Sunday, 27 December 2015

Mystery pic time again!

Ok, this time you have a pair of fine feet to puzzle at. 

Amazing toes although, as it was someone's half-eaten dinner, the rest of the reveal is a little grizzly so this might be all you get.

WELL, 'tis indeed the feet of a wader, it's in fact one end of a woodcock, the end that didn't get chewed on by a hungry raptor. Such long toes these waders have and gorgeous birds too, here are some happier pics of woodcock fluffballs from that post back in the summer.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Last chance saloon for cool Christmas cards

Gorgeous cards for sale @ £2 each or 6 for £10 + postage!
Still a few left of each design so just drop me a message if your interested and I'll get them posted ASAP! 
All cards are Glossy, Professionally printed, Blank inside, horizontal folded, cellophane wrapped with a white envelope and the card image size is 117 mm x 182 mm.


"Only days away from leaving home, this fantastic family of long-eared owls grew up in an old crow's nest at the top of a tall Scot's pine, way out on a wild moor in the Scottish Borders."


 "What a look! At the top of a tall spikey spruce, two young herons wait for food near a river in the Scottish Borders."

Friday, 4 December 2015

Oldest tracked bird at 64!

What a great story: Laysan albatross 'Wisdom' has recently returned to her breeding grounds at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (pronounciation assistance here!) with a new mate and at 64 she is the oldest tracked bird in the world! 

For an update, see here - Wisdom with her new chick!

Laysan albatross fws by John Klavitter/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

Wisdom (with a previous chick in pic above) was first banded in 1956 and because Laysan albatross do not return to breed until they are at least five years old,  it is estimated Wisdom is at least 64 years old, but she could be older. See some more great photos of her with her previous new laid egg and a vid of here actually laying it!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

My fav new bit of shiny kit - the Petzl RIG

This is my fav new bit of shiny kit - the Petzl RIG! Considerably lighter than the ID, it also has NO panic feature so requires some considerable care. Crackin bit of kit, here with lovel11mm Yale XTC-Blaze Rope; big trees - let me at 'em!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Sunshine on Langholm moor

Sunshine on Langholm Moor
(just reminding myself it does exist!) 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Gazing out

Four fabulous panoramic vistas (yes I have just discovered that button on the camera!) high up in the hills of southern Scotland. I'm sat just watching the clouds, the changing colours of landscape. And the birds too of course - best place in the world to be, when the weather god smiles kindly on ya! Every so often there is a moment when the winds drop, the sun glints out across the valley, and then the magic happens: ravens appear from no-where, calling, she throws out her cry "knuk knuk" to her mate who give a deep "rRAkk" and throws somersault after somersault along the windswept ridgeline; the cries of buzzards wheeling far up the river drifts down to me long before they do, and I am spellbound by the glimpse of a hen harrier hunting silently across the slopes below me; happy days!


Friday, 13 November 2015

More river musings

A mist hung over the valleys as the long-forgotten sun rose yesterday morning. The river had lost its angry look and on the hill above the larches looked golden in the warm sun. For about an hour. And then it all changed and by early evening the trees were wild things lashing about, tugging at their moorings, water poured from the a black sky and the roads were awash. And the rivers once again rage seawards...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Mystery no more - hedgehogs!

Did you guess right? This month's Mystery Pic was a indeed a hedgehog, a hedgehog mushroom, also known as Pied-de-Mouton! Growing in variety of woodlands, most of my hotspots for them are under mature beech and in early to late autumn, right up to the first frosts. Superb to eat, you can see where they get their name - those soft, downward pointing 'spines' are very distinctive and quite unlike the pores or gills like other fungi, hence their name.

Top tip: let them dry for a few hours on a grill in a warm oven or on an Aga first before cooking, this concentrates the flavours and stops it all running out into the juices

Note: Please do be very careful and only eat fungi you know are safe.
If in doubt, leave wild fungi well alone!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The colours of breathing

In the wild, wild woods there are treasures to be found. I pause to sit with my back against a cool, smooth beech bole, listening to the emptiness all around me. A fistful of leaves drifts down into my lap. Barry Lopez's beautiful metaphor for the breathing of a landscape comes to mind; the forest breathes. We know that. But I feel that it too has a slow, seasonal breathing. Lost in thought I shuffle through piles of crisp beech leaves until I come to a carpet of sweet chestnut and begin to gather handfuls of the cool, serrated leaves, looking for the most perfect ones to use for what I do not know; compelled to touch and gather in an inescapable child-like wonder at the forms and colours on the forest floor; this sycamore leaf was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

Monday, 9 November 2015

"The river is everywhere"

"The river is everywhere."
" “Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”  
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha 
The Tarras River is in flood, its peat-stained thundering waters in a great hurry to leave this gathering place. Oozing off the hill from every sphagnum pore, streams scramble down around the foot of each hill and it is here they learn to smash deep mahogany reds into milky tea whites as they rush to to forsake the wild emptiness of the moor.

