Last weekend I spent 3 enjoyable days at the British Birdfair - on the Sunday I had spent the morning helping to man the LROS stand with Andy Smith, who had traveled with me to Rutland. Having had a really good last day at the show, we arrived back at my house at 6.15ish pm, absolutely shattered from walking around all weekend. Andy picked up his car and headed for his home at Thornton. I was looking forward to tucking into my salad which the duchess had made for me - which is what I was doing - when I was interrupted by a call from Dave Gray; he was hollering down the phone and obviously in an hurry - ' do you need Gannet for your county list?' 'Yes' I replied, thinking he was still at Rutland ( I certainly wasn't driving all the way back there again that night!) 'Well, there is one at Thornton Reservoir - see you there!' was the reply. A quick call to my mate Pete, and I was on my way! Apparently,as Andy left my house, he thought he would just check the reservoir from the dam before going home - and the rest is history, as they say! A few us had good views of this adult Gannet before bad light stopped play; I returned the following day and took some images. It's obviously exhausted, but hopefully it will eventually make it back to the coast where it should be. It was still there on Tuesday evening and has been flying about and has even been seen eating fish, so fingers crossed it will be able to leave the reservoir soon.
I can't remember if I told you about the Brascote Tawny Owl-its my age I think!! Anyway, there has been tawny owl at Brascote for probably for the last four years, and it always roosts in the same Horse chestnut tree - well most of the time, but it seemed that this wise old owl knew when I was carrying my camera and it was nowhere to be seen, but every time the owl was showing I didn't have it with me...... lesson to learned there? Although the car was not that far away, I was just too lazy to go back and get it, but a couple of weeks ago it let its' guard down! As Pete and I were giving the tree its' usual once over, Pete called 'here it is!' and unbelievably, I had my camera with me, so below are a couple of images of the camera-shy Brascote GP Tawny Owl
The duchess and I spent a few days down in Dartmouth in the beautiful county of Devon from the 31st of July to the 3rd of August. On the day we travelled it was really sunny and warm, so we decided to do some butterflying at Aish Tor - a good site for High Brown Fritillary. We parked up and walked for a while up one of the paths; although there were loads of bramble and lots of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns on the wing, there was no sign of our quarry, so we walked back to the car where Sue asked a family that had just parked up if we were at the right place. Luckily, they had an OS map which showed the Tor as being another 500 meters to the west so we drove further down the track and we parked at the Tor. As luck would have it,we bumped into a group of locals that were doing the same as us and they informed us that there were High Browns in the bracken just a few yards away; we soon found a female - egg laying, I think - as she spent a lot of time walking around on the ground in among the bracken and twigs. The group also told us of a site for White Admiral at Bovey Tracey, so after we left Aish Tor, we headed back up the A30 to the woodland at Bovey Tracey
High Brown Fritillary
High Brown Fritillary
We parked at the entrance to to woodland and followed the directions we had been given; we spent a good couple of hours searching all the brambles for the Admirals but with no luck - but there were lots of butterflies about - Peacocks and Brimstone which were in superb condition and also there were lots of Silver-washed Fritillary - we even found two mating! We went back to the car to get ready to continue our journey down to Dartmouth and whilst just sitting in the car having a drink, Sue had noticed a butterfly flitting over some bramble just the other side of the gate so she got out for a closer look.Within a minute she was beckoning me over to the bramble and sure enough she hadn't found one but two White Admirals. Though they were fairly worn,it was still a nice insect - and within 15 meters of the car! Still, it was a nice walk around the wood anyway!
Mating Silver-washed Fritillary
The weather was not very kind to us on the Monday so we went on the steam train into Paington - certainly recommend it! We had a great day despite the drizzle. The weather on Tuesday was overcast but with out the rain. I had told Sue about a Dalmatian Pelican that been roaming around the South West coast and it had been reported at the Hayle Estuary RSPB and bless her she said instead of moping around Dartmouth, lets go for it! Two and half hours later, there we were watching this fish-guzzling beasty hunting and seeking out its' prey - and luckily on a rising tide - so the bird came quite close at times, and even better - the sun came out and it ended up being quite a nice day in Cornwall! All in all, despite the weather not being too kind for us, we had a great few days.
