Monday, 30 April 2012

Did I say 90

Let os prey. Keith and I had seen the Spotted Redshank again and had listened but not seen a Grasshopper Warbler when there was a commotion from the Gulls overhead. I called Buzzard but Keith got it right..........Osprey
 It soared three circles above us before heading off north

Finally  an Osprey tick on the Carr and better still Gadwall and House Martin to boot.
Spotted Redshank asleep. As close as I've managed.

Another Spotty bird

As a BTO garden birdwatcher of some fifteen years I'm always amazed how you don't see some birds for ages and then on Sunday when a new count week starts the first thing you see is that missing species. So it was on Sunday when exposing my aching body to the world this smart chap flew onto the hedge. Nice chestnut crown on him and one of my favourites.
Here's some comparison shots from Ponteland Golf course last Thursday.
and Saturday
Fifteenth tee on Thursday sort of unplayable
and Saturday in full swing.
River Pont up and down like a fiddlers elbow but the main area of the Carr remains under water and the Trusts bridge leads to a nice pond.
I was gutted yesterday when Birdguides announced Spotted Redshank on the Carr just as the deluge recommenced but got out sharp this morning and although distant having been flushed by the farmer, was definately a nice black bird. Most inconsiderate of the agricultural community to use their fields when good birds are present. Also managed three Whimbrel, one Wheatear, two pair of Wigeon, 14 Black tailed Godwit, one Bar tailed Godwit, 30 Golden Plover and 10 Dunlin. That's 90 up and still the scrub warblers to appear. Splendid.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Another good day out with fifty five species and two new ticks. The Whimbrel had stayed overnight and four fed quite close to the road. The Black tailed Godwit had largely departed although 2-3 remained, I did a quick total of the number brought in yesterday and it runs at 110 Prestwick Carr, 75 Druridge, 32 Holywell Pond and 26 Earsdon. That's 243 in Northumberland. A check with the latest Webs report puts the 1% threshold at 430 (up from 150) so we could have seen 1/2 % or more of the breeding population in one day.
 Overhead Easyjet managed to avoid a collision with the Moon
But the Swallows were far more adept closer to the ground. Mid afternoon I got a call from Alan & Howdon Blogger that there was a Wheatear on patch so I deserted Newcastle who were three down at the time and joined him for views of a very clean male bird. No pics as it hid from the wind behing a dip in the ground.
I did however later get a shot of my first Swift of the year. That's 87 on the PC list so far.

Friday, 27 April 2012

There is a God

wit or two on Prestwick Carr this morning. Alan F and I counted them a number of times and the total was 104 -116 Black Tailed Godwit so we'll settle on 110. The last time we had a visitation like this was in April 2005 when 86 birds dropped in. Better still the Bar tailed Godwit was still there and was mixing with 45 Redshank and a couple of Dunlin.
Also in attendance pairs of Shoveler, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose and two Whimbrel which I just about managed to get a shot of.
The summer plummage of the Black tails is just coming through and quite beautiful as is the wing pattern when they fly.
The gathering started last night just after the deluge abated. I was driving out having failed to find a hoped for Yellow Wagtail when I noticed some waders with the gulls. Closer inspection found 15 birds so I quickly went home to sort out the final job of the day and returned an hour later to find 79 birds.
As I counted I was sure there was more arriving out of the greyness and sure enough this mornings ton up proves it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Was that an Ark I saw go by?

Here we go again. Rivers Pont and Blyth on flood alert so Prestwick Carr should overflow the drains by the weekend. The Bar tailed Godwit was still hanging around yesterday but I haven't been brave, or daft enough, to step outside yet today.
I went up to Whittle Dene yesterday in search of Yellow Wags but the weather was just turning dreech and the only birds about were thirty or so House Martins over the western reservoir along with a few Sand Martins and Swallows.
Portly little chaps when you get a side view. Perhaps I'll come back as a House Martin in my next life.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A nice pair

I arrived on the Carr yesterday to be told there were two Godwits on the flash water so a quick walk up the bridle path and there they were. Two easy ticks. A Black tail coming into summer plummage and a much paler and slightly smaller Bar tail. Unfortunately a good hundred yards plus away so no nice photographs. In fact no good shots for the last few days with this dull weather. Whilst watching the Godwits through the scope Pied Wagtails were constantly flicking through the view and Vipers found two good candidates for White Wagtail so tonight I headed back but once again was thwarted by poor light and impending rain. A couple of possibles but Inever too close. The Bar tailed Godwit was still present and two Short eared Owls were hunting north of the sentry box. Plenty of Large Gulls, Ducks and Geese although nothing out of the ordinary. Last time the Carr flooded in spring at this time a pair of Garganey and Gadwall turned up so I live in hope.

