Saturday, 28 November 2009

Autumn Colours, Splendid Scenery (November)

A college trip out to Haweswater started off the month in the first Sunday of November. A full car load made the hour journey down with me, Gary, Aine, Helen and Annita present. When we arrived the weather was drizzly with low cloud so wasn't the best conditions but this part of the experience and the challenge. We planned to do High street which is the route that goes right around the valley where the lone male Golden Eagle is situated. We started off on the track that goes up the side of the ridge approaching Heron crag and continuing onto Eagle Crag.

Helen and Anitta turned around about half an hour in as Annita did not feel very well so they continued to do a different route up that was more easy going. So there was just the three of us left to venture to high street and around the valley. We were making really good time as we all had quick legs and soon made it to the old Roman road of High Street in about an hour and when we got there we found a covering of snow at the peak which was a nice surprise!

No Golden Eagles of yet but always great to see and hear the Ravens. We also seen a good number of Red Deer lower down in the valley but it was to late in the year to hear there famous Rutting calls.

Once we made it right round the valley we got back down to lower ground by Haweswater lake and with the sun dropping it made for nice lighting for some good scenic shots. Me and Gary posing in this one but there is a bit of a gap between us as you can see there its not as shnug as it used to be the romance is going I recon.

Nice scenic shot looking through the European Larch onto Haweswater it's self. Interesting Historical facts about the area are that there used to be two villages under the lake up until as late as 1930s people used to live there until a decision was made to create a large man made dam and flood the whole area at the bottom of the valley covering the villages. The reason behind this was to create a water supply for the greater Manchester area which is still present to this day. Its amazing to think that in early last century it used to be so different with people living in the beautiful remote area with nesting Eagles flying overhead and now its changed so much not for the better but just a big change in general. I wonder what the locals thought though when they were told they had to find another place to live as there houses were gonna be swamped by water from the fells above.

Another nice scenic shot coming back down and round High Street. Did not see the Eagle this time but I have got a good record this year with an over 50% success ratio so I will take that!

Glorious Geltsdale on a lovely Autumn day. I no everyone is talking about missing the summer time and winter is upon us but I love the change in seasons and the different seasons and variation it creates. Geltsdale is world class in the Autumn season with the superb colouration and raptors circling above with huge flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing surging through the valley.

Great Views from Talkin Head were i walk the dogs. Look out to the scots side on a clear day you can see up to 60 miles of visibility. Always a great chance of seeing Sparrowhawk as well when your up there as well as Black, Red Grouse. There was a great viewing point from the track for nesting Buzzards as well this year it was superb!

Me and Gary decided to go for a potter further up Geltsdale valley as far as the waterworks where the adders are. We were hoping to see possible Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin but when we got there, there was a certain disturbance..there was guys dressed as twats with whisky flasks driving on quad bikes following hound dogs around the Geltsdale new water valley. I don't know what the political correct term for them is...oh yeah morons that's the ticket. To much disturbance but we did see a Buzzard and a Kestrel. Gary had stayed the night I had given him the double bead and i slept on the floor with the rats cos i am a good companion. The next day we were looking out to Geltsdale valley from my very own bird hide from the computer room and there was two buzzards making their way down the valley in hunting mode always a joy to watch especially viewing them from my window while sitting on my new bar stool I bought from amazon for £20 which makes viewing the wildlife on show even better chiling on a swivel bar stool. Its superb I can swivel the seat to talk to john or look at the computer then swivel it straight back at the window and get the binoculars out to scan the whole valley in front of me. complete corker!

A day visit to St Bees on the west coast of Cumbria to do a bit of sea watching as it was a splendid day with great light and visibility. I got this great scenic shot with the sunlight creating a great effect on the ocean. I spoke to a lady from Sea Watch Foundation on the phone and she said that you do still get Porpoise and Dolphin close to land during the winter months so I had a quick scan with no joy but it is good to know that there still about. Next year I'm gonna have great Success with Cetaceans hey Gary 2010 is gonna be the year!

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Story of the Eagle and the Whale (October)

A trip up to Aberdeeen started the month off and again the journey up was non stop pishing! wiper blades were doing over time and I had planned to stop off at a few locations on the east coast on the way up like the Firth and Forth Estury in hope of WTS eagle, Marsh Harrier or Potential late Osprey makng their way down. I was planning on calling to kirnordy as well my dads old stomping ground with the RSPB but stopping off anywhere was a waste of time as visibility was awful.
The first morning up in Aberdeen I got up earlish at 9 and headed straight out to the areas of Dunecht and Scotstown to look out for Red Kites. Its funny my nanny used to live in this area but the year of the Kites release she moved to westhill but never mind worse things happen at sea. Hung around for the whole morning period and eventually got some good views of the birds as there was about 5-6 on show. it drives me cockahoop that all around the area of Dunecht and the estate there is signs every 50 yards saying please drive carefully pheasants around, its all about the money.....shame

