June 2017

Some excellent sightings as Spring progresses!

We plan and book our holidays a long way in advance, this is necessary to get properties in the areas we love to visit. As wildlife watching and photography have become more popular the more the difficulty of getting a booking in prime areas has increased.

So, a trip to Suffolk where we had great weather, great sightings and a superb holiday last year.....

The good old UK weather paid us back for over confidence, a week of strong easterly winds with little sunshine meant sightings were somewhat limited.

Sedge warbler ...

Avocets offered some nice reflections albeit in poor light...


Hobbys have returned, a wonderful small falcon that hunts dragonflies but will take small birds as well. Fast and agile they are wonderful to observe...


A brief but good sighting of a bittern...

Marsh harriers are plentiful around the reserves in Suffolk and we had some splendid sightings...




These are shots of males.

Smaller birds took lots of patience to locate, they sang well but more often than not from positions under cover from the strong winds!

However, a male blackcap showed himself...

Female marsh harrier...

A muntjac deer...

A true delight, a male bearded tit!


Movement in the water near the reedbeds alerted us to the presence of an otter, not visible for long but wow!


and a sighting of a male sparrowhawk



While we were away news came through that a male pallid harrier was not far from my local patch, fingers were firmly crossed that it would hang around until we got home.

At the first opportunity we made our way to the location, success! Distant but UK sightings, certainly this far north are quite rare. Of the same general family as hen harriers but a distinct separate species.



The harrier was alternating between hunting and display flights, carrying nest material in a desperate attempt to attract a female. It seems the attempt failed and it has moved on.

We called at Malham to check on the peregrines, great news...three chicks visible!

Pied flycatchers are back in a local wood...

We had super views as a great spotted woodpecker delved for insects along some fence posts and moss strewn boulders...





An intriguing scuffle between a male cuckoo and a meadow pipit was witnessed...





 Female ring ouzel during a moorland walk...

Exciting news that an osprey was showing locally drew my attention!






and a stoat showed while I was on duty at peregrine watch, magic!

And a taster for next month?

Yesterday I witnessed and photographed a food pass between the adult peregrines!

Tomorrow we head for NW Scotland for a couple of weeks, pine marten, golden eagles, white tailed eagles...fingers crossed very firmly!

Many thanks to all who read my blog, it really is appreciated. Don't forget if you do comment that they come to me first for moderation.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Fantastic sightings as spring develops!

Every year the season of Spring never fails to raise the levels of optimism, warmer temperatures and exciting arrivals are always great to look forward to!

There are some fairly standard birds to expect to see, the first swallow or willow warbler for example, this year however I seem to have been blessed with really special sightings along with birds I would normally expect at this time of year.

Some of the photographs are, as ever, distant. Non disturbance is a key part of my photography, it makes my blood boil when I see people charging around chasing birds and causing distress, particularly at a time when the breeding season is already under way.

I witnessed a battle between a sparrowhawk and a corvid, superb to see them display their agility in the sky...



A lovely peacock butterfly....

My first sand martin this year was delightful

A pair of kingfishers in a distant tree

I have found a fairly reliable little owl site, once again I keep my distance to avoid disturbance...

Even being ultra careful the owl spotted me immediately, I took a couple of shots and then backed off!

Dippers have already been preparing their nests and as I type the first chick has been spotted being fed by one of my local rivers, happy news.


Last year, for the first time in many years, we had nesting ring ouzels on a local moor. Fingers have been firmly crossed for their return. The finger crossing worked as a mate told me they were back in the same location, distant but unmistakeable photographs.


I tried another vantage point for the little owls...

Their eyesight and senses are incredible! Once again I back off.

It has been the mating season for common toads...look away now if you are likely to be offended!!


It is the time of year when my peregrine volunteer duties begin and we had a ride up to Malham one weekend to see if the birds were paired up and preparing to choose a nest site, they use two caves on the Cove according to their choice. We spotted the male and it transpired the female was already incubating eggs. The incubation is interrupted briefly as the female turns and rolls the eggs to equalise the heat transfer from her body, a photographer managed to catch site of at least three eggs as this act took place, latest news is four eggs! My photographs on the day confirmed the same male as in the last three years, the female is a new one but with the previous bird having raised five clutches it is likely she will sadly have reached the age where elderly peregrines do not survive winter or a challenge from a younger stronger challenger.

