Sunday, 31 October 2010


Saturday brought sunshine and a spring in my step as I headed out for a count on Prestwick Carr. Lower numbers of birds than last week with the influx of Scandinavian tourists having moved through although Redwing and Fieldfare were present in small numbers up the range bridleway. Interesting was the appearance of five Siskins and could it be a White Wagtail. Now I know autumn records of this species are notoriously risky but I publish one of three crappy record shots and invite advice / abuse as deserved.

Definately number 107 on the 2010 list however were two female Goosander flying south as I headed back home along the bumpy road.
After a brief spot of business it was off up north stopping initially at North Seaton where Johnny had just found and lost some Waxwings so headed to the other side of town where Tim and Tom were patroling outside the cop shop as a mobile flock of thirty or so birds made life difficult for that perfect shot.
Then off to Cresswell and Druridge where AG was leaving having described the bleak view from the hide. In the vain hope that Mondays Slav Grebe may suddenly appear out of the bleakness I set up shop where shortly I was joined by Brian and then another chap and we watched as Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Coot fed in front of the hide.

It was interesting to note that the Wigeon, normally a grazing duck, were swimming alongside the Coot letting them dive to retrieve some weed then nicking bits off as the stems were broken up by the Coot feeding. More interesting perhaps was that the Coot, a bird that is normally quite fiesty especially amongst themselves, seemed to accept this without complaint and most of the squabbling was between male and female Wigeon. Brian mentioned he had also seen this type of mutual feeding with Gadwall.

Nice to meet so many bloggers out and about and managed to remember their real names which unfortuantely more than I did with the others I met. My apologies if any of you are out there.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Colour on a grey day

After completing the weeks torment I drove up to North Seaton in the hope of re-living some moments from earlier in the year. The wind was blowing, the sky grey, the atmosphere appropriate for a cemetery and the trees near the gate devoid of my target but over toward the housing estate was a similar tree in which a number of birds were perched. A quick look through the bins revealed a familiar profile and a slightly grey appearance. I counted around forty and made a report to Birdguides as only a single had been noted earlier in the day.

The birds were dropping down into the nearby gardens and then the flock lifted and flew over the houses to Swallow Close where I found they were feeding on four or five heavily fruited and very colourful trees. I dashed off a couple of pics but the birds were very flighty and returned to their favoured tree. Unfortunately being a residential area I felt it would be inappropriate for a old geezer in camouflage gear to point his equipment at the houses as the police would surely be called so I made do with watching a further two fly pasts where I revised my count to sixty or so birds. sooner had I returned to try and catch them perched in their tree they were gone, probably off on a shopping trip to Asda to stock up for the weekend.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Red eyes

Yes, with tears as I saw City Birdings Slavonian Grebe at Druridge and realised that I'd driven past on Monday missing the chance for a close up of this splendid little bird. All I could manage the day before was a grumpy looking juvenile Little Grebe and a Wigeon that flew away.

Even the Greylag Geese gave me the evil eye. Perhaps it's the mirror lens?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Summer and winter collide

I left the house in good heart with clear skies to the west but still a cold murk to the east which prevented the sun getting through. Down the lane it was clear there had been a fall of Blackbirds overnight with more than twelve birds flushed from fifty meters of road in comparison to last week when I only found five over the whole 2km walk. As I rounded the corner onto the bumpy road four deer including a juvenile crept over the road and disappeared in the gloom as my attention turned to geese calls in the distance where a good v formation of 42 Pinkfeet was located heading north east. Mid way up the road small flocks of Goldfinch, fifty or more in total, fed at the roadside whilst Reed Bunting and Chaffinch ventured out onto the road to glean seeds. The moon was setting as some Crows emerged from their woodland roost.

The sun emerged at 8.50 and camera settings adjusted as I ran into the Tit flock moving east up the road. Numerous Blue and Great Tits with two Coal and one Willow followed by a tribe of 10 Long tailed. Two Fieldfare were flushed from the tall tree near the goats and I walked up the bridleway to find a flock of Redwing feeding in the tree tops as a Grey Partridge called from the fields to the east. Then on to the bridge near the golf course where, whilst watching Sparrows and Robins feeding on food put out by a nice lady from Ponteland a Swallow flew overhead still apparently fly catching.

I tracked it back to Prestwick Mill Farm where I presume it must have very late brood. I headed back for home and as I passed the goats a trilling (or should that be thrilling) sound came from above. I wheeled round to see two Waxwing about to land in the same tree the Fieldfares had earlier vacated. As they dropped down the first decided to fly on and off they went west. That's going to confuse Bird track. Waxwing and Swallow within thirty minutes on the same day but never mind number 106 on the Prestwick Carr list was ticked.