Monday, 23 April 2012

What one should have seen

Sunday morning and it was Tynemouth Book Fair looking for some more little gems. Not that many bird books around this time and I had a feeling STH had been around before me and hoovered them up! Anyway got this handsome tome for two quid. I just love these books published between the wars by the well to do amateur naturalists of the time. These were the bloggers of their day and their english unlike mine is normally immaculate but you just have to laugh at some of the asides. Many of them like the one below glory in the birds but have a underlying theme that these wonderful creatures are disturbing his game or digging up his crops. Anyway some nice illustrations by Mr Green.
Sunday lunch and an afternoon watching snooker was followed by a visit to the Carr where the waters were still rising and I met Malcolm and young Christopher who had been looking for the Shrike. We chatted and I was gripped when they mentioned somebody had reported two Green Sandpipers. Oh well that's missed bird species number seven this year although bags of time yet. We met Bill who reported the Shrike was to the North of the fen and Christopher was off up the bridleway like a whippet. At the viewing gate we watched two Short eared Owls hunting and Malcolm picked up the Shrike in the distance which was duly ticked by Christopher. I showed them a couple of other hot spots and the Redstart sang briefly but didn't show. On the way back down the lane a Gropper reeled from a nearby hedge but again didn't offer up a sighting for Christopher so here's one from Arcot last year for the young chap which I'm sure he'll catch up with eventually.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A good start

The weekend started well as the deluge that had stayed over the area since lunchtime subsided and I got out to play. The ditches are full and the fields flooded so come on down you waders! I met Ron and Caz on the way up the bridlepath and they reported hearing Grasshopper Warbler so I soldiered on meeting Bill who said the female Redstart had appeared. Couldn't see it but I could hear the male singing! A single Short eared Owl was flying and they Great Grey Shrike remained in its favourite bushes.
Out sharp then on Saturday with hope in the heart and Willow Warblers singing at 25 yard intervals up the bumpy road and then that familiar sound. A gropper reeling.....

accompanied by Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting. Pressing on I couldn't find the hoped for waders but Oystercatcher and Shelduck made use of the flashes. Two Fieldfare called from trees to my right and as I approached the ruin the familiar song of Redstart. It took me ages to find the blighter high up in the trees but here's the proof. Another in a long line of crap Redstart pictures!
The mornings walk ended at Banks Pond with Blackcap added to the patch year list which now stands on 79. The total for three hours ended on 56 species which isn't far short of my record of 62 which was made in similar flooded spring conditions. Out later for another installment and hope to push the day list on with some Owls and a Wheatear or Yellow Wagtail would be nice.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Spotty bird

I found this at Killingworth Lake today and was wondering which bird it came from. A spectacular geometric pattern that must be lost when combined with the other feathers in its plumage. Likely to be a duck so the main suspects present today were Tufted Duck, Mallard, Pochard and Goldeneye although Goosander and Great Crested Grebe shouldn't be ruled out.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


A very mixed bag this morning as I set off in bright sunshine without my hat feeling that the brisk cool wind would do me good. A Magpie cast me an evil eye perhaps questioning the good sense in venturing out uncovered.
Plenty of bird song with Skylark, Wren and Greenfinch noticable along with distant Chiffchaff and Song Thrush. Willow Warblers were now singing at fairly regular intervals along the bumpy road and up toward the ranges where I could not go because of firing. I scanned the horse fields for Wheatear or Ring Ouzel but none were there but the Curlews were gathered round some flash water in the distance along with two Lesser black back Gulls which seem to have made this home for the moment. I turned toward the Golf Club and as I passed a gate noticed the Golden Plovers, which must now number up to 500, were closer than usual. I got off a couple of shots before...........
being pelted with hail from a storm that had blown in from the north. I swore as there are few opportunities to get close to these handsome birds. I sheltered near Prestwick Mill before turning for home in now cold, bleak greyness. The Plovers had gone and the Army was now raising quite a barrage of rifle fire having started off with some high velocity sniper fire (you can tell by the interval between hearing the shot and the round hitting the butt).
When I got back to the other end of the road the weather was set fair again with blue sky, white clouds and a solitary Swalllow passed overhead so I decided to take in Banks Pond on the off chance of Sand Martin. No Martins but Little Grebe and Tufted Duck added to the patch year list along with pairs of Mute Swans, Coot and Moorhen and accompanied by more banging from Steve Smiths Clay Pigeon Shoot. It can be noisy bird watching round here.

