Friday, 29 May 2009

I need a new bird

in every sense of the word but no not this one. It’s debatable whether he / she should be out of the nest yet. What I mean is the Prestwick Carr list has stagnated whilst all you folk on the coast or with a nice large lakes are nearing, or have, the ton up! What I need is a flash flood so I guess its August September again before I catch up. Not to worry there was a trickle from the dyke this morning when driving to my regular torment in the form of taking the parents shopping, a Green Woodpecker flew out of the trees at Venture farm and off east. Just within my defined catchment area but all the same it’s

89 Green Woodpecker

Was woken just after 5.00 am this morning as the young Jackdaws in my front tree received their first feed and the adults squabbled over access. They have reached an incredible volume and must surely fledge soon and not before time you’ll hear my neighbours say although the spuggies will soon regain pride of chirp in the dawn cacophony.

Turned up on the Carr this evening for a quick look and the Great Tit nest in a signpost was also giving it what for… (or should that be where’s my…) To my selfish dismay the sun had brought out horse riders, cyclists and walkers in abundance along with a middle aged couple re-living teenage love. Now I’m not against that per say and indulged myself just four years ago but my current opinion on shows of affection in public is aligned with the Ayatollahs (based on the political principle that if I’m not getting it, you shouldn’t. MP’s take note). I’ve had a number of interesting sightings of lesser love birds on this particular patch but I digress.

Also on station tonight were a Stonechat pair at their favourite gatepost and earlier in the week I confirmed the Redstart pair were feeding young so hopefully more good news to come. Out early tomorrow when my wake up call service get fed.

Monday, 25 May 2009

No time!

To get everything done and birdwatch! Having lost the Bank Holiday to work before the end of last week was a bit down as I realised the weekend had flashed by and the garden was still untamed, the house ramshackle and the body dishevelled. Oh stuff it so off to Bellasis for a nice short Sunday morning walk and call in at Banks Pond on the way and would you believe it, the Little Grebe have two reasonably developed young. Having been watching one bird all week thinking it was the male waiting for the female to hatch the eggs was surprised by the size of the young who must have been a week old. One was trying to get onto mums back so maybe they’ve just been hitching for that time and this morning saw some fishing lessons. If anybody out there is one of the two birders nest recording on Saturday morning then could you drop me a line to tell me if you saw them or have recorded the nest. This morning back to one bird so the female must keep the young well hidden which is a good move considering the predation levels at the pond.

Anyway off to Bellasis and thirty two species recorded over ¼ mile of road from the lay-by to the top of the copse including my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year, a feat to be repeated at Whittle Dene later in the day. Once had regular breeding on the Carr at the top of the bridleway but now they just tend to be a late summer visitor.

The Carr count on Saturday was 53 species between 8.00 and 11.00 including the first brood of Long tailed tits (8 I think) and nests with young Great Tits, Dunnocks and House Sparrow. The above picture is from two years ago but unfortunately pushing the hand held limits of a large lens. Mother moved them on shortly afterwards and opportunity for a better shot was lost. Once I've used up all my slides from past years I may even begin to embrace the digital revolution!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Greedy darlings

The nest in the gable of my house has disgorged it's brood of noisy young Starlings who are keeping the adults busy with their constant demands. Moving from ground to tree to table to roof the chase is constant and then all of a sudden they're off into the fields forming small flocks with their neighbours from adjacent gardens.

The House Sparrows have produced at least three broods now although the young are not so conspicuous as they are secreted in the conifer trees and hedges but can be tempted out with a tasty morsel of food from Mom. Magpie, Cat and Rook all keep a keen eye on the proceedings and are indignant when various objects are projected from the kitchen window in their general direction!

Meanwhile, the conifer at the front of my garden is getting very noisy as a brood of four Jackdaws make demands at every noise that suggests their parents are returning with some feed. Hopefully they will emerge in the next few days, the first successful nest in three years!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Today I have been mostly hearing...

Warblers! Whitethroats were particularly vocal but all present in good numbers those being Whitethroat 17, Willow 16, Sedge 9, Grasshopper 2, Garden 1 and some stilted Chiff Chaffing at the golf course. No Lesser Whitethroat yet and I fear the best time may have passed but I refreshed my rarer species call recognition this afternoon in the vain hope that an Icterine or like would venture inland.

47 species this morning and plenty of other birdsong with a Snipe that has been ‘chipping’ in the same place for almost two days! Richard the goat man told me he heard a Cuckoo on Tuesday morning calling from the area behind the garden centres where one was present last year. Kept an ear turned toward that location in the hope of either Cuckoo or Quail but neither obliged.

Did my Webs count (Tyne from Redheugh to Newburn bridge) today after forgetting last week. This month is one of the quiet periods as all the waders have gone off to breed leaving me counting mainly juvenile large gulls. No Commons and only a smattering of Black heads but good numbers of Lesser Black back and Herring with nests visible on some of the factory roofs. Anybody wanting to compare the later stages of large juvenile gulls would do well to go to Newburn Haugh at low tide and look over to the mud bank near the Board Inn where a smorgasboard of loafing gulls gather. May even get a seal hauling out for a nap!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Up and down

An up and down weekend in every sense of the word. Saturday started bright so out to the Carr for my weekly count notching up 51 species including new additions of Swift and Garden Warbler but amazingly couldn’t see or hear a Curlew so hopefully this is a sign of birds on the nest. The Garden Warbler is at the same location as the last two years although I’ve never seen any sign of a mate or breeding attempt. He’s a bugger to photograph to boot.

