Sunday, 27 September 2009

Dipping in

After the glorys of the Glossy Ibis yesterday I went down to Bywell this morning to try and get some shots of Dipper and Kingfisher which I had failed at miserably last weekend. On arrival there were two Dippers downstream of the bridge and one upstream. The water levels were perfect but the light was a bit dim so bang up the iso's and away we go.

After stalking the upstream bird I got into position only for it to be chased off by one of the other birds. My understanding of Dippers is that they're not so sociable outside the breeding season so was surprised when after a circumnavigation of a small island they landed together on the shore just twenty feet from me. Of course, my camouflage was perfect and I now had to shoot between the branches of a bush!

The birds then began chasing again and went onto a small outcrop where one bird started singing it's head off with the other coyly approaching nearby. Bit early for courtship I thought but this continued for some minutes until, as with many premature relationships, the birds tumbled into the water together fighting then parted and flew to the bank for a rest.

Later all three birds fed together downstream as a young lad threw sticks into the water nearby, oblivious of what he was missing. With shots in the can I headed into Bywell and poking round St Peters Church found two of these little unwelcome tykes.....shame I had the wrong lens on.

Also found this tree which I have yet to locate in my tree guide but love the flaky bark.

Friday, 25 September 2009

High points at Low Barns

Wandered way south yesterday in search of a lawn mower part for my parents. Called in at Low Barns on the way and was impressed by the pleasant, tidy facilities and enthusiasm of the staff. Apparently they run a photography group there and have just announced the winner of their yearly competition . See these at . Additionally there willl be an exhibition from 23rd October to 8th November so looks like I'm in for a return visit.

Walked to the nearest hide as the folks aren't too mobile and spent a pleasant half hour experiencing the calm interspersed with the quacking of Mallards and the checks of Jackdaws squabbling. This Cormorant was practising for a position on a sugar loaf in Rio.
The woodland was lifting with birds. Chiffchaffs, all the Tits except Willow, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker were moving through the trees and the feeding station was a busy place. The Robin didn't seem too impressed by our presence but the Nuthatch as always gave a good show.

Noticed that many of the birds were ringed and almost got a close up of the ring on a Marsh Tit but as usual the angle on the numbers was all wrong. Will return there as the feeding station even on a cloudy day, had a good quality of light that many don't. Thanks to all at Low Barns.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Heedless in Druridge

After a count on Prestwick Carr yesterday morning which produced 41 species including two singing Chiffchaffs and at least ten Stock Doves met Crammy birder for a chat about Teesside then off up the coast where it had turned dull and not much was stirring. After an hour in the Ponteland hide at Hauxley went down to Druridge where a gentleman in the hide was hoping for a repeat sighting of the Otter he had seen last time he was there. He left after five minutes and of course, giving sufficient time for him to disappear out of sight, the Otter appeared and fed at a distance for the next half hour.
The long staying Greenshank flew in close to the hide and started to feed with success just about every other attempt. No wonder it's staying. If it feeds any more it'll be too fat to migrate any further! The ghostly apparition above was shot last week but don't fear there's not magic in the ether.. just poor timing and wretched blades of grass blowing into the shot!

Back home about six and out to look for Owls. The last two nights have been fruitless I think because there are so many voles the birds are again very well fed and don't need to hunt. Chatted to two blokes for an hour or so and after watching a passing flock of twenty Long tailed Tits with two Willow Tits in tow and numerous false alarms caused by Buzzard, Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, a bird finally appeared at 6.50 being mobbed by crows who eventually departed leaving the owl to perch a while before hunting briefly and disappearing into the gathering gloom. I hope the late appearance did not cause friction with the missus nor reduced performance in the half marathon chaps.

Noticed the changing weather again this morning on my webs count where after ten minutes I wished I'd brought some gloves. Need to pack the winter kit into the car. Normal count up the Tyne with Plover flock beginning to grow (179) and good numbers of Redshank and Lapwing. As I counted the calls of Chiffchaff, Long tailed Tit and Bullfinch accompanied me through the Business Park. At Lemington Gut a Kingfisher was perched in the distance and a Green Woodpecker flushed from its usual spot opposite the Board Inn. Pleasant morning and now just considering whether that Pied Flycatcher will still be at Druridge....I can't traipse up there again can I?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Cor..y ippee

With reports coming in of seawatching found a meeting in my diary later this week that possibly required some pictures of a building in Cullercoats, No further excuse required off I headed to St Mary's Island where surprisingly no one seemed to be gazing seaward so I set up using the toilets as wind break and started. Loads of Gannets and three small birds passed one of which was an Little Auk the others probably Puffin. I must admit to very limited seawatching skills. Manx Shearwater and Arctic Skua no bother but then the problems begin mainly due to scale reference so was glad when another chap joined me who put me onto three Sooty Shearwaters along with another eight Manx. Three Red throated divers fed offshore and a heavy bellied Skua chased a gull in the bay but no positive ID.