Would you credit it, more hail as I turned for home. Wish I'd brought my hat so hid in Shay Givens conifer hedge until it passed. As I got home two Oystercatcher lifted from the field opposite and flew overhead in bright sunshine once again. What a country!
At home and dinking a nice warm cup of coffee I noticed this Spuggie in the garden. Unusually rich chestnut cap lacking in grey and clean appearance suggests Tree Sparrow mix or is it just a dominant male? This interbreeding did occur in one of my nest boxes a few years ago but the eggs failed due guessed it, bad weather.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The waters break

Well sort of. After a deluge at 3.00 yesterday I got out to hunt for some migrants or possibly a big bird forced down by the weather. The morning had seen my first Swallow of the year flashing past the back of the house looking for flies no doubt and after a trip up the range bridleway where two owls were sighted I ventured down the bumpy road and found a little green job busy feeding near the pond. Chiffchaff have been prevalent this year so I waited for the call and was rewarded by the descending cadence of Willow Warbler and better still another replied from bushes on my left. I tried to get a photo for a good half hour but neither bird was stationary for long and fairly flighty when approached. I guess I'd be a bit peckish after such a long journey. The second bird was soon being chased by a third and eventually posed long enough for a shot. In a few days I'll be overwhelmed by the number of opportunities to get a photo. Strange how the birds habits change with time and familiarity.

At the goats two Short eared Owls hunted in the now bright sunlight, one preferring south of the road and one north.
A large flock of Golden Plover was put up from the horse paddocks and as they passed overhead I watched the northern bird quartering the field for some time when in the distance another two squabbling SEO's appeared. What's going on? Don't these four birds know it's time to head for the moors to breed, not that I'm complaining mind you.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Only just ticking

A weekend hampered by work, weather and wrelatives plus a total lack of any migrants has left me needing some electro cardio shock treatment to get going. I must have worked Friday because I can't remember it. My count on Saturday turned up a calling Green Woodpecker in the wood and a Moorhen at Banks Pond leaving me on a splendidly comfortable 69 for the year. None of the expected Martins, Warblers and Swallows but a large flock of 150+ Fieldfare gathered up the range track and the Golden Plover flock in the horses field continues to grow.

Saturday evening saw one - two Owls flying and Sunday the Shrike remained hunting bees in quite spectacular fashion but I was spitting blood at Birdguides on Sunday after my webs count with a day late report of an Osprey through. Must be the fourth I've missed in the last two years.

Monday again lost to work with those running a job in Scotland reminding me that they don't have a Bank Holiday with a number of phone calls. Now seriously distracted I started sorting my Grandads stamp collection again. An interesting if Herculean task but with the weather set to grim, as good as anything else.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

webs trends

Sunday and I did my webs count between Redheugh and Newburn Bridges, carried out slightly early to avoid the Easter Sunday crowds. The year is turning and many of the regulars are departing with the summer visitors arriving. Two Ringed Plover and three Oystercatcher had arrived whilst the Cormorants and Black headed Gulls had largely left for breeding grounds.

Shelduck and Lesser black back Gulls have seen increases in numbers since I started doing this stretch in 2004 mainly due to continued breeding success, the former on the waste ground around Costco on the Gateshead side, the latter on the industrial shed roofs particularly around BAE systems. There were also large numbers of Herring and Great black backed Gulls hanging around, mainly juveniles of the latter.
Winter has seen good numbers of Teal on the stretch but todays numbers were well down with many pairs of birds evident.

Redshank numbers on the contrary have been poor this winter and today was no exception although not unexpected as many will have left for breeding.

The great imposter was at his post for the fourth month although his lady was missing, perhaps at the nest. Not sure how they got there but they have chosen a dirty spot near an outfall at Elswick Wharf to spend most of their time. Just before I took this shot a Rat flashed through in the background!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Flying at East Chevington yesterday

Meadow Pipits occasionally but flies constantly

Hopefully a soaring success again in 2012

Swans arrive mob handed

and en route to the ranges at Otterburn.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Just a week ago

The River Blyth almost looked warm and the Eiders were basking.

Good idea mate.........I'd be off before it starts snowing.