185/365 – Meet Aries

“I’m afraid we have an infestation” are not the first words you want to hear when you check into your hotel on holiday, but this happened to us recently in Portugal.

“What of?” I asked.

“Seagulls” replied the manager, “we us an eagle to scare them away”!!!

At this my ears pricked up and I scanned the information leaflet he gave me, and I quote “In order to be able to control in an effective and ecological way we use the method of astonishment with the use of birds of prey where there is no physical damage to the invading birds.”

Now bear in mind the hotel is built on a cliff above the ocean and they are claiming an invasion of seabirds, I’m pretty sure the seagulls have been nesting here way before the hotel was built.

The next morning I was stood on the balcony when I noticed a man wandering the grounds by the swimming pool with a hawk on his arm. I grabbed my camera and rushed down to have a look and watch the “astonishment method” in action.

This is Aries a Harris Hawk who’s job is to basically intimidate yellow legged gulls and scare them away.

Harris hawk profile

Aries

I chatted with his keeper who introduced me to Aries. They visit this hotel and others twice a day and basically, from what I witnessed, they mildly irritate the gulls while they are there and then it’s back to normal.

Harris hawk with keeper

Harris hawk with keeper

The gulls would make a bit of a fuss with a few dives at Aries and would vacate their usual spots while he was in the grounds. As soon as he was gone they would return.

Yellow legged gulls enjoy the hotel facilities.

Yellow legged gulls enjoy the facilities.

From my perspective I loved seeing Aries up close and personal but as to his role in “astonishing” the gulls I wasn’t convinced, they just seemed slightly put out that he was there, before quickly returning to business as usual.

I didn’t find them invasive or a problem and after all the hotel has been built on their natural home. I’ve a feeling they’ll still be there long after the hotel has gone. However I do like the method, I’m sure there are some places where the gulls may be killed and their nests destroyed in order to clear the “infestation” so just pissing them off for an hour gets my vote.

Harris hawk portrait

Harris hawk portrait

 

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.

choices

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.

The Farne Islands Part 3 The Main Attraction

Apart from the sheer spectacle of the wildlife on the Farnes I think the main attraction for most people is to get up close with a puffin. These comical and engaging birds are one of our most popular birds and when you’re virtually surrounded by them its easy to see why.

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They’re not sleak and aerodynamic but rather round and pudgy. But their bright colours and incredible beaks mark them out as something special.

The puffin only comes ashore to breed spending the rest of the year floating and feeding out at sea. And their colourful plumage only lasts till their puffling hatches and heads off to sea. They shed the colourful additions to the beak and the triangular shaping around the eye falls off. When out at sea after breeding they’re a very plain bird, but on the Farnes they’re stunning.

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They nest in burrows underground laying one egg which hatches around 40 days later. Once hatched the parents begin the continual feeding cycle all new parents go through. They fly out to sea to catch sand eels but unlike the terns are able to collect a proper beak full before returning thanks to a clever expanding section on their beak and ridges which mean they can stack fish without dropping them. Once they have a mouthful they have to run the gauntlet of gulls which try to mob them and make them drop their catch. They may fly round a few times before dashing in close to their burrow and scurrying to safety before the gulls can strike.

puffbill

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Once the puffling fledges it makes its way to the sea and it will be up to four years before it returns to land when it’s ready to breed.

They really are a joy to spend time with but remember to take an extra memory card and charged batteries because you will take hundreds of pictures.

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