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/

 

 

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

130/365 – Feeding Changeover

The great spotted woodpeckers eggs have hatched and the feeding duties have begun. The parents are in and out every few minutes which can lead to some traffic backing up. When each parent lands on the tree they let out a call to notify the other that they need to get in and then they wait for the other to emerge.

Great spotted woodpeckers at nest hole

The male exits while the female waits to go into the nest to feed the chicks

The Fastest Show On Earth

Is back in Halifax, the peregrines have returned!!!!

Peregrine falcons have nested on and off in Halifax over the past ten years in an old church spire. For the last couple of years there has been a lot of building work around the spire so the peregrines have nested elsewhere, but this year they’re back.

Female peregrine falcon

Female peregrine falcon

The peregrine is the fastest animal on earth using its amazing speed of over 200 mph to hurtle down on prey in its classic stoop. They can accelerate to 80mph in a second and with their large talons can take prey up to the size of a mallard duck. They are one of the worlds most common birds of prey and after almost being persecuted to the edge of extinction they have made a remarkable comeback. Most big cities in the UK will have a pair nesting somewhere as the urban landscape mirrors the cliff faces they used to nest on and provides a banqueting table of pigeons and other birds for them to hunt.

Female peregrine leaving the nest site

Female peregrine leaving the nest site

If you search peregrine webcam you will find links to cities that have put up nesting boxes and webcams so you can watch them hatch their young and raise them in Spring and into Summer.

Here’s a couple of links but remember the time difference if you reading in the US or Europe!! But be warned it can be very addictive!!!! Why not see if there’s one near you?

Sheffield peregrines here

Woking peregrines here

Rochdale peregrines here

We don’t currently have anything set up but I have been speaking to the land owners and they seem quite keen as its a great way to get people to visit the town. So watch this space. In the meantime I know where I’m going to be over the next couple of months. Fingers crossed they’re successful and soon we might be seeing a few more falcons in town!

Peregrine coming right at you

Peregrine coming right at you

 

 

 

Dancing with weeds.

One of the most elaborate courting rituals your are likely to see this Spring is that of the Great Crested Grebe. First described in 1912 the spectacular display is played out across the waterways every spring. The grebes both sporting black and orange facial ruffs and black ear tufts will warily approach each other before starting to flick their heads from side to side

Grebes beginning courtship dance

Grebes beginning courtship dance

This may continue for a few minutes before they both dive down and re-emerge with beaks full of pond weed. They will then rise up from the water paddling furiously to maintain the height out of the water.

Weed dancing grebes

Weed dancing grebes

Watching them it’s hard to comprehend the stamina needed to keep them chest to chest and extended above the surface.

Weed dancers

Weed dancers

Once down to about 30 pairs in the UK they were brought to the brink of extinction for their feathers which were used to line hats and muffs. Now though through protection and conservation they are now numerous and can be found on almost any body of water.

85/365 – Urban Red Kite

This is one of the red kites which come in to take food left out by local residents near Leeds. The area was a release site for them after their near extinction back in the 70’s and they are now thriving. The food is scattered on a garage roof and the birds swoop down to the delight of visitors and photographers. It can lead to some interesting shots as they fly between houses.

Urban Red Kite

Urban Red Kite

Twitching…..Again!!

One of the few benefits of Facebook is that if you’re in the right groups you can find out what’s about in your area. Recently I’d heard of a Yellow Browed Warbler not too far away and as I had to visit our office close by, I thought I’d stop off on the way home and see if I could spot it.

These birds are strongly migratory and winter mainly in tropical South East Asia but also in small numbers in western Europe, so one in Yorkshire is quite a rare visitor. They arrive in the UK in late Autumn from the Urals which although a trip of around 3000 km is still a lot shorter than the 5-6000 km trip to Asia!

It wasn’t hard to find where it had been spotted as there were around 20 long lenses pointed into the shrubbery when I arrived. The bird is tiny about the size of a goldcrest and like the goldcrest never sits still. Photographing it was a challenge to say the least and I have lots of shots of branches, rear ends or blurs.

Yellow browed warbler in vegetation

Yellow browed warbler in vegetation

It’s believed several hundred arrive in the UK each autumn but given their unobtrusive behaviour it could be many more. They were originally considered to be vagrants blown off course but they are now thought to be undertaking a normal migration to take advantage of the milder conditions here.

Finally it popped into view for a few seconds.

Yellow Browed Warbler

Yellow Browed Warbler

Yellow browed warbler hunting insects

Yellow browed warbler hunting insects