when scanning the press and Journal local Aberdeenshire paper the next morning second page in with a picture of a beached Sperm Whale I was in complete shock and when I read that it was on Balmedie beach half an hour from us I was not missing the opportunity to see the biggest toothed animal on the planet. Me and Tom Milo headed down in the morn and it was a splendid day to be by the seaside! wasent for the whale though. When we got to the beach we could smell the cetacean before we could see it, for obvious reasons it was a 35 foot mammal carcass. Once we seen the Sperm Whale it was a bid sad to see it and doesent really count as a whale sighting, well im not going to count it anyway. An amazing size it was been 35 foot plus. It was a Bull and they can grow to about 65 feet and feed on Giant Squid at extreme depths. When they get beached there sheer body weight crushes there internal organs.

The day after it was a trip upto the well known reserve Loch of Strathbeg up past Peterhead as there is a Sea Eagle that has settled there for over 9 months. It is a 2008 release bird from Fife a juvenile male. I got to the reserve at about 10am to give me as much time as possible for eagle sightings so I had a quick look around the facilities and was very impressed with the setup as I came across an indoor bird hide viewing point that looks right out to the Loch and the surrounding shallow waters. They provided scopes there and had a video TV screen zooming in on a desired area. tea, coffee machine and comfy chairs it was all gravy all I needed now was an eagle.
10 minutes in boom! flying barn doors straight ahead in hunting mode...special. the bird was manoeuvring back and forward flushing ducks and ended up staying for 4 hours! people were coming in and out the whole time and they all got to see the WTS eagle which was great especially this old couple who I showed the bird and told them a little bit about the species and the old woman bought me a sandwich which was smashing! she even got my favourite flavour chicken Tikka which I didn't even ask for! was a superb day all round with the only negative been the nob on my gear stick snapped off on the way home, but it didn't bother me.

A nice all round picture with the monument in the foreground and the bird been mobbed by lapwing with the farm landscape in the backdrop. I framed this picture and gave it to my dad for his birthday..he was delighted.

After a successful trip up to Scotland at the start of the month it was back to good old Geltsdale for some great views of our magnificent Buzzard that I got at Talkin head on a superb photo day where 7 Buzzards were circling above me as I was lying on my back looking straight up at me. One curious buzzard came in for a closer look as I had the dogs with me as well. It was so pleasing to see all those buzzards together and as well as that me and Gary had a walk around Geltsdale new water and must of seen 12 plus kestrels so the Raptors are doing well at Geltsdale which is smashing!

Buzzard looking right at me, this was a great pic!

Wildlife Sightings (October) : -

  • WTS Eagle
  • 8 Red Kite
  • Sperm Whale ( I might as well mention it)
  • 15 Buzzards
  • 20 plus Kestrel
  • Wild Polecat (Geltsdale)
  • Hedgehog (Geltsdale)

Monday, 2 November 2009

Heading North for the Winter (September)

Dunnottar Castle, Stonhaven

At the start of the month me and a person i know called Gary arranged a trip to the most Northern isles of Britain in Orkney and Shetland. It was pritty much organising
as on the morning we set off John Milo was telling us to head south to east Anglia and Norfolk. The journey up to Aberdeen was pishing solid with rain the whole time as the wiper blades were doing overtime. we stopped at the Forth Estury to look for Sea Eagle but the visibility was so bad we were wasting our time. We haddent even booked our Ferry or accommadation so we made a few calls on our way up and got a B&B and booked the Ferry crossing. we were so relieved that we had booked the ferry and guaranteed our trip across the north sea up to Shetland tonight!

we arrived at my family town of Aberdeen a couple of hours early so we decided to go and look for Red Kites out to the west side of the city where they had been introduced in the summer of 2008. We thought it was a good idea at the time kill a bit of time and chance to see the superb raptor even though the weather was still crud. When we got to the area of Dunecht estate and Scotstown we spotted some roosting Buzzards but no sign of the Kites so we hung about for a bit then headed over to Westhill to leave my Ferrari and get the bus into town.

we made it to the bus stop to find out we missed the last bus by 2 min so had to wait another half hour for the next one. Last boarding for the ferry is half 5 and our bus leaves Westhill at 5 and it takes a good half hour to get to the city centre and then we need to find the harbour! haha!

we go the 5 oclock bus and crammed on struggling to find a seat as it was full of school kids. Arrived at the bus station at half 5! then bus driver directed us to the harbour which was not far from the bus station. We sprinted to the ferry terminal like something out of the first scene of the Titanic movie film and arrived to a milf locking the door and telling us were to late and we had missed the boat! I have to say Garys manners at time are bottom off the pecking order but he might have helped things this time "this is f**king rediculas this" "the Ferry is still right f**kin there" a terriable choice of colourful language by the geordie lad right infront of the staff members. They asked us inside to see what they could do but we were just expecting a booking for the following day and they offered us a cabin on a cargo ship leaving in 30 minutes so we took it having to pay about £20 extra, success in the end but it came at a price haha!

