Thursday, 26 August 2010

Gods country

Attempted to get away for a day but mobile phone and work screwed things up totally. Constant interruptions to my day out and problems innumerable to solve tomorrow. Good meal at Boulmer where the tide came in, 14 Shelduck and equal numbers of Ringed Plover and Redshank grazed the foreshore. A Peregrine did a fly through scattering Lapwings and Jackdaws in the process and Herons squabbled on the foreshore as the tide came in. On the coastal path spuggies were sunbathing and the local farmer showed true straight line talent cutting silage as the air sea rescue helicopter hovered nearby.

Then headed inland through Alnwick and Rothbury ending up in a favourite spot overlooking Caistron Gravel pits. Parked in a gate and pissed off a farmer but the views were worth it.

Perhaps life is worth living after all?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Out sharp this morning after the deluge to see what had dropped in on the Carr. Headed for the flashes in the horse paddocks in the hope of re-living last years bonanza. As I arrived a flash of the tail indicated the wheet earse of a Wheatear on return journey which soon evaded my camera but the many Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Finches gave great pleasure but no great photographic opportunities. I turned for home a tew tew indicted the imminent arrival of a target species. A lone Greenshank landed, looked at the puddle which was far too small to be called a flash, then took off again before I had time to raise the camera. Tick anyway No 102 Greenshank.
Hola Overlord. I'm afraid the logic for such a tag is lost in the translation but welcome all the same. Oh did you say puddles...............I thought you said poodles!
Just found this link through Overlords favs. Can you imagine ringing 206 Red Backed Shrike and 52 Thrush Nightingale? http//

Monday, 23 August 2010

Ruff and redy

Took advantage of the weather on Sunday and went on tour up the coast. Worked my way up to Hauxley where neither west facing hide had much to show. In fact the Ponteland hide was a bit stinky due to some sort of reaction in the shallows just in front producing a highly salted seaweed smell. Returned to Cresswell where I picked up on the numerous Ruff, Greenshank present and eventually located the Spotted Redshank north of the causeway. Was tempted to walk over to get a shot but there were folk in the hide who may have had the optics to be watching the bird so declined.
Parked up and walked to the hide to find Vee snapping away and two birders ticking off species at a great rate. Bar tailed Godwit, Pintail and Knot were added to my list so settled down in the hope that the Spotted Redshank would come closer. One of the birders found a leucistic Oystercatcher the white head making for a very strange bird. Stretching the limits of my kit I could just get this shot of it sleeping.

The light was good and the birds Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff visited the sand bank in front of the hide regularly but no Spotted Redshank and anyway the shots are just that bit too distant. We were joined by an older couple who were pleased to get close views of the birds to confirm their ID's and I pointed out the Oystercatcher and Spotshank to them. The lady asked how I could tell the Spotshank at that distance and I had to admit that 1. I knew the bird was there and 2. IF had just walked over the causeway and was pointing his monster lens at it.

Anyway a good day out and made better some of the few Red Admirals I've seen this year, found on the way to the hide at Druridge Pools where a Dunlin and Common Sandpiper were present along with good counts of Little Grebe, Coot and Tufted Duck.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Infernal towering

Was out tonight on Prestwick Carr hoping for Short eared owls but no joy. If they show it should be in the next month most likely in two weeks time. Resorted to taking shots of the tower again. Do you know that the don't need any form of Planning Approval for such structures as they are exempt. No comfort to a client of mine today who is suffering from the myopic attitude of Newcastle Planners........tossers. (how do you cross out letters Dusty B? must be some kind of Ctrl+ bollocks)

Met up with the Liverbirder earlier today who apparently got in some good harrier and sea watching. Of course if you don't wish to be photographed you don't stand atop a bloody great dune!

