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!
My dad recently booked a photography hide (www.photographyhides.co.uk) that almost guaranteed seeing Common kingfishers which would catch fish about 3metres away from you and eat them! Kingfishers are birds which mostly fish in rivers for fish like sticklebacks and minnows. Seeing one up close and being able to photograph one would be amazing as they are quite small, very shy and very fast when flying. Any sudden movements scare them very easily.
It was an early 5am start and a 2hour drive to the meeting location. When we arrived we met Shona (www.shonadicksonphotography.co.uk) who was the only other person booked in the same hide as us. We waited about 10 mins before someone led us to the location in which the Kingfishers were at. We were shown the setup of everything and given tips on how to get good photos of the kingfishers. From then on it was just Shona, my dad and I in the hide waiting for the Kingfishers.
AFTER ABOUT 10MINS OF WAITING THE MALE KINGFISHER CAME AND CAUGHT A FISH (minnow) RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!!! After he caught the fish he landed on the perch and shook it about and then hit the fish of off the perch before swallowing it head first. He would then wait a while before diving to catch another fish which he then flew off with.
About 45 mins later he was back and did the exact same but surprisingly he returned about 5mins later after flying off and did the same thing! Since my dad and I had better camera lens’ we decided to lend one to Shona who put it on her camera allowing her to get some GREAT SHOTS! We all came to an agreement that we think the male is eating a fish for himself then catching one and taking it for the female which is on eggs!
We then waited 2 1/2 hours with no Kingfishers perching which was annoying but then the owner (Alan) came in and asked how we were all doing. We told him what the male Kingfisher had been doing and he agreed that the female was on eggs and the Male was taking fish for her. Alan said he thought that the original nest the Kingfishers were using had either been predated by a mink or something but maybe even flooded! He said we could go and see the sparrow hawk hide if we wanted as there is only one other person there. Sparrowhawks are birds of prey which often catch small birds and eat them on a ‘plucking perch’ (this is a chosen spot in which the Sparrowhawk will eat its prey and pluck off the feathers/ hair) They often visit gardens catching a vulnerable pigeon!
After 30 mins more of the Kingfisher hidewe went to the Sparrowhawkhide and met another man who told us what he had seen. This includes Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and various common garden birds. (Unfortunately Shona had to leave and couldn’t join us)
We were very lucky and saw exactly what the man said which included Jays, Red Squirrels, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and loads of common garden birds all in the first HOUR! We then decided to have one last look at the Kingfisher hide. We saw him three more times but unfortunately he caught nothing!
Over the time we spent in the hides we were all constantly changing camera settings to enable us to get shots of the kingfisher diving, the Sparrowhawk eating a mouse and Red Squirrels eating nuts. As the layout of the hides were designed to get photos of the Kingfishers diving, the Sparrowhawk and other species we were very successful and we were all happy with our photos but some of the photos I managed to get are quite grainy because it was a very cloudy and rainy day. Hopefully I get the chance to go again but in much better light and weather conditions!
Yesterday I went to Loch of the Lowes which is a Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) reserve to see a pair of Ospreys which have nested for 4 seasons. I didn’t just see Ospreys on their nest but was lucky enough to see lots of other wildlife around the reserve including blue tit, coal tit, great tit, treecreeper, chaffinch, yellowhammer, great spotted woodpecker, red squirrel, robin, mallard, pheasant, goldeneye, tufted duck, great crested grebe, mute swan and many other species of plant, tree, birds etc!
I arrived around 11:30am when I stepped out of the car I saw the very short path to the visitor centre which then led to another very short path where to Osprey hides were. I think this is a great place to see the Ospreys and other wildlife as it takes no more than 1 minute to get to the hide from the visitor centre!!! The centre also has a live osprey camera with a bird feeding station.
Once I’d left the visitor centre and walked into the hide I immediately saw the female osprey on the nest! Within 10 minutes the male arrived and they started mating. The SWT think there will be eggs within a week. Definitely worth a visit!
I then went to the other hide as the current hide was getting very busy. The other hide was about a 30 second walk away and was ideal for counting water birds like ducks and swans etc. Then unexpectedly the male Osprey flew right in front of the hide and I managed to get a quick shot through the hide window!
As it was a family day out we decided to have one last look in the visitor centre before heading off and leaving the Ospreys to do their business whilst we went to Loch Faskally.
The car park we parked in was looking on to a small loch called Loch Dunmore where we saw a couple of little grebes, a few tufted ducks and two mute swans which had a nest. After we scanned the loch for species we headed off onto the other path around Loch Faskally.
The walk near Loch Faskally took around 3 hours but well worth it as we saw some great tits, coal tits, blue tits, robins and other common corvid species in the woodland area but most interesting was probably the fungi species like hoof fungi and LOADS of Scarlet Elf Cup fungi in the one area on mossy logs! I recon therewere about 35 separate cups of Fungi spread out in a small patch which is the most I have ever seen!
(click photos for a larger view)
After 3 long hours walking near the loch we eventually got back to the car and went for a meal before arriving back home to Glasgow at 9:30pm.
When I first launched my challenge 11 weeks ago, I’d planned to hold an event in my local park (Linn Park) to promote National Nest Box week (14 – 21 February). With the support of The Friends of Linn Park (FoLP), Glasgow City Council Ranger Service and the Glasgow RSPB Group we held an event on Saturday 17 February where members of the public could find out more about the birds that live in the park as well as having the chance to buy a box for their own garden or sponsor one that would be put up in the park. Continue reading 100 Nest Box Challenge: Linn Park Event→
Its UK Fungus day! I just had to write a blog. The UK has over 15,000 different species of wild fungi. Personally I think that is really cool but when some people they hear the word ‘Fungus’ they think it’s disgusting. Really, it’s incredible and very important to our Ecosystem. We also eat various mushrooms.