Thursday, 31 January 2013

Huge Shooting Star captured by the Hollywell Birder

An amazing shooting star capture by Cain Scrimgeour the Hollywell Birder who is doing an Astrophotography project for the Northumbria national park during the winter months.

Superb Stuff HB!  



You can see his web site here - http://cainscrimgeour.co.uk/

Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/CainScrimgeourWildlifePhotographyAndFilm

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Rowlands Gill birder on Deal or no Deal

As I mentioned in my previous post my geordie mate Gary would play his game of Deal or no Deal on the Monday 28th on channel 4. There was a bird watching theme to it which added to the excellent entertainment and a roller-coaster of a game up and down like a displaying Golden Eagle ending with Gaz flying as high as a soaring Red Kite over Gateshead...


                      Post game interview with the man him self...


He beat the banker! photo by Emma Gaffney

Watch the show here - http://www.channel4.com/programmes/deal-or-no-deal/4od#3470122

Well done Gstoz!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Spectacular Scotland

On Sunday 20th I headed up to Mull to do a five day Coastal Skipper Theory course with Hebridean Sea School. I set off in the early morn and took it slow on the way up as I had plenty of time before the 4pm ferry. A couple of Red Kites at Argaty elegantly circling over the fresh covering of snow. A few Ravens on route and as I arrived at the breath taking Rannoch Moor and stopped to do some photography for a spell. 

I was in awe of the snowy landscapes all around me. I stopped at Glencoe further north and scanned the higher terrain for Goldies as I have never seen one in the valley but no joy, I will keep trying. 

 After getting the short Corran ferry I stopped in Morvern at a traditional Goldie territory and got an adult bird straight away patrolling the valley. Had my jam sandwitches and flask of tea while scanning further and got a Mistle Thrush and a couple of Buzzards to add to the sightings. Red Deer on the lower ground looking for green grazing pasture. 


Rannoch Moor looking west...

Winter mode on the moor...
As I spent 5 days in a class room I did not have much field time but enjoyed views of an Otter in the harbour on most lunchtimes and one day I got Porpoise and an immature White-tailed Eagle further out towards calf island. What sightings while eating my corned beef sandwiches on the bench...only on Mull!

After completing the course and poor weather stopping me travelling back on Friday evening I spent an extra day on the isle and the weather was nice on Sat as well as I did a circuit of the north part of the isle stopping at a few Favored sites. The highlights were seeing Goldie and Buzzards carrying probable nesting material in their talons. The head of Loch Na Keal had 4 Slav Grebes, 12 Goldeneye, 25 plus Mergansers, Plenty of Shags and one Cormorant. Checked the gulls for white wingers but no sign that day. As heading for the ferry I had  a Ringtail fly right over my car. 
On the ferry crossing I had two Guillemots in the sound as I watched the Lifeboat heading south at speed. Another Goldie while driving on the very productive morvern stretch.    

Glencoe village with moored boat...

Snowy peaks reflecting off the still loch, Glencoe village in view...

The classic view going through Glencoe on the A82...

Back at Gdale and snow beginning to arrive...


Birch woodland...

High Hynam...

Photo courtesy of Tommy Milo...snowy Gdale while I was on Snow-less Mull

Snow Drift up at the Greens, Thanks again Tom. He said it was a privilege to be on the blog...

Finish with a bang...if you missed BBC Africa on Wednesday then watch footage of the sensationally captured marine feeding frenzy here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCuYH_JUxwk

Thanks for looking 8-)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Aberdeenshire and Gelt photography

My blog URL address is changing to www.ebm-gww.blogspot.com in the next few days so you are aware. 

Old timer countryside criminal is made a fool to the nations media for his actions...

The last Basking Shark giving a positive reading is off the coast of Africa after making a direct southerly migration from hebridean waters where it was tagged in the summer.

Another important petition to sign to encourage the home office to keep the national wildlife crime unit. Wildlife warriors needed to sign in numbers again to make a difference. 

