'Behind the scenes' here at Birds magazine involves me having a great job and the opportunity to work on a nature reserve: The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire - that famous address of the Headquarters of the RSPB.
It also brings the chance to enjoy lunchtime walks surrounded by nature and the occasional privillege of something special turning up.
Minutes after posting my last blog post, news that an osprey had seen seen nearby came to my attention from my RSPB colleague, Richard Bashford (a Clooney-esque character who you might have seen on the telly talking about such things as Feed the Birds Day and Big Garden Birdwatch).
This particular osprey has been seen munching fish in a tree on the new heath here at The Lodge on a handful of occasions in the last five days, but my lunchtime walks have proven unproductive so far - at least in respect of encounters with fish-eating visitors. Hence, my keeness to get to grips with the bird. It had nothing to do with the fact that Birds designer, Joel, mentioned how much he would love to see the osprey - he's currently on annual leave...
So a quick dash to the highest point of the reserve conveniently situated just outside my office and a scan down the valley to the fish farm where the bird had been reported bore fruit with the sight of a long-winged, brown and white bird being mobbed by gulls and crows at various times as it cruised above the water, head dipped, eyes peeled, hoping for a fishy meal.
There is always something to learn about wildlife and today, Birds magazine volunteer Deb mentioned how she had learned on a recent trip to Rutland Water that adult ospreys go to great lengths to keep their talons tucked away while they are at the nest and feeding their chicks, which I thought was a great insight into the more tender side of our birds of prey.
Anyway, back to the magazine - oh, and sorry Joel. Maybe the osprey will still be around when you get back...
I hope you enjoyed our cuckoo feature in the latest Birds magazine. Thanks for your letters and e-mails, so far - and for sharing your own stories of cuckoos heard and cuckoos seen.
Derek and Sarah Niemann came back from their trip to South Uist to study cuckoos with a great selection of photographs, including some of other wildlife that they saw on their amazing trip, plus a fair few shots that made me smile!
I hope you enjoy this selection - more to come soon.
Furry or what? Cuckoos love caterpillars and here is a great close up of a garden tiger moth caterpillar that the Niemanns snapped on South Uist.
Any ideas? No, they're not rocks in the water - this is a pod of pilot whales that came close to stranding. Fortunately they escaped unharmed and were able to make it back out to the open sea and deeper water.
A daytime encounter with a short-eared owl was a pleasant distraction from the cuckoos.
Derek takes his chances in the sea off South Uist. I wouldn't fancy paddling there at the moment...
Derek and Sarah described this fellow as being among the 'friendliest' wildlife they encountered!
We’ve been receiving some good comments from Birds readers about Toby Hough’s Following the cranes feature in the latest issue. Thanks very much – we’re really pleased you enjoyed it!
It was great working closely with Toby and the other guys in the Film Unit on this piece for Birds and finding out about the work of our multiple award-winning Film Unit. It may seem like a glamorous job, but like so many jobs that seem like a breeze on the surface, it is a tough life being a wildlife film maker. Toby’s diaries and the shots of the trip prove how much effort, patience and dedication is needed to film wild birds.
I thought you might be interested in some extra shots of Toby’s travels that we weren’t able to print in the magazine so here are a few extras below. Let me know if you have any questions about what is going on by posting a comment below and I’ll nip across the office to ask Toby!
Finally, please do get in touch using the details on page 71 of the magazine if you’d like a copy of Born to Fly. It is a brilliant film and at £9.99, it's is a real bargain – and the perfect Christmas present too.
You may have read about Toby’s brush with mosquitoes, and his battle with a numb bum during six hours in a cramped hide to film cranes at the nest in Poland. Here he is making his way back from the nest along a woodland stream for a well deserved break.
Can you spot the big, long-legged bird in this picture? Take a look on top of the barn and you’ll see the reason why the team erected this platform in rural Poland. It's not a crane; it’s a white stork on its nest.
The next time you feel weighed down by your camera, remember this shot. It’s all the equipment Toby and the team took to Sweden to capture the footage that you can see on Born to Fly.
Here’s Toby ‘going all crane’ to keep up with a sprightly youngster at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge where the young cranes were reared for the Great Crane Project. To help prevent ‘human imprinting’ on the young cranes, those who looked after the birds wore these flattering grey cloaks to look like adult cranes. Looking good T!