276/365 – Green Woodpeckers and The Archers

Back in the summer I treated myself to a day at a hide where green woodpeckers are the main visitors. I’d spent most of May monitoring the three great spotted woodpecker nests in my local woods and thought it was time to photograph their green cousins. I’d only seen them a couple of times before so it would be a good opportunity to add some decent pictures to my portfolio.

I booked into a local pub the night before and was pleasantly surprised to find out on arrival that the Bull at Rippingale was the inspiration for the Archers the long running radio programme. As part of the BBC’s post-war drive to promote agriculture and farming, Henry Burtt who lived in nearby Haconby, a nationally recognised expert in seed crops and an influential figure in the NFU at the time, suggested at a national conference: “What we want is a ‘farming Dick Barton’”, Dick Barton being the most popular radio show of the time. This sparked the interest of a BBC producer who accepted an invitation to visit the area where Burtt explained the importance of farming to the economy and the country. And from this the Archers was born. If you’re ever in the area I’d recommend a visit as they have some Archers themed displays for fans.

The hide I was visiting is run by Tom Robinson, one of many he has which cover a variety of species throughout the year. Tom also ploughs back a lot of the profits into conservation work and the hides are of the highest quality. Comfortable office chairs, drink making facilities, heaters for the colder months and a loo.

I had missed the first visit of the morning, but I settled in and it wasn’t long before the male decided to make an appearance.

Male green woodpecker

Male green woodpecker

The sexes can be differentiated by the red mustache sported by the male. Outside the hide are a couple of anthills which are liberally sprinkled with mealworms which the woodpeckers love. It didn’t take him long to move from the perch to the hill and start feeding.

Male green woodpecker with mealworm

Male green woodpecker with mealworm

Green woodpeckers have a long sticky tongue which allows them to feast on ants, inserting their tongue and scooping them up from within the anthill.

After tucking in for a few minutes he departed allowing me to review my pictures and amend any settings. Tom knew they were nesting nearby and was hoping the young would soon be visiting but unfortunately not today.

On the next visit both the male and female arrived with the female taking a back seat while the male tucked in. When she did eventually get in a good position to take her photograph she was photobombed by a pheasant!

Female green woodpecker

Female green woodpecker

Photobombing pheasant

Photobombing pheasant

The woodpeckers and the pheasants provided an entertaining few hours with regular visits allowing for a range of images to be taken.

Male green woodpecker

Male green woodpecker

I can’t fault Tom’s set up and would highly recommend a visit. Hopefully I’ll be back soon for some raptor or owl action. The scaffold hide alongside a barn owl or sparrowhawk nest are certainly on the to do list.

Here’s a link to Tom’s site http://www.wildlife-photography-hides.co.uk/

 

 

257/365 – Blue Skies Red Kites

A couple of times a year I have to visit our office in Berkshire which although a bit of a trek from Yorkshire does mean I can meander on my way there or back and stop off on the Downs to watch the red kites.

This is where I first began to notice the kites after their re-introduction and they always captured my imagination effortlessly soaring on the thermals over the countryside. Being able to spend a couple of hours watching and photographing them is always an amazing experience.

Soaring red kite

Soaring red kite

On this particular occasion a farmer was mowing a field and this had attracted the attention of at least a dozen kites who were on the lookout for anything disturbed by the tractor. It also meant they were very close to the roadside making photography so much easier.

Red kite

I think he’s seen me

They were so intent on looking for prey they weren’t bothered by my presence in the slightest and flew close and low.

Low flying kite

Low flying kite

I dread to think how much time I would spend watching these majestic bird if I still lived on their doorstep!!

Red kite

On the hunt

170/365 – Take It Home

Rubbish is a huge problem to wildlife. It seems we’re starting to wake up to the danger of plastics in the environment but if you’re out in the country and you’ve taken food and drink with you take your waste home. You carried it there so carry it back with you. ( I cleared the cans from the river after taking this picture).

Grey wagtail on river pollution.

Grey wagtail on river pollution.

Peregrine Detective

When I first visited the Piece Hall to photograph and watch the peregrines I noticed that both were ringed but the male had a distinctive orange/red band on the left leg. I thought that if I could get a clear shot of the ring I could use the internet to try and find out where he was ringed and hopefully a little of his history.

On a subsequent visit the male was sitting high on the spire preening in the evening sunshine and on a couple of the pictures I took the leg ring was much more visible. At home on the computer I was able to really zoom in and I could make out the letters ZS.