A trip to Aberdeenshire with dad for a few days as he was covering a few sites for some media articles. We headed up early on the Thursday with the first port of call was RSPB Foulsheugh with its dramatic coastal cliffs. The rain stopped and a nice rainbow appeared with Fulmars cruising around the cliffs. We headed north for Stonehaven and Dunnottar castle which is just simply spectacular! Again plenty of mini Albatross and a Long-tailed Duck close into the shore.
As we were making tracks back to the car dad was keeping check of the finch flocks and as we took a de-tour to check them out we got a raptor on a post which ended up being a female Peregrine with a male close by. We watched them hunting Jackdaws in unison which was breathtaking. 
Aberdeen harbour produced some Sanderling and a Grey Seal before retreating to our hostel at Rattray head to the north.   

Rattray head lighthouse, dramatic overcast conditions and big seas coming in. Desert Wheatear was showing well on the beach...
Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven. Stunning building remains with Fulmars all around the cliffs...
An early start getting up at dawn to start at the lighthouse at the head to see the Desert Wheatear showing well. I took some shots of the rough sea and dark dramatic overcast clouds. We moved onto RSPB Troup head further up the coast which is famous for its Mainland Gannet colony in particular. Thousands of Gannets were already patrolling the area along with Fulmars as the coast line was very impressive again.

Onto Frazerburgh where we got chippy and watched the Gulls in the harbour looking out for a white wingers but just a curious Grey Seal. We finished with the Pinkie roost at RSPB Strathbeg which was very impressive with large numbers nestling in tight on the loch. Gladiator the film was on the evening in the hostel and surely it goes down as one of the greatest films ever. 

Stunning drake LT Duck in Frazerbrugh habour...
The next morning we headed north up the coast to look for the King Eider that had been reported the day previous. We scanned the rough seas for a couple of hours but no joy with dad possibly catching the back end of the bird before it dived. Plenty of Long-tailed Ducks and a couple of RT Divers. Six close up LT Ducks in Frazerburgh harbour showing v well! 
On route south to Aberdeen we called in at Trump international which has caused controversy in the district. Dad wanted to check out its potential for wildlife. 
Westhill on the evening to stay at Nannys for the night. We headed out for tea with Auntie Iona and Uncle Stuart and a bit of a cock up with where we were meeting and eating as we headed to the holiday inn instead of the premier inn and ended up buying a drink and sitting in there for half an hour before realizing. We didn't even get a clue from the barman saying our booking for booth was not there. Anyway we got the right place at the premier inn and had a good meal and catch up with family. 
Hearing the urban Robins and Blackbirds signing at 4 in the morn is always a different experience for me along with the drunken rabble playing the game...how many people can we wake up with our moronic behaviour?

Great few days....thanks Dad


trying to capture fly-by Fulmars at Troup Head...

River Gelt steaming down after strong rainfall at the end of December...


When we were kids myself and friend james stobart named this pool middle Gelt while swimming in in the summer months
The last few weeks with the dull overcast conditions I have been focusing more on capturing moving water and in particular a local stretch of the river Gelt which has been rewarding along with seeing the hardy Dippers whizzing back and forwards.


High up the old water while listening for owls...

River Eden by junction 43...a favoured stretch I like to cover when visiting the big city...


Gstoz! look out for him at the far end of the west wing on Deal!
To finish things off one of my best mates and top naturalist Gary Storey is on Deal or No Deal every day 4pm on Channel 4. He plays his game on the 28th and he has already been seen plugging the isle of Mull, raving about Golden Eagles and telling Noel Edmonds there is no such thing as a Seagull! Here is his Deal profile with his brilliant interesting fact http://www.dealornodeal.co.uk/show/players/gazst


Thanks for looking 8-)...remember www.ebm-gww.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Photography captures of 2012...

Still enjoyed doing a bit of photography last year which is a rewarding added extra when out in the field. Here is a collection of my Favorite images of the year which have helped to capture my special memories.    

Which do you like best?

Click on image for larger scale...

Barnacle Geese on the Solway in mass numbers...one of the best sights during the winter season...

Brow Wells Solway Sunset. Red Breasted Merganser in the foreground with Criffel in the backdrop...

Aurora Borealis, north Mull. A memorable encounter which lasted half an hour before the cloud rolled in. A strong moon on my back helped to light up the surrounding landscape. The green shafts rippled quite high up in the hebridean sky. I was already on a high after watching the miracle at Mediera where Europe's Ryder cup team came back to win the cup. 