87 Garden Warbler
88 Swift

The cold wind then returned so the afternoon was devoted pasting up the March BiN returns whilst trying to hep the Blackbird pair in the back garden beat off repeated Magpie attacks. We failed of course even after picking up one young from my neighbours lawn and returning it to the nest. It was well developed but feathers still 50% in pin therefore not viable to leave out. The wretched Magpie didn’t wait long before returning and finishing the job. Sad at this loss and in fear for the Jackdaws in the front tree who now are clearly audible and attracting the attentions of the Cat that saw to two nests last year, I considered the merits of controlling these predators (in the ‘kill them’ sense) but sanity prevailed with the help of a good bottle of wine. Thanks Ed!

Sunday morning up early to do my BBS count near Longwitton. Good weather and reasonable count although couldn’t find or hear any Lapwings which is unusual. Four Wheatears greeted me at the start and found four singing Tree Pipits which is a high for the site.

Back home the male Blackbird is still looking at me like I was responsible and worse still, two naked House Sparrow chicks were dead under the rear box. This happened last year as well and I can’t work out what is responsible. The male House Sparrow spent all weekend on top of the box and the female is inside so hopefully not all is lost.
Off up the county to try and forget the trauma. Druridge Pools gave up splendidly with Little Egret, Garganey and nine Black tailed Godwit. Then three playful Otters on the island in the main pool. The gentleman in the hide informed me that three Avocets had been reported flying north so the rest of the afternoon was spent in enjoyable pursuit finding Barnacle Geese, Bar headed Goose, White Wagtail and Whimbrel but without Avocet success.

...and after all that, was reading other blog's and realised I'd forgot to do my webs count......plonker!

Thursday, 7 May 2009


I see the wandering White Stork was following the A1 north again yesterday. Four weeks past Monday having been watching the bird at Big Waters the previous night I woke up to find the bird standing in the field 100m from my bedroom window.

Nipped up to get some better photos despite having plenty from the previous evening. Definitely a non standard ring on the lower left leg just visible on the walking image. Was tempted to add it to the Carr list but it must go down as an escape and wasn’t really within the target area although it must have flown over the Carr when it headed up to Weldon Bridge then Rothbury later in the day.

Driving back from Cramlington late last night was passing the Blackpool Plantation when what I thought was a Rabbit appeared in the headlights. Not being a farmer I braked to avoid the animal which appeared to be squatting upright on the edge of the road and it then flew up into the trees to my right with talons clutching some prey! The upright figure was obviously a Tawny Owl so far missing on this years Carr list.

86 Tawny Owl

Monday, 4 May 2009

Latest arrivals

Out Saturday early in excellent weather with Snipe displaying and a light breeze. Looking north from the bumpy road a Grasshopper Warbler reeled in the grass competing with a Sedge Warbler in the hedge for attention. Suddenly the Snipe started zig zagging at low level and called in alarm and, with the Meadow Pipits squeaking, rose high as a Merlin sped across the reed tops looking for the unwary.

48 species for the morning with a female Redstart (presumably the same bird as last year) nest building at the same location. Couldn’t see the male but Keith from Woolsington found the pair together at the nest later in the day. The picture is the male from last year who was a bit camera shy.

84 Merlin
85 Redstart

For the third year in succession the pair of Canada Geese at Banks Pond have produced a brood, this time four with the parents currently being very protective. Now the Oystercatcher can hopefully have use of the island.

At home the count is at least four active House Sparrow nests with one brood calling, two Jackdaws, two Starlings and a Blackbird nest with young in the top of my conifer hedge which I now can’t trim. Should have done it earlier but then they probably wouldn’t have nested there.
The tits seem to have shunned my garden this year but Robin and Dunnock both look like they have nests close by.

Friday, 1 May 2009


Out this evening after the rain to see if anything interesting had dropped in. A Snipe displayed overhead as I walked up the bumpy road and a male Mallard flushed from the ditch. Just as I approached the bridge there was the female Mallard with nine new ducklings following close behind. So close in fact it took three or four attempts to get the count right!

This morning did a circumnavigation of the eastern Town Moor whilst waiting for Kwik Fit to rebuild my rear brakes which I had managed to weld together. Two broods of three and five Mallard ducklings on the lake at Exhibition Park but much more tame insisting on coming to the lakeside to beg some food. (that’s my excuse for poor use of depth of field demonstrated above)

Good count around the moor with 36 species the most unexpected being a Garden Warbler singing near the entrance at the University. Loads of Starlings and Jackdaws coming in from the houses to feed and heading off presumably back to broods with beaks full. Not many Swallows yet and it took me over two hours to find a Sparrow in the elegant gardens on the east and North boundaries! Sign of the times or just too much traffic noise?