On leaving the birder mentioned that the yellow buoy was much closer from the island so with half an hour remaining on my parking ticket I headed on over. As I entered the hide the gentleman already set up announced 'there's a Cory's passing' and after a fumble with the scope I got a brief view as the large shearwater banked round and disappeared north..............dead jammy. Continued watching while more Manx shearwaters passed and got excited about a Kittiwake that I thought was a Sabines. Thanks to the man in the hide I didn't fancy donating another £25 to North Tyneside for the pleasure of being there so headed back to do my work.

Having read Whitley Birders blog the other day checked the car park at Briar Dene and got these pictures of the wintering Med Gull. Was driving round it trying to get a shot without white lines and the two ladies in an adjacent car were a bit baffled by my actions but wherever I parked the bird seemed to move nearer to a line. Eventually some old geazer drove through the flock of Black headed gulls and it flew off west into the estate.

Interesting that the Cory's was followed right up the coast. Modern communications eh....helped by whoever lives in the hide at Whitburn!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Pictureless Post

Have spent six hours over the weekend fieldwatching instead of seawatching. Did manage to get a smidgen of the latter at Cambois on Sunday and a Velvet Scoter for the pleasure but, other than a brief five minutes at 6.30 on Saturday evening, myself and the others who turned up, some with youngsters in tow, saw nothing of the Short eared Owls.
If they are still there I would say that the combining and grass cutting has either moved them onwards or has disturbed so many voles that the birds are stuffed full and don't need to hunt. Anyway no owls but Saturday saw a Chiffchaff singing at the golf course, numerous Pied Wagtail and Buzzard although I couldn't turn any of the birds over the wood into the passing Honey Buzzard and on Sunday evening Stonechat, Whinchat and a Redstart that I missed (thanks DaveyT).
The change in the weather will likely bring in more birds so here's hoping.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Coming closer

to get some better picture thanks to some obliging Short eared Owls. Waited half an hour last night till at 5.50 a single bird started hunting, suddenly appearing from the middle of the field as if beamed down from above. Bill joined me and we watched it making repeated dives and turns flying across 20m in front of us.

As it returned to the first tree line, two other birds joined it and they spiralled together around a small hawthorn tree when Bill spotted another bird in the distance. Four in the air at once.....Carr heaven!
Moments like this don't last long and a passing Heron started to squabble with one of the birds, then two Crows joined in forcing the Owl up high to be joined by a Kestrel. Eventually the Crows and Kestrel took the argument North and the owl slowly glided down over our heads to begin hunting again, landing behind a tussock and staring full face at Bill. Of course when I leaned over to get the shot it took to the air but no worries, there's going to be plenty of opportunity.
After half an hour or so the darker bird was the only one hunting. Young and inexperienced perhaps but for the first time it perched about fifty meters away and I got some fantastic views through the scope. Fantastic striated plumage and vivid yellow eyes. Very intense and as good as a come on from a beautiful woman in a 'I want to eat you alive' sort of way!!

Thursday, 10 September 2009


Went down to the Carr yesterday at 3.30 in glorious weather to see if the Short eared Owls had stayed but on walking along the bumpy road past the goats the first thing that grabbed my attention was a group of birds flycatching from the east boundary fence of the paddock. Stonechats immediately sprang to mind but there were ten or so birds. Got the bins on them and counted six young Whinchats, 3 Stonechats and Meadow Pipit. Watched them for an hour or so with bicycle Bill and another birder whilst still keeping a keen eye out for the owls. Lovely sight and of course...
98 Whinchat

The owls looked like they were a no show and the other two departed. I contented myself snapping away at a passing Willow Warbler then saw a Warbler in amongst the Whinchat. Got a quick pic and believe it to be a Grasshopper Warbler but any comments welcome.
Just as I was packing up to leave a ghostly white shape difted down the far hedgerow and out into the middle of the field. The owl was hunting shortly to be joined by another from the central hedgerow. Little buggers had been there all the time but I think the food supply is so good they don't need to hunt that often. Standing waiting I heard numerous squeaks from the grass suggesting many voles and have seen quite a few dashing across the road recently. Moved location and joined by Bill enjoyed the two birds hunting for about an hour, frequently going down on presumed kills. One bird is distinctly smaller and darker plumaged than the other, possibly a juvenile and gave us a good head on view off its yellow eyes as it checked us out. Finally the light went flat and we packed up .

