Saturday, 31 December 2011

But will they still be here tomorrow?

Six or more Short-eared owls flying from 1.00pm

Great Grey Shrike showed well north of the bumpy road from 12.30-2.30

3 Kestrels keeping an eye on things and 2 Willow Tits near Mayfair Cottage

My own mini murmuration. 94 Starlings preparing to roost in conifers at Chez Wanderings.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Blown away?

I got an e mail from AJJ Thursday evening asking if I'd seen the Shrike at Prestwick Carr that day as he had one near his patch at Big Waters. Unfortunately given that it had been blowin a hoolie for two days I hadn't seen the bird since Tuesday not that I'd passed the threshold of Casa delapidato in that time. So a possible two Shrikes or had the original just be blown 3km east. Today I was out at nine and two hours search produced Buzzards and Kestrels but no Shrike. Checked the bridle track to where the bird was seen on Thursday at E but no joy. Then back to find MH had seen the bird near Fox Covert Plantation at F and then whilst chatting to Marie the bird pitched up in the tree right next to us at C.
So did our star have a deliberate or accidental sojourn. Originally found at A it prefered B in the early days and the furthest east it had been seen was when it was photographed by Morgan at D. More recently it has preferred the area north and east of C where it returned to this afternoon.

Elsewhere the Buzzard and Magpies weren't speaking and I was eventually forced back to my shack by the rain. Out sharp tomorrow for the last of the year.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Looking back

It's been windy since Christmas Day and none of that has to do with excessive amounts of Turkey. More depressing is the dullness that is preventing me getting any shots to lighten my festive mood. The Shorties flew well on Boxing Day and the Shrike performed like a good un but I got little return from the few pictures I took. Anyway, I've been sorting through this years efforts and I really don't need any more shots of Owls.
My computer is a good few gigs emptier and I've even managed to unearth some shots from summer that could be saved. I remember the days when I was warm with fondness and hope they return quickly.

I think one of resolutions for the New Year will be to sit down and try to produce the images I can't achieve by camera with pencil, paint and paper. Now there's a challenge!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

It really feels a lot like..........

any other day of the week. It doesn't even feel like a Sunday. Grumpy old birder coming out in me as I prepare for the onslaught that is Christmas day. Oh to be young again with the innocence that the lack of worldly knowledge carries with it. Of course that would mean I wouldn't be able to do the two bumper crosswords I've got lined up to help me survive the afternoons 'festivities'. My Christmas present came early as I opened my tin of basic fruit cocktail to find fourteen halves of cherries rather than the usual measly three. There will be no others as for the second year we (the family) agreed not to exchange same to avoid the pre Christmas stress. I still don't think Dads forgiven us.
Anyway Christmas day didn't look too good as the sun rose around 8.50 but by 9.45 there was a brief glimpse of sunlight to enliven the murk which has been the standard for the last few days. Hence no photographs and no postings. Off then for a Christmas day count which struggled to find much of interest other than a Treecreeper which shot past at a speed to belie its name. Most other things were as normal in the wind. Good numbers of Fieldfare and Starlings, a steady stream of gulls heading inland and the usual flock if tits working their way along the bumpy road.

Old whitey the Buzzard was in his usual spot

and the Shrike was where I left him at 3.30 yesterday. Shortly after this he flew off east only to disappear in mid flight as is his habit. Nice to get a Shrike for Christmas though. Did I mention it was Christmas Day? Oh all right then.............have a good one.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Worrying news

Whilst doing my Webs count on Sunday I bumped into Geordie S a birder whose patch includes the lower Derwent River where I finish my first count. He advised that a number of Cormorants had died at nearby Shibdon Pond over the last two weeks and that others were looking ill. He had watched one as it swayed, head down for a while and eventually simply keeled over which is a bit of a concern for the cause of death it suggests. Now I know Cormorants aren't everybodys favourite bird and indeed to Fishing Clubs can be a registered pest. Licences can be obtained to shoot them apparently but surely nobody would be taking pot shots at such a well watched spot as Shibdon. Worse still the corpses are rapidly consumed by the many Gulls in the area thus anything untoward is passing higher up the food chain. Hopefully there will be a simple explanation or the event will pass. It would be a shame not to see the many birds that use the River Tyne sunning themselves on the remains of the Staithes at Dunston. The picture above is a Big Waters bird as I've tried for some Tyne shots and it's just been too gloomy.

