Thursday, 30 August 2012

North Sea Ferries

The travels of the two Black headed Gulls from the previous post are quite similar with thanks to Morten and Kjeld for the amazing quick response. Both birds were ringed as adults (3yr+) T73 in April 2011 just south of Copenhagen and J9CE in April 2012 just north of Stavanger. The former spent late summer (moult?) at St Marys Island with trips to Holywell Pond returning to Denmark for breeding (?) in March and it looks like the Dutch bird is doing the same although my only other gull sighting J72J was ringed near Trondheim in April 2005 moving to Amble later that year where it stayed till at least 2010. Probably too fat with Fish and Chips!
I doubt they took the direct route like DFDS but with no sightings in the interim I would imagine they wander around the North Sea coastlines. It will be interesting to see if I can find one of the birds locally late in the year or whether by then they have moved down our east coast prior to returning to their breeding grounds up the west coast of Europe in the new year.
Just hoping their feathers are in better condition than this Sand Martin yesterday at Hauxley. All that popping in and out of burrows plays havoc with yer barbs you know.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Ring ring

Having dipped on the Greenish Warbler at St Mary's Island for the second time I made my way down to the promenade and scanned the gathered throng. First out a ringed Black headed Gull known to Brian who recently published the history of T73.
Then another Black headed Gull. This time J9CE
Now a Turnstone which I'm sure I've reported before but can't find the record. Anyway left leg green over blue, right leg blue (or is that light blue) over red if anybody has the info or else I'll report it via the normal channels. Finally
Four Sarnies all sporting smart metal rings although two from left also has a blue coded ring but the photo was too distant to read it. Letter and two numbers methinks. They didn't hang around to give me a second chance!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

On the lines

Leaving the house this morning the Swallows and House Martins were on the lines next to March Terrace. 57 in this shot and probably another 25 in the air as it was taken. I was obviously the first down the bumpy road as the spiders webs soon gathered around my wrists and face. Wiped them away only for more to gather as I walked. I even felt one tighten on my face and snap. I never have understood what the spiders are trying to do with a single line across 20 feet of road. 
You can just see the reflection of one line of web above the left hand white dot. Manual focus rules! Five Swifts and a Sand Martin fed high over Mayfair Coattge and in the horse paddocks even more hirundines gathered on the fences.
It seems that despite a late start it has been a good breeding season locally my neighbour Ken reporting the Swallows nesting in his garage had been triple brooded. As for waders........
The conditions are ideal but nothing more than a calling Greenshank last night and a Curlew this morning. I notice the Robins have returned to both my garden and the patch in the last week having been silent for the last few months. Still good numbers of Willow Warblers feeding up but few other warblers all seem to have gone with only a couple of Sedgies and one Whitethroat found. Loads of Pied Wagtails, 4 Willow Tit, 4 Siskin, pairs of Bullfinch and Tree Sparrow plus a flock of 37 Greylag Geese over west but nothing very exotic although a count of 42 species is good for late summer.
Walking back most birds had gone silent and the rustle of leaves in the wind backed with the usual hum of air and road traffic. Looking up I noticed a Common Darter on its perch of Hawthorn beries waiting for its next meal. The first morning in ages I've actually enjoyed

Friday, 24 August 2012


At a secret location not a thousand miles from here last night a big bird sat on the edge of a muddy flash for half an hour whilst I waited for it to do some hunting. It didn't. Accompanied by a Grey Heron and a gathering flock of 70-100 Lapwing it seemed more intent on picking through the mud. I never really considered this bird of the reeds to be an occassional wader nor Lapwing to be comfortable in its presence.
The reason for the secret is on 2nd July I found a Corncrake at the same site. A first for me in Northumberland and apparently it had been there for some time. Unfortunately a week and a half later the field was mown although the bird possibly went to Big Waters for a couple of days before moving on to areas where hopefully the farming style is more conducive to this elusive species.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Wading through life

Common Sandpipers in abundance at the moment. Five at Hauxley on Saturday
with Greenshank and Redshank too
and a Moorhen for good measure. Pity the Dunlin wouldn't come closer!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Fly Pi

