Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ah say o

An early birthday present on Prestwick Carr last night although a missed opportunity to boot. Unusually for a working day I had walked down rather than drove in following my trip to Ponteland so I was scopeless. Therefore I have had to rely on these hopeless shots but pretty sure this is an Asio species. Given that it sat on the fence post for twenty minutes then dropped onto the ground not to be seen in the next hour the betting is Short eared Owl just confused a little by the obvious ear tufts. Sadly Long eared Owls appear to have deserted my patch having been regular breeders up until three years ago.

Frankly it was unlikely to fly as it had likely been hounded already. There were three Kestrels, pestering two Buzzards and a squabbling family of Crows all within 100m so best stay low and hunt when the sun goes down avoiding any chance of being imaged by pesky photographers. Will now need to put some time in to see if I can confirm the ID which should become easier as the days shorten...............oh the thought of it and I'm another year deader.

The only other highlight a Nuthatch calling the odds from atop a tree in Ponteland Park and meeting RWM/MIM who had already been informed of my impending birthday by Facebook! Can't keep anything secret.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blank holiday weekend

Out and about but not much around and no decent shots taken. Peaked early on Friday afternoon watching the male Marsh Harrier hunting and killing in the distance at Druridge.

Saturday mornings Prestwick Carr count was low and interupted by bodilly malfuncution. Up the coast on Satuday afternoon but no sightings other than the County Recorder and his good lady.

Sunday decided to do the Big Waters circuit and chatted to Howdon Blogger in the hide but sightings again poor. Finished on the Carr but light was poor and hay cutting in progress so little other than some Kestrel battles to observe. Got home to find I'd missed an Osprey at Big Waters by an hour or so.............argh. Go on and have a look at his pics.

Many signs of things to come with some dead or moribund Bees on flower heads and turning leaves.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Its all down to beaks and legs

When it comes to Curlew Sandpiper ID so at Cresswell this afternoon it was close scrutiny of the Dunlin flock. First find the bird with a clean white belly and non of that nasty black feather that would be moulting away on the confusion species Dunlin. Slightly bigger if you can get them to stand together, legs longer and clear view of joint, beak longer and curvier and finally if it flies a white rump. Bingo... and oh yes, the Scots bloke to my left gave excellent directions.

Curlew Sand bottom right alongside Dunlin and in the midst of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Ruff, Mallard, Teal and a couple of Knot to boot. Later in the day when a Peregrine had managed to disperse the majority of the assembled throng, four Black tailed Godwits flew in. I cheated because I saw the white wing bars but still checked for straight beak in two colours and longer legs than Bar tailed.

They bathed, preened, fed a little then wandered around looking a bit uncertain. Then they all gathered and seemed to look at each other. I looked away momentarily and when I turned back they were gone. According to the sightings board the Bittern had showed for 3/4 of an hour from 8.30 and the Scots bloke told me 2 Peregrine and 3 Marsh Harrier where all present at the same time. That must have been an interesting few moments if not slightly petrifying for the feeding flocks.

I was just commenting to BMo at Prestwick Carr last night that there are some water birds like Merganser, Scoter and Little Grebe that you hardly ever see them out of the water. So lo and behold two young LG put on a show along with 8 Snipe that came a little closer allowing a slightly better image.

Also at PC yesterday a nice Wheatear and further down the same fence line but beyond camera shot a Whinchat being number 95 on this years list. A Curlew Sand would be nice on patch although strangely considering the flooding I still haven't had Common Sand. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Nice weather for ...........

..........ducks, Herons and waterbirds in general

Spent an hour in the hide at Big Waters last night in the vain hope that one of these rainstorms may have a marsh tern tagging along. These Mallard preferred the intimate bathing experience of this water bath rather than the main lake.

In between deluges the feeding station was pretty busy. Mainly Great Tit , Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Tree Sparrow. Couple of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pheasant, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Magpie and Coal Tit. One Robin and the usual Sparrowhawk fly thro.

Oh yes and one of these I think it's a Soakin

What you lookin at?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Wherever I've been recently there's normally been a Common Darter about. This one was hunting from a fence at Whittle Dene on Saturday and quite succesfully at that. I spent some time watching her, watching me and the air above. Every thirty seconds or so she would be off do one circuit overhead and land back on the same length of fence with a fly which she would then devour.

She must have done the same routine about fifteen times whilst I watched and tried to get some head on shots of the prey being eaten.

If she kept on at the rate she was going then questions would have to be asked regarding the size of her first and second segments.

I'm afraid they look a bit bloated from this angle missus!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Trowing up another lifer

Spent Sunday morning writing up recent bird records and the July Bulletin when I checked Birdguides and Woodchat Shrike at South Shields led me to down tools and head south. As I arrived it was raining just like the last time when the Eastern Crowned Warbler paid a visit. Not quite the conflagration of that occasion but here was about twenty birders there, and the bird was clearly showing at the time. The birders split into two groups which I later concluded was Durham and Northumberland. I of course joined the later and was directed to the bird only to see it disappear into the small copse.

The rain stopped the sun came out and we waited. Call this a Shrike! Where's the sitting on top of the highest perch and flycatching. This one was clearly shy and stayed deep in the undergrowth. SPP miraculously got onto it and I had a brief view through his scope but the bird dropped back into the shadows.

More waiting, more false alarms and discussions of glories past. More people joined the throng and many left, including three who headed to Seaburn in search of Bonaparte. Then somebody got the bird low down in the darkest patch possible so we moved around to get a better view. No sooner had we set up than I noticed movement on the rocks to the right of the copse where a Woodpigeon had been sitting earlier. Expecting to see this fatty once again I was delighted to get a spectacular view of the Woodchat Shrike.