Sunset at Salen Bay, In the height of summer the sun would set in a more northerly direction as we are looking up the sound of Mull here with a few boats moored up in the foreground. 

Tobermory as dusk. Capturing the reflected streetlights in the flat calm sheltered harbour. Looking north with the peak of Ben Hiant behind. 

A raft of Manx Shearwaters lift off in the sound of Mull. Showing off their characteristic effortless flight. Ardnamurchan peninsula in the back drop.

Pony Trekking on the exposed tide on Loch Na Keal. The snowy peaks of Ben More mountain range in the back drop.

A Minke whale surfacing in the sound of Mull with the remote village of Kilchoan in the background.

Mature Golden Eagle in flight displaying in the springtime.

Sunset from Balmanach, west Mull...

Aurora Borealis with Ardnamurchan lighthouse. The point is the most westerly tip of the mainland and was ideal for viewing the northern lights with no light disturbance. A sudden burst of solar activity for 10 minutes was a sight I will never forget.

Sunset from Gribun. Light wispy cirius clouds soaking up the colours with a flat calm Atlantic. 

Northern Lights from North Mull. This was the strongest display I have seen. 

Sunset from Loch Na Keal with a lovely variety of shades of light and silhouetted conifers...

Another sunset this time over the island of Coll...


An Arctic Tern fishing for Sand eels at the Cairns of Coll...


Another Loch Na Keal sunset, the different light shades provide endless opportunities. 

Puffin on the isle of Lunga with a Guilimot colony beyond...

Common Dolphins breaching off the isle of Coll, shooting into the sun created a nice silhouette of the mammals.

Corncrake peaking out of an Iris bed on Iona. 

Bull Orca (Killer Whale) surfacing off Coll. The top predator in the ocean is rare sight in British waters so a memory I will never forget.

White-beaked Dolphins are scarce in waters off Mull so this was also a special encounter.

A close up of a Minke whale. I had a fixed 300mm lens on and when this whale surfaced so close I shot anyway and got this nice full frame image.

Common Dolphin surfacing on a flat calm sea.

Aurora over Tobermory. I stacked two images together to get this image. Solar winds were strong enough to dominate urban lights.

A famous wildlife spectacle closer to home at Gretna with the Starling murmuration in the town itself with a lovely sunset over the solway. 

At the back end of 2012 a cold spell in early December froze the River Gelt high and produced fantastic Icicles on the crag.
Thanks for Looking...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Wild Britain with Ray Mears on Mull

If you Missed Ray Mears Wild Britain on Friday you can watch it here on ITV player. The first episode is focusing on Mull's wildlife and was filmed back in June on board Sea Life Surveys vessels Sula Beag and Sula Crion over a weekend. Basking Sharks was the main target species along with Minke whales. 3.8 million viewers tuned in to the half hour program to see Mulls marine species along with eagles and otters on the isle. Look out for SLS Director James's fantastic interview in the wheelhouse along with Ruth, Jayne and a moron with sunglasses on 10-15 minutes in!

https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/wild-britain-with-ray-mears/series-3/episode-5

Me presenting Ray with the mars bar for spotting the first whale...

I will be changing my URL address to www.ebm-gww.blogspot.com in a couple of weeks time and my current page address will not re-direct you so take note of this one. cheers

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

15 highlights of 2012 (couldn't narrow it down to 10!)

Happy new year to all my readers. Health and happiness in 2013! Here is some of my highlights that meant a lot to me in 2012...

FIFTEEN...Breaching Basking Sharks


During a Shark charter down at Tiree a 6 meter basking Shark breached clean out of the water three times continuously, 50 yards from us. An amazing wildlife spectacle which was the best out of plenty of breaching baskers seen throughout the summer. Different theory's for the behaviour are courtship, territorial or to rid parasites.


FOURTEEN...Common Dolphins

We had a number of Common Dolphin encounters throughout the season as the weather conditions helped increase our chances of seeing them. One encounter in particular was special as it included 100 plus Dolphins and 150 Gannets joining into produce a marine feeding frenzy! The video says it all have a shmeegle... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY49ojX2ZRc 



Common Dolphin surfacing...