Mesmerised by the crashing waters I stare into the endless tumbling,  strangely soothed by the myriad variation of wave-forms, patterns and hues. The many tongues of the river babble endlessly, they do so with one voice and with hundreds, I am lost in it all and time becomes irrelevant. 

Mystery pic

Ok, here is this month's Mystery pic - what ya reckon?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Barnies and beeches

Our efforts from last weekend: another three top-notch, all-weather proof barn owl boxes up and ready for go! Later the farmer phoned to say a barnie had been seen hunting very nearby so fingers crossed for next year. Until then, they will be greatly appreciated for roosting in.

Further down the wood I noticed this tall beech tree with a some curious 'growths' halfway up. Closer inspection revealed what was going on: co-dominant stems have grown up with the classic jutting 'included' bark. This creates a weak union; chuck a very strong wind from the wrong direction and you would expect catastrophic failure at this point, however, it looks pretty good for the time being!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The midnight turkeys!

Ok, so this is not one of Mathews Midnight Turkeys (a great kids book if you haven't got it!) but this is more than likely who has been feasting in the middle of the night - see previous blog Who has been a-visitin under the cover of darkness - and you'll agree, he is a real beauty! 

Meet Jack aka a jack snipe, the winter visitor and smaller cousin to our resident common snipe. Not only are jack snipe shorter in the bill department and also generally smaller and stockier, also check out their hypnotic bobbing feeding motion HERE and HERE - this is something I really want to see! This pic was taken today a 1st year bird as ID'd from Javier's amazing ID site.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Who's been a-visitin under the cover of night?

Someone has been busy here last night! I'd noticed a few perforations in the mud on tracks up on to the hill the last few days. Today I spotted this old puddle of mud, totally riddled with holes round the edge, and with some fairly tell-tale footprints......

Friday, 16 October 2015

Wheatear in no hurry to leave

This young wheatear is still happily feeding up on the top of our moor, and seems in no hurry to head south. I took a couple of pics before it decided to use the top of the truck for a better viewpoint. Don't blame it for sticking around, it's been a cracking few weeks and where else would you want to be!


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Very cool links to amazing bird blogs and images!

Check out this harrier with big dinner ideas at Making Most of the Moorlands, a busy community education project around Langholm Moor. See what happens when a hen harrier thinks big...

Making the Most of the Moorlands

Swifts are a common sight and are part of summer, screaming over our rooftops, but where do they go in winter? These projects are finding some great data, the first is from the BTO

BTO - Tracking swifts

and this one on the Beijing swift porject shows the truly extraordinary journeys some birds take annually: we still have so much to learn.

Out of Africa! The Beijing Swift’s Incredible Journey Charted At Last

And for great photos, see Paul Riddle's brilliant Owls about that then!, a blog full of amazing owls - how's this for a shot!

Owls about that then!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Sunset beech!

 Amazing sunny Autumn days! A year ago I climbed a beech to the base of the main fork. I abseiled out and left a hemp string in place, tied off to a little sapling nearby, so I could climb it properly another day....which was the last day of September 2015! Gorgeous sunny day, hiking out with my haul bag.

 Going up, SRT

 Alpine butterfly & maillon rapide as top anchor, rigged from below
 Looking up to the unexplored canopy
 Top anchor point @ 20m with arb on DRT with distal hitch & Pinto pulley
 Todays book - it's a brilliant mix of anthropology, history, adventure and sea

I found a cracking wee spot near the very top of the tree, where I sat nibbling on chapati and reading for hours in the warm sun - bliss! Then I had a bit of a look around...
 The top branches

 King twigs

The view

Hadn't meant to stay so long but it was such a brilliant spot I decided to stay and watch sundown

As I was about to leave, I noticed hoverflies flying in to roost on the top twigs, had no idea this happened - a nice little bit of extra magic to the evening. I descended on DRT, but the 30m arb was too short to drop the full height to the ground, so I did some top problem solving, adding in an extra 10m length with a double fishermans and then passing it by transfer onto the Petzl Rig and a very smooth touchdown - what a superb evening!