Sunday, 20 March 2011

Where Otters Swim

I seemed to have become obsessed with the Windermere Otters of late. Last week found me making a couple of trips up to Ambleside for hoped for further sightings. For my first trip I was with Paul Foster and after an early departure we were in position at Ambleside Pier around 7a.m. Despite the forecast for more dull weather we had decided to go and we were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful day as we approached Windermere. It was indeed a magnificent day and we soaked up the very welcome Spring sunshine and enjoyed the magnificent scenery.
The otters had other ideas and only Paul had a brief sighting as I checked out the other side of the pier. I did have distant sightings of an otter hunting along the far shore of Windermere and we both decided on a walk out to where the Rivers Brathay and Rothay come into the head of Windermere. We didn't find the otter but enjoyed nice views of a group of goldeneye basking in the sun. We had another quick look at the pier but the otters had retired for the day and we went for a quick look around Grasmere before returning home.
As the forecast was very good for Friday I decided on one more trip North and this time I was at Ambleside Pier around 6a.m. after an early departure from Preston. Once again the weather was magnificent after an early sharp frost and hopes of otter sightings were high. I was very soon rewarded by my first sighting around 6.30a.m of an otter heading for the pier having returned from an early morning hunting foray. Over the next couple of hours I enjoyed wonderful views of the family of otters as they swam and played close to the pier and landing stages. They also swam out to hunt around the boats moored in the bay and could be easily picked out by their distinctive wakes in the water.
I was pleased I had made the effort of a very early start and had been rewarded with yet more wonderful views of these delightful creatures. After a welcome bacon buttie and coffee at the Pier Cafe I had a walk out to the area where Paul and I had previously enjoyed nice views of goldeneye but a pike anglers boat came into the area and succeeded in disturbing the birds. After that I had a trip over to the Langdale area and enjoyed exploring some back roads and noting places which look worthy of further exploration before returning home via the River Kent valley. Here I found some more delightful areas to which I will hopefully soon return. It had been a busy week with two trips to Ambleside and hopefully the images above of otters,goldeneye, and of course the magnificent scenery made it all very worthwhile and I hope my readers also enjoy looking at them.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dipping and Dippers

Paul and I had decided on a trip into Cumbria this week to see if we could see the otters which I was fortunate to see last week at Ambleside on Lake Windermere. On the way there we called in at a well known location where hawfinches are frequently seen. The hawfinches are seen early on and usually before 11am. We arrived in good time and there were already other hopeful birders waiting patiently for the hawfinches to arrive. We stayed for over an hour but there was no sign and this was to be our first dip of the day. Dipping is a term used in birding circles and is usually described as missing out on the bird you want to see . Other birds were however on show and we spent our time photographing nuthatch and bullfinch which looked splendid in their colourful plumage.
We then moved on further north to Ambleside and hoped for sightings of the otters which have delighted those lucky enough to have seen them in and around the pier at Waterhead. None were around and we popped into the nearby cafe for refreshments. We then had a walk around the lake and followed the River Rothay up towards Ambleside. This is an excellent river to see dippers and Paul and I enjoyed watching and photographing a pair which were nesting under a nearby bridge. We were not able to carry the big lenses and tripods to this location and the images we did get were consequently not up to our usual standard so we decided to return later with the car and the heavy gear.
On our return to the pier we had another good look for the otters but we understand they hadn't been seen recently according to staff working on the pier. So after this disappointment we drove back to the River Rothay and the dipper nest site under the bridge. It was some time before the birds returned and we both managed a few decent shots before it was time to think about returning home. One final look in at the pier but no otters although we did see a female long tailed duck which has been present on Windermere for a some time. So all in all we had enjoyed an excellent day out despite dipping out on hawfinch and otter and the weather had been kind during our stay in this delightful part of The Lake District.
I have shown above a few images of our day out, mainly bullfinch,nuthatch and dipper but have also included a nice grey wagtail which paid us a fleeting visit and a couple of jackdaws which inhabit the area around the pier hoping for handouts from the tourists coming down to feed the ducks and swans on the lake.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Ambleside Otter

