Sunday, 14 June 2015

Stonyhurst Kestrels

So we are nearing the end of another long year and a large number are fledging.... that is a large number of children leaving for university and life beyond this fine old place.   An annual event that's happened for 100s of years. Another wonderful annual event that has also been going on for centuries is the fledging of all those little creatures which live amongst the towers, gargoyles, grounds here.

Especially our favourite, the kestrel..   Gerard Manley Hopkins was here as a teacher for a time and wrote a magical poem called "Windhover" about a kestrel.  Perhaps the ancestors of our inspired him. 

We are delighted that for past 5 years (to our knowledge- but probably for as long as the building has been here) a pair have nested behind one of four griffins,  each holding a shield and each above a letter A. M. D. G. - Ad maiorem Dei gloriam - For the greater glory of God!   If you happened to be educated in a Jesuit School anywhere in the world you would know this and probably wrote AMDG at the head of every piece of work you did.   Anyway this year's pair of falcons decided D was the main event (and who can argue that?- well- Christopher Hitchens perhaps and  of course Richard Dawkins but he is a real bore -so whatever...)

For past couple of months we have been thrilled by the shrieks of our amorous pair as the male has been bringing female titbits of the small mammal variety.  Then she was clearly set up on the eggs, safe in alcove behind D.  This is right outside the window of my office - unfortunately too high up to peer out (but that makes the site even more suitable and private and safe)

Yesterday I heard the distinctive sound of young nestrels!  (new word!)  When out with kids later heading to a BBQ I looked up and was delighted to see not one but two fluffy falconettes peering down at the goings on.

We also have jackdaws, magpies, starlings, house martins, swallows, blue tits all nesting in cracks, crannies and shelves on the building.   So living in a second floor apartment we get allsorts at our window feeder and on stone mantle outside window.  This year we've had chaffs, great and blue tits and pied wags using the feeder as well as many crows, jack doors, starling etc using mantle.

Anyway-  a few snaps of Kes Chicks (Nestrels  xx)


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Applecross at Easter (again!)

Just back from our annual Easter pilgrimage to Applecross and up't'north generally.   This year we again met with adverse weather conditions which screwed our plans.   Arrived at Fionnphort on Mull in horrendous gale force winds and deciding to NOT chance the bigger tent (designed as our base camp for up to two weeks before tripping up to Applecross) we began to pitch smaller two man.  Immediately, the wind caught it and a pole snapped.  Undaunted, as we've been here before and learned the lesson,  we fetched spare poles and gingerly made another attempt.   It was only by parking Berlingo immediately infront of tent that we were able to provide the slightest reprieve from the major gusts and by guzzling some pretty hefty G&Ts that we were able to provide the greatest nonchalance about the major gusts of wind!!
A good walk along coast next day, in strong winds with intermittent gale force and hail stones- we watched mountain hares for a while, including one which swam through the shallows!  We then stumbled upon an ancient ottery homestead with piles of lovely spraint everywhere... we quickly withdrew from the area to a safe distance to prevent disturbing anyone who may be home napping.   Simon was of course disappointed not to find the remains of the feral goat whose recently dead behorned head he'd coveted last year.  Needless to say, I was faintly relieved as the van was already stacked high.
The wind and hail unrelenting, the tent nearly flattened when we returned from the walk, it was with sadness and reluctance that we decided to (mountain) haretail it north to the less exposed campsite at Applecross- once again forced to cut our stay at the magical Fidden Farm for the third time owing to weather. 
The day became even more dramatic when at the final furlong we were turned back at the last minute half way over the Bealach Na Ba by a local with rear wheel drive and snow tires who'd been unable to get through the hair pins on Loch Carron side and advised us to turn too before getting into such a treacherous mess in the over loaded Berlingo.  We were very grateful indeed as spending the ensuing stormy night up there would not have been very desirable to say the least. 
So three long days of travel and we were ensconsed in Applecross for a planned 2.5 weeks of fun.
Mainly the time was spent enjoying the usual walks and haunts and catching up with people at the Inn.  We were disappointed not to have seen an otter on Applecross this time- fortunately we saw one fishing at Lochaline ferry port whilst waiting to travel over to Fishnish and another at Craignure which we watched from warmth and shelter of Island Castaways charity shop (the weather was vile, not tha otter minded)
The wildlife was actually pretty unexpected this time, with lots of firsts for us at Applecross, including a slow worm, an orgy of mating toads in a rock pool and a very exciting encounter with a solitary snow bunting- which we managed to photograph and so observe that it was riniged.  Saw a golden eagle at Sand and White tail flying high near the bay- but not the wonderful close encounters of the previous years sadly.
Hope you enjoy photographs:


Saturday, 7 March 2015

When photos bomb!!! Hen Harrier snapped with completely wrong speed, iso etc Doh!

Spring in the air at last?

We had a great week in Devon over half term.  Lots of lovely otter spraint (ah so fragrant- palm violets I always think- come on L'Oreal make it into a perfume! L'eau de Tarka)   No otters of course but being with spaniel and niece it was never going to happen.  We did get a good fox sighting and a zillion buzzards -which is always great.

So back home and on the final march to Easter hols and beloved Scotland.  We have not been out much but have had some nice sightings in past week or so - a stoat in complete ermine, plenty of roe deer, a super close, though badly photographed, hen harrier and lots of hares. 

"Here hare here" (old one but as a "Withnail and I" fan, a bit of a fave quote there)  and also a kingfisher bringing some colour and joy to a damp grey day.



Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy New Year starts with Hen Harrier; what could be better?

Happy 2015 (our 4th year blogging wildlife) We are always hopeful come January. It seems that the days are noticeably beginning to drawer out and cold crisp weather makes us feel hopeful of new adventures and wonderful wildlife. We've often found Jan to be a good month to see Barn Owls (though not so far) Decided to visit some old Barny haunts and see what we could before the term began last Thursday and were thrilled to spot a Hen Harrier hunting over the moors. May be a passage bird of course but such a lovely sight. Light wasn't great and views distant but still worth showing the pics perhaps