Friday afternoon and having re-invented the wheel for the umpteenth time I checked t'internet in the hope of something interesting. Pied Flycatcher at St Mary's was just the excuse to down tool and head for the coast. Heavy clouds were rolling in from the west so to avoid a soaking I donated 80p to North Tyneside and parked at the south end. The whole wetland appeared in a very sorry state but past experience of such things told me the Willows to the north would be the area to check. Met Jack on the way there who confirmed the bird was there and no doubt had some pin sharp images already in the bag.
I wandered around for a while seeing nothing much and there didn't appear to be any birds let alone flycatchers. Then a birder who I recognise whose name I don't know advised me of a spot in the lee of the wind. Stood there five minutes and lo the little lady appeared to my left only to lift up after a fly and disappear for the next ten minutes after which she re-appeared for a more intense period of feeding. Smart birds flycatchers.
On the Carr tonight hundreds of Swallows gathered on fences in the horse fields and 15 or so Pied Wagtails, mainly juveniles, fed on the flood the flys from which added No 107 to the list on Wednesday being a Spotted Flycatcher.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Banff Badgers

An overnighter at Banff north of Aberdeen to look at a job with Kevin brought an unexpected bonus. Staying at his business partner Daves cottage a few beers was followed by some of Scotlands favourite whilst outside only feet away from the window a Badger tucked into some left overs.
Apparently a nightly visitor from a sett just fifty yards away it hoovered up anything put down with the exception of potatoes and totally ignored the flash. In fact on visits earlier in the month it had virtually taken food from the hand and almost ventured inside the conservatory. Looking at the claws I wouldn't fancy too close an encounter.
Earlier in the evening as the light faded this juvenile was the first to show up padding up the drive sniffing the air as it came. I tried to get outside for some better shots but unfortunately was upwind and it just grabbed the food and headed off into nearby grass to eat it. I must have smelled rotten as apparently Badgers smell quite sweet!
After dark the adult was slightly more obliging but the youngster kept in the background when it was feeding. There must be large numbers in the area unfortunately highlighted by the numbers dead at the roadside.
Earlier on in the evening we had watched an Osprey hunting over the Deveron, one of the best Salmon rivers in the country. I was surprised that contrary to the hunting style of Ospreys I have seen previously, this birds hunting was done from the hover, presumably due to the restrictions imposed by a river valley. Lucky bird as humans have to pay hundreds of pounds per day for the luxury.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Darting about

Can't get one thing finished for starting something else at the moment but managed a few minutes at Banks Pond last night where a good few Dragonflies were on the wing...
along with plenty of Damselflies.
Nice to get a bit of sun to dry your wings.
On Thursday I took up the offer from the two Alans of a trip to Newton by the Sea where the Stilt Sandpiper was duly ticked and gave some good views through the scope. I'm so glad I put work on hold as the bird flew that evening so many thanks to the Big Waters crew. On the way back called in at Cresswell where three young Avocets were feeding and sleeping whilst the adults secured a 20 meter exclusion zone around them. Also a Long tailed Duck in the far distance which eventually woke up to reveal its identity. Now the payback and work all Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

On their way

Last night 100+ Swallows gathered at the horse paddocks. Tonight one or two. Are they off to wintering grounds already. Recent research suggests that the Swifts I saw last week are now fattening up in Senegal before  heading off to The Democratic Republic of Congo for their Autumn feast. Check out this link for their remarkable journey
It would be quite a duanting challenge for these youngsters if they knew what lay ahead. Even further down to the tip of Africa.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Overloaded with work, stuck at home, folks not well, car not well and the Buzzards await carrion soaring overhead. A trip to Newton unlikely till late in the week at earliest. Lets hope the little Sandpiper behaves like its American cousin last year.

Friday, 3 August 2012

it's a love / hate thing

Quite cute for a pox ridden intruder it's sometimes hard to reconcile killing these little blighters but for the sake of our native species I guess it's worth the sacrifice. This chap was at the Reeth Pond near Newburn yesterday and wasn't unduly cautious of my presence but luckily for him I didn't have any means of playing terminator (not that I imagine I could).
I think there is some debate as to it being too late for Northumberland already. I know I see Greys regularly in the Tyne valley and understand they are as far north as Wallington. It was disturbing to hear that the once thriving Red population next to my patch on Ponteland Golf course was wiped out in a year. I haven't checked the Prestwick Carr woods in any detail but imagine the same would apply there.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

two ticks

The flood on Prestwick Carr has largely disappeared leaving a few muddy scrapes ideal for attracting waders and hence 104 and 105 on this years list. On Monday evening a Greenshank joined one hundred or so Lapwing and six Snipe.........
and yesterday lunchtime a quick visit luckly coincided with the arrival of two Ringed Plover to join two calling Curlew. Hopefully there will be more waders as passage increases.