Sunday, 23 December 2012

Knotts over River Dee

It has been an awesome year though sadly we have photograohed less wildlife than in previous years. This is largely due to Kyra, our springer spaniel. We gave her a home in early April and immediately took her with us to Scotland. We saw lots of stuff and took pictures but that was mainly when driving about, when were able to leave her in the car for 10 minutes or so. We had another glorious two weeks on Isle of Mull in July, a couple of weeks in Cornwall and a week in Glenelg at half term. The Glenelg week we shared with family and were relieved to see an otter on the last full day (My brother was beginning to think we were making up all our previous sightings) It wasn't the greatest quality sighting but still much appreciated by all. I would say on the whole it has been the year of the White Tail eagle (or possible Short eared owl) We had some incredible White Tail views in Scotland this year. We've seen Short Eared Owls in Scotland and on Wirral- Burton Marshes. At school we have found two lots of Spraint by the ponds (firstly back in May and then more recently) This was coupled with a security guard claiming he'd seen an otter and then further claims by him which lead to us staking out the ponds only to detemine that the "otter" he was regularly seeing in broad daylight was, in fact, a mink. The spraint was genuinely otter though- so clearly we are getting the occasional visitor during the night. We also had the kestrels nesting on the building -we were away when the young fledged but have since seen the family together around the grounds. Hopefully the parents may return next year. It has been a full on busy Christmas Term and we have often used our 36 hours a week of free time to escape to see family in Wirral for a break. These pictures were taken last weekend and show a glorious evening over the Marine Lake at West Kirby. A fly past by a huge flock of knots was a spectacular sight. Merry Christmas all and here's to a wild year in 2013.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Osprey at Esthwaite Water

Short break in Lakes with the family and we were so much hoping to see our first osprey (a pair have nested near Esthwaite this year) Spent 40 mins standing on the shore being eaten by midgies before recognizing that it was just such poor light anyway.

Today we hired a row boat for an hour and with much squealing and panicking of nervous sailors in our midst and much jumping and wriggling from our canine friends on board set forth for new shores.

We spied a couple of birds we thought might be our culprit but on closer inspection they were buzzards with feathers missing from tails and wings making them look different. Suddenly whilst admiring the crested grebes and chicks we saw the Osprey above us. Clear to id with the naked eye, it soared higher and higher though and we lost it in sun glare.

This picture at least shows what it is and has left me desperate to see another on closer.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Of course no trip to Scotland would be complete for us without Otters!! Thankfully we didn't come away empty handed this time either- though it wasn't up to the bumper crops of the last two trips (11 otters on each trip!!) This time we saw a mere four! One in particular was a really good spot and we spent just short of two hours watching it hunt, eat, play etc.

White Tailed Eagles (Sea Eagles)

We had three very close encounters with these enormous raptors (8 foot wing span!!) A lone adult cruising around high above Loch Na Keal (we were high on the road so got great views) Also by Loch Na Keal we were suddenly aware that right above us a young White Tail was being mobbed by a very brave gull (we later found out that this eagle is probably about 2 years old) Then to our absolute delight and possibly highlight of the holiday was driving back between Bunessan and Fionnophort stopping on road side to look at two adults casually soaring directly above us. We could make out the yellow wing tag on one of them and hear them gently croaking at one another. On the final full day we spent some time peering through the in coming drizzle and mist at two young in the nest (which we could see from the road side) One was clearly flapping its enormous wings and building up strength whilst its sibbling was laying a bit further back in the huge nest. Pictures too shocking to post as it was terrible light and in awful conditions, in reality a bit too far out for lens too. We still couldn't help but fire off a couple of grainy snaps for the memory though ;-)

Short Eared Owls on Mull

We were also chuffed to see so many short eared owls after really going out of our way to find some all winter. We had some amazing days watching 2 adults and a young one hunting around one area high in the hills. The youngster was hiding in the long grasses and making a skshhing noise and at one point just flew out suddenly surprising the socks off us. One day we spotted a lone shorty and pulled over as it landed right in front of us on the road side. I love these owls- the have peirot type eyes and in flight can look sort of fruit bat-ish (think it is the way the wings are shaped and so little tail) Also saw zillions of very noisy buzzards - always lovely to see buzzards! Here's a photo of a buzzard too partly in celebration of the recent U turn of plans for DEFRA to research culling them!!! Phew!

Hen Harriers on Wonderful Isle o' Mull

Just back from 2 weeks camping on Mull at Fidden Farm. We had fantastic weather again and saw everything we hoped to see and more. Will post few snaps over coming days- including: Short eared owls, Gannet Juvenile, Otter and White Tailed eagles. But first .......Hen Harriers. Clearly we have a soft spot for these beautiful, horribly persecuted birds,
as the very last few pairs struggle to stay safe with help of United Utilities in Forest of Bowland. Great to arrive at Fidden Farm, pitch the tent and pour a much needed glass of wine and then look up to see a male hunting on the site. Turned out there was at least one pair there and we saw one and or both virtually daily throughout the two weeks. We also saw Hen Harriers in at least 3 other spots on our travels around the island. We didn't manage to get the dream photograph of them but here are few identification snaps.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Kestrels nesting on building

For a small and hopeful moment we were hoping we had a pair of peregrines nesting on the school where I work; but having stood watching patiently this evening I managed to fire off a few snaps in not very great light, of a kestrel. Still, it seems there are young and so I will keep my eyes on them and try and get more snaps as they get to fledging time. It would be great to get shots of the newly fledged kes young lined up on the ledge beneath the gargoyle.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Otter Cub on Mull

Merlins and Mountain Hares

Mountain Hares at Fidden Farm on Ross of Mull- the dog loved to sniff 'em out but fortunately was too stupid to look up and see them there. Also she was safely on the lead anyway- which made photographing them very difficult as she keps yanking us off in different directions. This merlin was perched on a rock near Camusteel, Applecross and was quite content to sit there whilst we snapped away.

