Category Archives: British

Ptarmigan!

Blog #26

Today was absolutely one of my wildlife highlights so far this year! My Dad and I were up at 7:30am, in the Scottish Highlands for noon and watching 17 Ptarmigan up a mountain in the early afternoon!  Despite living in Scotland and making regular trips up north over the last 3 years in particular, I’d never actually managed to see one; although frustratingly I’d heard them!!

 

Ptarmigan are very shy birds which change their plumage to suit the season: white in winter and brown/ greyish with a white tummy in summer. Both options provide perfect camouflage in their mountain surroundings so they are incredibly difficult to spot. Even if they are a few meters away from you they can still be almost impossible to see them unless they stand up or move.

Can you spot all three of them?

On this occasion we were fortunate that David Walsh had spotted some in the area a few days previously, so we returned to the area with increased hope of finding them again. As they are very difficult to spot our best hope of finding them would be to listen for their croaking kind of call which lasts a few seconds, stops, then repeats again.

We arrived at the Glencoe car park just after noon, met up with David and after a trip up a ski lift and a 45 minute walk we heard the distinctive croaking.  After taking a few minutes to get our bearings and agree exactly where the noise had come from we set off further up the mountain to a rocky outcrop next to a waterfall. Finally, after scanning the area with our binoculars it was David who finally saw one!  We composed ourselves and worked out the best route to get a look at the bird and take some photos.  We split up and after a few minutes more birds appeared from between the rocks and started climbing further up the hill.  One bird, became, 4, then 7, then 13 and finally 17 – split between two main groups!! The birds were clearly a mix of adults and younger birds which was so good to see.

The views the birds gave us during the 45 min or so we followed them were absolutely unbelievable as they were regularly on the move and ‘posing’ for photos non-stop: every so often the birds would stop, stand on a rock, then call!

Not many people get the opportunity to see so many birds together, let alone have them obligingly standing up on a rock calling with perfect backdrop for a photo!  The weather also remained kind to us, with only some very occasional slight drizzle.

To end this amazing day, we spotted Ptarmigan poo and a common frog which had the colouration perfect for blending into its environment. The rocks are greyish and so was the frog!

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) Poo

This is a day I KNOW I will remember and look back on for a long, long time. 

Thanks for reading!

 

Michael

 

Links to the people involved in making my day below:

 

David Walsh 

Twitter – @DavidWalsh22

 

Kevin Sinclair

Twitter – @Kevandiso

Suffolk blog (part 2)

As you can see in part one we went to RSPB Minsmere and other places but alongside that we had been staying at a place called Springlake Leisure with very friendly hosts Lynn and Leister! They also showed a big passion for wildlife and were very interested in what wildlife was roaming around their place! I showed them the moths, bats and loads of the other wildlife they were so lucky enough to have! The final place we went to during the holiday was RSPB Lakenheath fen in hope of seeing something nice. We arrived and were told an adult bittern had two younger Bitterns and it was with them in front of the hide. This is a very rare sight as bitterns are very elusive and don’t usually show well. Continue reading Suffolk blog (part 2)

Suffolk Holiday (part 1)

Blog #25

It was an early start of 3am so we would arrive for lunch-time in the cottage which would be our family holiday base in Barnby, Suffolk. Our trouble-free journey from Scotland took exactly 8 hours. When we arrived we  sorted our stuff out, relaxed in the wonderful grounds by the lake, swam in the pool and got ready for the following day to meet up with Suffolk wildlife expert David Walsh. I’d been fortunate to meet and get to know David who was one of the volunteer ‘guides’ at  BTO Bird Camp the last 2 years.

Continue reading Suffolk Holiday (part 1)

Cleaning Bird Feeders

Blog #24

 

While it is nice to have bird feeders in your garden, it is important to remember that these need to be maintained to prevent the transmission of bird diseases such as Trichomonosis (canker), avian pox, and salmonella. Following an outbreak of Trichomonosis in birds visiting my garden last year, I wanted to write a blog informing people why it’s so important to clean bird feeders.

Bird diseases can be caused by a range of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and protozoa (in the case of Trichomonosis) which are not directly visible to the naked eye.  However, transmission of disease will usually be caused by contact with another infected bird, with food material regurgitated by an infected bird, contact with bird droppings or by contact with an area contaminated by an infected bird.  Although bird feeders offer birds an easy source of food because they are visited by large numbers of birds they can also be a ‘hotspot’ for passing diseases between birds

Once again https://Haiths.com has sent me a few products including a bird feeder, cleaning brush, bird seed and pet safe disinfectant helping me to clearly illustrate the steps involved in this blog and show some of the impact/dirt build up (inside and outside the feeder)! I filled up the feeder and allowed it to get dirty through normal use over 1 week. Since my garden is regularly visited by a range of birds I topped up the feeder every second day during this trial. After a week’s use there was some residue build up inside the feeder and in particular around the feeding holes. 

 

All the items I was kindly sent by Haith’s

 

The following guide outlines the steps that should be followed when cleaning your feeders, which should be weekly, especially during busy feeding times.

Step by step guide

Step 1: gather the feeder/s, a bucket, and the cleaning products and put on some protective gloves.

 

Step 2: rinse the feeder/s with warm soapy water over the bucket to get rid of any loose dirt and any seed residue.

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Feeder rinsed with warm soapy water

 

Step 3: use the pet safe disinfectant (over the bucket) by spraying some inside and outside the feeder/s and then use the brush to scrub. The cleaning brush was used to get inside the feeder and the spray was used to disinfect the feeder killing off any microorganisms which could harm the birds. The cleaning brush even had a small removable section which comes in useful for getting into trickier/smaller parts of the feeder.

 

Step 4: rinse the feeders with water over the bucket and use a cloth to dry as much water as possible then let the feeder/s dry in heat or outside.

 

Step 5: once all dry, fill your feeder/s and put back!

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If you do notice infected birds visiting your feeder(s) then it is safest to remove all feeders for a couple of weeks or so (cleaning thoroughly as described above) before replacing.  This will reduce the chance of spreading disease to other birds. However, regular cleaning of your feeders should prevent any problems occurring in the first place.

BTO Bird Camp 2018

Blog #23

I was again lucky enough to be accepted into the BTO bird camp which is a camp held at the BTO headquarters in Thetford and funded/sponsored by the Cameron Bespolka Trust. The camp started on Friday evening and finished on Sunday late afternoon. The camp is aimed at giving young people more of a chance to connect with nature and to give people the opportunity to speak to others with the same interests!

Continue reading BTO Bird Camp 2018