Friday, 27 March 2009

Ouzel to Ouzel

Last time I wrote about the massacre at Ouzel Thorn Farm, Tarnbrook, this time something very much alive. For a few weeks now, I have been trying to obtain some decent images of the Dipper or Water Ouzel as it is locally known. I had scoured the Brock Valley, searched along the Hodder at Slaidburn, and generally been on the lookout when passing likely looking spots on my travels. I had seen Dipper at Scorton on the river Wyre but was unable to get close enough before the bird departed. However this week I tried a different strategy approaching the favoured area from the opposite bank of the Wyre. It worked a treat and I soon spotted the bold white chest of a dipper.It was feeding well about 30yds away and was unconcerned by my prescence. I was concealed by bankside trees and was able to obtain a good number of shots before the bird departed. It was also a good spot as the afternoon sun was highlighting the dipper and I was  sheltered from the very brisk and cool westerly wind. Two of my better efforts are shown above and I look forward to a return visit when the current very unsettled weather calms down.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Massacre at Ouzel Thorn

It was Sunday again and Kath and I met up to go for our usual  walk. We drove to Abbeystead and parked at Stoops Bridge. We left along the delightful track that follows the Tarnbrook Wyre to Lower Lee and then we took the quiet lane that also follows the Tarnbrook Wyre through to the hamlet of Tarnbrook. The weather had changed again from the warm and settled weather of the previous week to much cooler and windier conditions. Tarnbrook remains unchanged but we did see extensive alterations to one of the old cottages and  this must be a delightful place to live, not too remote, but far enough off the beaten track to enjoy peace and quiet, which is so hard to find these days. We returned following the Wyre Way above the valley back to Abbeystead.  We were upset when passing Ouzel Thorn Farm to find dozens of moles stuck on the barbed wire fence to show that the molecatcher had done his job. I can't see the point in killing these tireless little workers that dig their tunnels and as far as I can see do no harm to the land particularly in an area such as Tarnbrook where there is very poor grazing anyway as the land is so wet and boggy. I thought that they would be beneficial to the land and help drainage. I suppose molecatching is an old country tradition and is still carried on in remote places such as Tarnbrook.  The return journey to the car was uneventful but just after our arrival back at Stoops Bridge someone had a brief view of a kingfisher flashing by. The images show the road to Tarnbrook, a very new lamb at Tarnbrook, mole massacre at Ouzel Thorn farm and a way marker for the Wyre Way.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Close Encounter

Still obsessed with owl watching, I returned to my new local barn owl location again this week. On two of the visits there was no sign of the barn owl as he must have been hunting a different area. My fourth visit of the week proved to be a bit better. The barn owl was in the area and eventually came close and obligingly perched nearby. I t didn't stay long however as disturbance from a youngster on a very noisy mini motorbike scared the owl . It flew off and didn't return. I had been quick enough however to grab some images as it perched and a quick salvo from the camera meant I had saved the day. The best of these shots is shown above and I will no doubt return at an early date to renew my friendship with this beautiful bird.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Back to Barney

Returned Monday evening to the new Barn Owl location to find the owl was there again hunting over the fields adjoining this quiet country lane. I used the car as a hide and was able to obtain some more superb images without disturbing the owl too much. I stayed for half an hour or so and was well pleased with the results. I returned again the following evening but after a wait of over an hour there was no sign of the barn owl, he was obviously hunting elsewhere, and would probably return after I had departed. Three images of this superb barn owl hunting are shown.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Up Hill and Down Dale

The forecast was for a lovely Spring day, so Kath and I had decided on a trip to the Yorkshire Dales where we hadn't been for a long time. The first stop was in Hawes for a coffee, we found Hawes overrun with bikers. This is one of their stops on Sunday runs as they speed around the roads and lanes of Northern England. We left for much quieter back roads down the valley to Castle Bolton where we had lunch in the shadow of the famous castle where Mary,Queen of Scot's was imprisoned in 1569. On then over Grinton Moor, which was busy with grouse management, the heather was being burnt and dogs were being trained for duties later in the year come the "glorious twelfth". We had nice views of red grouse close to the road and I managed to grab a few quick shots. We then dropped steeply down to Reeth which was busy with Sunday motorists etc. After a look around we went on to Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale, a former lead mining area , but now a peaceful Dales village , much used in the filming of "All Creatures Great and Small ", the television version of the famous novels by James Herriott. We then travelled many miles over very exposed and bleak moorland to the famous Tan Hill Inn, Great Britain's highest pub at 1732ft above sea level, made famous by the Everest Double Glazing adverts on the TV. We stopped here to enjoy a coffee and sandwich. It is certainly in a very remote and bleak spot but has a warm and welcoming atmosphere and must be a welcome stop for weary walkers on the Pennine Way. We then dropped down into Swaledale again and out again up over the "Buttertubs Pass " to Wensleydale. We then climbed up again to Ribblehead and its famous viaduct before the final run back down the Lune Valley to home. It had been a long drive of 160 miles through some magnificent scenery and we had indeed travelled up hill and down dale throughout the day and thoroughly enjoyed a day to remember.
The images show Hawes and motorbikes, Red Grouse on the high moors, the Tan Hill Inn and the Ribblehead Viaduct.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Friday the Thirteenth - Waxwings and Barn Owl

