I’ve been quite neglectful of the blog recently and thought I ought to get something written. In part my neglect has been down to the fact I’m involved in leading a series of presentations at the Rising Sun Country Park which are aimed at people new to bird watching including some of the wardens who had shown interest. The images that I’m using are in the main provided by Samuel Hood, so it is a joint effort and in fact Sam is leading the next with what promises to be a very interesting presentation. If it is all a success, and folk seem to be enjoying it up to now, the whole thing may be repeated, and I understand we have a few names listed of interested parties who were unable to get a place this time around. Another reason for my absence from the blog is simply lack of birding recently.
I’ve for some time now been thinking of putting a talk together concerning feathers, a very interesting and fascinating subject in my view, but I’ve yet to get around to doing this. I did in my opening presentation last week include some information on feathers and it is one of the links I keep going throughout the talks. I was able to include some information on the avian relationship to dinosaurs, another fascinating subject in its self. I had a selection of feathers at hand of course, and two had special stories behind them.
The first tale/feather involved a trip taken many years ago to the Cairngorm area of Scotland. This was and, although I haven’t been up there for some time, remains a favourite area of mine, not least because of some of the speciality birds of the area. The real pleasure the trips provided was often getting out before sunrise with the son of a friend of mine, Lee who I still occasionally bird with. We’d begin about 5.00am and often not see another person until afternoon. On one of these early mornings we were determined to find ourselves a Capercaillie by walking the tracks of Abernethy Forest. We did find a female Capercaillie and did have a short sighting as it flew into the forest. We never did find a male and it was some years after that I saw my first wild Capercaillie males at the viewing site at Loch Garten. The search was never the less always exciting and did bring other rewards. We passed by a very large black feather, and yes, I should have known its significance! The following day we decided to leave early in the morning once again, but this time we visited one of my favourite walking areas around Loch an Eilein (Loch of the Island) in Rothiemurchus Forest. We almost always found Crested Tits and Crossbills in this area and on at least one occasion watched an Osprey fish here. The island was one of the last refuges of Osprey prior to extinction in Scotland and they haven’t returned to this nest site. The nest was a target for egg collectors and there are several stories about this. We looked in at the small building which at the time held a few natural curiosities and found a feather exactly the same as the one we had seen the previous day. It was a Capercaillie feather, and no I certainly don’t have that one!
It was raining the next morning and we had planned a later start anyway, but instead of getting a few hours extra sleep we got going again about 5.00am and set off to find the feather we had passed by. For some reason the walk seemed much longer, and I began to think we were going to be out of luck, but we did find it and it found a new home with Lee. Lee has since passed it on to Sam. I’m happy to say I’ve since had close encounters with male Capercaillies and occasionally with the feather.
The second tale/feather relates to a more recent find, this time the adventure was in Finland. Sam and I had starts as early as 4.00am o this trip but I don’t recall this particular morning being such an early start, but it did involve a rather difficult walk through forest to a Great Grey Owl nest. Finding the Great Grey Owl on the nest is one of my best ever wildlife experiences. We were lucky enough to have as our leaders Killian Mullarney and Dick Forsman. Dick had become aware of Sam’s keenness so was always at pains to point things out and give an explanation, so it was good that he was at hand when Sam came across this particular feather. It was found not far from the Great Grey Owls nest and turned out to be from a Goshawk. Dick explained the pattern on the feather showed that it was from the Russian stock and quite different from what would be found on a British or Western European bird. Another participant claimed that she had seen the feather first, but as she had shown no inclination to pick it up, if she thought Sam was going to pass it over to her she soon found out that that was not to be! The feather remains a prize possession of Sam’s.