I began searching on Google for pages about peregrine ringing and the colours used and it threw up a link to the Derbyshire cathedral peregrines who use this colour for peregrines hatched on the cathedral. I then searched Facebook for a Derbyshire birders page and made contact with one of the members Daniel Martin who offered to help. I sent Daniel the images above and he said he’d get back to me if he found anything out.

Daniel got back to me a few days later to say he was in touch with Ben who had ringed the falcon but he was out of the country! So my wait continued, until earlier this week when Daniel passed on a message from Ben to say he had ringed the bird back in 2014 in Hanley, Stoke on Trent!!!!

But even better than that, Ben also had some pictures of him being ringed and with his siblings.

Halifax peregrine being ringed

Halifax peregrine being ringed

Peregrine chicks

Peregrine chicks

So from this fluffy ball to the magnificent predator we can see cruising over Halifax.

Peregrine fly by

Peregrine fly by

A huge thank you to both Daniel and Ben for filling in the blanks. If you want to come to Halifax and see ZS in his new home I will be happy to buy you both some beers. Hopefully soon we will have our own peregrine chick’s to watch and who knows where they may end up.

Watching Treecreepers

Last year whilst watching the woodpeckers nesting I noticed lots of treecreepers flitting around and I decided that this year I would try and find a treecreeper nest to watch. It took me a little while but not only did I find an active one I also watched another being built.

When people ask me what I’m photographing and I tell them, almost everyone says they’ve never seen a treecreeper. But they’re not as rare as you think, they’re just incredibly hard to spot. About the size of a wren with a long tail and down curved bill they are perfectly camouflaged for life in a wood blending perfectly against the trunk of the trees.

Treecreeper nest building

Treecreeper nest building

When it comes to building a nest they don’t take the easy option and head for a knothole in a tree but they look for a flap of bark with room behind to build the nest. The nest is built with twigs and wood chip as in this picture and is then lined with moss, lichen, hair and feathers and takes around a week to complete.

Treecreeper with nest lining

Treecreeper with nest lining

As they can lay between 5 and 6 eggs the nest area will tend to have a seperate entrance and exit as the nest space will become crowded as the chicks hatch and grow.

A week later and it would seem the eggs have been laid as one bird was flying back with food and feeding it to the sitting bird who would emerge to take the food.

Treecreeper with food.

Treecreeper with food.

The nesting bird would open its mouth to be fed before then flying off and leaving the other bird to take over sitting on the nest.

Treecreepers feeding each other

Treecreepers feeding each other

The second nest I found obviously had chicks, as the parents were constantly in and out with beaks full of insects. They flew in at one end of the hanging bark and emerged from the other usually depositing faecal sacks before heading off to forage more food.

Treecreeper removing faecal sack

Treecreeper removing faecal sack

The faecal sack is a mucous covering around the chicks waste which allows the parents to easily remove it from the nest and keep the nest area clean. They were delivering a wide array of different insects to the chicks.

Treecreeper delivering food

Treecreeper delivering food.

This nest must have been very close to fledging as a couple of days later when I returned there was no sign of any activity, which after the constant delivery of food earlier suggests the young had successfully left the nest. The second nest is now the focus of my attention hopefully to see lots of food deliveries, and fingers crossed the fledging of the chicks.

Treecreepers at nest site

Treecreepers at nest site

Doe A Deer

It’s been quite wet the last few days and the woods are muddy to say the least. It was easy to spot deer tracks so I thought I’d follow them and see what I could find. I didn’t think for a minute I’d find a deer but why not just give it a go.

After ten minutes I was about to give up and head down to the river, as I thought I’d have more chance of spotting a kingfisher, when I spotted some movement off to my right . I moved behind a tree and froze as two roe deer were grazing fairly close by.

Male roe deer

Male roe deer

They’d spotted me as well and quickly bounced away. I headed off in the same direction hoping to get ahead of them but not really believing I’d see them again. I cut across the wood and then doubled back and too my surprise found them, except this time there were four of them.

Resting roe deer

Resting roe deer

I didn’t notice at the time but the female below looks to have had an injury at some point with what looks like a scar on her flank.

Female roe deer

Female roe deer

They didn’t seem at all bothered by me even though they had definitely seen me, until a dog started barking and they bounced away blending in and quickly disappearing.

 

96/365 – Mink

This isn’t an animal you want to see in the UK. They were originally farmed for their fur and animal rights activist trying to do the right thing released them into the wild. Having no real natural predators they cause devastation to local wildlife killing absolutely anything. When spotted they need to be reported so they can be trapped and removed.

One has to also understand that it’s not their fault they’re here!

Mink on the riverbank

Mink on the riverbank