Tuesday, 28 May 2013


We have both Tree and Meadow pipits nesting around the farm and in our neighbouring hill sides, but if you've ever stopped and thought about the difficulties these birds face year in year out you may be wondering how they ever survive up here at all.
Meadow pipit's are resident birds in the UK that is they stay with us all year round where the very similar looking Tree pipits are summer visitors arriving in April and heading back to their winter quarters in late September to early October.

the meadow pipit a hardy victim
Meadow pipits are the main prey species of the Merlin which are seen up here and are hopefully breeding, in fact one was spotted only a couple of weeks ago by fellow birder Lee Parsons. We've also got Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Buzzards, Tawny owls as well as Lesser black backed and Herring gulls that would all make a meal out of a Meadow pipit, it's eggs and it's chicks.
Also we've got the ever declining Cuckoo still coming back up here every year with their main host species being of course the pipits. How many pipit nests are lost to Cuckoo's using them as host species is at the moment unknown. Having said that Cuckoo's are in a bit of a decline in numbers themselves so perhaps not that many and this behaviour is of course a natural event.
Obviously with this being a farm there are grazing sheep everywhere and as with the neighbouring farms after the lambs are a few weeks old the farmers put their flocks out on top of the moorland so their hayfield's can grow (something to do with grazing rights). This is where a very large number of  the Meadow pipits and Skylarks are breeding so we get quite a few trampled nests. A Meadow pipit nest I found recently was trampled by sheep and one of Steve Carter's nests was also trampled  just as he was about to ring the chicks, this is another hazard these birds must face.

a meadow pipits nest, although well hidden can fall victim to trampling by sheep or predation by crows and other predatory species
Heavy rain like we had during last years spring and summer can spell disaster for ground nesting birds with nests being washed away adults not being able to feed their young and heavy, cold rain can cause eggs and chicks to become chilled.
Around and about the farm there's corvids a plenty with Raven's, Carrion crows, Jackdaws, Magpie's and Jay's that would make a quick meal of a pipits eggs or chicks, I often watch the Carrion crows quartering the moors about a foot off the ground hoping to flush the birds off their nests so they can eat the contents. Although this is bad news for our pipits and Skylarks we must also remember that the Crows have chicks to feed as well and although it appears cruel it's just nature. Fox's Weasels and possibly Snakes also hunt on the moors and will take eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds so the pipits have got a frantic and very difficult task in raising their broods every year to carry on their species survival. 
The Meadow pipit and other ground nesting birds final hurdle is one of our own making, although illegal many people use the mountain for what they would call leisure activities, and not only on our moorland but it happens all over the area's hill sides. People ride their scrambling motor bikes drive four by four vehicles fly model aeroplanes drive model cars and quad bikes all over the mountain and moorland. The number of nests, grassland and wild creatures they destroy is unthinkable. Illegal dumping of rubbish and mountain fires also destroys nests and habitat. The police were struggling to stop it before all the governments cuts came in I don't think they got a cat in hells chance now.

the Skylark, another bird who's nest's and habitat could be destroyed by people's reckless activities
These are all things done by people either in ignorance or damn right selfish stupidity, but yet some how against all odds the Meadow pipits manages to survive and come back on their breeding territories every year to go through it all over again. The little Meadow pipit only 14.5 cm long  seems to overcome all these natural and unnatural hazards thrown at them and are back on these mountains every spring, their parachuting song flight heralds the start of their breeding cycle as they attempt to raise their families to secure the future of their species, these are indeed very hardy and remarkable little birds.

lets hope that these remarkable little birds are with us for years to come
 With all the odds stacked against them the Meadow pipit still manages to successfully breed year in year out.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Took these sequence of pictures of a Willow warbler taking a bath. Not great quality photo's but still an interesting bit of behaviour. The bird was a fair distance from me so had to crop the pic's quite a bit.

Here's a Meadow pipit that was flying around me, must have been a nest close by.

When I'm out taking pictures Jack looks at me sometimes like I'm off my trolley.

I think this pic was taken just before he rolled in sheep shite.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


My good friend and fellow bird conservationist Steve Carter came over a few days ago on a nest finding quest. He shared some of his photographs of this years nests that he's discovered with me. He's found some more less common birds nests this year and hopefully will remember to take his camera with him so I can share some of his finds with you (bit of a hint there me thinks).  Bad news about my Tree pipit nest was infact a Meadow pipit (Steve's the eggspert) but still a good find me thinks.

a house sparrow nest in a colony box (these birds are getting rarer each year ) I've put a colony box up that was kindly given to me by Steve and hope to put a couple more up to help towards these birds getting their numbers back up over the next few years.

nuthatch nest also in a box, notice how the birds cover thier eggs when not at the nest.

you can just make out this robin sat on her nest

here's a robin's nest.

and some robin chicks

a song thrush nest

song thrush
here's a tree pipit's nest that Steve has found the eggs are very chaffinchy and the photo very blurry.

meadow pipit for comparison

redstart nest , this was also in a nest box nice healthy clutch of 7 eggs
Steve has also noticed that Linnet numbers are down this year across the sites that he monitors. I've got one or two pair near the house but a couple of years ago there were a lot more of these stunning little finch's about the place. We think that the bad weather in the breeding season last year might have hit these birds quite hard. These are not very good pic's but this is what male and female Linnet look like.

female linnet

and the male
Like I said not very good pic's but you can roughly see what they look like lets hope that numbers of these birds pick up this year.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


The oldest Thomas and myself built a couple of small chicken wire fences today to keep them hungry sheep and their lambs out of the one side of the house and the back wildlife garden so we can grow a few things in there (the wife loves gardening). Not a bad job overall and the weather was kind to us.

Not a bad job at all and now them sheep can eat grass instead of our tree blossoms, flowers, and the bird food I put out for my avian friends.

Here's the culprits
eat the grass you fluffy sheep

I know they're cute but they eat everything.......BAHH STEWARDS!

When we were looking in the shed for some wood we came across this blackbirds nest so I took a quick photo got our wood and left her in peace. There were also 2 swallows nest's in there.

up close blackbirds nest

same nest but a bit further back

the 2 swallow nests, might be a bit early for eggs yet but you never know!
Right who's up for some bird pic's then? well tough your having them anyway:-

Here's a selection of corvids not everyone's cup of rosey but I think they got a certain charm about them and through persecution one of the most skittish group of birds to photograph.

Hope you enjoyed that selection and lets hope that the sheep stay out of the gardens, so my lovely green fingered wife can grow some botanic beauties.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Bought myself some camouflage netting to put over the bedroom window or over me so I can get a bit closer to my avian friends. I was hoping to be able to keep the window open because they say by shooting through glass the quality of the pictures drops off quite markedly. The thing is the weather has changed over the last couple of days and it's been blowing a gale up here so no windows were open but still had to try out the camo net. The shyer species were still a bit skittish so don't know whether it'll work or not but I did get some decent photographs out of an hours session. By the way the wife thinks I'm bonkers, thought she would have worked that out by now after all these years.

camo net

looking out onto the feeders



this jay was nearly at full frame

G S Woodpecker

pied wagtail

this magpie was at full frame

great tit

Redpoll still coming in

these next two pic's of this jay showing it's having a bad hair day

sort them feathers out!
Let's hope for some decent weather so I can open my windows and hopefully get some even sharper shots, having said that I'm not disappointed with these.