|Sparrowhawk studies from photographs taken at a hide in Dumfries and Galloway|
Gary and I are spending the weekend in Dumfries and Galloway after I bought him a weekend in a bird hide as one of his Christmas presents. The majority of Gary's wildlife photography is taken out and about on walks around the countryside and nature reserves but occasionally he visits a wonderful set of hides run by a guy called Alan Mc Fayden in Scotland. He was bought a voucher for the same hide last year from the ladies football team he coached as a leaving present. Alan has set up a hide where there is a resident Sparrowhawk and another where there are resident kingfishers feeding. Food is made available for the birds and they take advantage of this and come into feed (although this is never guaranteed as they are wild birds). I think a good thing about hides is that there is practically no disturbance (if any) to the birds. When I dropped Gary off for the Sparrowhawk hide last year Alan invited me to spend some time in the hide before I went off to go on a planned walk and I can honestly say it was a magical experience to be in the bird's habitat with them at such close quarters and such a privilege, one of those experiences I will never forget. A lot of patience is needed as you could be there for hours on end without seeing any sight of the bird in question but there is always lots going on as there are feeders for other birds like jays, chaffinches, tits, woodpeckers etc. You are also likely to see buzzards and red kites flying over head too and I was also thrilled to see a red squirrel taking advantage of the peanuts (a wonderful sight as these are very rare in Wales). The Sparrowhawk hide was featured in Autumnwatch last year and here is a clip of Chris and Martin's reaction to seeing this gorgeous bird - it's worth watching if you haven't seen it before - we had a similar reaction ourselves.
So Gary will be spending the weekend bird watching and Holly and I will be walking in the glorious hills and countryside around and about. Have a wonderful weekend whatever it is you are doing.