Friday, 28 August 2015

Feasting on apples

The apples are looking good on the tree here. I saw one had fallen and was about to pick it up when I spotted a whole bunch of busy wasps having a feast!I left them to it.

They've made a pretty neat job of it too. I saw one fly off with one of those 'nuggets' at the bottom of the apple, though who is was for I don't know. The amazing thing was the noise of the gnawing, it was quite something, and they were far too busy scoffing to be bothered by me poking my nose in.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Long-eared owl casualty

This is one owl that sadly didn't make it to the end of summer. This long-eared owl was found under a hedge by a friend's son who has sharp eyes - top marks to him! The feathers are amazing, so soft and specially adapted for that incredible silent owl flight. And those colours and pattern providing them with excellent camouflage; you can see why they are so good at hiding.

Thanks to my friend Javier for his expert aging advice. Here is his page on long-eared owl aging. This is an adult bird and even though there is a clear difference in age of some of its feathers (S3-4), the feather pattern, the number of bars, is consistent. "When a juvenile bird is moulting these feathers the new adult ones are very different to that of the old juvenile ones."

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Funky oak galls

Check out this fantastic funky oak gall - looks like this is a Knopper Oak Gall I think

Friday, 21 August 2015

Brilliant breeding Brampton bee-eaters!

Bee-eaters in the early morning sun, you canna beat it! These fuzzy pics were snapped thru the scope perched on the fenceline above the nest. As the sole nesting pair in the UK they are so special and it should get even more exciting soon as the chicks could be fledging in just over a week's time. Directions to the watch site are here.

I watched this very smart male void a pellet into the grass, and I think that's another pellet on the post. See Javier's amazing guide to their plumages and here are links to way better photos of these birds flying in to the nest and sitting on one of the posts.


They have been bringing in lots of food for their chicks, sometimes every few minutes. There are both parents, plus a helper, a young male. Food seems to consist of lots of big dragonflies, various bees (below) and the occasional butterfly (bottom, peacock butterfly).  


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Fantastic leaf-cutter bees

Check it out - two capped nests of solitary leaf-cutter bees! Leaf-cutters bees are in a big group called Megachile with about 1,500 species who have all kinds of different tactics. These ones are in lovely, wildlife-friendly garden near Derby. I remember seeing some strangely patterned leaves in my garden a couple of years back but never got to the bottom of it, till now...

This species cuts out two different shapes, ovals used to make the sides of the nest chamber, and perfect circles used to cap the cells, each nest 'hole' containing several cells, with one egg in each.

Ok, so they'll make funky shapes in a few of your rose leaves, but the roses cope fine. So I'm off to make me an insect hotel!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

And the owner of that white feather is.....

Hiking up into the Cairngorms we found a wild landscape strewn with granite,

the odd feather,

and somewhere amongst the scattered vegetation was its owner.

spotted it yet?

Ptarmigan! And very good at hiding so they are.  They were calling too (calls here).

We counted 65 in this great gathering!

Some lovely views of snow bunting too

and then finally, the bird we had come to see, dottel, and what a superb bird!

Quite a bit of snow about still,

some funky rocks, 

and a gorgeous soft evening light as we dropped down off the mountain

Thanks to Bea Ayling for the superb photos!

Hawfinch blog spotlight

Check out this very cool blog with photos of a very interesting hawfinch project!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Bee-eating birds and wood-eating wasps

A very cool wasp ID guide points out that it's very important to gaze into their eyes, or at least see their face, as the abdominal markings can be very variable. I am thinking this could be Dolichovespula saxonica? I spotted this wasp while standing patiently in a line of lots of telescope-wielding hopefuls, all staring in the direction of the arrow. As well as sand martins zooming in and out of a great rank of nest holes (circled), there are in this Cumbrian quarry, two pairs of bee-eater!! It was a real waiting game and in four hours there were two sightings but what an amazingly colourful bird the bee-eater is, wowser!

Someone got some good pics here and if you want to visit, it's a fiver for parking, directions here, and the RSPB are monitoring the site and have signs and a viewing spot. Although it was quiet on Saturday, soon there will be lots of activity as the young get bigger and hungrier - so good luck! And if the bee-eaters are being coy, there are oodles of sand martins, swifts, a family of wheater, sparrowhawks, and big dragonflies to spot. Oh, and some very smart wasps!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Berry fest in the clouds

Cloudberries grow in Scotland, woop woop! In Canada they call them bakeapples and they are my all time favourite. The amazing flavour takes me back to happy autumn days wandering about on the incredible island of Newfoundland, where moose, bears, and caribou roam, and where the sea is full of whales and (in June) icebergs. Wonderful people too. Cloudberry grows on the hills of the Scottish Borders too although the berries are a little sparse on the ground to say the least!

In case you haven't seen them before, here it is, one small plant, one berry. 

They love to grow on tundra, moors and bogs, basically anywhere nice and wet.

Like I said, they are hard to many can you see?

Yup, just two in that whole area!

One last berry to pick....there were more but they were too red aka unripe. This was two hours worth! I ate some, shared a few, and have suffused the rest into a glass bottle of russian vodka to attempt a liqueur, fingers crossed.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Accessing buzzard nests without nice big branches

Sometimes the only way up is by using the traditional woodsman's technique (see great old footage here, at 55s in) of spiking up the trunk. This larch was a fine tree to hang-out in and nicely well above the midge zone. I've a wire-core flipline to my side-Ds plus additional lanyard (tail of 13mm arb rope to lower buzzards carefully to the ground for ringing, biometrics and wing-tagging. The tagging is part of a long-term study of buzzard populations - see previous blog for more detail. The nest here is to your left.

There was single chick at this nest and this one dines well on rabbit and voles.

This buzzard, No. 96, will be haappily flying around and catching it's own rabbits by now.

Oh, and it's much easier on the way down - here I am dropping out of a Scot's pine!