Friday, 30 September 2011

Owl, Owl, Owl, GANNET!*?*!

Watching Shorteared owls tonight in excellent light when Chris and I noticed one spiraling upwards as they have on previous nights. The other bird in the apparent spiral seemed more intent and as it flew past was obviously not an owl. No 105 on this years list a remarkable juvenile Gannet. Actually not a first on the all time patch list as one was found in a shop doorway in Ponteland after a wreck in 1968 but a splendid first for me!! Morgan got a better shot as it flew directly over his head.

Well, almost made up for missing the SH Crane.

DYK Owls and Gannets appear the same size in flight. Not a comparison often available!

Owls are still the dogs bollocks though

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Standstill Crane!

Is the cry of all us Northerners who have just dipped the Sandhill Crane flying south and congrats to those who did see it . I am led to believe it was on the ground near the monument at Seaton Delaval briefly and photos were taken. My source, SPP missed it by twenty minutes and me by a good hour and a half.

For those without the benefit of Birdguides its progress to date
Newbiggin 9.16

Holywell 9.55

Whitley Bay 10.40

Cleadon 11.00

Hartlepool 12.17

South Gare 12.35 (tough luck Saltholme)

Redcar 12.45

By my limited mathematical skills I calculate a distance of around 45 miles (72.5km) taken on a slight arc as it follows the coast, in 3.5 hours. That's a sedate 13mph.

Even in my car I could have chased it!

PS Its still going. Skinningrove 13.41

PPS Kettleness Point 14.00

PPPS I calculate that it flew 170 miles almost due South from Loch of Strathbeg which at that speed is a 13 hour flight. Eat your heart out Richard Branson.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The tide waits not for man or bird

When a report of Pied Flycatcher at St Marys Island came through yesterday lunchtime tools were downed and I headed off in pursuit. I checked the wetland but no sign other than many Chiffchaffs and a few Speckled Wood butterflies. As I approached the causeway a crowd had gathered around a coatguard pick up and the inshore lifeboat made a circuit of the island. A couple stood at the other end of the causeway which was now fully under water and they were obviousy trapped. Whether this was an exercise or the coastguard just being kind and saving them a few hours wait, they docked and took them off the island back to sunny Shields.

The tide was still rising and some Turnstone gathered on a rock in front of the sea wall. Can you spot the colour ringed bird?

Here's a better view. Unusual ring combination with no BTO metal ring so possibly a foreigner.

Anyway the tide was relentless and one by one they were ousted from their rock.

Till the rock vanished beneath the waves.

Met Tim and Vee on the way back and observed a nice if distant Whinchat. Then home to the Carr where with AC, Dick and Gordon we watched multiple Owls perform. Cracking

Monday, 26 September 2011

Pardon the noise

Out last night after Sunday lunch at the folks and joined by some thirty others all staring at three owls that remained steadfastly perched for most of the evening. By the time they started hunting most had departed.

These images are therefore more from Thursday. All have faults and taken at high film speed therefore lots of noise so probably best viewed at the size shown.

Such a sexy bird. I love so many bits of the plumage.

I'm looking at starting a blog just about owls joining the others who have. Check out this link owlerblognetwork.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Bolstered by finding five Goldcrest and two Pink footed Geese on my morning count I headed up the coast yesterday afternoon convinced I would stumble across a YBW or an even rarer warbler or goose but things at Hauxley were desperately quiet and Drurdige Pools slightly better but not exactly steaming. Leaving the Oddie hide I informed an arriving gent that things were dead and called into the south facing hide on the offchance of..........

the juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting yards in front of the hide. It hovered over one patch of ground and Snipe disappeared in all directions. Perhaps it's not quick enough yet for a game dinner. Anyway the horses didn't give a hoot about their field mate and its next choice of meal certainly wasn't for budge ing or hiding.

It settled down alongside the Heron and I felt guilty about telling the chap nowt was about so went and retrieved him from the other hide. A mate of local birder AG apparently.

The two Pink feet which I spent some time trying to change into Beans! Anyway, returned home via Chevington (50 Knot, 15 Ruff and countless Ducks and Geese) and Cresswell (no Snow or Bar heads) to the Carr where the sun was splitting the rocks. Out with the big lens and ..............joined the others waiting in time for the sun to go behind low cloud.

The Shorteareds performed quite well with six up in two groups of three at one stage but just the one grainy shot from the evening. Not to worry I'm still editing a list of ten from Thursday evening with which I will tease you later.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Filling ones boots

Quite a nice night on the Carr tonight

No words necessary really. I stood at my window tonight. The wind was calm, the smell was of of new mown grass and the sound a gentle hum from the airport. I had three species of owl in thirty minutes and numerous passerines. How can life be so good and so shite at the same time?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Keeping an eye out

Out in the early morning sunshine as was Morgan and this SEO which must have slipped his gaze. Sorry mate, it was directly behind a bush from the gate and behind a fence post from the gap near the fence. Good bit of clutter before you get to the bird though.
Found a nice Chiffchaff singing near my house on the way back to commence the daily toil.

