Monday, 12 March 2012

Owl good is the spring time...

Were into March now and we are starting to get some nice activity on the uplands of Gdale with the first Skylarks and Meadow Pipits returning and the breeding waders Curlew and lapwing seen displaying early in the month. Black Grouse have been showing on and off with some lekking activity. Short Eared Owls are starting to get more consistent in the evenings as I have had some great views up with the dogs.

On Sunday 26th me and Jonny Milo headed to the east to cover a few sites for his birding articles. The main focus was Slaley Forest and Derwent reservoir. We started at Slaleys FC woodland and got a few Crossbills overhead as soon as getting out of the car. The scrambling bikes next door were making too much noise to hear any birds and as dad found out later on, this is a constant problem in the area. Goshawk supposedly used to breed in the wood but got removed by keepers managing moorland south of the forest. A sign in the woodland says to look out for Pine Martens but unfortunately I would say you would be chasing rainbows with that one.
Onto the near by Derwent reservoir where we checked out a few different view points. GC Grebe doing their famous courtship display was great to watch. A skein of Pink Footed Geese flew overhead travelling from the south.
We still had good light left so dad took me to Prestwick Carr for some evening owling. It was my first time at the site after hearing and reading so much about it. We ended up getting eight Short-Eared Owls! no sign of the GG Shrike which was reported there in the morning. Good trip out and got back in time to see Liverpool win the shoot out to take the Carling cup.

click on photos for larger scale...


Simmerson ridge looking west towards single Ash and distant Solway
First Frogspawn on Geltsdale 24th Feb...

'The Cairns' sunset high up Gdale...

Moon Cresent over Mature Ash in the garden...

Moon and Venus over the house...


One of eight SE Owls at Prestwick Carrs...

One of My fave places - Threave


Another trip to the Scots side with Andy Mcgree and Danny. We visited two of my favourite sites in Threave reserve and Balcary estate coastal walk. We spent the morning at Threave visiting the different hides where the highlights were two Kingfishers, Ravens bringing material to their castle nest site and a couple of distant Red Kites. We moved onto Balcary for the afternoon where we got treated to the pair of peregrines swooping for Rock Doves and we also got 4 Ravens, 2 Black Guilimots, Common Scoter and the always impressive Fulmars. That is my forth visit of the winter to Balcary and I have loved it every time, just a bit too far to travel to on a regular basis.





Raven on Threave castle...

The Buck stops here! Male roe deer at threave...

Fulmar at Balcary...

panaromic of Balcary with Dan and Greevy scanning...

29th and a usual trip over to Longtown with Dad to see what was happening. A nice flat stretch along the river Esk as well as covering a few ponds on the way makes for a good little birding site. We kicked things off with a flock of 30 plus Pied Wagtails and followed that with a Bewick Swan in amoung 40 grazing Whoopers on the other side of the Esk. We checked out the duck ponds further up which had a pair of Smew and a LT Duck reported the week before but no sign today just an impressive Herons nest with the birds showing well. We made our way back and after chatting to one of the local dog walkers he informed us that there dog flushed a Bittern next to one of the ponds the week before which was great to hear. Drove round to the road side ponds and just on arrival a female LT Duck popped up close to the waters edge and was showing well for a few minutes preening. I managed an average digiscope record of the bonnie bird.


Bewick swan at Longtown...

Grey Heron on nest at Longtown...

Long-Tailed duck on Longtown roadside pond...

Brow Houses looking out to the solway...

1st March and the one and only Ruth (Velociruthster) Molloy called in to Gdale on her way up to Mull for the season. She arrived in disappointment that John was out and she would not see him so she was stuck with me and the dogs as we headed round Simmerson up the valley. Just before stopping for picnic up Simmerson ridge we flushed a Jack Snipe which was my first up Gdale and second overall. Skylarks and Mipits signing and a single Curlew and Lapwing tackling the winds together along with the usual Buzzard and Kes action. Great to see Struth again and we would see each other in a weeks time when I head up to Mull myself. 

