Saturday, 23 April 2011

Spring Sunshine!

Yesterday I had the chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine and the odd bit of raptor sightings thrown in for good measure. I decided to go to a place in North Wales called Worlds End which looks out over Llangollen, I did have a specific reason for my visit and that was to see the Peregrines that a friend of mine had shown me a few years previously. A small country road winds up and round the base of the hillside and moorland and this offers great views up at the birds which I managed once before two summers ago.

I decided to go for a walk up onto the moorland first before heading round to where I had previously watched them 2 years ago, I was not disappointed with the warm weather and wildlife and it only took one bird to make my day. As I surveyed the moorland I met a green bush stood on its own on the moor and perched on the very top was a Cuckoo. The best views of a Cuckoo I have ever had, this bird was perched calling in its familiar tones but sadly not as familiar as they once used to be.

I left the Cuckoo in peace and wandered back down the hill to drive round to where I had previously seen the Peregrines, the great thing about this face of the hill is its always in the sun so brilliantly warm and perfect for soaring raptors. It wasn't long before I sighted my first falcon but on closer inspection it turned out to be a pair of Kestrels hunting along the ridge. A Buzzard soared across much to the disgust of the Kestrels but no signs of the Peregrines, I wandered along the road and got regular sights of the Kestrels until in the distance and through my binoculars still well in the distance I sighted a larger falcon silohuette but sadly it moved on over the ridge.

When it comes to observing birds of prey one of the first things I look at is the silohuette and the shape/size of the wings and tail, Kestrels have much sharper pointed wings than a Peregrine, the Peregrine also has a clippier wing beat due to a heavier wing loading (muscle). Colour wasn't to difficult to distinguish with the Kestrels due to the sunshine as they twisted and turned there rufous brown backs and the males blue/grey tail stood out brilliantly.

Of course it would be silly of me to think after one visit there were no Peregrines at Worlds End anymore, I will do some research with local bird watchers and pay the site a few more visits with the fantastic weather were having it would be rude not to.

I'll keep you all posted!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Spring is really springing!

I love this time of year, it really seems to cheer everyone up and the weather has been bliss especially for watching soaring Sparrowhawks and Buzzards above work.

I have taken on a massive project this summer and possibly to much for one man. My favourite patch of land has an old wet area which is known as the withy beds, I remember as a child going round there with the beds being full of water and a variety of species of wildfowl and other wildlife. Sadly now the beds are dried out due to a damaged bank and inundated with willow trees, so the plan is for a full renovation, which is going to mean a lot of tree removal and digging work. Obviously the breeding season holds the job up but that is fine by me, I can wander around it planning and plotting the task in hand.

I had what I think was two sad sights on the way to work the other morning, I say think because the first was what I thought was a dead Tawny Owl in the road but it had gone when I went back past but I was pretty certain it was a Tawny. It wouldn't surprise me as I have on several occasions driven down country lanes at night to meet a Tawny Owl sat in the middle of the road, maybe a missed mouse?

The second sad sight is a definate, a dead Barn Owl in the verge of the A55 by-pass, no doubt a collision with a vehicle and when you weigh about 12oz you don't stand much chance. I keep meaning to pull over to retrieve the body and see if it is rung to report its death and find out a little of its history but its on the central reservation verge and it would be pretty risky to get across to it. Its the 4th Barn Owl I have seen dead on roads this year, one I did manage to retrieve a ring number from and after reporting it I found out it was a young bird that had been rung only 5-6km away. Its a sad thing but a large amount of Barn Owls are killed on roads around Britain every year. If you see what you think is a dead owl or any bird of prey on the road I would recommend you leave it well alone for your own safety.

The Ospreys are still doing well, I'm trying to get a pass out tomorrow to visit Jemima Parry-Jones at the International Centre for Birds of Prey. I will come back to you in the next couple of days with some bird of prey news from around the world.

Happy Easter!