Not sure whether this is a Chiff or a Chaff

Yesterday Geoff (Jeff?) spent all day watching this, probably the same bird as above, on a fence post doing not a lot. Just as flying time arrived a dirty great rain cloud came in from the west and said photographer departed not entirely satisfied.

Did you know that SEO stands for search engine optimisation which may explain why I got 163 hits from the states between 5.00 and 8.00 am this morning. I hope the techies like pictures of birds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Putting some gloss ontit

Walking back to Prestwick to collect my car I passed through the throng at the flagpole who were down on the fact the Longeared Owl wasn't showing. Hardly suprising as its been there five days and tolerated numerous faces staring at it. Probably needed a change of view.

As I approached the new bridge I ran into the Tit flock and amongst them heard a not so familiar pchow. A few Long tailed passed by then target species and No 103 on the PC list flew across the road. Marsh Tit and only my third on the Carr. Record shot of nice glossy head attached. Tom had mentioned he had heard one the other day and I had only half believed him for which I now apologise.

I'm thinking of charging for parking or applying for Toll Road status. Plenty of folk arrived for a less than spectacular show of Shorteared Owls with two perched for half an hour not pleasing one tosser who wanted action photos and whistled to try and get the birds attention. I mean.......ever heard of field craft. Five birds eventually flew with three heading off north at high level and two hunting over the pond.

Easy Jet headed off in the other direction in a late burst of bright sunshine in which the birds steadfastly refused to perform.

This morning the sun rose in line with the bumpy road which runs east west. Equinox has been reached already on Prestwick Carr and the chill of winter is in the air but 4 Chiffchaffs, 9 Bullfinch, loads of Tits, Song Thrush, Kestrels, Buzzard but no Owls made for a pleasant early morning stroll.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Looking back

As my car struggles through its MOT I've walked to Prestwick three times in the last two days. Not that thats a problem as I can do an owl check on the way past and I forgot to mention yesterdays mornings bonus was No 102 on the PC list being Ringed Plover flying east calling.

I also caught one Longeared out in the open but the shot was heavily backlit in the morning sunshine so I only got one half decent image and he still found a stick to hide behind

Also a nice Migrant Hawker out in the sun with autumnal backdrop.

And later on a sleepy owl likely fed up with all the attention. Last night after a limited show from four Shorteared Owls myself and five others had the pleasure of seeing one Longeared Owl drop down from his perch into the open and do the old circular head dance as he focused on six sets of bins before flying off to hunt. It was 7.45 and almost dark so no pic was possible.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Deer me

In between two sessions at Prestwick Carr yesterday I had to do my webs count on the Tyne. The count was uneventful other than a sharp soaking and the return of large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Kestrels are also in abundance here with this one perched on a vacant office development in Newburn Riverside Park.

Here countryside and urban industry collide with two deer grazing just yards from the business park on land allocated for future expansion. To get this shot I adjusted my focus point so the deer were the target but off centre.
After completing the count I charged batteries and joined the throng waiting for the owls to show. They did not disappoint and up to eight flew together although Crammy birder did point out that a Long eared could have sneaked in amongst them. I couldn't find it but it's a good point.
Lots of shots of birds in flight were taken before I returned home to food, red wine, X factor, Match of the day and bed.

This morning whilst trying to photograph a Migrant Hawker I couldn't get focus and checked to find the camera focus point was still set off centre. What a plonker. All last nights shots out of focus and look at the quality of the subject matter!!

Never mind there were plenty others who filled their boots. Check out Alan and Morgans photostreams.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Quite a gathering

Not just of owls but of people. Last night we managed six Shortreared Owls, three Longeared Owls and thirty or more folk the breakdown being in the region of four bloggers, ten birders, ten aspiring photographers, four relatives of the above named and four passers by curious as to why we were all staring into a hedge.

The lady on the bike just asked the question and was immediately given a detailed location, views through the scope and a brief description of the relative habits of Long and Short eared owls. By the end she was quite delighted and rightly so as three of the Shorties started hunting. Her parter was less impressed, wanting to press on with the serious business of cycling (probably trying to get to the Diamond Inn before the sun went down) and waited up the road until eventually engulfed by the throng. We gave her back in the end. Oh yes and I'm the sad balding type on the right.

These pictures were all taken by Morgan S a man who has almost spent as much time at Prestwick Carr as me recently and consequently is capturing some fine images. Along with his son who he has trained as a spotter he occassionally returns home to Wallsend in order to pacify the missus with a trip to the pub. Sounds like a fine lifestyle to me. Oh and just one more thing Morgan. THANKS FOR SHOOTING MY BALD PATCH!!

Oh well winter is nearing and I will don the old cap to avoid further embarrasment. This morning with Alan, Howdon Blogger and Tom Tams we found one Long and three Short but getting good shots was a bit of a challenge for all of us.