A stoat with a vole by the side of the road in Mull

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wild times in Scotland

Just back from a fantastic 2.5 weeks in Scotland. We took a week and half at Fionnphort, Ross of Mull in the tent and a further week at our beloved Applecross in Wester Ross.

Firstly, if thinking of camping on Mull- definitely check out Fidden Farm campsite at Fionnphort (near to the ferry for Iona) What a fab place- and if the weather is poor it generally appears to clear up in the evenings (though it's windy so bring extra tough pegs)

Ferry to Iona is 1.25 miles away down the lane with possibility of seeing seals, otters, mountain hares and hen harriers en route. Cost of a return to Iona is £4.80 and lasts 10 minutes.

We saw three hen harriers, loads of seals and mountain hares and a mink one morning ran out of the sand dunes and leisurely made its was across the beach (with us following and snapping away and many a surprised early morning camper calling OTTER! So notter otter! Check out the pictures!)

Our new pup Kyra thought she'd died and gone to heaven after a long car journey from Cerridigion to Lancashire and then another to Mull. She loved running wild through the heather, bracken and rough grass (saw 5 voles on account of her innate flushing abilities)

Had some wonderful days seeing stuff we weren't expecting like: short eared owls and once a stoat still half in ermine with a vole in its mouth.

Also otters, otters and otters. First a lone otter silhouetted on a rock as we drove past (the only otter seen but never photographed, even badly) Then three spotted from the car by Pants and we rushed down the slippery seaweed-bound rocks of the shore in time for P to get some really close up shots through awful weather of mum and two cubs rolling about in seaweed play fighting. Time I arrived mum was swimming around grunting at us... we took her warning and withdrew to give them some peace.

Then we stopped in a lay by and realised a number of people had seen an otter hunting off the shore and were busy snapping away (the first otter we have photographed not originally spotted by us) After the other snappers left the otter came to shore and we grabbed a few shots of it eating a crab.

Some time later in the week we went back to the same loch and as we walked the dog along the cost I suddenly saw an otter run out in front of me and into the sea. Photographed it hunting for a while and then went back to fetch the car and get the dog some water. Drove back and the otter was still out there but came in slightly and ate an eel on a recently emerged rock right in front of us.

Then on the way back to the campsite we stopped on a whim opposite the Craignure Inn, ostensibly to give the dog a stretch and a drink. Couldn't belive my eyes when what I had thought to be some seaweed washing up near the slip way turned out to be a very unsteady cub rootling about in weed at the edge for crabs. Fired a number of shots in great light before losing sight. Then saw otter swimming away around the pier. Pants and Kyra headed up the pier and started to snap away. While I fired off a few shots of the otter I was startled by realising that their otter wasn't the cub. The cub was right in front of me (about 6-8feet from my feet)

It disappeared around the edge of some rocks and I squatted down and snuck further along the slip way when suddenly it was there, back turned to me eating a fish. I started to photograph it when it jumped around startled by my presence. It was only a small cub and obviously did a swift risk assesment determining that losing the fish was the worst of two evils & so facing me it gobbled away and I got 29 pictures at very close quaters in perfect light. Unbelievable luck after all these years sitting in rock pools being battered by hail attempting to photo otters 40-80 feet off.

We were totally delighted with 8 otters on Mull.

Applecross is another story!!

Wll unpate in few days with APPLECROSS bit- meanwhile please enjoy the snaps here and we may add more in their own post. Please do not use these pictures without permission.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sparrowhawk or Goshawk

Saw this bird sweep in across the river Hodder and dive to grab a rook (in a group, all standing, in an open field) All the rooks flew up with a big racket and chased the predator who flew into a lone tree in the field) We watched from the rear patio of the Inn at Whitewell, Forest of Bowland.
Easily spotted bird in the tree and one of the photos is not even cropped. We think it is a goshawk (could be female sparrowhawk BUT really try and look at the feet and the big pantaloons- spoken like a real birder there)
C'mon Goshawk in Whitewell valley? Totally possibly. Would a female sphk swoop out of a woodland across a river and open field on chance of nabbing one rook out of a sitting flock? Unless she had young (too early) this seems a bit of a gamble doncha think?
Sorry pics are not great but comments welcome.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The elusive wren building a nest

Caught this little chap frantically redecorating a hole in a tree with lichen and moss, ready for a new family later this spring.

Wren's we have found are difficult difficult lemon difficult to photograph as they flit so quickly and unexpectedly around the leaf litter and twigs.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Barn Owls again

In a rush to get some fresh air this evening before the dark and promised rain arrived. Not really expecting to see a barn owl when of course.. we saw a beautiful bird hunting in the orchard area on the old familiar spot of "Barn Owl Hill"

It landed on a post and quietly posed for us as we peered over the wall. So heart soaring again this evening. Can assure you a barn owl a day keeps the blues away!