Friday, 30 October 2009

Sab a tour

Started work early and had my major project for the day delivered by 9.30 so when my text message alerted me of a Pectoral Sandpiper at the Beehive flash, off I went. The bird was easily located on the far side of the flash with MH and Dusty Bins already set up for the shot but the the little wader was staying put and after a few minutes taking in the glories of this birds plumage in good light, I headed off to see what else could be added to the list.

Decided to try again for the Sabines gull at North Shields which I had seen at a distance on Monday but two later attempts had failed as the bird seems to move away from the fish quay after its early morning feed. Started at the fish quay and initially no sign so contented myself with shots of a male Eider in the harbour. As I walked back along the quay a bird caught my eye coming out of the sun about 20m away and flying the clear black primary wing markings stood out splendidly. I waited for the bird to return but no luck so, after checking the ice maker where it had been yesterday, I headed to the foreshore where I was soon joined by one, then another, then a further three birders all on the same quest. Stories of hope and missed opportunities were shared probably made more annoying by me having seen the bird fleetingly earlier.
We were joined by a man from the RNLI Station who was also hoping to see the bird but had been told by a colleague working on the south lighthouse that there were eight Dolphins in the mouth of the Tyne. Bins and scopes were trained and shortly the animals could be seen as the school surfaced between a dredger and the south pier. Nice opportunity so I headed to the headland above the Black Middens for a better view.
The dredger had gone out to sea and presumably the Dolphins with it so headed toward the pier on the off chance and met two birders coming in the opposite direction who had seen the Sabines Gull and said it was now on the rocks below the headland. I re-traced my steps and whist checking the rocks the gull flew around the headland and managed to snap the beauty.

The bird settled on the rocks just 30m from the shore with Black headed gulls and started preening. Settled down to a nice little twitch joined by two from the foreshore, two from the pier, a bloke from Carlisle who I had met twice earlier this week and a good few curious bystanders. With my smaller lens the images were not so good but views through the scope were splendid and eventually it had a quick kip allowing me to get a larger lens but the light was poor and only got a couple of shots before the incoming tide moved it away back upstream to the fish quay. Lunchtime already and felt like I'd done two days work!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Green Cross Stoat

What with cyclists, horse riders, people coming to watch the Short eared owls and trips from the wildlife trust, the bumpy road has got a bit busy recently. The Prestwick Carr Stoats however are all fully versed in the green cross code. Well, all the bits except walking across calmly that is.

As a postscript before the digital police get me, the first three shots are original un-retouched scans of slides and the fourth is from the same series of shots but the background has been altered for dramatic effect.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Stoatally mad

Was up at Boulmer last week doing some seawatching to the North of the village when a commotion of bird alarm calls came from the garden behind me. Looking over the wall a Stoat was standing next to a log pile. Having spied me it dashed back in only to emerge from the top of the pile and give me a stare. Then it proceeded to dash out jump and spin then disappear back into its pile. Did this three or four times till I called over my folks to have a look and of course it didn't show again.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Hunting Geese

Have been out early and late yesterday and today in the vain search for Geese using Prestwick Carr. With no flash water and all the ditches dry the chances were slim. The area where Geese used to roost was destroyed by the open cast operation and subsequent drainage so, with hope in my heart, have put in some hours to make sure nothing escapes counting.

Yesterday mornings count was forty five species including my first five Fieldfare of the autumn, a scattering of Redwing and 31 Pink footed Geese over but not any chance of them landing. Last evening met Peter the Painter who had been watching two Short eared Owls hunting with good success earlier on in the evening. While we talked a Kestrel glided down from a tree and into the grass rising back up into the tree clutching prey so the lack of water has had benefits in the number of small mammals available.

This morning set out under clear skies with a crisp frost and low mist rising from the ground. Keeping ears pricked for any goose calls started at Banks Pond which held just two Moorhen whilst the view over the whole Carr from Prestwick Road was devoid off bird life. Checked the sheep fields near Mayfair Cottage before parking up and walking along the bumpy road to check the only other pond. No geese but a single Fieldfare chuck chucked overhead, two hundred or so Woodpigeon left the wood and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flushed from the roadside. Calls from Robins, Wrens, Tits and Reed Bunting filled the air but on scanning the pond not even a duck in sight although a familiar dark shape flew over on the way from Blagdon to the Tyne. A benefit of the day is another addition to the year list.
99. Cormorant

Returned to my car and off up the range track to complete the search. A flock of fifteen Linnet flushed from the adjacent field whilst a covy of four Grey Partridge fed. More Redwing called from the woods and two male Stonechat were singing. No Geese, no Harriers I headed for home just after hearing two Little Owls calling from a copse near the range. Made a note to check for roosting sites as I know the trees in this area are holed and used by Woodpeckers so hopefully the Owls have moved in. One more needed for the ton.............oh for some water and waders!
PS Hang on! Did I mention Pink footed Geese. That's 100 up.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tree House?

Have been puzzling over this bird (middle of picture) visiting my feeders this week. On first glance you think Tree Sparrow then realise the duller grey plumage and begin to re-assign as House Sparrow but the bird is slightly smaller then the others, there is definitely the beginnings of a Chestnut cap and also a slight cheek spot. Dare one call it as a cross?
It must be a female bird I assume, showing some Tree Sparrow characteristics. The possibility is not unknown as in 2004 I caught these two at it in the tree outside my office window. They nested in the House Sparrow terrace immediately below where the shot was taken and laid three eggs but these were abandoned after a few days, probably due to a gale that blew some debris down onto the box.