THIRTEEN......Swimming with Basking Sharks

Sea Life Surveys charters out one of its vessels for Shark charters giving people the opportunity to see, film and swim with the 2nd largest fish on the planet. One sunny day out towards Coll we were surrounded by over 10 huge sharks and Jimbo kindly gave me the opportunity to get in the water with the Baskers...wow words don't do a thing for this experience. Watch here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl1vYbtB57o



Basking Shark with wide gaping mouth...

TWELVE...Golden Eagle in hunting mode

After finishing the season on Mull I came back up in mid November with Cain and Ashley for a few days. On a wet and miserable day he did a circuit of the isle and in the morning Ashley found the fist Firecrest record for Mull and as the rain eased in the afternoon we got Waxwing before observing a Juv Goldie working the hillside before dropping down on a Rabbit picking it up in its talons before the Rabbit dropped free and dashed down its warren. Just like seeing other top predators in hunting mode like Lions and Cheetahs this was a special sight that some naturalists studying eagles for years are yet to see.


ELEVEN...KNOBBLE!

Knobble is a Minke whale which has been recorded in Mull waters for the 10th year in 2012. He is very popular for a number of reasons including been the most frequently seen whale the last few years along with his behaviour to associate with our boat Sula Beag on nearly every encounter. Knobble also has a very distinct fin which can be recognized at a quick glance as the whale surfaces as it is quite triangular with a Knobble on top (very complex naming technique!). The special K now has a facebook page which you can follow here http://www.facebook.com/KnobbleTheMinkeWhale



Knobble's distinct dorsal fin

TEN... Bottlenose Dolphin with Hydrophone encounter

We were arriving back to Tobermory harbour after a four hour adventure trip which had been quiet on the wildlife front. Converting the famous football saying to 'it only takes a second to find something' you should never give up when out in the field (or out at sea!) as we picked up Bottlenose Dolphins 250 paces away off our port side. As we got in range their amazing association took place as they circled our boat with some breaching as well. Skipper Jimbo popped in the hydrophone which picks up sound under the surface and plays it on the loudspeaker on board Sula Beag. As we watched 6-8 BN Dolphins we could hear their huge variety of clicks and whistles which made for an incredible wildlife encounter and you can watch the video of it here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3fHe_WeKx0


NINE...Kasey the Minke whale

We had just departed Tobermory harbour on a two hour eco-cruz trip which mainly focuses on Seals, Eagles and Porpoise. I was doing my species talk and was on the second page talking about Herring Gulls when I picked out a back breaking the surface in the corner of my eye. It was a Minke whale just outside the harbour and everyone on board watched it come right into the boat as I got a photo shot of its dorsal fin which I recognized straight away from the ID folder as it was Kasey which has been recorded in these waters for 12 years. Next was incredible as the animal held at the surface circling the boat showing its whole body and looking up at us! On another similar encounter later in the season I had another full body view of a whale while I was stood on the bow and it turned side one and made direct eye contact with me!!


EIGHT...White-beaked Dolphins

The sea was a mill pond as we headed out west towards Coll. Any disturbance in the water was not going to be missed by the keen passengers on board. Over an hour in and Dolphin splash in the distance which ended up being a pod of the more scarce species of White-beaked. This season was the first time Sea Life Surveys Skippers James and Popz had encountered them in these waters which they had been covering for 30 years. Beautiful pale markings on the mammals and elegant behavior. watch the video capture here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5Eud2IHVC4


White-beaked Dolphins...

SEVEN...Pine Martens

My good friends Andy and Danny came up to Mull for the week and after speaking to a family on the boat about the chance to see Pineys on the mainland of Ardnamurchan we headed over for a couple of days. We baited the site recommended with Peanut butter on bread and sat it out in the tent before moving to the car as the midgees were insane (not that I don't appreciate all these wild areas they are protecting!) At dusk the hugely energetic mustelids appeared taking advantage of the bait and iterating with each other! I have always had a soft spot for mustelids and especially the Piney which its range should be all over the country but for that out of date hobby for bored rich people. Anyway...pineys!...beautiful animals...love them!



