For the past two weeks we have been following the fortunes of a pair of Tawny Owls nesting in a wood close to where we live. Two chicks left the nest and were seen on the ground but after a couple of days got airborne - just as well as a fox would welcome a meal.
Finding the adults is hard work but they are usually close to the trunks of the Beech trees or, as here, in a Scots Pine. Not surprisingly they prefer to roost in the pines when it is windy as there's more shelter. They have an amusing way of closing their eyes as though they don't see you but they they certainly do as they as always facing you!
It would be easy to talk about the weather again; suffice to say that it is a very late Spring - plant life is typically around three weeks late hence it affects plant eaters such as caterpillars and therefore birds that feed on them. Birds that feed on voles e.g. Owls and also those dependent upon worm such as Thrushes and Woodcock should be OK. We went looking for Woodcock the day before yesterday Four sightings but only one on the ground and it calmly walked away .
Here are a couple of Red-legged Partridges waiting for the weather to improve. Males and females are identical so we can only infer they might be a pair.
It was time to do a winter mountain last week. There was good snow cover and the forecast was dry and bright, so we set off for high ground. The car park was already busy with skiers when we arrived, so we donned our crampons and started heading up. The snow was very patchy, deep in some bits, but generally OK for walking on if steep in places. We avoided the skiers, but saw very little wildlife on the way up, just a pair of Red Grouse fly by. Up at the cairn it was very windy, but a wee flock of Snow Buntings flew through as we sheltered for lunch. Exploring on the ridge we eventually found a Ptarmigan, a lovely white male, then found the Mountain Hares. There were about 20 in all, feeding on the exposed heather shoots. They were a wonderful sight.
Fairly quiet here with typical winter - perhaps rather more wind than usual. Hoping to get up a hill if wind and weather ameliorates before month ends.
Hides doing OK once we got the Duck Tape into place.
Three Dippers on the stream today - two with no rings and one with two. This one was fairly confiding even when the farm machinery went close by. Definitely a good sign as it needs to be pretty tolerant of disturbance with the aquatic dogs that it will have to face in the coming months. This feeding strategy fascinated me - the water formed a cone around the probing bill.
We are currently in a run of poor weather - much cloud and rain so our activities have been indoors more than usual. There's always something going on and Waxwings have arrived.
After being alerted to their arrival on out general area I checked out a likely spot and, on the third attempt got lucky on one of the few clear days. When they first arrived they are often not so approachable - they don't like the wind and Sparrowhawks seem to appear regularly. Still they are worth the wait and I got lucky with this individual which is showing the waxy tips that give the bird it's name. The full English name is Bohemian Waxwing, very appropriate with that jaunty crest.
At his time of the year birds can be difficult subjects. They have no particular reason to be evident. For that reason the only bird photography we have done recently is two rare coastal migrant but that's all.
This time is about autumn, which is in full swing, and colour, especially RED so I have picked a red subject with red both on the tree and below. The fairly dull light at the time even more saturates the colour for added effect.
Having realised that we hadn't been up a Scottish mountain this year yet, and with a good weather forecast, we decided today was the day!
Starting from the Schiehallion car park at 0 C we climbed up the track, soon feeling warm. We saw our first Ptarmigan just before the main ridge, having encountered Red Grouse and Raven on the climb up.
However, it wasn't until near the summit that we met more. They appeared from the rocks as we sat to have our lunch, and we counted seven in the group feeding on the heather and moss. We were able to get quite close, as you can see, as they were too busy feeding.
Worth the effort of the long climb.
The past week we've been inside most of the time as we were taking part in Perthshire Open Studios. This involves turning your home into a gallery to exhibit your 'art' to the public. For us this meant hanging framed natural history prints on the walls and displaying cards, calendars, coasters and place-mats. Despite visitor numbers being down on last year it was worthwhile as we still sold quite a bit and lots of people seemed to enjoy looking at the pictures.
The picture shows our Penguin corner.
We also re-set the woodland hide which suffered during last winter but was kept going until we could take it down properly for offsite repairs.
Just back from a week of studying Moths and Butterflies in the Highlands at Kindrogan Field Studies Centre. About 20 new species for me. Mostly the ones flying at this time of the year are fairly cryptic but close examination reveals the fantastic designs.
The one on the left is Golden-rod Brindle a local species that can be found by cold searching posts during the day. You can easily see the problem a bird would have in trying to decide if it was wood or food.
The summer weather had ensured that the countryside is lush this year. Good for much wildlife although not necessarily good for wildlife watchers. The moth trap has been dusted down and we have shown that insect life is plentiful. During the day the macro lens has found many subjects from poppies to Hoverflies; one day I'll get a decent one in flight.
Some birds will have second broods - Yellowhammer for example but, for many, it is over for this year. One still going strong is a local Barn Owl. For the past two weeks I have been visiting a farm and waiting in my hide atop the scaffold. Progress was initially slow but the young are give me a chance. Here is a young bird, almost identical to the adult.After the long wait, the rush of pleasure when a bird appears is hard to put into words.