Slippery Nuts

Hard to keep hold of when they’re frosty!!_JM15202_JM15221

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Peregrine Brunch

While sat in a hide recently watching ducks out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a bird of prey shoot past with its prey. I grabbed my kit and took a walk to see if it could spot where it had gone. It took me some time to track it down as it was way off and high up in a pylon so apologies for the distant shots of it tucking in to its pigeon meal.

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Return of the Berry Bandits

The trees this year don’t have anywhere near the amount of berries we had last year so I doubt we’ll have a waxwing implosion but some of our winter visitors are starting to show up. I spotted my first redwing of the season this week enjoying the few berries there are.

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Food Caching

Jays and nuthatches are two birds which will take food and store it away for a “rainy day”. This is known as caching and is a way for the birds to set up an insurance plan for when food sources are harder to come by during the winter months.

Jays have an distensible esophagus which allows them to carry a huge amount of food away from the bird feeder to hide away in the undergrowth and trees. I’ve personally counted one take 23 peanuts in one visit.

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Researchers believe that jays can bury up to 5000 items of food a year and have a 70% retrieval record. In the case of the acorns they collect and bury the ones they fail to retrieve are responsible for the spread of oak trees! I wonder if somewhere in the woods wild peanut plants are growing?

Nuthatches tend to be single item cachers and will wedge items of food into crevices in trees or into the bark for later. Both birds are also known to rob the caches of others by watching where the food is hidden and then moving in to steal it.

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The food caches will be spread out within the birds home range so they don’t put all their eggs in one basket and to also increase the chances of not being robbed. If they think they have been watched whilst caching food they may move it and re-hide it again to protect their stash.

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So the next time your watching a jay stuff its face with peanuts it’s not just being a greedy bird it’s actually planning ahead.

Competition Winner

Whoop Whoop

I recently entered a photo competition and just found out today that my picture is one of the winners and will appear in a 2018 calendar. The photo was for South Pennines’ Through the Lens Photographic Competition and my shot called Choices will be the June photo.

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Painting the Night

After trying out our star photography we moved on to painting with light using long exposure times and the torch on a mobile phone.

A shout out to MUM

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Who am I?

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Obviously boys being boys there were some childish images drawn which raised a lot of laughs but aren’t for a family friendly blog!!!!

Night With the Stars

My youngest son has recently started a photography GCSE and asked if we could go and try and take some shots of the night sky. We decided to make a trip of it and headed for the Brecon Beacons which has dark sky status. They eldest son decided he wanted to come so a road trip was organised.

I’ve never done any night photography so a little bit of research was undertaken but it was pretty much a learning experience and we weren’t really helped with an almost full moon and scudding clouds.

The first thing you notice is how little we can actually see as there were only a couple of stars visible to the naked eye but when you let the camera look it’s quite mind blowing what we miss. _JM12376-01

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It was fun snapping the planes that came across while we were out.

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Our pictures won’t win any awards but we learn’t quite a bit and also realised it was a work in progress.

Falconry Has Changed Since Kes’s Day

Growing up I loved the film Kes and the book A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines on which it’s based. It tells the story of Billy Casper, a young working class boy who’s always in trouble at home and school, but who finds an escape when he finds and trains a kestrel. My dad took us to the cinema to see the film and then later at school it was a set text for our O Level and it’s a book I often revisit. I blame it for my fascination with Birds of Prey.

When Billy was training Kes he stole a book from the library to learn about falconry and made his own jesses and lures. Things have definitely moved on since then.

Falconry has gone high tech! At the National Centre for Birds of Prey in Helmsley the birds now have GPS tracking and can be followed in flight on an iPad!

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On this picture the radio tracking aerial can clearly be seen behind this stunning Eagle Owl, and below the GPS unit can be seen attached to the handlers belt. The iPad is used to tack a bird that has left the line of sight and allows the handler to not only know where the bird is but its height and distance away.

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I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of Kes but this equipment must really help with those moments of panic when your bird disappears from sight.

If you haven’t read the book I would highly recommend it and the film is a much watch. The title of the book comes from Medieval England where the only bird a peasant was allowed to keep was a Kestrel.

Buzzard v Crow

I’ve noticed buzzards more and more in my local area recently soaring above the valley. I’d seen one yesterday just before bumbling into the fox, so I returned to the same area hoping to see both again.

It wasn’t long before I heard then saw the first buzzard as it swooped low over the trees being harassed by some crows. It seems every bird of prey attracts a mobbing wherever they are, with the feisty crow being the main antagonist.

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There’s usually a small group who will fly up and noisily chase away the buzzard but in this case one lone aggressor chased him away.

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Interestingly there were three buzzards soaring on the thermals today and it may be that this one was this years young. They feed mainly on small mammals with voles being their prefered prey but will take carrion if available._JM10232

As these birds now seem to be residents I will hopefully be able to get better shots.