A BTO nest record was returned for the attempt and the crappy photo published on their forum. Will attempt to get some better shots of the current suspect when daylight eventually returns to Dinnington.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Night visions

Arrived at Prestwick Carr last night to find hoards of people near the goats. Must have been some kind of group trip from the Wildlife Trust. They had been over to the woods and were now examining said goats with amusement. Avoided them and headed up to the top gate to look for owls. Some chance I thought as the group gathered for a briefing but after twenty minutes they started getting in their cars and heading off down the bumpy road. O.K. for those in four wheeled drives but I did hear a couple of scrapes from those less wary in cars!

No sooner had they dispersed than two Short eared Owls were flying not fifty yards from where they had been gathered. Walked down to that area and spent the next half hour watching as the birds hunted becoming ever more ghostly in the fading light.

Would never have attempted any shots in previous days but the benefits of digital mean at least these poor images are at least recognisable. If I'd remebered how to boost my speed to 12.8K then I may have done better but the views were splendid with one bird twice coming within twenty feet. One bird headed off west to the sheep field where in the sunset in squabbled with another, possibly the Barn Owl, the argument still continuing as I left for home.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


Woke up with a groan as I realised the place was in cloud and could barely see the far side of the field in front of my house. Off to book fair at Tynemouth Station tomorrow so had brought my webs count forward a day but if it stayed like this there was no chance of seeing the far bank of the Tyne. With hope in my heart I set out to Prestwick Carr and the sun tried, but failed to break through. First benefit was that a fall had occurred and Redwings were tseeping overhead. In three hours a total of 104 passed over westward, the largest group being 33. Only one bird landed briefly at the very top of the tall tree near the goats before heading off west. A good flock of Redpoll also fed in the weeds whilst on the return a party of Bullfinches was flushed from the hedgerow. Photo opportunities were limited although there were some nice spiders webs highlighted by the dew and Richard the goat mans feed trailer was being raided by the House Sparrow flock.

Interesting count as it highlights the change in season so here are the numbers

10 October 8.10 - 11.00 am Weather misty then overcast. Warm no wind.

Jackdaw 34
House Sparrow 21
Robin 25 many singing
Greenfinch 3
Starling 36
Magpie 5
Wren 18
Goldfinch 29
Great Tit 16
Woodpigeon 61
Great Spotted Woodpecker 3
Redwing 104
Blackbird 15
Rook 5
Dunnock 6
Blue Tit 17
Pied Wagtail 4
Crow 6
Willow Tit 2
Pheasant 3
Reed Bunting 6
Bullfinch 13
Coal Tit 4
Meadow Pipit 5
Common Gull 10
Mistle Thrush 3
Black headed Gull 2
Skylark 14 one singing
Chaffinch 10
Kestrel 2
Song Thrush 5 probably part of the fall
Golden Plover 2
Linnet 9
Lesser Redpoll 24
Stonechat 2 both singing
Jay 1
Grey Partridge 2
Buzzard 2
Yellowhammer 2
Grey Heron 1
Long tailed Tit 11
Collared Dove 10

that's 42 species and missing from last week is Chiffchaff, Swallow & House Martin

No time for Banks Pond but after a quick bite off down to the Tyne for my webs count which was pretty much as normal. Good numbers of Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover with the Lesser Black Back Gulls declining in number and the ducks not yet in great abundance. Counted the Plover flock three times due to interruptions by rowers, motor boaters and curious walkers! What is so strange about a bloke gazing across the river through a scope? Anyway, 662 Golden Plover was the end result.
At Newburn was regaled by a local couple of Seals on their back mid stream eating Salmon but when I got there all was normal. Not so on the return trip when I got my eyes on what I thought was a House Martin. When the bins were trained on the feeding animal it was clearly a broad daylight at 2.07 in the afternoon. It passed overhead as I fumbled for the camera but by the time I had the shutter finger ready the object was a mere speck in the distance. Will now have to consult my Bat expert friend to try and I.D. the critter. Possibly a counting Dracula?

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Does my rump look big in this?

Tried for the Buff breasted Sandpiper last night as I was in Ashington but missed out and again this morning. Never mind, had to do with this smart Wheatear at Hauxley.

At Prestwick Carr there's a Barn Owl most nights, Tawny Owl last night outside my house but little sign of the Short eareds. I have found some fresh pellets which suggest they are still there but my last sighting was one week ago. Last night a Jay and Willow Tit were calling, a lone Pippistrelle Bat flew at Mayfair Cottage and five deer were in two groups . This manage a trois were cavorting near the wood.

No sooner had I written the above than tonight (Thursday) a lone Short eared Owl hunted at 6.30pm so I add this as a postscript

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Let there be light

After a week tied up with work and losing most of the weekend I took Monday off and headed up the coast. My first five Redwing of the winter flew over Ashington as I departed and eventually after checking Cresswell and the Budge screen, ended up at the Oddie hide where amazingly after the weekends spectacular, the hide was empty. As I raised the shutters the now regular Glossy Ibis was to the right of the hide and heading my way! A couple joined me in the hide shortly followed by AG, all with cameras at the ready. The bird eventually walked up and in front of the hide and as the light levels improved we all snapped away.

All those distant pictures taken at Cresswell and from the Budge screen were now deleted as the bird showed beautifully. Just wish I was in better control of my camera.

The bird fed constantly, mainly on freshwater snails which it deftly flicked up into its mouth and as the hide filled it was rarely distracted by the noise of the wretched stiff door. Walking up and down in front of the hide occasionally preening and once or twice wing stretching which showed the lovely green sheen to full effect, it stayed for almost three quarters of an hour before flying off 50m up the shoreline.

I waited for a while to try and get some flight shots but missed the best opportunity and eventually left a now full hide with a good few images to sort. Apologies if you've seen them all before.