My hide is at a particular location to get pictures of Red Squirrels so I see them all year around. At this time of the year I am looking to see if the ear tufts are present. There's a little bit of variation; I think that the adults have fuller and earlier ear tuft production but its hard to be sure. The ear tuft season is generally November until March. The squirrels are still coming to grab my food offerings then beating a hasty retreat. They seem bent on thwarting my efforts in getting a picture, however this day one relented. I had, what I call, moved the furniture around a bit so it was initially a bit confused. As a result it went to the end of the branch and swished its tail to indicate displeasure. Nevertheless it got the food and I got a pleasing picture. Result all round.
Autumn is nearly over and winter is approaching; the temperatures are falling. Autumn pictures are usually about Thrushes eating berries, preferably red ones. Little did I think that I could get one from our house. Outside is a Whitebeam and it produces a rich crop of berries that has been appreciated by the Thrushes but also by a small party of four Bullfinches. They are a rare bird in town but perhaps appearing more frequently. By taking down the sash window and wrapping up well I was able to enjoy the birds at eye level. The Whitebeam gave a very pleasing range of earth and autumnal colours and is a first - a pleasing picture taken from inside the house.
Last week we visited Norfolk and Suffolk. We have fairly regularly spent time in that part of England. It is rich in birds and sometimes opportunities for bird pictures. That said, it is now full of photographers with big lenses and sometimes bigger voices. We did see a good selection of waders and wildfowl. The waders were either passing through or arriving for winter. In the case of the wildfowl they will mostly spend the winter there in milder conditions than the northern climes they choose for breeding. Our highlight of the visit was not a bird but a mammal. Its not often I get to see a new mammal. We were able to meet up with an field worker who was able to show us a Hazel Dormouse. Fortunately it was dormant otherwise it would have bolted. We were able to leave it safe when we departed. A thrill.
A visit to the coast is always interesting at this time of year, as you never know what birds could have arrived or be passing through. At one end of the scale we've had encounters with Yellow-Browed and Barred Warblers this year. On our recent visit to East Lothian we enjoyed Ruff, Redshanks and a Spotted Redshank that day. The incoming tide brought this foraging Curlew close to us letting us enjoy it's feeding and preening antics. It didn't seem a rare bird to us but recent bird studies have shown that it has declined by half in only 10 years. That's a really worrying statistic.
As my last post suggested, autumn is very much the time of migration. This is particularly true for birds. They are positioning themselves ready for winter. However, there are other important activities going on at this time of the year. Many birds have bred; what happens next is particular to the species but many abandon their young. It is then up to the young to perfect the life skills which ensure their survival into the next year. Many young birds are unsuccessful. Here is a Kestrel female which has captured a small vole. For this bird it is looking promising but winter will be a difficult time for Kestrels should we get snow since food can be particularly difficult to find.
Just back from a week spent on the Isle of May, staying at the Bird Observatory. August can be a special time to be on the island however the hoped-for fall of migrants did not happen. The nagging west/south west wind put paid to that. Out of the wind we enjoyed the long spells of sunshine. That said, there was plenty to enjoy from the still breeding Fulmars, the burgeoning Rabbit population, and the building numbers of seals preparing to pup and then start the next generation. Some small birds were passing through. As expected, the most numerous species was Willow Warbler with youngsters dominating the count. Here is one making that extraordinary journey to Africa for the first time.
I spend quite a bit of time in hides, often alone in my own hides. It is monotonous but not necessarily boring. This week I had a rare sight. A (Bank) Vole was foraging close to me. I noticed it and was hoping it would come closer although it barely showed above the vegetation. From the corner of my eye I saw a movement. Then it was all over. A Stoat has caught the Vole. Fortunately It remained around for a few moments before Jays approached and it disappeared into cover. It all happened so fast I was glad I use my camera almost daily otherwise I would have been so gobsmacked that I wouldn't have taken the shot. I am sad for my late furry friend although realistic that this is how Stoats are and there's nothing we can to prevent it; we just have to admire and wonder at the intricate balance of nature.
The news about UK butterflies is, in the main, depressing with general decline throughout. The Comma, is however, a success story. It used to be confined to southern parts of the UK but is now found widely, if sparsely, across a good part of Scotland. This fresh individual was photographed in North Perthshire earlier this month. The reason for the increase is twofold. Firstly is is responding to climate change allowing it to benefit from a warmer Scotland (doesn't feel it today). The other reason is more intriguing. that it has been able to switch food plant. Previously it preferred hop but this is no longer widespread so it has switch to nettle. Any Scottish little boy could tell you how abundant nettle is. Could other Butterflies switch foodplant. I think the answer is yes. I think that Northern Brown Argus uses Cranesbills in Scotland but this will remain our secret for the present.
As a hay fever sufferer high summer is probably my least favourite season. It is, however, the time for studying insect life since, in our fairly northern climes they are at the most abundant. Dragonflies are a passion. The previous post was an outing to the west of Scotland where the richness of species is highest but this post was taken closer to home. Darters and Hawkers can still be found emerging - they will continue into autumn. This one pictured is a freshly emerged Common Darter which is able to fly weakly. On that day it was fairly cool allowing a close approach for a more interesting picture with the Foxglove playing a part in the backdrop.
When the gentleman naturalists of the 19th century began to explore and record Scotland's fauna they provided English names for the species they found. No less than three moths have Rannoch in the name, Rannoch Sprawler, Rannoch Brindled Beauty and this species opposite the Rannoch Looper. The reason for the popularity of Rannoch is, at first puzzling since they all occur in Strathspey, probably in greater numbers. However the answer is, in historical terms, plain to see. These naturalists explored Scotland using the new train system and they would have disembarked and Rannoch station to set off and record so these species were first known from that area. We photographed this species close to Loch Ness last week whilst searching for Dragonflies
Eric & Lesley McCabe Perth, Scotland. Having both worked in the computer industry for a number of years we now have time to devote to our passion, namely wildlife photography. We like all subjects but usually concentrate on birds throughout the year, buttterflies and Dragonflies in the warmer months and moths sporadically.