Just a few more from last week when I was in the right place at the right time. I enjoyed wonderful close up views of one of the otters which have been frequenting the pier at Waterhead Ambleside. This is the head of England's largest lake, Windermere and it is nice to know that otters are thriving here and elsewhere throughout the North of England . This particular family of otters have obviously not read the books as otters are supposed to be nocturnal and keep well away from man. These otters seem to revel in coming to see the people around the pier who are hoping for a sighting and they have delighted the lucky ones for whom they have put on a wonderful display.
Just how long they will continue to visit Ambleside Pier is not known so if any of my readers have the opportunity to visit this delightful part of The Lake District I would urge you to do so. As well as the otters there are some lovely walks around the head of the lake and you can always visit Ambleside with it's many interesting shops and various tourist attractions. So my final few images of the otter above show it underneath and around the pier at Waterhead . Also one or two views of the surrounding area.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Otter Watching...Windermere.

My mission this week has been to see if I could see and photograph the family of otters that have become a tourist attraction on Lake Windermere at Waterhead Pier Ambleside. They have featured in the local press and a film crew from the BBC has also paid a visit. I first visited last Sunday on a lovely sunny day but didn't spend a lot of time searching for the otters.Instead Kath and I enjoyed a delightful walk into Ambleside and a visit to Stock Ghyll waterfalls. We did have a look for the otters but there were none about.I was determined however to spend more time in my quest and therefore left home early on Friday.
I arrived at Waterhead around 9 am and Lake Windermere was flat calm and the weather was dull and a bit misty. I waited around the pier for around an hour but nothing showed but just as I decided to try looking along the lake shore ,I spotted the wake of an otter making a bee line for the pier. I quickly got back into position overlooking the corner where most of the sightings have been. It wasn't long before the otter emerged from under the pier and for the next twenty five minutes or so was very active as it swam and dived looking for fish. I had been joined by three other people and we had fabulous views of the otter no more than thirty feet away. The pier is visited on a regular basis by a family of three otters,a female and two cubs from last year which are now fully grown. The otter we were watching was one of the cubs as apparently the female is blind in one eye but she or the other cub didn't appear. Maybe they have now gained their independence and will soon leave to set up their own territories.
The otter departed after about twenty five minutes and we watched it being mobbed by gulls as it made it's way back across Lake Windermere. I was very well pleased with my morning's work and it had definitely been worth the early morning trip to Ambleside. I spent my remaining time with a walk into Ambleside for lunch and on the way had excellent views of a pair of dippers gathering nesting material and building a nest under a bridge over the River Rothay. I returned to Waterhead Pier and spent more time with a group of hopeful otter watchers but none of the otters returned. By now the weather was turning gloomy with mist coming down and I decided it was time to return home after what had been a very memorable time watching a wild otter on Lake Windermere.
I have posted some images from this wonderful encounter with the otter and I may post some more at a later date. I hope my readers and followers enjoy looking at them. It was one of those very special wildlife encounters as wild otters are very difficult to see and photograph in England and are mostly nocturnal. It is only on the coasts of Scotland where sightings are more common in the daytime so I feel very lucky to have experienced these close up views of one of our special animals so close to home. Thanks Lake Windermere for a great day.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Mainly Wigeon

After last week's invasion of rats, which thankfully seemed to have moved on, I have returned to do some bird photography. I have had a frustrating time this week trying to catch up with waxwings, which are still about but so far have eluded me. I spent a few hours down at Newton Marsh which currently is host to hundreds of wigeon,which provided me with some nice photographic opportunities.
I have posted a few of my efforts above. As well as the wigeon there were a few brown hares about enjoying this week's better weather and I have shown them above. There were also coots and waterhens and the one above was pretending to be a black grouse. The best bird on the marsh was a male merlin which was always too distant to photograph but has been more obliging for other photographers. I hope to get out and about again this week as the settled weather looks like being with us for most of this week.