Thursday, 20 October 2011

A visit to White Rose county.....

Another week done and it is starting to severely drop in temperature now. A trip down to white rose county at the start of the week for wildlife and football reasons. A couple more trips later in the week to see what wildlife I could find. There has been a lot of media attention regarding the eagle sighting which is great to make people aware of how important they are and the value of the birds. I will put links at the bottom of the page.

Grey Hen posing nicely roadside

Headed off to Yorkshire on early Tuesday afternoon and we decided to go the scenic route over the higher ground and through Alston and its cobbled streets. The first major encounter was a Stoat crossing the road in front of us and into the stone wall. John broke sharply and pulled up road side and I got out stood tight to the wall and attempted to squeak the mustelid in to me. I have attempted this a number of times in the past but with no success but this time amazingly the Stoat came right up to me and put its front paws on my foot before making a move as I attempted to pick it up. It could being a young animal or maybe just desperate for a feed but its a good job that squeaking doesn't work often as a lot more would be removed to protect game birds.

Black Cock, shame the fencing and barb wire ruin it a bit

We moved on and John kept repeating for me to keep my eyes pealed for Black Grouse as we moved over the upland area. A few minutes later John rammed the anchors on again....Black Grouse road side sat on a wall! A cock and a hen!....4 more birds took flight behind the wall. great stuff....John was going mental at the sighting......unbelievable passion. We headed further east and spotted a good number of distant BG in a field with 36 cocks and 30 hens! The most even John had ever seen! Great stuff.

coming out for the second half, The only good thing they did in the second half was turn up on time!

On the evening we met up with Jamie my brother down in Leeds and we headed to Elland road to watch the Whites v Coventry. A good game apart from a 94th injury time equalizer for the away team. I managed to take a couple of nice images but I was informed that I wasn't allowed to take any match action images for copyright reasons!

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Pitch side....

Red Deer stag bellowing hard

We got up early the next morning to cover a couple of sites for dads magazine articles and the first place we visited was Eccup reservoir. We had 3 Red Kites fly over the water. On the Leeds-Horrogate road we had a further 10 Kites enjoying the sunshine. We called in at Studley park where we got 3 species of Deer....Red, Sika and Fallow. Some good rutting activity to go with it.

We watched a Red Stag focusing on the back end of a hind and getting his nose right in there to check if the smells were right and the lucky guy got success as the female was very obliging. Deer have got it easy, a couple of sniffs and they have got it locked.....I wonder if that would work for me at Club Concrete on Saturday night??....see a girl I like and start sniffing her back end and see how far I get.......
To be fair we have our own version of the Deer ruts in human form and a good location I would suggest for a sighting is Bochergate, Carlisle on a Friday night......You get a lot of bellowing calls by the males.....'You looking at my bird pal!?'.....and you also get the aggressive street fights by the males (stags) fighting over a 16 stone woman (hind) stood watching on the pavement eating a bag of chips.....And the police break up the fights..... interfering with nature, disgrace haha.

We moved onto Nosterfield Wetlands which is a lovely little locally manged reserve with great facilities. A good number of Lapwing and Golden Plover on show. A single Cormorant but unfortunately missed the Crane which was there in previous days. We headed back to Cumbria taking the Langdon Beck route again and got plenty of Black Grouse again and also a good number of road side Kestrels.

Fallow Deer stag

Just south of Middleton Teasdale

Eccleston Abbey

playing about with camera, nice moon shot....

After all the eagle excitement on Geltsdale the week before there had been a good amount of media attention and interest on the sighting in the Cumberland News and Raptor Politics mainly and here are a few links......Print out the pictures of me and pin them on the couch to stop the dogs jumping on the sofa....thanks for reading :-)

Cumberlad news eagle article.....

Cumberland News full story -

Raptor Politics -

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Balcary & WT Eagle on Geltsdale.......

Hello everyone, another eventful few days back on the borders. The weather is still poor with wet spells and overcast conditions. Still manged to get out and about along with sorting out my photos, prints and doing Sea Life Surveys blog to finish off the season up there. A trip north to the Scots side to Balcary a fantastic coastal route to see what was happening there, also an unbelievable day on the 13th of the month where we got an immature WT Eagle on Gdale!

A trip to Yorkshire on Monday 10th and it was for a game of golf at Alwoodly with Greevy, Oli and Jimmy Milo my brother. We played in a Pro-am and we all struggled in constant rain but we did see 2 Red Kites, Roe Deer, Sparrowhawk and two Grey Squirrels on the course. A fantastic golf course full of mature broad leaf with plenty of Jays taking advantage of the Oak trees.

On the way back home we stopped at Scots corner service station as we did on the way down on the previous day. We went in the shop and me and Oli managed to spend 5 quid plus on crisps and junk and I did my usual news agent routine and cover up the fox and hound monthly magazine with something that would be a 'better' read like Hello magazine or Celeb Gossip Weekly.


