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Springwatch – Unspringing my Heron

31 May Heron Silhouette

Received an e-mail from Aunty Beeb this evening asking if it would be OK to show one of my flickr photos on Springwatch Unsprung tonight… who am I to argue?

Assuming no technical hitches with live TV, my photo of a silhouetted heron amongst teal at Druridge pools should be gracing BBC2 and BBC HD tonight (Thurs 31st May) but you can have a sneak preview right here….

Heron Silhouette

Heron Silhouette


File under Country

25 Jul

Well.. got confirmation yesterday that my piece is in this month’s CountryFile’s feature on the nation’s 50 favourite walks. Not from the beeb you understand but from my mum who’s subscription copy dropped onto the doormat at the weekend.

Nice to see it making it into print and they havent had to butcher my text too badly to get it down to their wording limit.


Like I say i don’t have a copy of it yet (doesn’t look like its hit the shops yet) so thanks to my dad for the scan. It appears that the article spreads a couple of pages and the top image is this one :



I had a phonecall this morning from them asking for my address so they can send me a copy, so I should see it for myself shortly.

Double success for Northumberland ospreys

5 Jul

News today that the Osprey project at Kielder has not only had one succesful breeding pair this summer, but also a second pair have hatched a chick.

This is the only place in England where naturally-recolonising ospreys have had two succesful nests at the same time.

We were up there on Sunday but we didn’t make it as far as the watch point – would have been nice to see them. No photos of the Kielder ospreys so I’ll have to make do with this poor record shot I got earlier in the summer from North Yorkshire :


You can follow their story here.

High Rise Chicks

12 Jun

What a difference a week makes – same part of the Northumberland Coast as the same time last week and instead of leaden skies and steady drizzle, this morning afforded the blue skies and sunshine¬† I was hoping for in order to make a quick trip up to Dunstanburgh castle for a “photoshoot”. Nice to see the cliffs teeming with small fluffy newcomers since my last visit.

Lilburn Tower and Embleton Links

Some months previously I’d suggested to BBC Countryfile magazine via their twitter feed that Craster to Dunstanburgh would be a great walk to feature in their 50 rural getaway walks for their 50th anniversary. The idea struck a chord with them and they asked me to write a short piece on the walk. Short being little more than a tweet as it turned out – 150 words for the walk and another 50 words for somewhere to eat, somewhere to stay etc. Luckily as walks go the trip from Craster to Dunstanburgh and back needs precious little direction : “From the harbour, look left – there’s the castle in the distance, walk to it. When you get there walk back.” That at least offered me the chance to say a little bit about the wildlife you could see on the walk – from the seals and porpoises off the rocks to the wheatears and shelduck in the meadows and ponds.

I submitted the text a few weeks ago and they liked it.. enough to confirm it would appear in the magazine, and indeed they liked the photos of the walk that I’d sent them as well. Only problem – “We need a photo of you”. Hmm – I generally stand resolutely behind the camera not in front. Luckily I found a picture of myself with Hannah on my shoulders, that I would be grudgingly accepting of publication in a national magazine, and submitted that.

So far so good, until an e-mail 2 weeks ago… “we’d really like some photos of you in the setting of the walk, maybe with the castle in the background?”. Blast. None of them to hand. Work commitments meant an early evening trip was the only option, and of course two weeks of highly indifferent weather ensued.

Anyway… on to today, and taking advantage of an optimistic window of a few hours sunshine, myself and the family set off for Embleton with a view to taking an abbreviated walk around the castle via the shorter approach from the North, and thankfully the weather duly obliged.

Parked up by the golf course and headed down the track and swallows and house martins were much in evidence. A common whitethroat was fleetingly on view before hopping into the depths of a hawthorn bush where a few weeks ago an immaculate yellowhammer had posed obligingly for my camera. Meadow pipits, skylark and pied wagtails also much in evidence along the fairways.

Dunstanburgh and the Lilburn Tower

From Greymare rocks in front of the castle plenty of kittiwakes and razorbills were on the water with a handful of shag and hordes of gannet passing south. I was pleased to see good numbers of kittiwakes as on my last visit there seemed to be realtively few.

Heading up around the shoulder of the mound that the castle sits atop we could see plenty of black headed gulls bathing on the shallow floods below, and the pair of shelduck who have been there all spring were still in residence but no sign of chicks.

From the castle itself looking out to sea the constant stream of gannets was impressive, and terns were regularly heading past – both common and little passed by while I watched. Wall brown and small tortoiseshell butterflies enjoyed the sunny shelter of the castle walls and a drinker moth caterpillar nearly got squashed under Hannah’s feet as she balanced along a low piece of wall. Fulmars and kittiwakes drifted across the cliff tops and looking down the high rise apartments on the north side of the castle we had great views of kittiwake chicks on the nest and one nest with three shag chicks sat hungrily demanding food from harassed parents (not to mention being harassed by my own juvenile, although in this case asking for a stick of rock rather than sand eels or fish).

Heading back down from the castle a couple of small family groups of eider and chicks were paddling around the shallows of the bay, and looping round through the crags and ponds beneath the mound we had mute swan and canada geese in the rapidly diminishing pools.

The only other wildlife of note was the number of buzzards – driving back 25 miles down the A1 I had a total of 6 including one hovering 20 feet above a hedge like a massively over-sized kestrel, closely followed a hundred yards later by one being mobbed by crows flying low over the road.

Red Kites swoop on schoolchildren!?!

1 Jun

If it was me I’d think it was the best thing in the world to have a magnificent aerial acrobat swoop down and swipe my sarnies but the BBC seem to think otherwise :

I must admit I have a soft spot for red kites – for the best part of 10 years I used to drive from York to Leeds every day for work and would often see anywhere between one and five of them either perched in a tree by the road or swooping low overhead, and on several occasions I went and parked up behind Harewood House and watched groups soaring above the trees.

Red Kite

It is sad to see the overreaction and hyperbole of the media and locals’ (especially farmers) calls for culls only a few short years since the species was brought back from extinction in England.

Red Kite (captive)