Sunday, 28 November 2010

Autumn Photography and Sightings

*-Every year when the summer season is coming to an end you seem to automatically think thats it for another season and the best of it has past regarding wildlife, sightings and weather, but you soon realise thats no way the case as a lot of migrant birds are on the move and anything can crop up which makes for exciting times, also the days are shorter so there is less daylight hours for animals to feed and hunt which provides a better chance of viewing certain species. And as for the conditions and weather my own personal opinion is that I prefer the Autumn/winter period compared to summer with the main reason being the scenery, landscapes and beauty in colour variations is outstanding as summer merges into Autumn and then Autumn blends into the extremes of winter.

Another reason for the preference is the cooler temperatures and some what freshness about the conditions that I enjoy and being a true northerner I have adapted too them down to a tee!Also I always think that the summer has always to much expectancy and over hyped way in advance (just like England football games) and when summer does arrive its always a bit of a let down i always recon!

In terms of Wildlife sightings the last few weeks we have had some nice records with the main one being the large number of Waxwing on the west side of the country. Upto 4 Hen Harriers coming into roost at Campfield Marsh. A Rough Legged Buzzard at Tindale Tarn on the 1st December. 4 Short Eared Owls also on Tindale reserve. A Great Gray Shrike spotted at Coanwood. Me and John went to see a Slovenian Grebe sitting on Tindale Tarn in Mid November.

Here are some of my photos I have captured in the last couple of weeks.......with a small caption on each

My official first Waxwing! beauty! Went out birding on dads birthday and after wondering about the streets for an hour perving into peoples gardens we got the call right above my car when we were about to leave and managed to see a flock of around 20.

A pair of Long-tailed Tits at Dalston cemetery. Graveyards really do create good nature reserves as they are untouched with minimal disturbance so that wildlife can thrive!

A Male Kestrel sat on a Hawthorn in Geltsdale

What a view, up at 'the cairns' in Geltsdale looking out west towards the Solway and bonnie Scotland!

'Ewans Cairn' as it is known globally in all walking books for the area

While I was watching Hen Harriers coming into roost I took this snap of the moon

Autumn colours on the east side of G reserve

Angles Angles Angles!

Closeup of Oak leaves...

Wildlife bay at Talkin Tarn....I just love the sign name

T Tarn and boat house

Mallards in army training...

Mistle Thrush feeding on rowan berries

Waxwing at Wetheral showing well sat on a birch

Fieldfare lit up by the sun

Larch plantation at CC reservoir

800 year old Sessil Oak at reservoir

My weekly Sunday Wildlife trip with the students was taking place and we had a car full heading north to the scots side for a change instead of a visit to Lakeland. A request off one of the regulars Danny Naisbitt to see Red Kites was accepted and we visited the RK feeding station near Castle Douglass. A 2 oclock arrival in time for the feeding to take place and we were greeted by good news from the RSPB warden as he informed us that 102 RK chicks were bred this year in the area which is a good number. It makes me happy when you hear such positive news like that.
We moved onto Thrieve castle and visited the hides there and got treated to a brief Kingfisher wizzing past, also an unidentified Mustleid species in the reed beds. At first glance I thought it was a Mink but soon realising it was the wrong colour being a dark brown colour, It was too big to have been a Water Vole so I would of said it was a young Otter but cant confirm anything as it was a split second view. A successful trip to Dumfries and Galloway which is a fantastic area for wildlife with great potential! Look out for John Miles newly published book hitting the shelves called - Best Birdwatching Sites: The Solway: Cumbria / Dumfries and Galloway.....
Thanks for looking....My next update will have some Winter Photography from the area and also hopefully some Wildlife sightings and stories to tell you from the coming weeks!

Monday, 8 November 2010

A breif visit to Mull....

A phone call last friday evening while I was hitting golf balls at the driving range allerted me as it was from Jimbo the chief of Sea Life Surveys regarding traveling up that weekend to help host the Autumnwatch team whilst they do some filming for the current series. And as soon as I pressed the red button on my iphone I gave the guy next to me the rest of my golf balls and was off home to pack ready for an early trip north on Saturday morning.