Further down the road a flock of Meadow Pipits and Skylark threw caution to the wind as they mobbed a large female Sparrowhawk after which I duly returned home to enter my records and find there had indeed been a fall of Waxwing overnight. Well then, it's off up country to find some more.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Was called out to an inspection at Benton mid Wednesday so took the opportunity to carry on to Tynemouth where tide was rising and a northerly wind blowing in the hope of a Little Auk or two going past.

On arrival it was clear the pier would be closed as waves were breaking lighthouse high over it. Paid my 60p and headed off to the platform at the pier base checking the shrubs for any rarities as I went. The tumult was impressive and getting larger as the tide came in. Two Rock Pipits and three to four Tunstones fed at the cliff base dodging waves as they broke watched by a Robin who seemed somewhat in awe of the proceedings.

Having the wrong lens with me to frame the scene I decided a quick video was best to capture the moment. I remember taking pictures here a few years ago in similar conditions which hailed the demise of my Canon 300. Watching a wave rolling along the pier wall towards me I realised, as did the gentleman standing next to me that it was bigger than usual. About fifty yards away we both sort of thought uh oh and flinched preparing to run but fearing a collision at the steps, neither of us did. The wave thumped into the base of the sea wall and a white sheet formed in front of me. I tucked the camera under my jacket braced myself against the cliff, crouching over as the weight of freezing water cascaded onto me. It was over fairly quickly and glad that I had survived I stood up and opened my coat only for me and my camera to be deluged by a second wave of water coming off the cliff face.

It took an afternoon for me to dry out and three days for the camera which never did perform again with all its functions.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Business meeting at Ovington mid morning so took the opportunity to check out the Bywell Bridge Dippers. This chap was singing away to a presumed mate midstream in the Tyne. An enigma of a bird to photograph..... showy but dark with a white chest, always moving as is the background and often shaded by the river banks makes for one result in ten shots.

Not often you get two in the same shot though as outside breeding they are quite fiesty birds!

Sunday, 17 October 2010


I awoke to rain and more greyness which prevented any thought of getting out sharp on Prestwick Carr but by 10.00 there was blue sky at the coast so I headed for East Chevington in the hope the six Snow Geese had remained and I could obtain a royal flush in geese for the year but no Geese at all present when I arrived so carried on up to Hauxley.
The Ponteland hide was busy so walked up to the Tern hide where IF and colleague had most birds present accounted for until a Greenshank flew in and started my day of taking crappy pictures. A colour ringed Turnstone plus Grey Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit and Curlew also added to my pain alongside numerous Ringed Plover and Sanderling playing with my attention on the beach.
Returned to the Ponteland hide and watched 304 Greylag Geese for half an hour before checking out Druridge Pools where all the ducks were on the far shore and then continued on to Cresswell.
As I arrived seven Whooper Swans flew in and upon entering the hide I was informed that two Bittern had recently been displaying to each other and that a Red Crested Pochard was on the water. I found the Pochard along with a female Scaup and a pair of Pintail and a Ruff but the Bittern wasn't playing so I spent the next half hour or so discussing the merits of said species with a fellow birder and Vee who had turned up with her big lens at the ready. We were joined by a lady with a distinctly Low Countries accent who we guided round the various species until she asked if there were any Shelduck present. We guided her to some juveniles feeding near the spit where upon the birder remarked that they were a 'nice dutch bird'. I noticed her flinch as the translation suddenly hit home before she realised that it was neither a come on nor compliment and after a brief pause a discussion regarding the dutch translation of Shelduck ensued. Precious!
Of course eight people in the hide and only the quiet lady who hadn't said anything piped up with 'isn't that a Bittern' and we all focused (or not) on a bird flying about twenty yards back into the reeds. Another hour passed and the bird hadn't shown again although I'd managed to ID a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with the help of a birder from Troon. The light was fading and I shut the window and was about to leave when the shout went up and there was the Bittern again in typical posture peering out above the reeds.

In all then, a splendid day with some good birds but my photography was woefull.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Walk like an........

Egyptian Goose at Whittle Dene last night. I was in the hide watching a flock of 30 or so Greylag Geese feeding in the ploughed field just east of the Great Northern Reservoir and bemoaning the fact that the chill wind was blowing from the direction I was wishing to look, when over the hill appeared this bird apparently wearing eye make up.

Over the next ten minutes it gradually got closer but never too near to any of the Greylags.

It is debatable where it has come from as most Egyptian Geese up here in the bleak north are generally regarded as escapes but nice to see all the same.

No rings or tags apparent when I got some close up views but you just never know. Also on Whittle Dene last night 100 plus Canada Geese, hundreds of Black Headed and Common Gulls bathing, 2 Mute Swans, 3 Little Grebe, and a smattering of Teal, Mallard and Wigeon all hiding round the corner so difficult to count.