RT Diver and Guillemot

On the 12th of October I headed over the border to cover the Solway from the scots side. I was joined by Danny and Greevy and we headed off at about half 10. We decided on going to Balcary which is a fantastic coastal stretch that is great for sea watching at this time of year. We started off with 3 Red Throated Divers and big rafts of Common Scoter further out. I managed to pick up a Porpoise close to the shore as well which was nice to see on the Solway after all my cetacean success in the summer. Three Ravens showing in flight around the steep cliff face but no sign of the Peregrines today.

RT Diver

everyone is Raven about this bird.....except Popz

We carried on further west over the steep terrain and decided to have a break from the wildlife and play the new found coastal game Sea Treasure Shootout (STS) where you get items that have been washed up on the shore like shoes and bottles and prop them up on a huge rock and from 25 ft away you take it in turns throwing smaller stones and pebbles to knock the objects off. We had a few great games with the highlight been taking ages trying to knock the flip flop off at the end of one of the STS games. What?......who won did you ask?......yeah I won all three......I'm not the best STS player in the world.....but i'm in the top one.

Raven, Up there with Dolphins on intelligence

We scanned the seas again after the fun and games and got a lot of feeding activity with small hurries of Gulls further out and 2-3 Porpoise in around them. Another 4 RT Divers closer to shore along with another Porpoise. We carried on around the circular route and back round to the car. No further excitement to follow just Danny getting scared by a few cows the soft jessie!

3 birds seen and heard

We didn't call in at any other sites on the way back as the weather was still dull and after a great walk around Balcary we decided next stop was KFC at Gretna Services. We pulled in and for the second day running we visited this service station after me and greevy called in from a trip to Hightae to see Rachel on the Tuesday. The set up at Gretna services is top class and the staff are very friendly in particular the enthusiastic staff member at KFC who was very polite on both of my appearances to the restaurant, great to see. Popped into WHSmiths on the way out and covered up the shit magazines before moving on south again back to Carlisle. Andy Mcgreevy was calling me Alan Partridge because I visit so many services and get food there.

WT Eagle at Tindale getting mobbed by Jackdaws

A simply amazing day on the Thursday! Woke up as normal and was doing a few odd jobs in the house and getting ready to head out in the field when the phone rang and it was RSPB Geltsdale warden Stephen Westerberg reporting......"White-Tailed Eagle on Geltsdale reserve at Tindale!" I headed straight round and joined by the RSPB staff we watched the immature bird by the edge of the tarn drinking, preening and bathing before being disturbed by walkers and taking flight right above us! It circled for five minutes before heading west towards the solway direction and Cain and Ciara unfortunately just missed the bird as they arrived minutes later after Cain got lost. We went to Talkin Tarn afterwards and got Redpoll and a single Brambling around the tarn.

WT Eagle and two Jackdaws overhead

The bird did not have any wing tags which rules it out from being a Scottish east coast introduced bird so it would be either a west coast bird or a bird from over the north sea. So special to see a WT Eagle in Cumbria and on Geltsdale its self and it tops all my Mull eagle encounters with ease as it is on my patch! 3 Barnacle Geese near the tarn also and Pintail seen the day after. An eagle sighting was reported a few days later (16th) on the west Cumbrian coast so very likely to be the same bird and it must still be in the region.

heading west towards Solway

The next day I was asked to do a small article for Raptor Politics about the special day its self and how they must of 'followed' me down from Mull!..........scroll down the page for my article..............

Phonejacker seen in Hightae

While I was in Hightae on the Scottish borders this week the wildlife was quiet but I came across phonejacker off the tv in the village phone box.......

Andy Mcgreevy a GWW follower....

Thanks for reading everyone, the autumn colours are getting better and a lot of good birds are turning up near by so I am going to be out in the field as much as possible to make the most of the opportunities. Also a trip to see the Red Deer ruts will be in store with the location most likely to be my favorite place in England, Haweswater. Will also be trying to keep tabs on this eagle as the more eyes the better to monitor its movements.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Back in Cumbria......Trip out to the west coast and Solway

Hello everyone I am back down in Cumbria now after an amazing season on Mull and I would just like to thank everyone at Sea Life Surveys for making it such a superb experience. The season was finished off by an end of season do with most of the SLS staff going to Glengorm estate on the northern coast of the island to stay for 3 nights. I had Red Deer rutting and a Magpie near the castle (a good record for Mull). This is a wildlife blog so I am not going to talk about all the drunken riff raff that happened.....although we did have some unbelievable card games of Ring of Fire where you had to do dares and stuff but lets not go there.....move on

Very sad to say my goodbyes to everyone and the magical island itself which felt so much like home over the last 7 months and is a real wildlife haven. I will be back! The trip down was a smooth one and the usual amazing varied landscapes give you so much to look at...a long with looking at the road from time to time. I was joined by Ruth Abernethy and Craig McD for the journey as I would drop them off in Glasgow. Dropping them off in the Scottish capital was strange after being in such a remote environment for so long and I really did feel out of place like a fish up a tree. Did the last stretch over the border and landed in Carlisle at 7pm after setting off from Tobermory at noon. great to be back.