On my journey up on saturday morning I soon realised that Autumn was the best time of the year for scenery, colours and beauty. It looks a whole new world during this time of year and I actually thought I was lost for a spell when I didnt recognise the surroundings.

I arrived on the island safely and everything went smoothly until I got to Tobermory and parking upto get cash out and I cerbed my car and front left tyre expldoded! I was going barmy and got it sorted with a little help from a passing tramp but at least I did it on the island and not half way up Scotland mainland.

Sunday morning was here and an 8am start down at the pontoon to get the boat ready for the filming to take place. When the Autumnwatch team arrived it was a quick introduction then we set off around the harbour on the smaller boat of Sula Crion as the film crewe filmed Chris Packham and Martin on the kayaks.

It was a lovely sunny morning which can be a rarety up on mull and one quote which Chris Packham said during filming was "282 days of rain a year and 1000 hours of sunshine". That says it all for Mull because I believe that statement, no problem! Filming was done by 2pm and as the clocks had gone back an hour it only gave me 2-3 hours of light left and as it was decent conditions I was off in a flash to my favourite place on the island in Loch Na Keal where you can get a bit of everything there with all sorts of beasties on show as it is a deep sea loch you can even get Dolphins and porpoise showing well into the passage out water. You can also get Goldie Eagle in flight over the mountainous skyline.

A pair of Red Deer hinds showing well roadside on my way to LNK. they blend in really well with the orange bracken at this time of year. The annual Deer cull on Mull between Aug - Oct is very benefitial to the resident eagles on the island as the Deer carion is left out for the eagles to feed on during the lean winter months.

After being parked at my favourite viewing point and scanning for birds on the water for around five minutes I looked to my left and seen an Otter shaped rock and after a double take and looking again I realised it was a large Dog Otter stood out on the sea weed and after watching it go under water to catch a fish and then surface on an island to feed on it, I managed to get some nice record pics of the mammal. It was a beauty!

Further along the Loch and a nice photo oppertunity when I seen this juvenille Cormoront with its wings stretched out to dry and with the still reflection it made for a nice image. I also had 3 GN Divers in summer plumage, 8 Little Grebes and 15 Turnstone.

I was wondering what the flmaing hell it was from a distance...I thought it was Batman at first!

The next day and the weather was a bit dodgy so I thought photography isnt going to be worth it and Wildlife wont be showing too well so I commited to tackling Ben More the Munro 3000 ft mountain that towers over the island. The start point for the climb is on the southern LNK road and even when I was at sea level low down it was blowing a shahoola with low sitting cloud. I was thinking of changing my mind and going to find a bird hide and sit nice and sheltered watching the wildlife while tucking into my Chicken Tikka sandwitch but I stayed dedicated to the challange.

I started the climb in savage conditions and decided it will not be very enjoyable but more of a mental and physical test to endure! but the chance of Ptarmigan and Mountain Hare kept me going all the way! After I discovered in the summer Mull is not really a hotspot for fell walking as all the land holds the water so well and is far too wet for hiking, I realised as well that the paths are not worm at all so are not well used. So Mull is world class for wildlife yes...but fell walking...not so much! Anyway I slowly battled my way up the slope into an oncoming wind which was blowing a 50 draft! I was 1500 feet up and if id pissed down wind it would of landed on my car at the bottom. The rain got worse and as I reached the summit I got blown over twice so decided even though I didn't make it to the trig point or official peak I headed back down on all fours for the first part and made it back to the car like a drowned splinter off Ninja Turtles. Back home to Tobermory for a shower then off out again too look for Seagulls and Eagles!

The next day I had a quick wonder around the island but the rain was on the way so I was ready for the off and headed too Fishnish to get the ferry back to the mainland. I stopped off at a few places to get some nice scenic shots and also found a dead Otter on the road, and later I read that they suffer badly from road kills at this time of the year when the water levels increase and they have to travel longer distances in search for food. A good journey down with the usual water droplets pelting down from the air and the wiper blades doing over time but a great few days back in the legendary isle of Mull. Done!