Sunday, 31 July 2011

Away day

Smarting having just paid a tax bill and despite not having the funds to do so I decided head to the wilds of Northumberland to wind down ( I hate the expression 'chill out' ). Having dropped some paperwork off with the TRD I grabbed some supplies in the form of excellent Mince Pies from Rothbury Bakery and headed for Caistron. Thinking it would be busy I parked on the back road near Hepple and walked in to the sound of calling Buzzards overhead.

Caistron is an area of gravel workings east of Rothbury on the River Coquet which has been gradually been reclaimed as a Nature Reserve. The main lake now well established is that in the view above although the gravel workings that continue to the east are equally interesting. Click on the panorama to enlarge.

As I walked through the reserve the only sound was the resident Canada and Greylag Geese and this gent cutting hay in the fields to the south. I checked out some of the hides and on the lake itself where Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Mute Swan all still with young whilst Swallows and Martins constantly hawked the surface of the water.
Moving through the reserve to the gravel workings I passed a gap in the earth berm and a sharp call saw a small wader fly up, the dark colouring and white rump instantly recognisable as a Green Sandpiper. It flew round once and landed next to a chum.

Crappy picture was taken and I moved on to where the Coquet exits the workings. Common Sandpiper was flushed and Mallard headed off downstream followed by this family party of Goosanders.

In the view below the Green Sandpiper are bottom left, Common Sandpiper middle right Oystercatcher and calling Redshank in the middle along with a few Great black backed and Black headed Gulls plus a still active Sand Martin colony.

I re-traced my steps searching for the birds I did expect being Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher but none were to be had and the unused Osprey platform was a lonely sight. Looking away from the water Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Wheatear, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Blackbird, Robin, Blue & Coal Tit, Song Thrush and an overflying Crossbill along with the usual corvids all put in an appearance. The tally was 56.

In comparison the human count was three blokes in boats on the water......bliss for me and them although evidence of human goings on was in three of the eight hides!

Back to Hepple over a beautiful if over large hay meadow. Northumberland at its finest and still only just after midday.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Keeping a sharp eye out

Perhaps I should as I was chatting to Bill on Monday and he told me about seeing a Hobby at Blagdon last Thursday which would have been visible from Bellasis where I was that day and a Red Kite on my patch on Friday following a tractor cutting hay which I remember hearing as I took some more shots at Banks Pond so I missed two major ticks. This Kestrel flew over and mocked me.

Last night it was Newbiggin with the Petrel Heads. The northerly passage was amazing and thanks to the running commentary on the location of birds as they flew past, mostly well out to sea, meant I even got a glimpse of a Stormie through my crappy bins (thanks Richard) although the other twenty or so were a view too far.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

More a glarer than a fisher

A boring Sunday with little about on my patch so by late morning I took a walk round Ponteland Park where helped by numerous dog walkers the famine continued. I managed to flush the Dipper before I could get a view, a family party of Song Thrushes stayed in the undergrowth and calling Bullfinch / Nuthatch stayed well up in the foliage out of view. Then as I passed the hide at the Ox bow lake a familiar pipping call. I was about to open the gate when I saw this.

A nice juvenile Kingfisher basking in the sun and presumably taking the first few fishing lessons. The moment I unhitched the gate it saw me so I froze and took a few shots. Then the branch shook and a second bird joined it. A glaring match ensued for the next ten minutes

Maximum frustration. I couldn't get closer the light levels were up and down like a tarts knickers and the wind waved vegetation between camera and subject was almost fusing the autofocus.

Eventually the branch shook again and a third bird flew off taking number two with it. Number one in the meantime had grown accustomed to my presence and I managed to get a bit closer.

Not the award winning halcyon photo session but very enjoyable.

In the end I think it grew bored of me, gave a final resigned look and then flew off in a flurry of turquoise.

Just shows that patience is a virtue when fishing around.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The beyondness of things

A grim week with everything being grey and distant so no decent shots to share. Three Red throated Diver off Lynemouth on Monday was nice. They looked great throught the scope but too far away for photography. On the tide two actually came within twenty yards of the shore but by the time I got close they disappeared back out to deeper water. 84 moulting Eider sleeping in rafts alongside made an equally poor subject.

Tuesday was lost to work and Wednesday was just a wash out. Got out late afternoon but everything was just dull. This bird had a bit of a primary problem but hopefully it will be replaced before the long journey south commences.

The only bright shot of the week. Flocks of Goldfinch on the Carr beginning to feed on thistle heads and a couple of family parties to boot.

Thursday afternoon was Gull fest on the flooded hay fields. My neighbour is not well pleased with the water levels but I live in hope of a nice wader. Well there was one.....a Curlew! Little Egret still at Arcot but miles away.

Anybody lost a lens cap? Half way up the range bridleway on the right about eye level. Credit to John Barry for the post title. Now what does Friday have to offer?