The Cargo ship was very rocky, leering side to side but it diddnt bother me and G as we had a 3 course meal, sky Tv and a sauna so all was gravy on the trip over after all!

Once we made it to the island we didnt research into how big the place was and with busses coming like once an hour i came up with a corking idea to get a hire car so we found a place that hired them in Lerwick and it was only 25 for a couple of days and whatever fuel we use on top of that so it was well worth doing especially since we got a 4x4 to use!

This is a picture of a Gannet, you cant make it out to well on the small picture but we got some great views of the wonderful birds on the crossing over and to our first port of call at Sumburgh head on the south point of the mainland which is an RSPB reserve and is a superb viewing point for sea watching as well as costal birds and scenery.

Great Skua (pictured above) were superb to see, again the photo hasent came out very good but still an amazing bird that is described as the pirate of the seas as it would happily snatch another birds meal and also tag smaller birds like puffins. They are not affraid of humans either as they would dive bomp them from above if the y get to close to their nesting site.

This was a pic I got from a short ferry trip we took to a samll island on the east coast called skerries. We were hoping for a sighting of a Minke Whale which is one of the main reasons why we travelled up here but we diddnt get any look with them. The captain of the ship said he had seen two the previous day but we diddnt hae much look as the seas were very choppy with plenty of white horses on show. we did get Porpoise from Sumbrugh head but that would be all in terms of Cetatian sightings for the trip.

A nice shot of a Fulmer but it does not display its characteristics very well with its flat stiff wings.

The Grey seal with its bulbas elephant head sticking out. They are plentiful on the east side south of Lerwick. We did not see any Common seal but there is a good population on the island.

My and my buddy old pal sitting on a section of a Sperm whale skull amazing what a size! the only whale we seen on the whole trip and got a great view! it still counts as a sighting. Speaking of Sperm whles look forward to my blog for next week...

We think this a sub-species wren unique to the island but we will have to look into it.....

we made the ferry on the trip back funnily enough! we were like the first people to board haha! it was like stepping on the RMS Titanic as it had movie theatre, restraunt, lounge area, toilets...but no sauna or sky TV! we were still determined as ever to see any type of Cetatian so we went straight on the top deck to brave the weather as it was blowing a 60 draft! gary thought he seen a dorsal fin breach but thats all we got again. We diddnt fail through lack of trying as we put some good long shifts in but i think we were to late in the year for Minke and also better hot spots for them are west coast in Mull, Skye and Gairloch which do boat tours specifiaclly for them.
We fell asleep in the seated area and woke in the morning to the boat arriving at my very own Aberdeen, Aberdeen is in my blood! I thought i had lost my cell phone in the morn and was going barmy but Good old reliable Gazza found it on one of the seats as I had moved sleeping position like 15 times during the night!

On the journey down the weather was a lot better and we stopped at the Firth Estury by Dundee in hope of eagles but we couldnt find a good enough viewing point. We did see a Marsh harrier though with a distinctive green wing tag as the chicks got tagged to be monitored in the area, so that was a plus point!

We then called to Vane Farm RSPB reserve and as usual a woman at the door harasing you to join, No deal mr banker all the best and see you later! The shop there was class and had some great books and dvds and also bird pin badges but again didnt part with my bunsen burner!

Overall a quality few days away and good to go to such a special remote location like the Shetland isles as it is closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to London!

Red Admiral, the strong flying migratory species Main food sourse in the UK is the common Nettle, Pellitory-of-the-wall and Hop.

The Peacock It's spectacular pattern of eye spots is highly recognisable and best known species.

Painted Lady & Peacock, Migrant butterfly and travel from north Africa to as far as Scandanavia in the space of 2 weeks!

Meadow Brown, Habitat include Grasslands, including downland, heathland, coastal dunes and undercliffs, hay meadows, roadside verges, hedgerows, woodland rides and clearings, and waste ground. Also occurs in parks, gardens, and cemeteries.

Small White, Briliant white wings with black forewing tips and one or two wing spots.

At the end of September I went up to Aberdeen to see family and called in to the Forth estury again for the chance of Raptors. We called in at Errol where we found a back road that would lead us to the estury and we found an opening to look out onto the water. I dragged my mum and brother with me but it was a splendid day so I think they enjoyed it. about 20 minutes in we got a huge treat when an Osprey flew 20 feet over our heads and we all got stunning views of the bird as it ended up joining 2 other Ospreys circling over the water. We also seen a Marsh Harrier in the reedbeds on the other side of the Estury.


Osprey circling over the Forth Estury

Wildlife Sightings for September: -
  • Osprey
  • 2 Marsh Harrier
  • 5 Peregrine Falcon
  • 5 Porpoise
  • 2 common Dolphin
  • 15 plus Red Kites
  • 5 Grey Seal