Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In Between The Showers

This week is proving to be very unsettled with periods of heavy rain and now a wintry theme has returned just in time for Easter. I did manage an afternoon out in between the rain and later hail showers.I returned to the Bowland Fells to see if the red grouse and other hill birds would be active during the brief dry spell.

The Forest Of Bowland is a very quiet area and it's almost traffic free roads are ideally suited to driving around slowly looking for potential subjects for the camera. Once again I enjoyed my quest and was rewarded with more images of red grouse and curlew to add to the portfolio. All the images were taken from the car as it provides a great hide and at times it is possible with care to approach closely as the birds are not easily spooked by a passing car.

During my stint on the moors the weather was kind with even a hint of sunshine and it was nice to explore some of the backroads of Bowland. I realise what a very beautiful and relatively unknown part of Lancashire this is and look forward to further visits when Spring does finally arrive.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Return To Bowland

Last week owing to commitments and the weather I was unable to get out with the camera until late Friday. There were heavy showers as I left for a drive to the Bowland Fells. My target bird was the red grouse as hopefully they would be now active up on the moors. Thankfully the weather improved as I reached the high fells and a weak and watery sun attempted to shine. I stayed in the car as it would be a mobile hide as I cruised the moorland roads and lanes looking for birds within camera range.
It proved to be a productive session as some of the species which come to these high meadows and fells had returned to their favoured breeding areas. I was able to obtain some nice images of curlew, lapwing and oystercatcher. The red grouse proved more difficult to find but eventually I found a very obliging cock bird feeding very close to the road which allowed me to fire off a volley of close range shots before departing.
The highlight of the day however was the sighting of a barn owl hunting along the road verge on the homeward journey. As I stopped the car it perched briefly on a road side fence post. However on this occasion I was unable to obtain any images before it departed. I did however make a careful note of the area and I will of course be returning to hopefully have some close encounters with what is one of my favourite birds.
I have posted a few images from the trip showing curlew,lapwing, oystercatcher and of course the splendid red grouse as he posed at the side of the road.  

Monday, 22 March 2010

Bowland Beauties

Met up with Paul Foster again and we trekked across the Bowland moors to an area we had previously visited to hopefully have more sightings of short eared owls which had delighted us on our previous visit. We found ourselves in position mid afternoon to await the action. It wasn't long in coming as we had brief sightings of a female and then later a male hen harrier quartering the rough moorland. Sadly the birds didn't return and all I managed were a few not very good shots of the departing birds
We had more luck later as the short eared owls appeared and hunted over their moorland territories. Most of the time the birds were distant but occasionally came within camera range. It was exciting to see them hunting the rough grasses and sedges although they never appeared to catch prey. At times birds came together for a brief sparring match but I am not sure if these were birds courting or rival birds disputing territorial boundaries. It would seem that maybe there are two pairs of shorties in this area and hopefully they are going to stay around. I do hope so and therefore we will return soon to observe these Bowland beauties. I have posted a few images showing a male hen harrier and the shorties hunting over their moorland home.

An Afternoon With Kingfishers

Last week brought some very welcome warm Spring sunshine.The birds  responded with increased activity as another nesting season arrived. I visited Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve at Rufford to see if the kingfishers had survived the severe Winter we had experienced. On my first visit with Paul Foster we failed to see the kingfishers although we were told they had been seen. We did notice a great crested grebe carrying nesting material in the vicinity of the Rufford Hide.We also failed to see any Red Squirrels which we understand have returned to Mere Sands Wood which was once a former stronghold. We can only hope that they continue to thrive and increase their numbers and halt the decline of this beautiful animal.
I made another visit to Mere Sands on a very pleasant afternoon and was rewarded with splendid sightings of the kingfishers as they fed from bullrush stems and nearby bushes overhanging the water. They rarely came close enough for detailed portrait shots but were delightful to watch over a period of about two hours as they stayed within view. Throughout the afternoon these lovely birds were enjoyed by a string of visitors to the Rufford Hide. I have posted a few images of the kingfishers enjoying the Spring sunshine perching on the heads of bullrushes. 

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Owl Week

This week has seen an improvement in the weather and it looks as if Spring may finally be on the way. The fine and dry weather tempted me out and I had an interesting week observing and photographing owls.
My first port of call was to the barn owl I had been observing over the last three weeks. As there was now more daylight the barn owl wasn't appearing until around 5 pm and then it only showed briefly before flying off to hunt away from it's roosting site. I was joined on one of my visits by Jonathan Latimer, an award winning local wildlife artist and illustrator. Jonathan's bird paintings have achieved International recognition  and his work can be seen by visiting his website at
Later in the week I teamed up with Paul Foster and we headed up into the wilds of the Forest of Bowland to search for Short Eared Owls returning to their breeding haunts on the wild and lonely moors of this very beautiful part of Lancashire. We had an excellent afternoon  in glorious weather and we were fortunate to see three species of owl. The first sighting was of a little owl enjoying the warm spring sunshine on the window ledge of a remote barn. Further on on our trek across the very rough and boggy moorland we came across a tawny owl also enjoying the sunshine as he sat in the window of a deserted and derelict farmhouse. It was a long time since I had seen a tawny owl and I welcomed the opportunity to photograph this elusive owl.
Eventually we arrived at a spot where we could observe a large swathe of moorland and we settled down to await the arrival of the short eared owl. It was a wonderful sunny afternoon and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of this remote part of Bowland . Whilst awaiting the owls we enjoyed brief and fleeting views of a fox as he made his way through the grasses and rushes looking for rabbits. Eventually the short eared owls turned up and we had some wonderful views as they  flew and hunted over their moorland home. It had been a super afternoon ...thanks Paul. ..I enjoyed your company and I am sure we will soon return to these wild moorlands of Bowland. I have attached some images from the week and hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them and hope to post more soon