Fear not, readers of this blog, I have not abandoned it though I am guilty of neglect. Since Mull, I have visited a few of my favourite haunts, such as RSPB Otmoor and even Upton Warren, where a hen harrier continued with my usual form with them, and, after giving everyone else fine views, decided to hunt elsewhere when I arrived!
It's been a funny sort of year. Some of the usual targets for me just haven't really materialised, such as short-eared owls and hobbies. The latter failed to show in any great numbers in spring, and the local reserves that often attract juveniles at the end of the summer failed to do so too.
I saw some short-eared owls in Worcestershire at the end of the winter, but their hunting grounds were far more extensive than at other sites, so images taken in flight were generally more distant. I did have some luck with one perching up, but nothing like those from Northants, Lincs or the Cotswolds. Maybe next year...
Otmoor did give me a fleeting glimpse of a bittern though, which was good to see after Upton Warren's lack of them of late.
I've no idea why we don't get them each year as the team who manage the reserve seem to have created the perfect habitat for them with their continued hard work. Again, fingers crossed for next year on this.
And on one trip I managed to see a purple heron. It's always memorable to see something new, and we had some fine views as it flew across the marshes.
With numbers of waxwings sweeping in across Scotland and the east coast, I had hoped to see some of these locally, but as yet, nothing. There are plenty of winter thrushes around though, and they've been making the most of the bounty of berries on the trees and hedges. Getting images of them though has been somewhat amusing, in that I have tried a few times and ended up being distracted by other subjects.
On my first outing it was a group of peregrine falcons, and one female circled pretty close overhead, lit up in the late afternoon sunshine. That was a glorious sight.
And on another trip I found myself tempted away to watch a female green woodpecker, who was so busy feeding she provided me with fantastic views for over an hour.
She'd feast on the ants from the grassy areas for ages, then fly over to a fall of apples, and presumably get some fluids down her after the dusty meal of the ants. Was fascinating to watch and photograph her for such a long period.
Of course the majority of this year, aside from my time spent in Scotland, has been following the ups and downs of a family of little owls on a local farm. On returning from Mull, I had expected the young owl to have left the nest area, but it hadn't, and as it had effectively grown up with me being present, it was so used to me, that it would perch just a few feet from me, even when I wasn't hiding in the car.
It eventually left mid-October and I really miss seeing it. The adult continued to come down for food for a few weeks after, but now as we approach Christmas Day, I've not had any joy with it for a couple of weeks. I trust this warm weather is providing plenty of natural food so no need for my additional meals. Which is a good thing.
I will be keeping an eye on the site over the coming weeks to see if there are any signs of activity, such as a partner arriving on the scene for next year's brood.
Followers of me on Social Media will know that I am running several tours in Mull next year, as well as a number of day tours in the Scottish Highlands, during the winter. I hope to be able to add to this blog as I do these, maybe to keep it more up to date!
All that remains is for me to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, and a wildlife-filled New Year. Cheers!