Thursday, 19 August 2010


I notice that the current issue of 'The Northumbrian' has an article about a perambulation of my patch. Starting at Prestwick the writer heads up the bridle track to the Horton Grange Road then east past old Horton Grange, turning south toward Dinnington and back west via Prestwick Carr Road and the bumpy lane. Now the first and last parts are great but from personal experience walking the roads east and south is a torment. Anyway I expected the appearance of ramblers and this morning four were bravely walking the route in reverse. Standard appearance, grey hair (don't worry I'm almost there) stout boots, turned down socks and khaki drab but thankfully without the two walking poles and the map in a waterproof bib round the neck. Welcome to you all but please remember it's not exactly the Cheviot.
For those wishing fame, I notice that I have had an unusually high number of hits for my last post. I average 66 hits a post but the last about old Sykesy shot past the hundred mark toward 150. Now I would love to think it was my wit and humour or perhaps I have nicked some of Liverbirders readership but I suspect it was because I mentioned Hattie Jacques in the title so apologies to all those TV buffs searching for info into the dear departed marquee wearer who got a post about twitchers.
Speaking of which I believe I may have identified another blogger in the crowd I photographed. Ah mean if ahm not mistaken, ah say not mistaken thats young Foghorn there. Thanks again for the look through your scope at the Spotted Crake.

Today was spent travelling Northumbria with my folks which involves driving and relaying perfectly audible comments from my Dad in the front seat to my Mum in the back and vice versa. Deef or what! I also get the third degree about country houses who they seem to assume I know who lives in each and every one. A nice trip up to Kielder, picnic at Bakethin where my Mum, bless her, failed to see or hear any of the fifteen bird species present including Crossbill. Then back via Sidwood and the high road for tea (coffee actually) at Fontburn where the new 'Goats on the Roof Cafe' seemed to be doing reasonable trade although the single track road access isn't really up to it.
Interesting concept and I was glad to confirm that the said goats actually have the choice as to whether to spend their time on the roof or not.
I've just Googled Hattie Jacques, Sykes and Blogger which comes up 3rd on the list. Mad.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Hattie Jacques couldn't have hid in there!

But the Sykes Warbler certainly did..........this morning anyway. Dull weather, I contemplated not bothering but such a once in a lifetime bird and anyway, even if it gets Booted it's still a lifer for me. So off up to Druridge in a complete daze following the Birdguides instructions wondering why there were so few cars in the car park but stumped up my £1.40 for two hours and walked through the hedge to realise I could have driven round and parked for free like everyone else.....pratttt.
Joined the assembled throng around 9.00 lining up behind photographers I knew would have the angle and waited. Some stirrings at the base of the hawthorn bush indicated the bird still present but branches moving is hardly a tick. Eventually a flash as the bird darted round the side of the bush and the body of folk began to drift up the dunes to try to get an angle with more folk arriving all the time. I stayed put as I never seem to succeed when I chase birds (of any classification). Time passed and a few glimpses must have been had by the duneside folk but my mind was wandering along the lines of the title of this post. All geared up to take photographs I unleashed my 500D on two fellow bloggers.

Eventually just as my parking ticket was about to expire the bird appeared from the side of the bush and flew to another less dense, flatter hawthorn. The flight style wasn't typically warbler to my mind, more Blue Tit. But I had definately seen the bird so returning to the car I chatted to a bloke from Peterlee then drove round and parked just 50m from the bird and set up again. This time the bird was more active making forays to the top branches and once appearing to flycatch. But it was not settled and flew once again to Hawthorn Bush 3 illustrated majestically below (the bird's in there honest) when I was advised by a Yorkshire chap that if the cameramen would move away from the vantage point near the first bush the bird would return there. But the swarm was now nearing 60 and the persuit was calm but hot.

Not wanting to be predictable the bird flew to a fourth bush this time with little foliage and not very big. It stayed generally to the back of the bush but was feeding constantly and finally at 11.40 I got a view through the scope with colour, beak, supercilium...the lot.
Definately a warbler I concluded.
More folk arrived and I departed before four Yorkshiremen (or frankly four birders of any breed) got together and started off the sketch.
'Nah lad, when ah had t'at Booted in 2005....................'

