Friday, July 23, 2010

Swallow Summer

During my exhibition a lot of visitors said they had seen less swallows this year nesting in their buildings.
I photographed these newly fledged chicks being fed by their parents this week.

They swooped down and fed the chicks on the wing. They are such graceful birds and it is a real shame that there are less this year.

I happened to spot them whilst I was out checking over a bee hive that I have on an organic field of spring sown oil seed rape - it just goes to show that is is always good to have my camera with me!

Dear Deer

On the first owl safari we spotted a roe doe. I had seen her there two days before at the same time and in the same place and I suspected she had stashed her fawn close by in the long grass.
I spent days trying to find the fawn, but only got a brief glimpse.
I would have liked some better pictures, and so when, the morning after the owl safari, I spotted the doe across the valley, I headed off to see if I could find the fawn again.
Unfortunately someone was walking their dog in the valley bottom and she dashed for cover as I approached.
But the day after that I watched her eating poppies in a field of oil seed rape. I watched her for half an hour from the house through my telescope. I thought it would have made a great photograph so I headed across the valley with my camera.
But by the time I caught up with her she had moved out of the poppies. Still I did get some photographs before she vanished.
I spent some time looking out for her and saw some tracks and signs and a form where the fawn had spent time hiding.
I also saw the flattened grass where she had lain and could see where she had jumped over the fence - her sharp hooves had damaged the grass below.
But even armed with all this extra information, I only saw her twice more and to date I have not seen the fawn again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Badger Spotted

On the first owl safari we were also lucky enough to see two badgers. One was at a sett that I regularly watch and the other one was out foraging - this one soon ran away when it heard us.
It was the first time many in our group that night had seen one in the wild.

Tawny Owl's Visit

Tawny owls have been feeding from a bird table outside my kitchen window for four years and this year is the second year they have brought all their chicks along with them.
There are two adults and five chicks at the moment and when they all visit together it is a real treat for visitors.
After each owl safari everybody piled into the kitchen to watch them.
Although tawny owls are Britain's most common owl, they are rarely seen at close quarters; acting naturally.Here three chicks are waiting patiently by the boundary fence.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Barn Owl Sighting

The owl safaris were such an inspiration that I spent some time afterwards getting photographs of all the wildlife we had seen.This was the barn owl that we saw hunting and quartering the dale side. It was being followed by a pair of kestrels trying to steal her catch. They disappeared over the horizon so we didn't know what had happened to her. But I found her the following morning with a vole.
She has a dirty face which means that she is raising chicks. Her nest is in a nest box that I put up four years ago. This is the first year that owls have bred there and these are her three chicks.
A female barn owl also visits my feeding station regularly and one night, just gone 11pm, it made a welcome visit. I don't think she has bred this year. Her feathers are too immaculate.

Friday, July 16, 2010

10 Owl Tours - Little Owls

We had three owl safaris in total during the Wildlife Festival and they all turned out to be a great success. We saw 10 owls on each - in fact I've been thinking that if I do these walks again I'll call them the 10 Owl Tours! One really special sighting was little owls hunting.
Afterwards, I couldn't resist putting up a hide nearby and spent the following week photographing them.
Little owls usually hunt insects, beetles, grasshoppers, moths, earthworms and the odd small rodent. This one caught a grasshopper.
I watched them most days until dusk fell. As the light faded more moths came out. This is an orange underwing.
And this picture was taken on their lucky night. The male actually caught a shrew for its chicks.
It was fun to also watch the chicks becoming more and more adventurous.
They took shelter in a little rabbit hole under a log during the day. I captured this chick rushing out from it to grab a small beetle.
It gave me an idea and the next day I took them a few beetles in a bowl. There was a lot of head bobbing before they ventured to try one - but they soon polished them off.
The fence posts were a favourite vantage point for the parents to keep watch from. Sometimes the fledgling owls would take up position there too.
Tired of waiting for food, this one ruffled up its feathers and flew off to join its father in a nearby hawthorn bush. But it wasn't long before a pair of crows flew dangerously near - crows will easily take a little owl - and it took cover in the middle of the hawthorn.
It was none the worse for the experience and soon joined the adult female.
You don't need to worry if you see a little owl on the ground. They are perfectly capable of going up a vertical tree trunk and if they get tired they will hook their beak into the trunk and take a rest.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yorkshire Wolds Show

My annual summer exhibition is now over and although it was busy, it really went well.
The Yorkshire Wolds looked their best for it too. Visitors were able to enjoy the sweeping valleys and fields awash with flowers and sunshine. I couldn't have orchestrated it better!

Curlew Cuffs

One of my favourite summer visitors is the curlew. I once watched a pair raising their brood and was fascinated by the ferocity with which the male protected them. He was ready to take on everything and anything that came near the nest. I managed to get quite close and set up a remote camera right next to the nest. The female was equally protective and kept her chicks close, as in this picture. To read all about it in my latest Yorkshire Post column click here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Roe Rings

Visitors to the exhibition have enjoyed some lovely sightings of roe doe during our wildlife safaris.
Roe deer are not quite as shy as normal at the moment since it is their 'rut' or mating season and you are likely to see them strutting about - especially the young bucks.
I once watched a pair courting and actually ended up in the middle of their courting dance, or roe ring.
To read about that amazing experience in more detail click here to see this month's Gazette & Herald column.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Car Park Show!

I have discovered southern marsh orchids growing in the banks of the gallery car park. This beautiful orchid is rarely found this far north and usually grows in boggy ground. In rare cases it can be found on dry chalk soil - how convenient of it to choose the gallery car park in which to flourish just in time for visitors to the exhibition to see it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mistle Thrush Brood

This family of mistle thrushes have been nesting in some guttering in the roof space of a friend's workshop. Mistle thrushes are normally very wary birds and it must be very noisy in there, but I suspect it is also very safe from predators.
This was her second brood in this nest in the workshop and it is very late for mistle thrushes to breed - I suspect that she moved in there after her first brood was predated outside.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rare fritillary spotted on Wolds

I've had a very busy weekend in the gallery. Lots of people came to the exhibition and there were several wildlife events going on too.

One of the trips was to spot marbled white butterflies which flourish on the chalk grasslands of the Yorkshire Wolds. The group found plenty of these as well as spotting this rare 'dark green fritillary.' It is the first time one has ever been photographed on the Wolds. Michael Flowers who was leading the trip spotted it and took this lovely photograph too.

He's a very experienced naturalist, so I'm not suprised he managed to spot this beauty, find out more about him, his latest sightings and birdwatching courses on his blog

Friday, July 2, 2010

Birthday Badger

It was my birthday yesterday and to celebrate my wife and I got a baby sitter and then set off to my badger hide to spend an evening together badger watching!

I had a lovely time just being out in the summer evening, but I don't think the badgers knew it was my birthday - we only saw one!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Good Blog for Bird Lovers

I've just been introduced to Birdlife's new blog and wanted to let you all know about it, if you don't already. It has some fascinating articles on conservation and all the latest birdlife news too.

I was particularly interested in this article about how seabirds are the needless victims of the tuna industry.

This was something I witnessed when I travelled to Antarctica for a wildlife safari recently.