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.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A sharp eye

Well this girl certainly has although not sharp enough for my liking.

She visited the garden yesterday but failed to get lunch and unfortunately the wind, shadow and sun made a mess of a good photo opportunity.
On another note I have been less than observant with one of my recent postings. On closer inspection the landing Shorty appears to be ringed.

Many people have asked me where the birds came from and I'm fairly convinced that at least some are from the British breeding population. They arrived early (26th August first solo sighting and 8th September first multiple) which is about a week or two before the coastal influx took hold. Additionally they initially behaved like a family party and one of the birds appeared to be a juvenile.

I've reached the limit of magnification for that image but perhaps one of you ringing chaps could comment whether it looks right for a BTO style ring.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Short tempered

Possibly birds from different families or just petty squabbles over food but tussles between Short eared Owls are a common sight most afternoons as their flight paths cross. Unfortunately capturing the action is not so easy. Good light means a better chance to stop the action but one minute they're up in the air and you're over exposed.
The next they're down near the ground and backlit causing under exposure. Of course I'm using my bigger manual lens but switching to the more modern autofocus doesn't seem to help much as the actions so quick I generally miss the action.
There is one bird in particular that seems to fly a lot in the daytime and is noticable in that P2 on the right wing is missing. ( see All in a Day ) Possibly a result of these scraps?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A landing post

Watch this sonny

Wey hey

Easy as pie. No 110 on the PC list. Bean Goose Yah ho0!

Sorry, the pics for BG were just not of interest

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fronting up

Amazing. More Whitefronted Geese in one frame than I have everv seen in Northumberland in total! Better still they were Eurasian rather than the Greenland species we normally get at Grindon loch. ADMc counted 195 on north pool at East Chevington on Sunday. They flew in from the adjacent fields with hundreds of Pinkfeet and Greylag to join the pair of Bewicks Swans and assorted Ducks, Gulls, Waders already on the pool. The mixed flock including a single Bean Goose swam around until they had sorted themselves into rafts of like species and then they were off again. A lovely sight.

Crappy shot making it all the more difficult to spot the single Bean Goose.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Yellowshank revisited

Up at six for my webs count. Fruit for breakfast, filled the feeders and headed off down the A1. On exiting at Scotswood it was clear that any count was not to be had. The Tyne Valley was filled with fog. Abandoned any hope and headed up the coast. Hauxley at eight and Erics hide was heaving with birders as the Yellowlegs strutted its stuff below. I, in the Ponteland hide was a bit stinky but had good views as the bird disappeared up to toward the Wader hide. Spent the next hour watching a Kingfisher doing what the name suggests.

Changed my lens at good light and returned to the hide following an abortive attempt at photographing the Knot on the beach. There was the Yellowlegs. It flew in close to the hide and would you you believe it.........the Kingfisher perched at the same moment. Not wanting to be outdone by its American visitor

Shots were taken in the thirty seconds before it headed North, and the Yellowlegs, headed off South. East Chev and Cresswell were to be graced.

I followed the Yellowlegs and was rewarded with a Goose bonanza

Saturday, 19 November 2011

All in a day

Kestrels keeping a wary eye out
Owls that fly in the sun

Passing beauties in non typical habitat

and the damn Shrike that I got to within fifty feet of without knowing and flushed it!!! Frustrated or what.

Friday, 18 November 2011


The Short eared Owls at Prestwick Carr have settled into a rhythm following putting their clocks back. Mornings at roost, 2-5 rising shortly after lunch to hunt for an hour or two then a quick siesta from 3.30 till 4.15 after which the whole crew comes up for a bit of socialising before heading off to hunt.
Getting a good shot is still a challenge though. Too bright, too dark, too far away or just plain dull. Doesn't stop me trying although I'm getting a serious inferiority complex with all the big lenses that people are bringing along.

They say its not the size that counts but how you use it...................hmmm

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Startling counts

As mentioned in the previous post there is always some discussion about numbers when flocks of birds gather. I generally tend to under estimate the size and photography is one way to get a better handle on numbers. This gathering was at Whittle Dene in 2001. I reckoned 40-50,000 birds at the time.When I got the slides back from developing (ah! the bad old good old days) I projected the most diverse shot onto a gridded A1 sheet of paper on the wall I found each 50mm vertical strip held 2.250 birds and that there were about 22,000 on the one sheet. There were four sheets of similar density plus stragglers around the edges therefore concluded the gathering was around 100,000. It lasted three or four days then they went elsewhere probably having killed the stand of Pine trees they were roosting in.
The gathering at Druridge was therefore gridded thus. The average density to the left half and far right is about 30 birds per square increasing to 45 then 60 toward the right centre. I count 100 at 30, 18 at 45 and 10 at 60. That makes 4410 birds plus stragglers and edges so likely 5000 and the flock was still building. The argument at the time was between 2000 and 5000 birds so the upper end appears correct and the end gathering would have been nearer 7,500.
Last night over 2000 Starlings flew over the Carr in groups of 10 - 250. Much easier to count but now I need to know where they are going to roost. Another good count of 14 owls in the air together was made by SWA yesterday morning. Just as spectacular and equalling the site record in recent times although 20 plus were recorded at Newcastle Airport during the seventies.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Greyer and Greater

Never fear. No fantasmagorical shots of our American Idols from me. Just a tale. The Bullfinch is the only shot I've taken this weekend worth blogging but you can suffer some more if you wish. Try this for a taste of what I wanted.