The Pelican in hunting mode
We left a sunnier Dartmouth on Wednesday morning but decided to call in at another butterfly site - Preston Down Fields - where Brown Hairstreak were frequently seen. Unfortunately, although it was warm and sunny, it was quite windy, and despite our best efforts, we didn't see any - but we can leave them for another day - gives us a reason to go back again!
As always thanks for stopping by and as usual any comments are welcome
Like I said in my previous post, after ringing all the Barn Owl chicks, the following day Sue and I set off for a few days in Northumberland, staying at a village called Beadnell, just a couple of miles south of Seahouses. It's and area of the UK I've never visited before but why I just don't know - it's such a beautiful part of the country. Our aim was to visit the Farne Isles - an archipelago of Isles about one and half miles off the north east coast of Britain, where there are Arctic and Common Tern colonies, along with Puffin, Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes breeding in large numbers and with a few Shag mixed in there as well. We also wanted to see what else there was to do on the north east coast. After an uneventful journey up the A1, we arrived in good time for us to explore the Farnes on the Sunday afternoon, taking a small catamaran tour around the islands before landing for an hour or so on Inner Farne which is owned by the National Trust. ( we went back again on the Tuesday and managed to arrange to stay an extra hour with the boat company we used as they weren't fully booked). What a place! Although you have limited access on the island, having to stay mainly to the board walks, you are surrounded by hundreds of breeding birds - all within arms' reach! You are advised to wear a hat which you definitely need, as the first 300 yards is where the Arctic Tern are nesting and it's like running the gauntlet! - you get dive-bombed, landed on, pecked regularly - as well as getting pooped on!! Despite all of this, it's absolutely amazing and brilliant! Tern chicks are almost underfoot in some places, adult birds are sitting on eggs along the side of the boardwalk and chicks ranged from a few days old to fledglings. it was amazing to watch the Puffins coming in off the sea with their beaks full of sand eels who had their own gauntlet to run as they tried to avoid being harassed by Black-headed and Herring Gulls who were trying to take the food off of them.
Arctic Tern looking for another 'victim'
Arctic coming in to land
Above is a Black-headed Gull and below is a Herring Gull - two of the culprits who mugged the Puffins!!
......And this is what they were waiting for - a Puffin with a beak-full of sand eels
Coming in to land
Now, where did I leave those chicks??
Below are some images of other birds we saw on our tour of the islands before we landed on Inner Farne.
Two Guillemot with a Bridled variety
Puffin off on a fishing trip
Juvenile Shag - there were a lot of these around the islands
Kittiwake with chicks
Not only is there fantastic birdlife to view, there is also a large Grey Seal colony, and,as with the birds, the boat skipper gets you in for some real close-up views of these inquisitive animals
Grey Seal colony
This one came for a closer look at us!
Whilst you are doing the island tour, we saw lots of birds - including this large flock of Gannets
Though eider Duck breed on the Farne Isles, as soon as they can, they bring their ducklings across to the mainland. These were in the harbour at Seahouses. There were some drakes about, but they were too far out to get an image.
Adult female Eider
In between our visits to |Inner Farne, we decided to visit Holy Island (Lindisfarne) on the Monday for a look around. We drove over the causeway, arriving at 10.30 am; we only had a couple of hours or so to check out the priory and walk around the village before we needed to leave for the mainland, as the tide would be returning at 13.15, and we would have been stuck then until 22.00 before the causeway would have been clear to cross. On our way back, we stopped at The Grace Darling museum in Bamburgh which we had been recommended to visit; Grace Darling was a young Victorian heroine of 23 years who, along with her father, rowed out over 400 yards from Longstone Lighthouse, in very high seas, to rescue nine people who had survived a shipwreck in the night, and were stranded on the rocks. She was the first woman to be presented with a silver medal for gallantry by the RNLI. She sadly died from consumption just three years later. The museum is well worth a visit.
Brownsman Lighthouse -This is the original lighthouse where Grace and her family lived before moving to the new Longstone Lighthouse. Although they moved to Longstone, they still rowed back to this island on a regular basis, as they kept a garden here growing vegetables etc. since their new home was built on rock with nowhere to cultivate.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip to Northumberland, and as always, any comments are welcome.