The male keeping watch...



A regular stop off for a check on the little owls...better luck this time!


Red grouse on the moor



A passing buzzard...


First day of peregrine duty, one flight shot of the male as he headed out hunting...

Wheatears are back, smashing little birds.

We had a long weekend in Northumberland, a regular break site for us and two great friends who join us for some wildlife watching, good food and wine and more than occasional bouts of laughter!!

Our first full day saw us on Holy Isle, a beautiful male red breasted merganser was right by the side of the road, what a beauty!

Skylarks filled the air with their lovely song in flight...

Turnstones fluttered around on the shores...



Eider were very evident...


A day at St Abb's Head is always worthwhile, a lovely sighting of a male yellowhammer...

Fantastic view of a female peregrine as she flew overhead...


A herring gull showed a view that few will see!!!

The first swallow of the year :-)


Back home and I try for better sand martin shots..

I had a walk through a favourite woodland, a nuthatch showed very well...


...and a lovely wren


...and the bird I was searching for, a male pied flycatcher just back from migration from Africa. Stunning little birds ...
A lucky spot from the car and a hasty stop and grab for the camera, brown hare!!


Beautiful creatures and becoming harder to see, what a priviledge.

Another stint at Malham and a distant shot of the watchful male...

A lovely wren in the woods at the base of the cove...

My first sighting of a redstart this year, a superbly coloured male. Most early arrivals of migrant birds are males as they lay claim to nesting sites before the females arrive.

Patience paid with the little owls as I witnessed a flight and hunt sequence :-)




One of the signs of baited little owls is them flying towards a camera with wings spread, my dislike of baited bird shots is well known but unfortuately the shots are widespread. Photographers have their own posts, often a broken footpath or bridleway sign, just like the kingfishers on a no fishing post, how simple it is to spot them!

I had another look for pied flycatchers and after a long, patient wait I had some good fortune...


Dippers were taking food into a well concealed nest...


The ring ouzels seem to settled in



We had a visit to an RSPB reserve near Leeds where black necked grebes were said to be showing well, our only previous views had been very long distance and we were amazed by their beauty seen at fairly close quarters, care taken not to disturb obviously!




Regular checks are in place on the ring ouzels...



With a bonus of a super close juvenile mistle thrush as I sat motionless!

Two male ring ouzels

A green woodpecker from the peregrine watchpoint...




They feed on meadow ants not far from our watchpoint and seem to get used to our presence, stunning birds!

Another redstart shot...

The following day was special...I was advised of a great grey shrike, a thrush sized predatory bird which very rarely visits my area. Meeting a couple of mates we carefully searched...and searched, eventually it was located but did not show clearly on the day. Some heavily cropped photographs...




They catch small mammals, amphibians and birds, what a sighting.

Later that day I was taking a break in my car at my raptor watchpoint when loud shouts erupted and I grabbed the camera and leapt out to shouts of "Crane overhead!"...hasty settings and grey skies but a record of another rare sighting for the area!


The swallows are already collecting nest material, amazing so soon after their long journey.

A day in Cumbria and Lancashire proved worthwhile, Foulshaw Moss and Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

Common lizards..



White tailed bee

Orange tip male butterfly...

Male marsh harrier...



And finally a beautiful male blackcap, loud and lovely song but a skulking bird which does not show clearly for long so delighted with these shots...



One of the most extraordinary spells of wildlife sightings I have enjoyed so far, good friends made as I now supply photographs to support local bird sightings. That is a very satisfactory feeling, making a transition from purely photography to helping local birding is something I have wanted to do for quite a while, good friends have helped and I am immensely grateful for that.

The area where I spend most of my time is special, close to where I grew up and a wildlife array of species that would be hard to top.

With company that includes a childhood mate the hours pass quickly especially when the sightings are as great as the last month has provided.

Many thanks to all who read the blog, it really is appreciated and please don't forget if you do comment that they come to me first for moderation. As always, I will willingly answer any questions, thanks folks!!!