Crap photos don't do it justice. The head was very pale in moult but the edges still had a bit of russet colour in them. The black wings with white shoulder and the cheeky chappy face were a great sight.

Well worth the wait. Another view of it perched atop the tallest tree as I left the quarry re-assured me it was a shrike.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Hot spotting

Saturday morning out on a sunny Carr with flooding still apparent but just the odd Mallard taking advantage of the water which is becoming a bit stinky. I hope waders can smell it and drop down but one benefit is it attracts insects which in turn attract hirundines which were skimming the surface in large numbers, probably up to 75 Swallows, many young and still showing gape and a number of family groups of House Martins. Swifts appear to have gone my last one being Thursday evening.

The list struggles on though with a lucky encounter with a passing Spotted Flycatcher perhaps attracted by the same bounty as the hirundines. Crappy record shot follows. That's 93 on the list for 2011.

Also an addition to the buttefly list with my first Carr Comma. My possible fritillary turned out on closer inspection of the photo to be a Painted Lady (doh!) which have been poor in number this year.

The local farmers have by default created some excellent habitat toward the west of the patch. A field of ungathered rotting hay has attracted large numbers of Starlings, Gulls, Pipits and Pied Wagtails whilst a recently cropped field of wheat with stubble still standing has become a finch fest with Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch and Greenfinch too numerous and mobile to get a sensible count.

A few juvenile Bullfinch are also in the hedgerows but he sound of family parties of Goldfinch and Greenfinch is particularly noticable.

On a final note the Wildlife Trust continues to develop their ditch crossing and following the eight meter bridge which they seem inordinately proud of, judging by the article in Roebuck and the gated access to the wood (welcome all ye poachers deer) they have cast the holding down bolts for, I assume, a new range warning flag pole. But hold on chaps, it's five meters into the site behind a locked gate. I'm sure the range warden will be less than amused and the squaddies will just vault the gate. Strange they didn't look at the means of access to all the other flags or perhaps it isn't a flag pole but just an over engineered gate stop.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Back at Cresswell

Feeking pretty depressed yesterday I abandoned work and headed up the coast starting at Druridge where I hoped to relive glories of Spotshank last week but there was little about and certainly non of the action Ipin got later! Loads of butterflies on the path as Birding about Northumberland found.

Headed down to Cresswell where I joined four in the hide. Chatted to H with his new terrier whilst Ruff, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Lapwing fed or loittered on the sand bank and a Greenshank was called from the far side of the pond. H left and promised to flush the Bittern that had been seen earlier in the morning. True to his word just after another birder had taken his position the Bittern appeared near the outfall and flew to the larger reed bed where it promptly disappeared.

Spent the next hour scanning for another glipse and was joined by ACo and Mike but nothing was to be had. Pied and Yellow Wagtail fed by the causeway, a Whimbrel flew overhead and all the various waders were re-located having fled the sand bar. The assembled group left and I was joined by TRC as Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank started arriving for their roost. He located the Whimbrel in the flock and we searched for the previously reported Scaup but it was not present although Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen were in good numbers with three Wigeon to boot. As a Bar tailed Godwit lifted and flew off north I noticed a splash near the reeds where the duck had dived the unmistakeable stretching neck of the Bittern was apparent.

It paused then sprung up and flew past in front of the hide. Splendid views and the camera with little battery life left sprang into action. Both of us satisfied with the fayre provided settled down to some counting and added Knot, Golden Plover and Goosander to the list along with the usual geese, gulls and terns.

A slendid afternoon only marred when I got home by this shot in which for some reason the birds beak has disappeared in a mess of pixels. Oh well back to depression.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Killingworth Coot

I found this colour ringed bird at Killingworth Lake last Wednesday. It's from a ringing project in the North West run by Kane Brides and was ringed at Southport Marine Lake (ah memories of drunken sailing at the Southport 24hr race) on December 20th 2010 and was still there 8 days later. It was found at Killingworth by Andy Rickeard who runs the Swan ringing project in this area on 14th June and by me on 10th August. That's 233 days old for GR25454 and a movement of some 11o miles. He's recovered one other bird in this area so maybe there's movement on the prevailing wind?

No other pictures as I was taking shots of a building yesterday and still had the wrong lens and set up when I came across two Greenshank at Banks Pond and worse still my first ever Fritillery on the Carr which disappeared over the hedge moments after I got off one shot from which identification is at best, difficult. Bugger

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Probably the best looking birds in the NE

They attracted a steady stream of watchers and photographers to the Oddie hide at Druridge yesterday. Brief moments of sunshine made for some reasonable opportunities but it was just a pleasure to watch this pair of splendid Spotted Redshank.

Now off to Tynemouth Bookfair for some casual browsing perhaps to purchase.

Friday, 12 August 2011


The deluge has ended however it's just so dull and Grey Heron on a grey background doesn't help but almost a good silhouette.

Down at Newburn for the umpteenth time I managed to flush the Kingfisher before I could manage to get a shot. Mallards were far more obliging.

Can't even be bothered to wake up but a wary eye was kept.

This young Dunnock doesn't look like he's enjoying the weather and his waterproofs look distinctly unfinished.

At Prestwick Carr the water levels are still rising and the Ruff have departed for sunny climes but one Greenshank is still about although I've yet to find it on the ground.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Ruff up

The flock of Ruff grew from 10 to 13 and then to 18 last night with all present and correct this morning if a little flighty.

Go on count them

Nice birds in flight but crap weather was pushing my modest equipment to its limit

I ended up in the car behind a hedge as the birds walked up the field edge but there's still not one of these shots sharp. Notice the bird on the right is noticably larger which is not unusual in a flock of Ruff and it likely means its a male.

If you'd stop pecking away it would be easier

Or they stand and still and keep the beak moving......drat

This Buzzard was keeping a beady eye on them too.