Friday, 27 January 2012

West Cumbria trips and Aurora watch...

A trip to west Cumbria on the 17th to check out a couple of sites which have been well publicized for having great recent sightings on social web pages. The first port of call was Siddick Pond which is located in Workington. The pond and dense reeds are surrounded by industries, wind turbines and super stores which I think what makes Siddick such a special place that all the wildlife you can see there are surviving around our ever growing empires and it gives hope for the future.
In a couple of hours we picked up 5 Bitterns, 4 otters, Kingfisher, Drake Pintail, female Sparrowhawk and 4 Whoopers. Even stepping on dog shit did not dampen my spirits after some great sightings. That is the only downfall to Siddick although you have to focus really hard for illusive Bitterns and otters in the reed beds you also need to scan hard for dog shit because it is all over the parish! Otter video can be seen below....

Danny and I moved onto Broughton Moor at mid afternoon as there had been some good owl activity reported there and Craig Shaw had very kindly given us directions to the site. We had a little walk around the area before picking our proposed best view point to sit and wait for the action to happen. We got 2 Barn owls hunting in good light to kick the action off. A good number of Buz and Kes in the area. 4 Woodcock and a single Short-Eared Owl as the sun was dropping. You could hear the sheer number of Rodents in the thick grass and can see why all the avian predators were here. A great day out west side!  



Siddick Pond, Workington

Whoopers and Coot...

Otters walking on frozen Siddick pond...

Siddick Pond...

A couple of days later I headed over to the same sites with Cain the Hollywell birder and his mate Andy. Straight to Siddick again and we got an otter straight away. We headed further down the pond closer the hide and got a couple of Water Rail and the drake Pintail showing well. Cainio picked up 2 Snipe in the reeds as he had it locked as usual. We headed off to Broughton Moor for a spot of evening 'owling' and we sat and waited again enjoying another good sunset. 2 barn Owls again hunting and a couple of very illusive SEOs. 4 woodcock, 246 Goosander overhead going west, upto 3000 Corvid roost, Male Tawny Owl calling finished off another great day birding. Fish and Chips in Keswick as I returned the favor when Cainio got me Mcdonalds a few weeks back.   


Broughton, Looking south towards Northern Lakes...

Broughton Dump
On the 22nd of the month while I was at a pub quiz testing my knowlodge on Abba and Emmerdale I got a report of Aurora activity been possibly visible in the UK. I looked at some photos that had been uploaded from Scotland that evening and as far south as Edinburgh had reported it so it gave me hope! After the quiz the skies were clear so I headed out around Gdale to scan for a few hours. No joy on the Northern Lights but a few impresive shooting stars were seen.
The next day news items on LookNorth were showing Aurora photos from the east coast level with us so I was looking forward to the evening with clear skies reported again. I headed over towards Hallbankgate to a car park high up which looks north towards Talkin Tarn. Before I left dad warned me that the car park is a dogging hot spot and I thought....Who would be out taking there dog jogging at this time of night??.....Anyway when I arrived there was a few cars there and a few folk on the lookout after all the media attention on the news. A Barn Owl calling a few times was a big highlight. A young couple were there pretending to look to the skies but I am sure they were just waiting for us to go so they could get down to......taking there dog for a run. An hour in and Cainio phoned me to say there gonna head up Blencathra so I thought yeah sounds great so I headed down to Penrith to meet them. 

We started the climb at 11pm with 8 people going up including Rachael and Ciara . It clouded over as we headed up and we got as far as the Tarn before making our way back down. Lovely calm conditions and me and Cain were saying how it is the best time to be out in the wilderness, class. I got back to Gdale at 3am and did some more scanning to the north along with capturing some long exposures on my camera to try and pick up some colour in the image but no joy.
I retired to bed at half 3 unsuccessful after a good nights play. I got up in the morning and trundled into the computer room to the usual tune of dad humming and received the news that dad had got up for a wee wee at half 4 and seen the northern lights from the window! He did not wake me as he presumed in the eight hours that I was out there that I would of got them! Gutted, but with more activity reported I was hopeful in the coming weeks if the conditions were right.      


Siloth Golf Links, superb course
News in Brief over the last few weeks starting with up to seven Ravens seen around Gdale and with their early breeding time we are hopeful that a pair will produce this year. One of my favorite birds with it being my dads number one!

A trip to Skinburness, Grune Point and Siloth Beach on the 26th produced Pink-Footed Geese, Barnacle Geese, Sparrowhawk and 3 kittiwakes sat close to the shore from the beach.

A few SEOs are starting to show around Gdale again in daylight hours with dad watching a pair grappling in flight.

Driving at night always brings rewards as a couple of Barn Owl sightings on the way to Carlisle was magical. On the same day after reading Tony Warburtons book seeing the White Ghosts was a huge treat.

A few Crossbill have been heard and seen around the house and a few Stonechat on the higher ground also.

A walk on the Eden at the back of Tesco produced my first Grey Partridge at dusk with their amazing call which reminds me of Super Mario dying on the nintendo snes!

