Sat 31st March 2012
Isn’t weather a strange thing? Last week I was telling you about hail and now we’ve had a heat wave. I can’t remember it ever having been as hot as this in March before. It’s also very dry around here. However, the birds are making the most of the good spell and getting down to the serious business of Spring.
On my way home from the land this week I saw two buzzards mating, then two days later a pair of magpies getting it together. Fred and Jill, my friends from two doors down, spotted two robins coupling up so I think we can say that the mating season is well under way. I called on another friend of mine and there was a blackbird’s nest in her garden, always a lovely thing to see.
I saw something else special this week. I was coming home from the moors and had nearly reached Bishops Nympton where I live when I saw four pairs of yellow hammers. What beautiful birds. Over the next two days I spent a lot of time trying very hard to get a picture of one of them. I got one in the end and was so pleased with the shot. You can see it below. People often ask me how I manage to take photos like this. I tell them that if you just keep still and wait then the right time will come for you. Sometimes you might get lucky straight away but at others you may have to be patient for a very long time.
It’s at this time of year out on Exmoor that you’re likely to see the stags all together. Everything has changed from the Autumn when they were fighting for the hinds as now they are losing their antlers. Last year the first stags to drop their antlers did so on the 11th and 12th March. This year I had a phone call from someone who found one antler on 10th March. They are still looking for the other one.
There are a lot of people who go looking for antlers up on Exmoor but they don’t often get lucky. This person happened to come across theirs by chance while they were out walking the dog. If you find one you just hope the other one is nearby as a good set of antlers is worth a lot of money. In the summer here on the moor we have quite a few local shows and people bring their antlers along to be judged.
The best way to find a good set of antlers is to go out in the evening and find you herd of stags, maybe feeding in a farmer’s field. Watch them until dark so you can see if they’re going to stay around there then go out again very early next morning and you may be lucky and find a pair of antlers. Make sure you don’t tell anyone you’ve spotted the herd or they’re likely to be up earlier in the morning than you to beat you to it. Anyhow, this is what people do to find their antlers. Try it out, you may get lucky.
Wed 21st March 2012
The weather has been changeable this week. We had hail the other night. There are lots of birds nesting now and they’re going to get all confused as to whether Spring really is around the corner. On our land in the past few days I’ve seen blue tits taking moss into the nesting boxes I put up. They’ll make a lovely soft lining for their nests with that.
At home I’ve got a very big dove house and the jackdaws are taking sticks in there for their nest. But, you know, they are very funny to watch. They land on the perch outside the hole with a stick in their beak and then they have to reposition the stick so that they are holding it right at the end. Only when they’ve done this can they poke it through the small hole in the dove house. It really is so funny to see. If the weather turns bad again they may stop building. I hope not.
We’ve still got lots of birds on our feeders but there is one species that’s been missing of late and that’s the green finch. I saw one about two months ago but none since. Saying that, I’ve seen a lot of siskins recently, more than normal I’d say. They look like the green finch but are a lot smaller.
Well last week we had a big birthday in our family. I sadly lost my mum a few years ago. With Mother’s Day just gone I’ve thought a lot about her, but this birthday was her sister’s, my Auntie Ada, and she was 100 years old would you believe. She’s the mother of my cousins Barrie and Denise. Me and Julie went down to Fareham near Portsmouth, where Barrie and his wife Jenny live, to get together with some of the family for a celebration. It was a great day, especially watching my Auntie Ada open her birthday card from the Queen. I hope you like this photo of us raising a toast.
Wed 14th March 2012
Sorry it’s been a while since I last spoke to you. I’ve been busy preparing for the start of my Exmoor Safaris for this year and don’t know where the time has gone.
The weather had been pretty cold here but there’s not been so much rain of late. The season is certainly changing though with the evenings getting lighter and nature coming to life again. Some of the birds are nesting and I reckon it’s going to be an early Spring.
One of the great things about being out and about on Exmoor is that you can never be sure what you are going to see. I was out two days ago, driving along towards Kingsford Gate, and couldn’t believe what I suddenly saw running along the road beside the hedge. It was a pure white stoat. In all my life I have never seen anything like that before. It ran for a good 25 yards and I just managed to get my camera on it. What a thing that was to see.
Anyway, after that I set off for a three mile walk across the moors and while I was out I saw seventeen stags and ten hinds. I got some pictures but unfortunately they were not that good. It happens like that some days.
Getting back to the truck, I was heading towards Sandy Way when I saw something else very special. Right there beside the road were three hares boxing. What a sight I can tell you. Of course this is the time of the year that hares do this but you’re lucky to get to see it and I’ve certainly never seen it on Exmoor before. Well, what a day that was.
I’ve been having some more success with one of the night cameras. Last week I got shots of ten hinds and five badgers and also a roe buck with antlers covered in velvet. Another shot was of a badger and a red deer feeding together. It was so nice to see.
Finally this week I must make an apology to anyone who has sent me a ‘Friends’ photo recently. The friend who helps me post these is working abroad at the moment and having trouble getting a good enough Internet connection to put them on the website. They’ll be up as soon as she gets back at the end of April if she can’t manage it before. Do keep them coming though, as I love to see them.
Have a good week and I’ll catch you again soon.