Other items of note from the count were 496 Teal over the stretch between Redheugh and Newburn Bridges and 104 Curlew at Newburn Riverside Business Park.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Threw back the curtains yesterday morning to find the hedge in front of my house jam packed full of Blackbirds. The harsh frost will have driven them in toward the village from the open country where they have been much in evidence along with Fieldfare and Redwing.
The berries on the bushes though are now getting thin on the ground no doubt the next move is into gardens. I noticed on Friday night that the blackbirds struggled to find a roost in my three pine trees as they were jam packed full of Starlings. This resulted in some squabbles in the dark.
Yesterday mornings count was un-eventful other than a couple of chaps up from Teesmouth bird club up for the owls which duly obliged for some moving pictures although the Shrike couldn't be found (see Ray Scots pictures from Thursday on the same forum). I eventually met a bloke of my walk home who had it in his scope in hedgerows close to the main road. Another two hundred yards east and its a garden tick! No that's too much to hope although I know one of the owls perched on a neighbours fence next door to the White Swan pub.

A bit of good sunlight found the Willow Tits on their usual forage. I always like seeing these birds normally after being scolded by them for being on their patch.

Fieldfares remain elusive photographic subjects so a rear view in late evening sun is the best I got. Mums birthday tomorrow which always kick starts my Christmas frenzy.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Chasing the little grey dot

Well the sunlight was perfect and my motivation for working less than so, therefore on the way to a meeting in Ponteland I called by the Carr on the off chance and there she blew.
Another classic view of the Great Grey Shrike. A little tired of dot in the distance photos I decided to put some effort in and met a couple of chaps, JayBee and Ray on a similar mission along with Sedgy Wobbler. The bird, having given us the slip once, re-appeared on a fence post to the north of the bumpy road.Managed to get round behind it to lessen the harsh sunlight which was later to be my undoing.
It eventually flew off west and I followed but could not refind it so off to work. The weather turned gloomy as did my mood but daylight is so precious and I returned to find MH sketching the bird and the two chaps now concentrating on the owls. As I approached Mike he indicated the bird was flying toward me. I waited and eventually got the little chap with background controllers.

He was doing the same circuit as earlier and after a couple of half decent opportunities north of the road I walked back down west for the umpteenth time following the trail as earlier. I could see the bird in the hedgerow to the left and walked on only to realise it had flown right up next to me. I slowly got to an opening in the hedge and there it was..............perfectly backlit by the now brightly shining sun. Fumbling with the exposure compensation didn't help me much and three shots of a GGS silhouette were had.

I've messed this around in Photoshop but quality is lost and I think I prefer the header image especially (although I didn't realise at the time) as it was looking my way. A nice day with a result and some grand crack along the way.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Mrs Sprawk on sentry duty next to the birdfeeders again. I suppose it saves me some money but it makes me wonder if I'm just serving up dinner for her.

Outside it's currently blowing a hoolie and I await the almost statutory power outage (apparently you're not supposed to say cut likewise a pylon is not a pylon but a tower). Anyway the lines that deliver juice to Dinnington tend to be a bit frail so I'll just check to see what (if anything) I want to watch on television tonight and that should predict the precise moment of blackout.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Work, wind and willpower (or a lack of it) have all contrived to make the latter part of the week short on photo's so headed out early on Friday afternoon in bright sunlight in the hope of some Short-eared photos. They didn't appear to hunt on Thursday due to the wind so I'm sure they were a bit peckish. After an hours wait and a fruitless hunt for the Shrike with Morgan, the birds appeared and put on a splendid show. At one stage I had six in vision immediately in front with at least three others to my right and behind.
Never quite close enough of course but I've been experimenting with a noise re-duction plug in for Photoshop which has produced some reasonable results.