Saturday morning was sunny and clear. Perfect for photographing Great Grey Shrikes atop small bushes. I wandered down the road counting birds, lots of Fieldfare, chatting to folk and directing them to the likely spot. Just after nine the bird who appears to have a routine starting at that time appeared near the goats and then promptly disapperard only to do the same thing twice more before 10.30 when I headed homeward.
A minor twitch had developed but nothing like what I was to encounter later. Got home and the triple exclamation mark followed by the three words Greater Yellowlegs Northumberland meant my afternoon trip up the coast was going to be more interesting than usual. Of course I'd wasted half the day already and the bird was likely on its way to Norfolk by now. Arrived at East Chev and met GB who informed me the bird had flown off but that it had done the same thing twice already and returned. I parked at the end of a long line of cars and walked the remaining 'mile' to the 'hide'. Nice to see 70-100 folk in green all standing outside the hide with scopes all trained. Should give some interesting ammunition to the debate on Turd Forum regarding the merit or otherwise of the metal noise machine. I would have got a picture but didn't have a wide angled lens with me.

We waited and chatted, ticking off bloggers, birders, photographers, pals and those for whom I had donned camouflage gear specially to avoid. A bittern flew. I missed it. A nice Short eared Owl gave a view I can get from my back window at home (I know, I'm totally spoilt). Pintails were nice if distant and I never did find the White fronts. Two hours later no GYL but severe back ache. A mate headed off to Hauxley for a reported Grey Phalarope but I decided to stay put for a while then returned to the car and joined BB, RD, ASJ and John on the upper viewpoint and we watched as a murmeration of Starlings grew and grew. Discussion ensued on the numbers involved on which more later.

Then as the birds ducked and dived thirty or more birders ran up the path from the hide to their cars. The special bird was at Hauxley. Bugger. I had the choice and decided the Starlings were more interesting than tearing up for a view of a Greenshank like bird in the dark.

Sunday morning dawned grey and dank but a quick check said the bird was still about so bearing in mind the weather I doubted the bird would move so did a fruitless hour on the Carr looking for the Shrike then headed north. I had a job to look at in Cramlington anyway which is halfway there NOT. Arrived at Hauxley, parked at the south end to avoid the crowds and visited my usual vantage point the Ponteland hide. Very quiet, nobody in site although all the gates and hide windows were open. Off up to the tern hide from whence said bird had been seen early morning. It was clear on entry that it wasn't about. Oh its walked off down to the south pool. Double bugger
Using all my field craft I determined the bird was in sight from the wader hide (everybody was hanging out the windows), then it wasn't (birders looking at nothing in particular) then that it had been found (birders leaving hide rapidly and heading south). Should I? Of course back to the Ponteland hide which is unfortunately only big enough for six seated and six standing assuming the participants are neither fat nor stinky. Being both the aforementioned I set up the scope at the outfall and there on the opposite bank were Grey Phalarope, Redshank (for comparison purposes although a Greenshank would have been better) and Greater Yellowlegs.
Job done. Beat that for a record shot!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Mr & Mrs

Two Great spotted Woodpeckers in my garden today which is a rare occurrence. I've occasionally had an adult followed by a juvenile in breeding season but this was a pair.
Mister hogged the nuts whilst missus stayed up high.

Tends to suggest that birds are paired well before the turn of the year. I've noticed this in Tits too.

The old girl can still be a bit beligerant.

A hard days work

There I was, awake since 5.30 and out since 7.00 joined by ADMc shortly afterwards waiting for GGS to show. Two hours later nothing and my time had run out. Back to work as Andy headed up the coast. Sorted the paperwork and checked the web. GREAT GREY SHRIKE PRESTWICK CARR 10.00 d,d,b,h! Did two hours work (waiting for camera battery to re-charge) and back down to see said Shrike. Was seen distantly but not by me. Back to work........ three meetings in Ponteland and light was fading. Back to the Carr. Yes everybody had seen the bird today but not me. SPP had put in an excellent five hour stint and been rewarded by some good views very well deserved. Captain Morgan Hook had the owls in his sights but I needed a better view of the Shrike. Last moment there it was. Ahh relief.......a days lack of work rewarded
Even GMi had trumped my photographic attempts but I was happy. The evening ended with a pleasant chat with Harry and Ken as the sun set in a burning rage.

Oh, and the SEO's were up and about too

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

a GREAT end to a GREY day with a SHRIKE

There we were standing by a gate bemoaning the lack of birds. I had just been joined by MH and AA who had hunted the county for Harriers and Owls but drawn a blank. Their final shot for the day was the normally reliable, for Owls that is, Prestwick Carr. As BF also joined the party eagle eye MH(arrier) spotted something in the distance and as he got his scope on it exclaimed Great Grey Shrike. He generously let us all have a view and there it was. My first PC GG Shrike and 109 on this years list. I headed off down the road to get a bit closer and got this spectacular image. Good enough for pit work I reckon.
As I returned the Owls came out to play chasing and calling at each other. A large flock of around 250-300 Fieldfare came overhead and I managed one further distant view of the Shrike before it disappeared as a Kestrel flew past. City Birding joined the throng with his two daughters, Howdon Blogger and his good lady and we enjoyed the great grey owl display in the murk.

Monday, 7 November 2011


Owl traffic control had its work cut out Sunday evening. Six to eight Short-eared Owls up hunting / playing just after 3.00pm.
One caught prey and was pursued by another trying to usurp the feast although there seems to be a fair bit of 'salad' picked up in the meantime (that's grass streaming from the rear)

There's always the evil eye to ward off photographers but you wouldn't believe the shots I missed. I mean...........two Owls with talons engaged one upturned and no focus! Bugger!

Fly by's are easier although exposure is still a challenge.