On the 2nd I celebrated my Bday with a game of golf with Riff and Tommy and went to JCs on the evening to see a few friends and watch golf. I was just expecting to head home at like 10-11pm and go to bed ready for another day but Gary Storey phoned to say he was heading over to stay for the weekend and focus on some wildlife / photography and night sky action. I met Gstoz at the top of the drive at 11ish and since it was partly cloudy with a strong moon and calm wind we headed out to try and hear some owls and anything else.   We covered the surrounding area and in the space of an hour we got 4 Otters!! following the frogs back to their spawning grounds, also 4 Long-Eared Owls including wing clapping displays, 8 Tawny owls and 2 Barn Owls! an amazing spell and one I will never forgot, happy bday me! what more can you ask for!

Frogs copulating...Spawny gits!

Whinlatter looking towards keswick...
The next day would be tricky to live up to the night before but we headed to the National Park to do some landscape photography along with seeing what birds we could get. It was quiet in general with not much light and to make matters worse while we got too settled inside afterwards watching frickin Take Me Out and Rihanna on Jonathan Ross we found out the next morning that we missed a meteorite that showed very well all across Britain at 9:40 lighting up the skies. We were pretty cheesed off on Sunday morning but its a prime example of good days and bad days the peaks and troughs of life. Found out later that my nanny watched the meteorite up in Aberdeen from her bed. And to add to all that I found the Cat at the front door killing a lovely little Weasel. I put the Mustelid in a sandwich bag to take to Tullie House museum to see if they could get some use out of it. Tomorrow is a new day...move on.

Herdwicks and Swaledales in the Lakes with snowy tops beyond...



I spotted this photo opportunity and Gstoz copied me, hey gary!

The Gairs old Miners house up Gdale...

Over 300 miners used to work on Tarnmonath 60 odd years ago

Honister Pass...
4th March and we woke up to strong winds and snow falling. We decided to head to the coast as the westerly winds could bring some interesting things coastal. We started at Skinburness and walked to Grune point on a low retreating tide and managed 7 Scaup and a few hundred Barnacle Geese. As we were walking back to the car we were looking at the snowy peaks to the northern Lakes and thought we have to take advantage of that and get some good landscapes so we made our way down. Drove around Whinlatter and Honnister Pass looking for opertunities as we went. Some nice landscapes, we were hoping for Goshawk at Whinlatter but no joy. We made our way west and decided to finish at St bees with what looked like a promising sunset. It was like 12 miles on the map and ended up taking for ever and also getting stuck behind a learner so we just missed the best part of the sunset. The highlight was seeing Mercury for the first time just when the sun dropped so that made up for missing the sunset.
When we arrived back to Gdale we simply decided we cant miss a trick tonight so we headed high up the valley round Tarnmonath from 10pm til half two in the morning. We did a few night shots but the 80% moon was soaking everything up. A few Tawnys and a nice walk with a couple of light shooting stars.

The next morning we took the dogs along the river Gelt enjoying a couple of Dippers and also going for a quick swim in high Hynam which was very icey with all the snow melt coming down from the higher ground. Gary left in the afternoon and it is always a pleasure. Cant wait to see him again.


I am up on the Isle of Mull now working for another season with Sea Life Surveys so will continue my wildlife updates from up here. I am going to try and hit it even harder than last season in terms of taking advantage of the island and learning and gaining as much experience as I can from it. Of course I will miss the breeding season for a third year on my beloved Geltsdale but will be getting reports all the time with all the excitement down there.

Thanks for looking...

7 comments:

  1. loving The Cairns sunset shot mate, top stuff !

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  2. Good stuff as always.:-)
    Is that sign post at the bottom of Newlands Pass? I seem to recognise it.
    I'll be up early and at Geltsdale next weekend for the Black Grouse Lek.

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  3. Thanks Brian, yes thats it I couldnt remember the name at the time, good luck at Gdale I hope the Black G are good to you!

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