Looking for something good for this my 250th post after a meeting at Blyth I decided to take the afternoon off. First checked out the quay where a good looking Eider was down below with his mate and two hopefull Mute Swans. Further out a Harbour Porpoise was patroling up and down mid stream.
Heading north out of Blyth I stopped of at Ashington Hospital to try and find the White fronted Geese reported yesterday. The weather was turning even and with rain starting I scanned through the numerous Greylag, two Canada Geese and eight Coots feeding in the field but couldn't make out any Whitefronts in the encroaching gloom. Didn't really try that hard but needed somewhere slightly warmer to continue my jolly.
Heading up to Cresswell Pond I made straight for the hide joining a young lady who was also hiding from the elements. Scanned the pond seeing lots of Wigeon, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and lesser numbers of Lapwing, Mallard, Teal and Knot. Checking the sightings board I remarked it was a while since a Bittern had been reported and almost upon ending that statement my fellow birdwatcher remarked look it's over there by the reeds and so it was walking down toward the outfall in full view. Ask and ye shall be rewarded.
The lady felt that the best had now been achieved and left leaving me to scan the waders for rings and watching the antics of the Wigeon, Curlew and Redhank as they grazed the field to the west occassionally dashing back to the pond when anything threatened. No Peregrine was in sight though. I got my eye on a darker bird sleeeping in amonst the Dunlin. Definately more defined streaking on upper breast and shorter legged. I suspected Purple Sandpiper but the bird wouldn't raise its head so I waited for one of the Knot or Redshank to make it move. As I waited the rain had stopped and a ghostly shape drifted past me almost close enough to touch and I got a great view of a Barn Owl as it flew in front of the hide then started hunting up the roadside. It concentrated on the boundary wall making two or three runs the full length occassionally hovering before disappering from sight then re-appearing to continue. It even flew over two birders heads who appeared not to notice as they scanned the pond with their telescopes! Eventually after perching for a while it disappeared and the rain started again.
Back to the wading hoard I found bird and confimed Purple Sandpiper now preening with the Dunlin. It's in there somewhere, honest.
As the gloom intensified I reflected on an afternoon well spent and how much work I now had to catch up on but it was worth it.
Not only is it persisting down today my garden is once again blighted by persistent attacks from this female Sparrowhawk. Now I like to see birds but don't really have the huge fascination for birds of prey that many hold. They can sometimes just be a pest although the media blame game making them responsible for the demise of song birds is I believe is grossly overstated. Lets control (keep them in or restricted to their own garden NOT kill them) a few cats first and see what difference that makes.
Anyhoo I wouldn't mind so much if the wretched bird would give up some decent photo opportunities but no, it flashes through and straight into cover or perches behind a convenient branch. The shot above is the best I've managed in two weeks and I don't want the opportunity to be it sitting atop prey. Actually it doesn't seem to be that successful and I've only seen evidence of two kills in the last few months. Yesterday it was certainly hungry. It sat in a bush on the far side of the paddock at the bottom of my garden waiting for the arrival of my Sparrow flock which spend most of the day in a Berberis or their Leylandii roost in the front garden. As Sparrows Finches and Tits fed it drops out of the bush and flies low alongside the hedge up the side of the paddock. I've learnt not to give warning as this puts birds in the air making them more vulnerable. I had a hawk a few years ago that I'm sure waited each morning for me to fill up the feeders and attacked the birds I disturbed.
Low fast flight, it rises over the fence at the bottom of the garden and then banks left or right depending on what its eye catches. There's plenty of cover in my jungle so the feeding birds dive in and the hawk then sits near the feeders waiting for birds to return but never giving clear camera shot. Once things have settled I normally flush it by opening the back window but yesterday after being flushed it did another run. Firstly into the conifer tree and then into the conifer hedge, on both occassions without success. Then the Jackdaws got their eye on it a drove it off.
Later whilst working at my drawing board the hawk re-appeared just ten feet away on the back roof. We looked at each other the bright yellow eyes and legs most striking. (I wonder what it thought of my bearded visage?). Just like a similar meeting on the Carr two weeks ago I could neither reach for the camera fast enough to catch it nor slow enough to avoid flushing it. Another opportunity missed!