Sorry it's been a while since my last post, but the old replacement hip has taken its toll on my getting out and about, but i'm glad to say it's as good as new now, and no more pain - just got to sort the rest of my body out now! Anyway, enough about my ageing ailments and back to the 'birding' stuff. I'm sure I've mentioned before that, with my good mate Paul Riddle, [his blog owlsaboutthatthen -well worth a look) I've been helping to make and erect Little Owl and Barn Owl boxes all over South Leicestershire. We've probably got well over a 100 boxes in place now, and the Little Owl population in this area is thriving; Paul has discovered well over 200 sites where this owl can be found, and we have had good success with our box programme, but over the last 3 or 4 years we have concentrated more on Barn Owls, as the population in this area was poor to say the least, with only 2 or 3 pairs that Paul new of. I am pleased to say that now, in 2016, we probably have at least 12 to 16 pairs to our knowledge, but, as you can imagine, trying to get around all the boxes is near on impossible due to time constraints, logistics and the cost - to get round all the boxes, you can do quite a few miles across some quite rugged terrain, and it's all funded by Paul himself, so there could be owls that we know nothing about.
Paul was out checking the boxes 3 or 4 weeks ago and we had a total of 21 chicks over 8 boxes,so on Saturday 2nd July, Paul had arranged for Mick Townsend, our ringing mentor, to meet up and go and ring all 21 chicks. Mick had been on holiday so we had at to wait on his return before we could do anything about ringing the chicks, so with this in mind we knew that some of the chicks were going to be quite big or even be out of the box
Barn Owl chick waiting his turn to be ringed
We started at our first site around 1pm. I'm always excited when we start ringing the chicks - not only does it make you feel good that its all been worthwhile after all the hard work that Paul and I do, putting up the boxes - normally when its freezing cold or raining - but its just brilliant to have a Barn Owl chick in your hand and be putting a ring on it. Paul and I do most of the ringing, watched over by Mick to make sure we doing what we are supposed to be doing and he also takes all the information which is required, ready for the BTO report. Mick Townsend, who is a very experienced ringer, and as rung birds all over the world, can be found every weekend at Stamford Reservoir where he as been ringing birds for more years there than you would like to mention. We finally finished at our last site some five and half hours later with all the chicks ringed. A good days work, I feel!
Paul with 3 large chicks
Mick and Paul at another site with 3 chicks
Yours truly with a pair of chicks ready to go back into the box having been ringed
As always, thanks for stopping by and any comments are welcome.
The following day my wife and I went to the Farne Isles for a few days, so when I sort through the images I will do post on the birds we encountered there too.
Following my hip replacement on the 23rd April, getting out birding has obviously had to be put on the back burner, as getting around my patch means climbing over a style which is a no-no for up to 6 weeks. It has been great though watching the Blue and Great Tits, busily going backwards and forwards to the nest boxes in the garden, and the Blackbird churning out all the soil in the garden pots! The second weekend I was home, 7 of May, I saw my first 4 Swifts of the year over the garden, and my wife took me to Cropston Resevoir when the Arctic Terns were on the move - but sadly none came through there that day. Today found me sitting here, feeling a bit bored and cooped up, when I remembered that on the Friday the 22nd of April, Pete and I went for my last sortie over Brascote Pits for a while, and I took a few images; it was a bit overcast, but fine for a late afternoon/evening walk. There were lots of hirundine over the front pit, and the first House Martins there for the year. Walking around the pits, migrants were evident all around, with singing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs in the sallows and also the Lesser Whitethroat was still there from the weekend before, and still singing well - fingers crossed for them to breed on the patch! The Oystercatchers flew over our heads and landed on the sallows' pool. We were surprised to see when we got up there that they had landed on the old gantry! All in all, a nice little walk giving 35 species - and it was nice to see a few spring migrants too
Lesser Whitethroat (heavily cropped)
Well that's killed a couple of hours! - just got to wait now till I can get over that style and get back to a bit of patch birding! I will be getting out and about in the next week or two, but only where I can walk safely with my crutches. I did miss a patch tick last Sunday, when Pete found a Grey Plover on the old settling pool (Garganey pool) - not only a good patch tick, but a good Leicestershire bird. In fact, there were 4 good mates of mine doing a Leicestershire bird race, and I passed the news on to them -the the Plover broke the record, giving them a day count of 113 (though they did go on to grab 2 more species and end up with 115) Well done lads - great total!
As always thanks for stopping by and I welcome any comments.