Sunday, 15 August 2010

ring a ring a rosy

Not being a great lover of the seawatch on the basis that getting cold and wet for a craptastic view of a bird that may or may not be the one in a thousand passing that is of twitchable status is no attraction, recent bloggings and reports on Birdguides tempted me down to St Marys' Island yesterday afternoon. Having done my webs count at lunchtime as today I will be at Tynemouth Station Book Fair, hunting out some rare tome on avian life, I first checked the Cemetery for the Wryneck I missed last year but to no avail. I did find a quid under one of the seats but felt guilty removing cash from a graveside so placed it in a donation box.
I moaned as I entered the car park for it was full of happy / unhappy families, geriatric couples and bikers. The smell of burgers hung in the air and the light was distinctly hazy but the number of birds on the rocks was good and a couple of scopes plus Canon lens man were already scanning the area. I got down to the promenade and taking angles from the photographer instantly picked up an adult Roseate Tern amongst the large number of Kittiwakes that were present. (bottom pic). My first of the year and my reason for this visit having failed to find any at East Chevington thus far. I looked away for a moment and then back to find the bird had flown to settle down behind a rock out of view. After a few minutes the bird re-appeared and the spectacularly duff photo was taken but it does pick up the ring on either leg which I believe identifies a Coquet Island bird.

Other birds present were a hundred or so Golden Plover, one Black tailed Godwit, one Knot, Redshank aplenty, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Common and Sandwich Terns plus many gulls of which I had already had my fill of counting. Out to sea Gannets were visible and an Artic Skua made a brief landing on a rock 100m or so out before heading off north.
Other birders were now turning up including Northumbrian Birding. He had found a colour ringed Sandwich Tern and then he found a juvenile Roseate, again double ringed (top 2 crap pics). We waited for the tide to drive the bird closer but a family rockpooling and deceasing light put the kybosh on that as a shout went up a Merlin had landed on the rocks near the island. Not finding said raptor we headed up to join the assemble throng in the lee of the toilet block.

Spent forty five minutes doing what I earlier said I disliked but the weather was good and the company amusing so we ticked off a tolerable few Manx Shearwater, Common Scoter, Eider, more Artic Skuas and a large number of Common Tern heading to roost before I returned to the car. Having actually paid for a parking ticket I was reflecting on having ticked off Roseate Tern when stopped on my way by two seperate individuals asking what we were all looking at. Both seemed slightly disappointed when I explained to them that the gathering was due to the weather and the passage of many birds including some rare out near that yellow buoy you can see in the distance. I needed a big arrow to point it out to them just like the one needed for these photos I've just posted.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hair on?

On yet another grey day I was sitting in the hide at Whittle Dene the other day when joined by a bloke who had recently taken up birdwatching. I no doubt bored him witless imparting my ID hints and trying to find a decent view of a Yellow Wagtail. Four or five juveniles were present but stubbornly staying on the bank out of sight of the hide. As a Heron flew by he commented on the use of plastic dummies to stop birds raiding ponds and I imparted yet more wisdom which on reflection may be total bollocks.
My understanding of the situation is that the plastic dummies may work for a short period but that being smooth (a limitation of the manufacturing process) and quite dull they may actually attract other Herons as only a dominant male looking mean with a long mantel and blowy about bits (nape plume) would actually act as a deterrent. This one pictured at Druridge last week seems to fit the bill (sorry).

He certainly knew how to stand guard. I guess if you have fishies you're attached to or Koi Carp at £200 a shot you'll try anything to protect them. I had a run in with a neighbour ten years ago who I believed had damaged one bird whilst protecting his goldfish although the incident occured a good distance from the pond. Herons unfortunately are heavily persecuted as I found out years later when seeing some figures relating to a fish farm. My neighbour not only blamed the Heron for eating the fish but for turning them a different colour and making them shy to emerge from cover. I tended to think it may have more likely to have been sound shock from the extensive fireworks of his Millenium celebration but live and let...