On the way home one bird perched in my favourite dead tree. It was very dark with a little latent glow from the sun so ISO 3200 was employed.

Not a shot for enlargement but it cleaned up quite nicely. Here's the link for the Neat Image software.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sand, seaweed and coal

The preferred ground for the Desert Wheatear at Newbiggin. Yes I know everybody's been but it would be rude not to and with a pressing job to finish at Blyth it wasn't hard to arrange a minor overshoot up the A19.

V gave me directions in the car park and I guided a couple of chaps from the west of England to Beacon Point. I told them it was half a mile and quickly realised how my sense of distance was not really working in the enthusiasm to get there. A mile later and we came upon a chap on the beach with a scope and there in front of him the target................simpllz
And the little beauty proceeded to pose. On the sand next to a size 12 footprint for scale.

on the seaweed

and with flotsam, jetsom and coal residue.

I mean you didn't really need the scope as Vipers found out.

What a cracker (the bird not Vipers).

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Full of Beans

Out first thing Saturday and Sunday for Goose counting. I was quite keen as I knew I had birds on the patch which is change from recent years. Prior to the open cast (or surface mining as it has been renamed) I had some good counts of Geese from a flash and grass bank in the central portion of the Carr but the flash was drained and the birds no longer come to roost. The fields at the west end near the Golf course however are still slightly flooded and this has attracted our Siberian visitors. Saturdays count was 14 Tundra Bean Geese, two Eurasian White-fronted Geese (a nightmare for positive ID in the strong wind but smaller size and a crappy picture did the trick) and two Greylag plus two Canada found at Banks Pond. Sunday was much the same although there were 14 Greylag to match the Beans. These are Big Waters birds and they duly departed in that direction as it looked like snow around nine. This is 12 of the Beans at their usual distance. Also of note some good flocks of Fieldfare that are a nightmare to photograph as they are very skittish, numerous Buzzards and Blackbirds plus the Great Grey Shrike which after going AWOL on Saturday returned to give some observers excellent views of its feeding technique. I understand somebody even has a picture of the unfortunate impaled vole and H got lucky with a close encounter and a fine shot.
I did a lot of chasing but no snapping. Of course the owls were performing as usual with P2 being an obvious spot.

Friday, 2 December 2011

All out Shrike

Yes shoot the bastards in front of their families. I have no sympathy with the pathetic employed. Get out and do it yourself tossers.

Meanwhile at Prestwick Carr the Great Grey Shrike was showing well this afternoon along with 5-7 Short-eared Owls.
I off course, hampered by my self employed lifestyle, got distant but pleasurable views. There are however some excellent images being taken. Morgan was a bit downbeat about his close encounter but I have no GROUSE with his images!
And 'old' Sedgy Warbler put me onto this chap. Great shots.

I got up to Cresswell earlier today and was amused by this Pheasant. Is this a Pheasant diner or dinner?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


That's 111 to you non cricket lovers. Two White fronted Geese in amongst the Beans mind you it took some time to find them and don't bother scanning these photo's because they're not in em. Well, I don't think they are.
Not quite the spectacular view one would wish but shouldn't complain. If you'd told me I'd get one Bean Goose en patch at the beginning of the year I'd have been sceptical. Numbers reported have varied from seven to seventeen and that's probably because they wander in and out of the local Tundra and must feel quite at home.

When I did find the two Whitefronts they were hunkered down in the middle of the field away from the main group of Beans. Now if only wind and man could only contrive to drive the two Barnacle Geese at Big Waters my way oh and the Bewicks now at Arcot would be nice...........reminds me I must circulate my Christmas present list.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Watching a female Great Spotted Woodpecker from the kitchen this lunchtime I noticed she was climbing up the tree as if to fly off but then returning to the nuts.
I watched more closely and she had obviously opened up the base of the nut feeder and was taking whole nuts out. She then climbed the tree, only about six feet, to a broken branch where she banged the nut into the split wood.

She spent some time making sure the nut was well embedded, looked round to see all was clear then climbed down to repeat the process.

No wonder the nut feeder always needs filling.