Monday, 28 June 2010

The Young Ones

Think this was the title of a film starring Cliff Richard way back in the sixties ?? ... My young ones have been seen recently whilst out and about with the camera. It has been very quiet with most birds having now reared their young and everything has been lying low in the very warm weather we have been having during June.
I was very pleased to find an oystercatcher with chicks on a recent drive through Bowland.  The birds were very close to the road and I was able to get some decent shots before the birds vanished into the grass and rushes. The young redstart was also seen in Bowland in the Tarnbrook area waiting to be fed by nearby parents. The grouse and curlew chicks were seen when I visited Teesdale recently as mentioned in my previous posting and I have shown the curlew image again as it is one of my favourites of the year. Hope my followers enjoy looking at the images and lets hope the youngsters survive to breed themselves in years to come. From the top the images show my favourite curlew shot followed by three images of the oystercatchers and the final two being red grouse and redstart chicks

Sunday, 27 June 2010


This week with the continuing very warm and summery weather, Kath and I decided on a return trip to the Northern Pennines and to the beautiful valley of the river Tees near Middleton in Teesdale. It was cloudy on our arrival and was much cooler than it had been back home but this was a refreshing change and it was indeed a very pleasant day for driving around to admire the scenery in this remote and beautiful part of Northern England.
The area is famous for it's hay meadows where the grass and wild flowers are allowed to grow until cutting in the late summer.  It was indeed a colourful site to behold as we drove along deserted roads where all the roadside fields were carpeted in buttercups and clover and many other different varieties of wild flowers long gone from the intensively farmed fields back home. On an earlier visit the fields had been full of lapwings, redshank,oystercatchers and other species of birds busily going about the business of setting up breeding territories. Now the area seemed deserted of birdlife as the young and parents were mostly hidden from view in the lush vegetation.
We went up to the Cow Green Reservoir and had a walk down to see Cauldron Snout waterfall. Here it was much cooler and this locality is famous for the rare Arctic /Alpine plants to be found in the vicinity. We were just too late to see the Spring Gentian but many Mountain Pansies adorned the windswept grasslands and we also had good views of a number of Golden Plover which nest on the  adjoining Widdybank Fell. On the way back down to the valley I had a nice view of a juvenile Ring Ouzel which posed obligingly for photographs. Another nice sighting was of three curlew chicks with their parents in attendance and again I obtained some nice shots from the car.
Before returning on the long journey home we enjoyed a cuppa and a bite to eat in the 1618 Cafe in Middleton in Teesdale. On the way back we did a detour to look at the area made famous by Hannah Hauxwell who farmed at Low Birk Hat Farm in Baldersdale . Hannah spent many years alone farming this harsh landscape and was  to become famous following television documentaries and books written about her austere lifestyle. It had been a very interesting day spent in this beautiful part of the Northern Pennines and somewhere we are looking forward to returning to and discovering more of it's delights and magnificent scenery. As usual I have posted some images from the day's trip showing the wonderful scenery and shots of the young curlew and parent and the rare sighting of a young ring ouzel.  

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Better Than Watching Football

This last week my birdwatching and photography trips have been to a site in the Lancashire Pennines where I have been fortunate to observe and photograph Long Eared Owls. This species of owl is very elusive and easily disturbed so a careful approach was needed and Mike and I made good use of the moorland walls to hide behind to observe the comings and goings of the owls.
Our first trip with Paul Foster was wonderful with fabulous sightings of the birds hunting the moorland and catching voles to feed their chicks which were waiting in a nearby forest. Subsequent visits were poor with only fleeting and distant views of the adult birds and again brief views of the young owls. Our third visit coincided with England's World Cup match against Algeria. We found the area and the moorland roads very quiet and it was a lovely bright sunny but very cool evening. We waited and watched for around three hours but the performance of the owls was on a par with that of the England Team and we only had a brief view of a distant hunting adult bird. The youngsters could be heard in the forest continually calling with their " squeaky gate " call  but neither of the parents returned with food whilst we were there.
After three hours of waiting Mike and I decided to call it a night and return home as it had become decidedly chilly and we needed the ride home to warm up again. We eventually were to learn of England's poor performance in their crucial World Cup game and we both agreed that what we had experienced this last week or so was definitely much better than watching football. As usual I have posted a few more images from the week showing Mike on telescope duty,my optics at the ready trained on the area where the youngsters were waiting, and finally more images from our first visit when the owls were on top form. Let's hope England can also be on top form in their final group game,otherwise they are on the way home !!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

