Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Hen Harrier, Undisclosed location, Lancashire. 16th June 2009

Today has been a superb day that I will never forget. Anyone who knows
me will no that my favourite bird is the hen harrier, and its cause of
my love for the bird that I volunteer for Natural England's Hen Harrier

At the forefront of this project is my very good friend Stephen Murphy.
He's responsible for fitting satellite tracking devices to young birds
whilst still in the nest, this enables close monitoring of the birds
wherever they travel in the world, providing unique data on the species'
complex dispersal ecology.

Stephen kindly invited me up to a nest site, to check on the welfare of
a brood of 5 young high on the Lancashire moors on a privately owned
grouse moor. Stephen is licensed for nest visits, to ring the chicks and
fit transmitters, I acted as his accredited agent for the day giving me
a rare opportunity to visit a hen harrier's nest and photograph young
hen harriers.  

We had a fair walk from where we had to leave the vehicle, but was it
worth it. Nestled in a patch of heather were 5 young harriers all sat
there looking at us. A fantastic site to behold. There was one addled
egg among the young birds which sadly had obviously failed.

The parents weren't about initially, so time was of the essence for us
to weigh and measure the birds. We left the brood within 5 minutes of
arriving and when we got back to the vehicle, we saw the female land in
the nest with food

To top it all, whilst in the nesting area, the male bird flew nearby and
as a meadow pipit flew up out of the heather, the harrier stuck
out its right leg and plucked it from the sky. Both of us seen this
within 30m of where we stood. Absolutely breathtaking; the agility of
these birds is amazing.

Today really was a day ill never forget, and many thanks to Stephen for
asking me to assist him.  

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

White Throated Sparrow, Old Winchester Hill,Natural England Reserve,Hampshire. 15th April 2009

Me and Hazel and our newborn daughter have travelled down to Hampshire today to see a stunning White Throated Sparrow. Its was the second White Throated Sparrow that I'd twitched, after dipping a one day bird in a garden in Caldy in Cheshire in May 2003.
No road works all the way down, and relatively easy to find. The bird had been seen by many, and had been seen by people leaving the site, but on arrival had gone missing. It was a good opportunity for Hazel to walk around the park with our daughter in her pram.
The bird didnt let us down. It flew out of the dense hawthorn bush and fed on the seeded area. I managed a few images before it disappeared again.
Very few birders were around now, so me and a local birder (Lee Fuller) decided we would get closer to the seeded area in order to try an get better images.
The bird again came down onto the seed and performed superbly, allowing both me and Lee time to get images we wanted.
Its been a long drive home, but well worth it.