Weird waking up back in glorious Gdale especially looking out of the kitchen window to see beaters working the heather trying to flush partridge for shooting. It reminded me of the all the drastic changes happening down here with a lot of land taken over to be managed for game birds means even more pressure on the surrounding wildlife.


Friday 7th of the month and I got up at 9 o'clock to glorious sunshine in the valley. Me and J Milo scanned the fell side while having our shreddies and managed to pick up 2 Buzzards, Kestrel, 3 Ravens and Sparrowhawk along with 3 different species of geese overhead in Canada, Greylag and Barnies heading west.
We decided to head west ourselves and make the most of the sunshine so we set off at 11ish and called into the butchers on the way where a splendid gentleman works and has great customer skills....."Arite Boss" "Taraa Cheif" "catch you later mush"....lovely chap.

workington harbour, stumpster and 2 black headed gulls

Headed towards Workington on the savage 595 road and the on arrival the first port of call was the harbour for a quick sea watch and to check out the gulls. Its safe to say that Workington is a very different coastal town to Tobermory where I lived for 7 months. Up in Tob you got whales near by in the sea and in Workington you got them walking along the streets going in and out of farmfoods. Had the harpoon in the boot on standby.

Cumbrian Legend!

The harbour is a good sea watching location and has had great success in years gone by. A strong westerly wind and retreating tide made it hard work for picking stuff up out at sea but the gulls were not a let down with the famous Stumpy who I had heard so much about flying close by. Stumpy is a Mediterranean Gull which spends a lot of its time there and has a leg missing with just a stump, hence the name. Stumpy is a Cumbrian legend and should fly north to Mull and give Buster the seal some company and they could discuss and share their problems in would make a good cartoon program.....Stumpy and Buster!

I seen a bird approach me which at first I said is that Juv Kitiwake or is it Sabines?? the bird soon disappeared out of sight and we didn't pick it up again but seen the report later in the day that Juv Sabines was seen there at half 10 so it could well of been that bird.

Siddick pond, former roman port

We headed north and suddenly Dad told me to take a sharp right into Asda and I just thought he was popping into get more Hobnobs but directed me round the back and we parked up and walked round and there was a lovely pond called Siddick pond which had an Adult and Juv Med Gull and 2 Snipe on. Dad got a Kingfisher on the stretch of river behind as well. As you can see by the picture the pond is in a funny location surrounded by industrial buildings and a true urban environment but really is good place for birding. I imagine though that the pond has got them fish in from The Simpsons with 3 eyes.

Maryport Marina

On to Scaryport.....I mean Maryport and we headed to the marina and round to the coast. Seeing the harbour reminded me of Tobermory harbour, all it needed was Jim Trainer cruising around the pontoon. Not much happening there just a single Rock Pipit calling and we headed north again along the coastal road with John pointing out that an old roman fort was over there and I replied 'I fort it was' which he did not get because it was a too higher level of comedy for him. Drove past Maryport golf course which looked like a nice little links track.


Stopped off at Crosscanonby which is another great coastal stretch. lovely beach when the tide is out and great surroundings. I think as a whole west Cumbria is very under rated and has some beautiful areas. An exciting record for the Solway last week was a Leatherback Turtle photographed on the Scots side and it is the second report this year! They can grow to 3 meters in length and would be a fantastic sight off a British coastline.

Solway coast

Mawbray - John Milo scanning......

We moved onto Mawbray and still fantastic weather and great light for photos. A dead Gannet was on the rocky shore and seemed to be a 3rd year bird. Amazing to see their design close up and feel the strength of their neck which they rely on for feeding. Dad was saying that you used to get Little Tern colonies here as well a few years back.


All the people we met when we were out and about would stop and chat as well and they all come across very friendly on the west side. In the photo above I was playing about with the Polarizing filter that Andy Tait has kindly lent me. It filters the light and you can get some nice effects.

Dead Gannet, Criffel in the back drop


Sunny Siloth was next and it really is a lovely place when the sun is out. Turnstone and Redshank were showing down by the shore. Down past the golf course next to the docks is another good sea watching spot and the road again was Mull all over as it was covered in pot holes and about as even as a frogs back. More Redshank and Cormorants on show.

Male Stonechat, Skinburness

On to the main event and Skinburness just north of Siloth is one of my fave areas in the county. Especially this time of year with all the movement and wintering raptors. we parked up and within minutes as Dad was yapping to the local farmer I got a female Merlin go right past us heading south. A Stonechat also just sat on the fence post and Dad commented that it was only his second of the year! We headed a bit further down and got 20 plus Lapwing and also Curlew. Butterflies showing well with 10 plus Red Admiral and 3 Small Tortoiseshell. A great place.....I will be back.

Red Admirals

One for team Gannet

Blog postings to come include a top 5 highlights on Mull as well as best photos from the Island as well as other sightings and trips around Cumbria.......Thanks for looking :-)