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Apologies & Great News!

Firstly I must apologise for not posting anything in the last week or so I've been away and otherwise busy but I have lots of news. I was lucky enough to get a few days away in North Wales in the gorgeous weather we had over last weekend, I spent the days on the beaches watching the Buzzards and Ravens wheeling and rolling above the sea, these cliffs are also home to Sand Martins. The Buzzards will be preparing to breed shortly but the Ravens I have no doubt will have fledged young already as they are one of our early breeders starting around January/February in some parts of the country.

Whilst at work the other day I was outside talking to some students when I heard the Kee-Kee call of a Sparrowhawk, as I looked up I was greeted by a pair of spar's circling and tumbling high above me. Sparrowhawks tend to breed a little later in the year in order to take advantage of the smaller birds that will have fledged as a food source, seeing them circling in the sky calling to each other is the start of courtship for the pair and now is a fantastic time to see what is a usually secretive bird.

I was also pleased to hear from a local bird watcher/photographer that he has had several sightings of a Red Kite on my local patch, he also managed to take some cracking photos. A bird that was nearly pushed to extinction within the British Isles but has since made probably the most successful come back off the back of several re-introduction schemes. My feelings are that it will not be long before the Red Kite is a regular sighting across the UK a sighting that should be welcomed by everyone as a real conservation pat on the back!

Now for some truly fantastic news, Lady the female Osprey who is thought to be the oldest Osprey ever to breed has laid her 59th egg! Since her amazing return from Africa to her Loch Lowes nest the worry was that she would now be possibly to old to breed but yesterday she started the task of a new family by laying her first egg for 2011. Ospreys normally lay 2-4 eggs so there may be more to come and it is also not sure if the eggs will be fertile the proof will come after around 35 days of incubation, but my fingers are certainly tightly crossed for a successful outcome but will she be able to cope? To keep upto date with all the happenings at the nest click on this link for news

Thanks for following and make sure you get out and enjoy the Spring!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Fantastic News - Lady of the Loch Has Returned!

I like many Osprey and raptor followers have been waiting with baited breath for the news about the return of Lady, the female Osprey from Loch Lowes. Not just any Osprey though for she is thought to be the oldest breeding Osprey known by anyone, and she has just returned to her nest this year making it the 21st year of her at Loch Lowe!

Her exact age is not known but it is thought to be roughly 26 as Ospreys don't breed til there 3-4 years old and considering the average life span is 8 years she has become a natural phenomenon but what is just as incredible is the legacy this bird and her partner(s) have brought into the world. Within her 20 previous breeding years she has laid 58 eggs and reared and fledged 48 chicks from those eggs, now if that isn't some contribtion to Osprey conservation I don't know what is!

Now I also want to do some maths with you because the feats of this bird don't stop there, every year Lady will fly back to Western Africa for the winter and return to the UK the following Spring, a round trip of 6000 miles. If we work this out she will have fledged and flew to Africa some 3000 miles and she won't have returned until the age of lets say 4 ready to breed, another 3000 miles. She has continued this journey for a further 22 years if we assume she is now 26 so lets work this out?

22 x 6000 = 132,000
+ 6000 (Fledged Year & Return)
= 138,000 miles

So if Lady makes the journey back to Africa this Autumn she will have flown 138,000 miles in her life time, quite amazing! All this has now been documented in a book by Helen Armitage and if anyone deserves an autobiography this bird certainly does, I believe it can be found on Amazon soon.

So what does the future hold for Lady, well anyone who followed her last year may remember the scare she gave watchers when she failed to move from her nest for 48hrs, experts believing it to be her final moments until she began to rouse her self and make the journey back to Africa. Like any wild animal in there twilight years she is now surely on borrowed time, and whether her age will effect her fertility well only each breeding season will tell us that, but I for one will be making the trip to Loch Lowe to pay the Lady of the Loch herself a personal visit!

More can be found at