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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Black Grouse bonanza.

Black Grouse territory.
Road to nowhere.
Strutting their stuff.

Wings outstretched,heads down and tails up!

Battling Blackcocks!

The icing on the cake!

He was away rapidly!
Usually an early start is needed to have any chance of seeing a Black Grouse Lek, where the handsome males strut their stuff and display to the onlooking females or Grey Hens as they are more commonly called,so it was a real bonus to watch this unfold late one afternoon,high up in the North Pennines moors.
We had planned to drive around the wild moorland roads in the hope of seeing one or two of these birds feeding or perhaps sunbathing on one of the many drystone walls that litter the area.You have to be really lucky to get anywhere near Black Grouse as they are really easily spooked,unlike their cousin the Red Grouse whom I`m sure love posing for the camera.
Driving around with my accomplice Brian Rafferty, we were treated to close views of Wheatear/Lapwing a few Redshank some late returning Fieldfare and an absolutely fantastic view of a pair of Golden Plover right by the side of the road,which had Brian performing all sorts of contortionist moves to get on them with the camera from behind the steering wheel,I think I`ll have to rename him elastic man for his efforts!Bird of the day Brian exclaimed, they are harder to photograph than Black Grouse at such close proximity.I`ll post some images in a latter blog of the Plovers.
However it was Black Grouse we`d come to see and it wasn`t long before Brian spotted one about 30 yds away down by the stream.Foolishly we left the sanctuary of the car to get into position and he was away at a rapid rate of knots,boy are they wary.We carried on driving round scanning the moorland and came across one in a small plantation,but he wouldn`t come out of the long rushes.Returning back to the main leking area we instantly found a group of about 5 males all feeding quietly on the vegitation.Result!We took a few pictures,but they were all rather distant.Lower down the road, Brian again picked a bird up quite closer, maybe 50 yds away, ah a bit better for the portfolio. Heading back up the road the five or so males were now in full flow on the dance floor, what a stroke of luck so late in the day.With wings outstretched and tail feathers displaying, we watched in awe as they challenged one another to do battle,squaring up to each other and emitting their distinctive warbling sounds.A good few pictures were taken of the event before we decided to call it a day!Back towards the bottom of the road and no less than 15 yds away a lone male black grouse stood waiting to wave us good bye,it was my turn to perform the contortionist tricks now, as I quickly reassembled my camera.Talk about the icing on the cake, we both couldn`t believe it as we gladly made the most of the opportunity with the cameras.It really was a remarkable day and we both decided to return latter on in the year when the flowers will be in full bloom.I hope you enjoy the account of our encounter with the Black Grouse of Upper Teesdale,we certainly did and set amidst the most fantastic scenery imaginable!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Red Squirrels at Kielder

With the weather being favourable and work very quiet,I threw some camping gear into the car and set forth up to Northumberland,a place I`d hardly ever been to!I`d planned to stop a night at Kielder forest and then check out one or two other places I`d heard about.
I was aware that Kielder held a healthy population of our native Red Squirrel and it was these that drew me to the area.A campsite was discovered and base set up for the night.I checked numerous places in the woods but to no avail,surely they had to be somewhere close by.Most people had had an odd sighting of one or two, but high up in the treetops,not much good for photography.As the night was drawing in I decided to retire back to my humble abode at the campsite and plan an early start next day.
Early mornings for me are without doubt the best part of the day when it comes to being close to nature.Animals and birds are at their most active and vocal as the light begins to appear.I was told about a small area of woodland where there would be a good chance of seeing Red Squirrel, so a flask was hastily made and I was on my way at 6.00am sharp.All was quiet as I arrived, but I just knew something was about to happen!Half an hour went by before the first Squirrel appeared,then another showed only 8 yds in front of me.I`d made the right decision to get up early as I had them to myself.I was quite surprised how quaint they were and I watched them root around in the leaf litter, no doubt looking for their stash of nuts they`d have previously buried.
They were very cautious of me and constantly checked me out,every movement was minimal,as I tried to capture them with the the camera.Even the sound of the shutter aroused suspicion in them.All too soon they were scurrying back up the pine trees for the comfort and security of their dreys.I waited another hour in anticipation of their return but to no avail,however I was more than pleased with my first sightings of Red Squirrel,its just ashame that they are not as widespread as they used to be in the country.I hope you enjoy the shots!!!!!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Barn Owl Delight

At long last,I`m able to post a few images of a Barn Owl that I was kindly put onto by my good friend Brian Rafferty.They are literaly non existant where I live,so travelling the 20 or so miles to photograph the Owl was a pleasure!
After meeting Brian, he guided me to the corner of the meadow where the Owl usually hunted.The best part of an hour went by with no sign of the Owl.Brian assured me it would show sooner or later as he`d seen it on every visit.I kept scanning the far side of the meadow and hedgerows in anticipation!Yep suddenly without warning there it was down to our right.This time it had decided to land in a sycamore tree about 1oo yds away.`Dont worry he`ll come right by us,he usually lands there first, weighs the situation up, then proceeds to hunt the railway embankment and the meadow!
A few minutes later and he was up and on the wing, scanning the tussocky grass for a shrew or field mouse.A couple of times he came within 15/20 metres of us giving us fantastic views!We just stood there in awe, watching this moth like creature going about his daily business.He wasn`t the least bit concerned about our prescence, as a few times he looked straight at us as he glided by.
The light was fading fast ,so we decided to leave him alone in his hunt for prey.Nearby in the barn his mate would be anxiously waiting for him to return with supper, as Brian had informed me there was a pair and on one occasion he had witnessed both birds out hunting,now what a sight that must have been!Lets hope that the birds do well breeding and that maybe they can re-establish themselves as once before!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wonderful Waxwings!

It hasn`t been a good year for Waxwings where we live in Lancs, with only the odd isolated bird reported locally.I had to travel a good way into Cumbria to obtain these images, but it was well worth the drive.
Once located they really are a pleasure to photograph giving good close views.I think these particular birds had been in the same area for two to three weeks, feeding on the abundant crop of Rowan berries which adorned a small cluster of trees!
I took these shots a good month ago, so now I`d imagine that these three birds will be well on their way back to Scandanavia in preparation for the breeding season.What fantastic little birds these are to watch!