On the 27th Dad and I headed to Longtown with the dogs with the highlights been 31 Gadwell on the pond and 54 Whoopers by the river. We headed to Linstock to see the Starling mermeration and got up to 100,000 putting on a nice display with a single Buzzard in patrol.

Johns Article on Raptor Politics For our passion and love of Raptors .....

Thanks for reading :-)


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

January is Dull?....Thank God for Wildlife (figure of speech, im an atheist)

Great to get back to normality and to know that spring is not far away. And one thing about this climate change it means spring is hear sooner than ever after the turn of the year. A few trips around the region to some new areas and also some old favorites.  

A visit to Ullswater early in month with two of my bezzers...

High up Gdale on a clear night...
Decided on a late night up the valley early in the month on a still moon lit night to see what I could see and more importantly hear. I brought the camera to get some night sky shots to keep me occupied while I was listening out. It started well with a Fox seen going down the lane and also a couple of Roe Deer further into the woodland. Tawny's were calling near by in the early night time hours as I made my way up the valley. The wildlife action was unfortunately quiet after that with a few Woodcock and a Barn Owl on the way back but the atmosphere was amazing up the valley as it was so still and calm with a full moon and a star lit sky I felt like the last man on earth and it was so relaxing. I stayed high up the valley until 1am and started making my way back home. 

The next day I headed out with Cainio the Hollywell Birder. The original plan was to head to Abbeytown and see the Blue Morph Snow Goose so he picked me after his exam and we headed north west for the last few hours of light. We took a wrong turn in Carlisle and I sent him towards Port Carlisle instead of the 595 west so we decided to go to Campfield Marsh hide instead as it was lashing gown with rain. Awful co-pilot skills by myself but I blame it on my vision being blocked by all the empty Mcdonalds wrappers and cups pilled up in his car! 
We arrived at the hide and got a dozen Pintail, Shovellers, a good number of Teal and 80 odd Whoopers arriving late on. No sign of Harriers today but hearing 2 birds had been seen the previous day was pleasing to know that there is birds around. We headed off at dusk and surprise surprise Cainio fancied a Mcdonalds so we headed to Kingstown, North Carlisle for him to get his fix. He ended up kindly buying me a meal and I will return the favor on our next birding trip out! 

The next day an evening walk around Gdale with the newly repaired John produced a great half hour with 7 Ravens, Black Grouse, 3 Roe Deer and a Brown Hare been chased by a walkers dog. Great to see John with a spring in his step after hid knee replacement as I struggled to keep up with him as he marched up the hill. Amazing progress...needs to keep it going!

Barnies in good number looking from Old Sandsfield

Edward I Monument...
Headed off to sandsfield one afternoon to view the Solway as it was lovely sunshine and dad had showed me this area a few weeks back so I thought I would cover it myself. I parked near the Edward 1st monument and walked down the shoreline to view from. Historically Edward I known as Longshanks died on the Burgh marsh on his way back from a campaign against Robert the Bruce in 1307. You might recognise the name from the film Braveheart, and he did have a number of encounters with the legendary William Wallace during his reign as king of England. Lydia Hosdell will be so proud of me learning my history!
Anyway back to the birds!....from Longshanks to Redshanks! I enjoyed good views of the Barnacle Geese and also the sheer movement of Gulls heading west out of the estuary was incredible, lasting for a few hours solid. Enjoyed a nice sunset to finish off the day. Took some night shots of Carlisle Castle on the way back as it is a stunning old building. 

Old Graitney

Old Sandsfield...

Carlisle Castle with a traffic trail...

Full moon showing next to Castle, What a great city!
I went to Skinburness and Grune point on the 10th. arrived at high tide with all the waders pushed up on the coastal grasslands resting. It was constant light drizzle all afternoon which was annoying but I had to get on with it. I started with a low flying Sparrowhawk as I headed towards the point. Huge numbers of Lapwing in flight and grounded along with the usual Dunlin, Knot and Oystercatchers all congregated at high tide mark. Eight Pintail and a douzen Mergansers were sat on the water nearby. I headed to the point to do a bit of sea watching which produced a few Cormoronts and a small raft of Teal. I headed back to watch the tide retreat and wait for activity behind a gorse in shelter. All the waders lifted in unison and must of meant a raptor disturbing them. Once they settled I picked up a juvenile Peregrine sat on a grass banking. About ten minutes later I heard a squeaking distress call and suddenly a rabbit ran straight in front of me with a Stoat on its trail. 20 yards later and the Stoat had tagged it and dragged the catch into the nearby gorse. On the way back I saw the Black Swan at Abbeytown among the 50 odd Whoopers. 

Heron standing on the river Caldew...
On the 12th I headed out with Danny in stunning sunshine to cover areas around Carlisle. We started at the back of Tesco to cover the stretch of Eden and its tributary the Petteril. A good number of Goldeneye and a pair of Buzzards were showing well. Lapwing, Starlings and Black Headed Gulls were taking advantage of the flooded fields. We moved through Stonyholme golf course and got 3 Dippers on the Petteril and some golfers kindly told us where Kingfishers can show well. 
We headed for lunch and also got some sweeties from Tesco before heading to the river Caldew to see what crops up there. I had never covered this stretch so danny was tour guide (makes a fricking change! lol) We ended up with two Grey Wagtails, two Dippers a Kestel and a few Herons. We also got asked to go for a coffee with two young lasses which danny was shocked about but I told him to get used to it as as soon as you put binoculars round your neck the sheilas come flocking just like on them Lynx adverts.   