Monday, 18 July 2011

A bit of a mix

A frustrating weekend with bad weather compounded by the failure of my broadband connection left me twiddling my thumbs. Managed to squeeze a webs count in during a lull in the downpour Sunday lunchtime the best sighting being a family of four Common Sandpiper in Lemington Gut. A quick trip out on Prestwick Carr early evening saw lots of Small White flying but the expedition was brought to a premature end by a thunderstorm that crept down from the North.

A quick call at Banks this morning saw the Emperors getting jiggy with it but the male wouldn't let me get close and kept flying off with his girl attached below. Strong chap.

A female Common Darter insisted on resting over a confusing background.

And of course the return of the weather to end any further exploration.

Lots of Small Skipper, Large White and Meadow Brown Butterflies but nothing exotic despite the steaming heat.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Vive le Emperor

Friday lunchtime in sunny conditions and two Emperors flying at Banks Pond along with three Four spotted Chasers and two Common Darters. Loads of Damsels in loving embraces and notable numbers of Shaded Broad Bar moths.

Speaking of moths I found this on my front door step as I emerged that morning. Searching dots, eyes and spots has only confused me and the closest match is Flame shouldered but the eyes don't look right so any help would be appreciated.

Some other fly by's from earlier in the week at Druridge.

The startled look on the Herons face was because a Common Tern was having a go at it.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A wry smile

is what I had when I visited Clara Vale N.R. in search of a Wryneck reported on Birdguides and instead found this beauty. My first Speckled Wood but just over the border and not on my Northumberland list which is why I tried to find the Wryneck. Using reverse psychology I figured that I would get my bogey bird if it was off patch and at an unusual time of year. When I got there I knew there was little chance. If the bird was feeding it would be on the acres of golf course nearby and if sleeping the woodland was dense enough to make the task near impossible. Nevertheless a pleasant circuit of this small reserve with the pond turning up a single Common Hawker but looking good for many more when the sun shines

Also had a chat with HFD on many subjects including the likely next appearance of that rare Northumberland Naturalist species. This bloggerfly emerged a couple of times in May up in Scotland but little has been heard from her since as indeed can be said for Birding about Northumberland.

Earlier in the day I found a family of Treecreepers in the wood north of Bellasis Bridge and spent some time trying to find out how many but the best I can conclude was one adult and at least two juveniles possibly more. Two male and one female Banded Demoiselle flew infrequently below the bridge in line with the appearance of the sun.

Finished the day hoping to find a Speckled Wood or some Dragonflies at Havannah N.R. but the place was heaving with some very unfit runners and the usual dog walkers. The singing of Yellowhammer just managed to cut above the panting of both.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Show reel

Sunday evening in bright sunshine I ventured to Arcot Pond where the Little Egret was in the far distance but a very obliging Grasshopper Warbler wasn't quite as shy.

I've mentioned before that whilst I have plenty on my own patch, five males reeling over 2km on Saturday morning, they very rarely show as they are always low in the grass. I'll probably get half a dozen sightings a year although would hear birds most mornings I'm out.

Arcot birds however having some nice freestanding bushes to sing from are far more showy thank goodness and this one sang furiously for ten minutes in full knowledge I was nearby. Occasionally hiding in the shadows further down it just couldn't resist climbing back into full sunlight to get the best voice projection.

Even a strange head on shot which distorts the birds features unless it really did squint one eye due to the strong sunlight.

It looked quite worn out and dissatisfied when it finished singing.

More a grumper than a gropper.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Six spot hot spot

Whilst wandering the other week I noticed the large number of Butterflies around this manhole cover at Newburn Riverside Indusrial Park which include three male and two female Common Blue. I made a return trip yesterday and no Blues but hundreds of Six Spot Burnet Moth. There were fifty in a three meter radius around the cover plus twenty Meadow Brown and a dozen Small Skipper. Nearby there were a further thirty next to the path and around the corner over one hundred on a patch of flowers barely five square meters in area. If I'd had time to survey the whole area the figures would have been enormous and that in between heavy rain deluges.

Quite an inauspicious spot for a nature reserve but this apparently barren area awaiting development can often spring surprises.

Landing clearance was a bit of a problem with the numbers of moths on each flower head and altercations were frequent although the little orange insects didn't seem to mind.

I tried to get a shot of the bright red underwing which is so noticable when they are in flight but need a faster camera or trigger finger methinks.

Meadow Browns were also so numerous that sharing was the order of the day.

The only dragonfly of the day tucked away next to the ponds on the north boundary. Excellent habitat for them but not ideal for getting close. Four spots not six I think.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Summer plumage

Called in at Newbiggin on the way back from a job yesterday. The new maritime centre is nearing completion but I was far more interested in finding some of the Med Gulls that frequent the beach. A much tidier bird than the Black headed Gull especially with that true black head.

Then on to Castle Island where a thunder storm was passing to the south. No Spoonbills but a nice summer plumage Black tailed Godwit fed way out of camera range but as orange as a many lass in the Big Market of an night.

Dark skies make good backgrounds for white birds and there were plenty of Mute Swans, Canada Geese and a farmyard Goose to practice on.

Then heading home using the back roads past Bellasis where a male Yellowhammer was giving it what for from a sign.

It could almost be summer as long as the downpours can be avoided.