Wed 3rd July 2013

Time has been running away with me again and I’ve realise it’s a while since you’ve heard from me. Sorry to all you lovely people out there who like to know what I’ve been up to.

Well, it’s such a busy time of year both for filming and doing work on the land that I hardly know where the days go to. I’m building a new hide which is coming on well. I’ll be able to get up even closer to the wildlife than I have before so I’m really looking forward to getting it finished.

The sad new this breeding season is that the barn owls don’t seem to be doing too well. Last year I knew of three nesting sites around here but none of them have been used this year.

Life is so tough for the owls. Many old barns, where they love to nest, are being taken down or converted into houses. I try to encourage people to put up a nesting box which they might just use. If you want to know more about how to build a nesting box or help barn owls in general look on the website of the Barn Owl Conservation Network - www.bocn.org.

We really need to look after the barn owls as much as we can. I know of several farmers who leave rough edges around their fields as habitat for the voles which the owls feed on. Up on the land I leave as much tufty grass as possible on the open field area.

I’ve been concentrating on photographing birds over the breeding season and have taken some lovely ones of siskins. I’ve included one of a pair with this blog. I also got a shot of three juveniles together. Quite a few people have told me they’ve found dead siskins recently. Maybe they’ve picked up viruses from dirty feeders. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but please clean out your feeders and disinfect them regularly as some very nasty viruses can be passed on through them if they have bits of mouldy old seed in them.

Lots of people stop feeding the birds in the summer but I keep the feeders topped up. This provides them with a reliable, regular food source for when they are really busy feeding their young.

I’ve also taken some photos of kingfishers that I’m really pleased with, including catching two in one shot which was quite hard to do.

I’m hoping to have the chance to show some of my photos in an exhibition at Windsor Castle later in the year. They will be framed with drift wood by Jim Doran Webb the famous driftwood sculptor from the Philippines. I went to Chelsea Flower Show back in May to work for him on his stand. It was the first time I had ever been to the show and it was amazing. If you’ve never been you really should try and go. It huge and the gardens and displays stands are fantastic.

Back home up on Exmoor the weather has been very changeable lately; very cold at times then the odd hot spell. This makes it so hard for the birds to rear their young successfully. There don’t seem to be many bluetits around at the moment and I wonder if the weather is partly to blame.

There are, however, some nice red deer stags around on the moor with their new antlers almost grown. I saw a beautiful one myself just the other day. My friend Mike Fook found five pairs of dropped antlers this year as well as a few single antlers. That’s a pretty good find.

There a nice lot of calves around too. The peak week for calving is generally the second week in June but the earliest recorded this year was seen on the 15th May.

The roe deer rutting season seems to be coming to an end. It happens at a different time to the red deer rut, usually starting in late May down here. The roe deer I see regularly seem to have disappeared for the moment. The stags are possibly off searching for any females that are late coming into season.

The roe deer hinds normally have twin calves and hide them in the grass away from each other. They don’t always manage to rear both of them but it is maybe easier to ensure the survival of at least one that way if there are predators about. When they are born, the calves have spots in a straight line down their body. On a red deer calf the spot are dotted about and there is usually only one calf.

The last thing I’ve got to tell you about this month is that a friend of mine has a bald robin nesting in their garden. Now that is something I’ve never seen. It must be a very strange sight.

I hope you like the photo of the siskins. God bless and I’ll see you next month.