Of course if your dominant Heron then minces around like a duckie then I doubt he would be much of a deterrent. Even tried the old hand on hip trick....probably from Arcot Pond (apologies to all Cramlington birders)

I must like him retain a degree of balance. Guess you can tell what sort of day it's been.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Two more

It was a very quiet Prestwick Carr on Sunday with Collared Doves unmoved as I passed by, silence from all but the occasional Willow Warbler and a sign of Autumn as a Great Spotted Woodpecker cached food in a dead tree. As I watched a tribe of Long tailed Tits a sharp metallic call alerted me to No 100 on the Prestwick Carr 2010 list. A Grey Wagtail lifted off a dried out pool and flew to the top af a nearby tree so avoiding the camera but the Long tailed tits were more obliging.

The bridal path was again lifting with butterflies Small Whites being the most abundant but a count of 31 Small Coppers with 2 Commas was pleasing. Even managed another Silver Y moth now I know the ID. Then the sun went in and the rest of the day was spent searching the county for something good. Black necked Grebe at Bothal Pond was nice but sun and distance prevented a decent image being obtained. Then to Monday and after a day of torment I ended up at BanksPond where the Damsels and Common Darters have been showing well. Of course the sun went behind a cloud the moment I got there so I spent some time lining up daft shots of drinking Swallows when a wader flew through the frame, flushed by the numerous hirundines circling low over the water.

As it passed me to the left a white rump was apparent and it climbed steeply being joined by another bird both calling a shirp like call. Positive ID for No 101, Green Sandpiper present here regularly a few years ago but these were likely passage birds. I lost track of them amongst the Swallows and spent the next half hour checking to see if they had dropped back down but to no avail. As I searched a deer came in from the fields on the right and totally ignoring me, walked toward the road.

Eventually I think it heard the camera and gave me a quick look before disappearing into the undergrowth.

A decent way to end the day and nice to get the list going again.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Common day

Whilst battling with moth ID (Silver Y thanks Alan) and a lens that has started losing focus (just like its owner) at Banks the other day there were plenty of Common Darters and Blue Damselflies about.

Almost balletic but surely it must hurt the poor gal.

Head on Darter with horror background

Hah! almost escaped the shot didn't you. Emperors are pretty common at this pond.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Cloth head

I suspect I'm being Mr Thick-thickie of Dafttown, Slumberland but can anyone tell me what this is found at Banks yesterday. I've searched the Moths site and would have thought a keyword for border or white spot or eyes would work but no joy and the only slightly similar Butterflies seem to live only in the deep south. Perhaps I should upgrade from Collins Gem?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Fluff & feathers

Paid a visit to Killingworth Lake on the way back from a meeting where things were looking good.

A new brood of 11 Tufted Ducks was leading mum a merry dance around the reed island.

Whilst a Pochard basked in the (occasional) sun.

It's easier to take pictures of birds when they give signal of their intended manoeuvre.

This juvenile Great Crested Grebe was spending a lot ot time preening and the results were beginning to show through.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

In memorium

It appears the toe rags that invade Druridge have been at it again. IPin found the above dead along with two of the below. These two photographs were taken from the Oddie hide on Saturday last.

God help us if they get their sights on any of the other beauties that were present that afternoon.

A sitting duck perhaps

They'll show no regret for an Egret

The Green Sandpipier had the good sense to land in front of the hide then promptly walk off behind the undergrowth (thanks NWT) round the corner not to be seen again.

Not so Common really. Here today, hopefully just moved on tomorrow.

Monday, 2 August 2010

ello ello

Saturdays bird count at Prestwick Carr was postponed to Sunday due to the weather ( exaxtly the opposite of Fridays forecast!) but even with a bright sunny morning things were very quiet on the bird front so attentions were turned to Butterflies. A whole brigade of Small Coppers were up the range track, more than I can recall having ever seen probably 50 - 100.

A single Comma near the Golf course.

A few Small Skippers.

And the remnants of numerous Meadow Browns seen over the previous weeks all now looking very faded and tatty.

Boatloads of Small Whites by far the most abundant species.

Just a smattering of Tortoiseshells

and a few Green viened White plus my first Carr dragonfly being I think a Common Hawker which led me a merry dance up and down the bumpy road without ever perching to allow a photograph.