Where are the owl pictures you may say. Took plenty but on review most were distant and poor so I'm hoping for better opportunities in the weeks to come. Best view currently from the gate in the hedgerow on the right hand side of the road leading down from Prestwick to Mayfair Cottage.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

You wait for months.....

...then three come along all at once. Not buses but Short-eared Owls. Hadn't seen one on Prestwick Carr since last October when a single bird was driven up high and away by Crows so was delighted last night when one was hunting near the goats at Mayfair Cottage. Watched a while and got lots of useless long distance photos when moving eastward another bird rose from the ground and they started sparring. As I moved into the field one bird hunted eastward while the other went west and yet another individual rose from the ground. Briefly all three were in the air and then the police helicopter flew overhead and they went to ground.
Chatted to bicycle Bill for a while who regaled me of the Marsh Harrier he had two weeks ago and a Yellow Wagtail in the horses field last week. Unfortunately not on my list although I was sure I heard a Yellow Wag last Saturday... even has a question mark next to it in my notebook. Anyway.....

97 Short eared Owl

Battling with fading light and autofocus we were both being bitten to death by flies so left with two birds in the air hunting. I hope they stay for a while and some better images will be in the offing.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Distant Views

With the chaos of last week forgot to update the Prestwick Carr list with two new birds. On Monday two female Wheatears graced the horse field but stayed well into the middle whilst on Saturday a Spotted Flycatcher was hunting from the hedge bordering the golf course. So that's
95. Wheatear
96. Spotted Flycatcher
If we get some wet weather may just scrape the hundred this year.
On Sunday after looking in the overgrown wetland and finding two singing Chiff Chaffs, spent a pleasant hour or so seawatching at St Marys Island with another birder. He had found two Red throated divers offshore and when we eventually re-located them there was three, then four, then at least six. Still a good deal of grey on the head and hint of red on the throat. A Sandwich tern was doing Roseatte calls and as we confirmed this ID a dark bird flew south in front of us. It was a dark phase Arctic Skua and after pestering a tern, carried on south. Lots of juvenile and adult Gannets passed by and lost track of time till the weather started turning so headed back to the car. Bloody parking ticket. Eight minutes after the expiry of my allotted time the buggers had given me a ticket. Payments to be made to North Tyneside Council Team grabbing ******** team more like.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Oh my head!

Following a week of pressure with tormented decisions gave up at 3.30 on Friday and after posting my mail was just driving past the pub when I noticed a bird on the pavement behind a parked van. On pulling past the van I found it was a juvenile Sparrowhawk apparently oblivious to the peril of its location. Got out the car with thoughts of how I would pick up an enraged hawk and get it into a cardboard box but after finding a sweatshirt in the boot of my car I walked up to the bird which stayed put. Did the old matador thing but the bird didn't seem to be able to see me. On hindsight I should have taken the photo then in perfect light but had the wrong lens on the camera and was concerned for the bird amongst the local children and labourers gathered round the shop and pub. I looked round for any adult bird but could see none so wrapped the bird in my sweatshirt without it offering any resistance and lifted it onto a nearby wall beneath a conifer hedge so it was safe. Ironic that only earlier in the day I had been swearing at its parent for persistent attempts to get my House Sparrow flock!
Left the bird to recover and had a trip to Bank's Pond, 3 Coot, 2Moorhen and a Little Grebe then up to Bellasis to gauge the state of the river after the days deluge. The river was just a bit full and the bird was playing on my mind so returned to find it still sat on the wall occassionally closing it's eyes and clenching its talon so gathered it must have hit something, probably the now departed vans wing mirror, and had an almighty headache. Took these shots and was talking to a bloke from the village about the poor things peril and how you shouldn't take a wild bird into custody unless absolutely necessary when it turned and flew off. Another decision vindicated. Good luck wee bird but please stay away from my garden.