An Evening To Remember

Twelve months ago I had visited a site on the moors above Burnley to observe and photograph Long Eared Owls. This owl is notoriously difficult to photograph as it very much a nocturnal creature and is rarely seen out and about when conditions are favourable for photography. I did have views of the owl last year but it was always distant and usually in poor light. Last week I again visited the location with Mike and Paul. Paul Foster had recently been having excellent views of the LEO's as they hunted the moors in good light and had obtained some lovely images of both the male and female.
We met up around seven on a bright and fresh evening and the layers went on as it was cool up on the moors. The owls had been successful in rearing young in a nearby conifer wood and were being kept busy obtaining food for the hungry youngsters. It wasn't long before we saw the first owl as it came up on the moor to hunt and for the next couple of hours or so we were treated to some wonderful views as the owls went about their hunting duties. I managed to obtain some quite decent images of the action and some of them are shown above.
The Long Eared Owls were not all we saw on this memorable evening and just as we were thinking of leaving a Roebuck appeared and gave us more photographic opportunities. Finally as we returned to the cars we saw a couple of fallow deer at the roadside and we again took advantage of another excellent bit of luck. These fallow deer did look a little out of place up on the moors and we came to the conclusion that they may have escaped from a local collection as they were fairly tame and allowed  a close approach. It was still light as we left for home after what had indeed been a wonderful evening's wildlife watching up in the Lancashire Pennines. I have posted some action shots of the hunting owls and the surprise roe and fallow deer. 

Monday, 7 June 2010

Deer and Ospreys

The Osprey has been nesting in woodlands around Bassenthwaite Lake in The English Lake District since 2001. I had never visited the site until the weekend when Kath and I decided on a visit. The forecast was not good with rain promised. The cloud was well down on local hills as we left but began to lift as we headed north and we were to be lucky as it did indeed remain dry during our visit to the osprey site . The location of the site is in Forestry Commission woodland at Dodd Wood overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake and commands wonderful views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
Not long after arriving at the Upper Viewpoint we saw the male osprey arriving with a fish for the two young chicks. The viewpoint is about five to six hundred yards away from the nest and high powered optics are required for reasonable views of the birds. Excellent telescopes are provided by the Osprey Project Team and all those present enjoyed some good views. The nest was too far away for good images with the camera and the murky conditions didn't help but I did manage some record shots of the male delivering a fish to the waiting female
We stayed at the viewpoint for about ninety minutes or so and then made the return back to the car park and cafe where we enjoyed a very welcome cuppa just as the promised rain arrived. It became heavier and heavier as we made a dash for the car and the long journey back home. I have posted some of images of the ospreys at their Bassenthwaite Eyrie and also some images from last week of red and roe deer I was fortunate to see at Leighton Moss and in the  Forest Of Bowland.  

Friday, 4 June 2010

Action and Reaction

June had arrived and with it some very warm weather. Most birds were lying low either on nesting duties or hiding away in the green canopy that was now covering most of the woodlands and it was generally very quiet on the bird and photography scene. I decided on a visit to Leighton Moss where I hadn't been for some time.
It was another very warm afternoon and my first port of call was to Lilian's Hide to view the small colony of black headed gulls which could be heard as you left the car park. Gulls are not really amongst my favourite birds but I must admit to spending a wonderful hour or so at Lilian's observing and photographing the antics of the nesting colony. There was a healthy number of chicks on view and there was much squabbling amongst the parent birds as they competed for territory amongst the little islands which were covered in beautiful yellow flag iris. The gulls too were resplendent in their breeding finery with blood red bills and feet.
There was constant noise and action from the colony and I managed to obtain some nice action shots of the black headed gulls as they fought and squabbled over territory. The light too was excellent for action shots as the strong afternoon sun lit up the scene. I have posted some images from the session with the gulls and hope my readers enjoy what I have to say is a very beautiful bird when seen in it's breeding finery.