Some shots from the last few days on my travels trying to find a good bit of wood to make some shelves for a client. You wouldn't believe how hard is to source an original chunk of hardwood in the north east that has been seasoned but hasn't been planed to within an inch of its sap.
The search has nothing at all to do with black birds but by I've learnt the best way get some plumage detail in the picture is to creep up and take a glancing shot from behind preferrably when they're wet.
Looks like I'm on for a business / birding trip to North Yorkshire to fulfil my quest for timber.
Thursdays sunshine certainly was a false dawn of the start of spring as I awoke this morning to the patter of rain on the window for the second day and realised that another ten hours without good birding or photography was upon me. Not that I should be concerned as I have already lost most of today to the dreaded w word. Ah the benefits of self employment. Work all the hours you want without extra reward or thanks. Then again I can skive off whenever I like.
As I flung open the back window to throw out some seed on the back roof a pair of Starlings bolted from their nest roost in the eaves to my right and I gazed across the flooded fields. It was warm and the apple tree is showing some green buds. A Dunnock came onto the top of a hedge and started its rapid warbling song to be accompanied by a Robin with its more whistful offering and then a Greenfinch with an elongated rasp as it made a songflight over the house.
Coffee was prepared, grapefruit consumed and from the kitchen window I noticed a Siskin on the niger feeder as there has been most of the week often accompanied by some friends and strangely seeming to hold their own over the usually quite aggressive Goldfinch.
A female Reed Bunting made its cautious approach to the seed on the ground whilst the House Sparrows helped by flinging the stuff out of the feeder. Blue Tit and Great Tit were on the nuts then one, then two, then four and appearing out of the bushes, more Long tailed Tits till they each found their spot on the feeder without barging or argument. Eleven I believe.
Lovely little birds and so bound to their tribe moving together through the hedgerows. Of course that will soon be ended as they pair off to breed only to reform the team when the youngsters are fledged.
I bemoaned the craptastic photos through rain soaked, dirty windows in dreary light. Roll on spring.
One of the 'problems' of having a patch is that you have to tolerate other people tramping all over it. Hikers, dogwalkers, riders, shooters, trappers, dumpers, humpers and even birders have all, on occasion, crossed my path. This morning in breezy rainy conditions even the cyclists were not put off although it was nice to chat to Bill from Smallburn on his Ponteland circuit and the Woolsington jogger doing his 16k so I'm not totally intolerant. But........now we've got a hawker! No, not an itinerant selling things but flying his enslaved bird at anything that fluttered by. Fortunately there were not too many targets as, like most areas, the open country passerines are largely absent. Reed Buntings are few and far between and today I heard my first Meadow Pipit (No 59 on the list) of the year with no sign yet of any Skylarks although the Yellowhammer flock at the goats is building nicely.
I wonder if this is the same bloke who flys his bird at West Hartford where it disappears off to perch on a transmitter tower nearby or the lad whose bird spent a night on top of a house on the main street in Dinnington last summer when it refused to return. The sight of the local plonky (myself excepted) trying to tease the bird down onto her naked forearm with some crisps remains a favourite moment of 2010.
Of course each to his own and I suppose I must grin and bear it although remain interested to see what would happen should bird and owner come across the real thing!
Working at the drawing board this afternoon looking out on the back roof and a conifer which continues to grow close to the window preventing better views hence aiding my work ethic I noticed one of the usual Collared Doves puffed out and looking pleased with itself. After preening and hopping back into the tree it proceeded to walk round last years nest which, if this was the same bird, would be very familiar as she produced three clutches totalling five eggs and three fledged young. In fact she was so keen to lay the final clutch that the poor fledgling was still nearby the nest in the tree as she started to incubate. Unfortunately this final attempt failed due to a Sparrowhawk attack which resulted in the destruction of the single egg.
Imagine my suprise as she walked to the far side of the nest and looked down on her new, presumably freshly laid, egg. No wonder Collared Doves have been so successful at colonisation if they can't even wait till winters out to get started!
Or maybe they're just horny like the two I photographed last year for Collared love.
sad old loner totally p****d off with life, work and modern society hence the propensity to head off into the wilds to escape.
Photos taken with Canon 500D and (from 14.06.13) Tamron 70-300 zoom following the demise of my Canon zoom.