What a place, Haweswater looking from the road in

Haweswater...
Saturday 14th and another clear crisp sunny day so I got up at the crack of dawn to head south. I was still undecided whether to cover bass lake and round to west coast or Haweswater but I though I havent covered Haweswater for ages and as it is my fave place in England. Also when there is a potential Golden Eagle involved I am all over it! I arrived to a chocker block car park with plenty of hikers making the most out of the weather. I set off round the reservoir and instinctively I headed straight for Rigingdale valley where the lone eagle holds down a territory. I sat for two hours at the view point scanning but no joy just plenty of Ravens near by taking advantage of a sheep carcass. Red Deer showing in the valley also. I decided to head off for a bit and see what else I could find. On the water was quiet with Cormoronts, Goldeneye and a raft of 20 Common Gulls. I took a few landscape photos and headed back to the valley for about 2pm to focus last two hours of light on eagle. As I was walking upto the valley by the waters edge I seen a large object at the back of Rigingdale above the skyline......Locked! Goldie!! the visibility was so good I could see the bird from the waters edge! I watched the bird til the sun dropped and it was showing very well with ravens constantly mobbing the bird. The eagle also had a go at the ravens a few times with real intent. I got a video of the special bird as well (below). As I was watching the bird I had this song in my head http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq0llrCYtCQ.
 After seeing Eagles every day on Mull this bird is ten times more special to see because of the situation. Great to see the bird still there and providing hope that he will find a mate in the near future. He is 25 years old and has lacked female attention for a number of years now so you could say we have got a lot in common! great day :-)




Rigingdale valley, home to a very special bird...
amazing sharp light...
Looking back at Heron and Eagle crag from higher ground...
Sunset at Brow wells with Barnacle geese in flight...
On the Sunday I headed out with dad to cover the Solway on the Scots side. We covered around Gretna with it being fairly quiet and Dad showed me a few sites where I could visit in the future which was handy. We finished at Brow wells in lovely sunshine looking towards Criffel and Caerlaverock. Upto 10,000 Barnacle geese showing and 250 plus Whooper Swans in the field next door. A Merlin was spotted perched on a lump of drift wood and up to 10 RB Mergansers were showing well in front of us at high tide with one popping up right next to us. The sunset was fantastic and I could not resist taking a few pics of it as the sun dropped down.

Brow Wells looking towards Criffel with Red-Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser popped up right next to us
Thanks for looking :-)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Wildlife Captures of 2011...

Minke Whale surfacing off north Mull

Common Dolphin bow riding in the Hebrides  


White-Tailed Eagle fishing on Loch Na Keal using Mull Eagle Charter boat


Golden Eagle in flight on coastal Mull...



Arctic Terns...

Arctic Skua patrolling the open sea....


Great Skua or the Bonxie associating with our punters on the top deck...

Red Kite at the feeding station at Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Starlings heading into roost in Carlisle...


Common Sandpiper, Ardmore bay, Mull 

Common Dolphin breaching during an evening Shark Charter...

Common Dolphin associating with Sula Beag on another trip...

White-Tailed Eagle, Loch Na Keal

Golden-Ringed Dragonfly, Killiechronan 

Juvenile Kittiwake, off Ardnamurchan point

Black Grouse, Grey Hen, 

Long-Eared Owl, Geltsdale

Wood Warbler, Salen, Mull

Great Northern Diver, Loch Na Keal, Mull

Golden Eagle, Snowy Ben More mountain range

Common Dolphin approaching boat for bow riding...
Which do you like the best??

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My Favorite Landscapes from 2011...

Click on image for large view...Isle of Mull - On the higher ground at
Killiechronan looking towards Knock and Ben More Mountain Range...

Loch na Keal looking west...

Old crofters house south of Loch Splelve in March...

On the road to Grasspoint, Harrier country!

Fishing on Loch Na Keal at Dusk...

ON the sound of Mull looking back at Oban and Snowy tops...

The wild west of Ardnamurchan with lighthouse point, most westerly tip of mainland Britian...

Minke Whale surfacing off Ardnamurchan point...

White-Tailed Eagle in flight over snowy Ben More

Cairns of Coll, west coast sun set...

Ullswater with the famous Steamer boat and Spitfire overhead...

Machir Beach on Isle of Islay in October...

Keswick in the Northern Lake District, Derwent water and Catbells beyond...

Castle Carrock on a frosty winters night...

Clear Sky's on Geltsdale...

Murmuration of Starlings at Gretna, one of Britain's best wildlife spectacles... 

Kilchoan ferry travelling from Tobermory to Ardnamurchan with Western highlands in the back drop...

Tobermory harbour at dawn...

Keswick at night with the xmas rush below and snowy tops of Catbells and beyond...

Mishnish lochs on North Mull...

South road on Mull at Low tide...

View from Dodd Summit looking towards the Lords Seat summit and Whinlatter...