Pine Marten in Moidart by Daniel Pokemon Naisbitt

SIX...Watching Hen Harriers from my Cumbrian home

Seeing a species from your house or local patch is always more special and even so when it is pretty much extinct as a breeding species in this country. Their heavy illegal persecution drives me to love this beautiful bird even more. I should be seeing them a lot more often on our moors but those lovely people that manage parts of the countryside prefer it to be nice and barren.

FIVE...Otters and Long-eared Owls at Gdale

2nd of March and my wildlife mate Gary came over to wish me Happy Birthday and spend a couple of days here. He arrived late on at about half 10 and it was quite a nice night so we went for a wonder to listen for Long-eared owls. We checked out a couple of duck ponds and after hearing LEOs calling around us we noticed the ducks were disturbed and we shone the torch on the water picking up eye shine! At first I thought it was a Mink but as it got out of the water it was an Otter in an upland environment no where near a river system. Another appeared and then there was four of them foraging on the frogs and spawn as they must of followed the amphibians up to their spawning grounds. An amazing experience to be present with one of my wildlife heroes in a young plantation on a star lit sky listening to LEOs calling around us and watching four Otters in the pond less than a mile from my house (and on my birthday but I don't really care about that!).


FOUR...Aurora Borealis

In 2012 I got to see the Aurora Borealis for the first time and in fact quite a number of times in the end, all on British soil. The first sighting was a faint display on Mull in March. I went back home to Geltsdale in April for a couple of days and when I was at my local sports centre playing Ping Pong I got a report on my phone of 'storm level' aurora activity possible and as the conditions were right I headed home sharpish to keep a look out. I was joined by Andy and Danny as we watched the solar winds increasing into the early hours with ripples and shafts showing in faint green. It peaked at 2am and the rare display made the morning papers http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/northern-lights-put-on-rare-display-in-cumbrian-skies-1.947604?referrerPath=/


While back on Mull and approaching the autumn equinox (aurora season) I was treated to some more remarkable displays including one after the famous european ryder cup victory and also the strongest one I have seen while listening to constant rutting from the nearby Red Deer. The photos say it all so here is one of the best ones...


Aurora over Ardmore...

THREE...Orca


This species gets in your head and drives you on to concentrate on the seas harder for an opportunity of actually seeing the top predator in the ocean. The date was 24th August (my good wildlife friend Gary's birthday!) I don't believe in fate but if I did I would be going barmy about that!
 It was a miserable morning and we had set off on a four hour trip with 40 plus passengers on board. We headed west and after a quiet first hour another operator got on the radio to say Orcas out at Coll! Full steam ahead as we headed out there to catch up with them and when we did it was an amazing 10 minutes before jimbo the skipper brilliantly didn't chase them and left them to it, setting a great example to all on board of how to respect wildlife. The video of the amazing encounter is here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RPvUzCUdec 


Bull Orca...

TWO...A season with Golden Eagles


A Goldie pair that I have followed in 2010 and 2011 on the isle failed to fledge any young and apparently hadn't done so for nearly a decade as is the low success rate with the species. Last spring I watched the pair interact in preparation for breeding attempts. I watched a number of aerial displays by the male along with copulation and territory patrolling. It was a coastal territory so I followed them for the remainder of the season from sea as our boat excursions passed the eyrie. A chick was seen on the nest cup after a worrying quiet spell and I watched a fledged bird soaring in the hebridean sky in August as it came as close as 100 yards from me making eye contact been the major highlight to top it off. As goldies range decreases in large parts of the country every newly fledged bird has huge importance for the future. Just a privilege.



Golden Eagle...

ONE...People responding to Wildlife

Weather it is seeing someone excited by Minke whales, Manx Shearwater or a Mallard the joys people get from wildlife represents the priceless value that these species have and the importance to protect them for future generations. Basically the more people that take an interest in wildlife, increases their chances of protection through financial value as our ever expanding man-scapes dictate all our wild areas now. As the great Brian Clough once said "Its all about money now".


There you go I bet you weren't expecting my number one wildlife highlight would involve people...

Its not that I don't like people...there just not my favourite animal.

Thanks for looking 8-)