Also overhead thirty five Skylark and the usual flock of Jackdaws. The diary had an entry reporting thousands of Starlings at a pre roost flock the previous evening reminding me of 2001 when I witnessed the biggest gathering I'd ever seen which I eventually quantified as around 100,000. After a meeting in Ovington I returned to see if this was a repeat event but not a bird was in sight.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Colouring a grey background

Have been spreading myself pretty thin this weekend with the grey weather hampering any decent attempts at photography. Did my webs count on Saturday morning accompanied by a backing track of scores of Redwing streaming overhead. A fairly normal count for the Tyne with Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover in abundance and Teal numbers increasing but nice to see a Greenshank in Lemington Gut and a flock of Redpoll at Newburn Riverside along with a few Goldcrest and my first Jay at that location.
Thought I had a good plan for the afternoon as I had arranged a business meeting at Widdrington assuming I could then head off to Druridge or further north for some birding. My plan backfired as the best reports zoomed in from St Marys and Tynemouth. Managed an hour at Tynemouth where I again met Liverbirder who had seen the Dusky Warbler moments before. I got a view of a bird flitting about in a bush, but little more and not really a tick before it disappeared. Hardly suprising after three passes from a Sparrowhawk who was sparring with the local Magpies.
Headed north to my meeting and was distracted throughout by the constant movement of birds overhead including Mistle Thrush and a flock of 350 Lapwing. Finished off at Druridge as planned but there was little at Hauxley and only found more Goldcrest at the pools.

Sunday dawned grey again and I headed out on Prestwick Carr for a goose count. Loads of Redwings flushed from their roost and a single Fieldfare. Goldcrest again in the hedgerows moving with the Tit flock and a pair of Mute Swans flew in but no geese.
Then off to Tynemouth again, not for birds but the bookfair where I purloined another few tomes for my collection including another field guide to warblers, a little late to be of help this year methinks. Anyway Sunday lunch and a grand prix later I snatched the opportunity and headed to St Marys Island. Walking up the path I was astounded by the number of Goldcrest and Robins all feeding frantically in any location they could find. There must have been hundreds and far too many to attempt to count so headed for the willows where six birders with raised bins identified the area where I should be looking and there, flitting between bush, fence and ground was the Red flanked blue tail. Spent half an hour with a couple of good views and two record shots just to prove it before the light was totally lost and I headed home.

Not bad for a dull weekend!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Buzz white wear

Was sent these images by KevinR who I often meet down on Prestwick Carr. Taken in Dumfries by LeeR this leucistic Buzzard must attract some attention. I've blogged before about the white chested individual on the Carr but this bird is spectacular.

Almost Ptarmigan white it must be good cover in winter or when amongst sheep but I'm sure it must get some stick off other birds.

Must be quite a sight in flight especially against the current skies which alternate daily between bright blue and dull grey. I just hope the trend continues tomorrow as its counting weekend.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


No Short eared Owls yet but Sunday evening saw the return of another favourite. A female Stonechat graced the fence line west of the goats. This is the first of this species I've seen at Prestwick Carr since January when they were a regular sighting but in line with the rest of the county, the big freeze wiped them out so glad to see a return of this enigmatic bird.
It was too dark on Sunday to get a decent pic so this is one from the archive taken at St Marys Island many years back.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Looking back

at yesterdays count on Prestwick Carr it is clear autumn is well established. Not many Blackbirds yet nor any Redwing although I did see five over Tranwell Woods on Tuesday last week. Plenty of Skylark movement again and small flocks of 15 plus Swallow and 10 plus House Martin remain at Prestwick Mill. Robins must be establishing winter territories as I found 23, many of them singing, as were two Chiffchaffs. Most interesting however were seven Goldcrest travelling in two vocal parties probably winter migrants that came in on the back of last weeks weather.

As I watched the Goldcrests in the strong low sun 20 Redpoll flew overhead and some calling in the bushes twenty meters on alerted me to three Bullfinch. Notwithstanding my recent post all three (two males and a female) perched on the top of the bush allowing some poor shots (damn that low sun!)

Nice to see though which contributed to the mornings tally of 42 species including a pair of Jay at Banks Pond. I see that the Wildlife Trust have cut some strips through the dense reed grass where the Owls hunt which can only be a good thing allowing its use by more birds and exposing the small mammals on which the Crows were preying last night. These fields were always good for Reed Bunting and Grasshopper Warbler but were so dense they untied your shoelaces if you walked through so some opening up, as was supposed to be carried out by the tennant farmers, hopefully may lead to a more varied wildlife.
Looking at the fine sun early in the afternoon headed down to Tynemouth to try and photograph the Yellow Browed Warbler at the pier base. Liverbirder and two others were present and had seen the bird so I set up and waited, and waited and waited. Two hours later the sun had gone, the wind had risen, I'd seen five birders, had numerous enquiries from passing tourists as to why I was staring at a hillside and just two of the very briefest glimpses neither of which merited even alerting the waiting public never mind focusing the camera. Such is life...good job I'd got some better views last Thursday for the year tick.