Last month the thirteenth fell on a Friday and here we were again with yet another one!! Could this one be as good as last month's. It began very well indeed when I discovered that 120 waxwings were about half a mile from where I live in Ribbleton. So after lunch I went up the road to Gamull Lane where they had been found.They were not around but did return later and perched in trees adjoining this very busy road junction. They tried a couple of times to feed on two cotoneaster trees but were very very skittish and departed again. They were refound but again constant disturbance from motorbikes, ice cream vans etc moved them on again. I didn't get any decent shots but it was still nice to see such a large flock so close to home.
Things were however to get much better. I had recieved information as to the whereabouts of a barn owl not too far away and was anxious to see if it was still around. So around 5pm I was at the new location. The barn owl was indeed there and was perching frequently on roadside fence posts as it hunted the adjoining fields. I stayed just long enough to grab some images and after 20 mins or so I left for home as I didn't want to disturb the owl too much. The pictures were taken without leaving the car and I was able to approach within about 40yds or so. I will be returning to this location soon and hope this super bird is still about.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Hares and High Tide

Managed to get out with the camera a couple of times this week. It was a much better week weatherwise than recently and Spring did finally seem to be hear. Birds were singing, daffodills were blooming,as nature responded to the warmth of the sun. I visited locations in the Garstang, Pilling and Cockerham area and had excellent sightings of Dipper and Grey Wagtail on the River Wyre where I will return soon to obtain some better images  in due course. The highlight of the afternoon was the  sighting of a brown hare close to the road in the Cockerham area. I managed some decent images before it bounded away having been frightened by a passing tractor.
Midweek coincided with some very high tides, some of the biggest of the year at 10metres+. I decided to visit the coast at Marshside, Southport hoping to see the waders roosting at the end of the sand road as I had on previous visits. But on this visit it wasn't to be and things were quiet until that is about an hour after the tide had peaked the waders started flying along the edge of the marsh returning to their feeding grounds out on the Southport beaches. I enjoyed myself for the next hour or so as the small parties of waders flew past at a rate of knots!! There were  indeed a few knots and sanderling but the highlight were good numbers of grey plovers. I obtained some  flight shots of these fast flying waders and was very well pleased with the result.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bowland Beauties

At long last Spring was making an effort to arrive. On a lovely sunny day with blue skies for a change I decided on a drive through the Bowland area to see what was about. I began at the Brock Valley Picnic Site and after putting some seed on the bird tables I was rewarded with some nice shots of the usual nuthatches, blue tits, great tits, etc. I had hoped for a Great spotted Woodpecker but none were about. I then moved on to Harrisend Fell where the highlight of the day , a stunning male stonechat was performing for the camera alongside the road. I didn't need to get out of the car as the stonechat flitted along the wall and fenceposts . His mate was in close attendance and they both gave some wonderful opportunities for shots as they posed just feet away from the lens. I then drove on and through the Trough of Bowland to Dunsop Bridge. Bird wise it was very quiet and the hoped for Red Grouse and Dippers didn't materialise. It was nice however to see the lapwings and curlews returning to the hill pastures and to hear again the evocative call of the curlew over the  breeding grounds. A super afternoon out in wonderful scenery and weather.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Confined to Barracks

Recent very dull and gloomy weather and now more rain, has meant that I have not been out with the camera as often as I would have liked. I amused myself yesterday morning, trying to capture long tailed tits in a brief bright spell before the forecast rain arrived after lunch. I managed a few shots before the tits departed. They never hang around for long and are hyperactive whilst searching for food. I was pleased with the result as they really are such beautiful little birds. The collared dove was a different proposition as they do pose nicely as this one did. They do tend to outnumber other garden birds these days and are first to the table when the seed goes out but I still like them for their subtle colouring and that wonderful red eye.