Thursday, 29 November 2012


There was a nice moon last night and alongside was Jupiter shining bright. I took the shot but the brightness of the moon meant Jupiter was just a faint smudge on the photograph so I have cheated and enhanced the planet with a few pixels of brightness. This is pretty typical of my recent attempts and I seem to be going through a duff photogh phase. Either that or dropping the camera the other day really did have some effect!
I was at Cresswell yesterday and although the Jack Snipe had disappeared and the Long tailed Ducks (there's now two) were far distant I was pleased when a family group of six Whoopers came in from the sea to be followed by 26 more. They stayed about half an hour coming close to the hide but all the shots were 50 shades of grey with a hint of yellow. They flew off leaving five Red breasted Mergansers and many hundreds of Wigeon to patrol the pond. Thousands of Pink footed geese were in the fields to the north with Barn Owl and Short eared owl hunting the dunes near where I had been parked just an hour ago ...drat.
The Barn Owl causes worry as it hunts the roadside where fortunately most vehicles were maintaining a reasonable speed due to the flooding. (An aside after recent events. Do todays drivers trully not realise that car engines do not run when immersed in water? They should have had my old Cortina whose ignition light glowed when even close to a puddle!)
Anyway it got me to thinking about Barn owl road kills. I am fortunate to have the NTBC records at hand and so far this year there have been ten reported Barn Owl road fatalities in Northumberland which seemed high so I checked back. In 2011 there were just four but in 2010 there were nine so perhaps this rate of attrition is normal. I would put the reduced number in 2011 due to the lack of birds after the harsh winter. Of these 23 deaths the A1 accounted for almost half with eleven. A good reason not to build trunk routes next to coastal margins or just inevitable due to volume of traffic.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

While the owls away the voles will play

Saturday dawned cold and frosty with not much action on the birding front it being noticable on the walk down to the Carr that many birds were moving towards the relative warmth of the village and gardens. As such I spent the fist half hour trying to create an Andy Goldsworthy shot.
Near the mid point of my walk this vole gambled up the road toward me. It must have poor eyesight as it got to ten feet away before it realised I was there and scampered off into the undergroth. Guess I must have been upwind. The deer got a whiff though but remained unspooked by my presence.
After and hour or so I realised that the count wasn't going to pass forty species and that gulls were totally absent. Normally on my walk down there is a constant stream of Black headed gulls and smaller numbers of Common and a few larger gulls, all heading inland. Yesterday none, presumably due to the frost but it was clear, sunny and pleasant so why? This begs the question I have often pondered as how birds seem to know that conditions are or are not ideal in places far from their roost. Surely some first winters would turn up as they wouldn't know any better or do they follow the adults or do I just under estimate the extent of their inbred natural instincts. After all, why would any bird suddenly fly off over the sea in a particular direction without any knowledge there was something better over the horizon?
Out and back I pushed the remaining flock of Redpoll up and down the road but they never let you get closer than about twenty feet. A couple of light ones in amongst them but getting a good view for positive ID of mealys is a task. This one looked a bit strange and the shot seems to indicate a yellow poll but maybe just a trick of the light.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Birch lovers

This landed on STH when we were talking the other week. A little searching suggests its a Birch Shieldbug. Not something I've seen before but another for the PC list,
Of course its hardly suprising as the wood on the Carr is mainly Silver Birch but most are of poor quality and many dead or dying.
Which means there are plenty of Birch bracket fungi about.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Not on my patch

After a pleasant but uneventful count on Saturday morning I headed up the coast calling in at East Chevington on the off chance of a Bittern or two. Fat chance, but the time was well spent watching a Short eared Owl hunt in circuits around the north pool. It eventually dropped down from view into a grass field and I headed back up the path from the hide to the road. On passing the top gate there was the owl twenty yards down the fence line basking in the autumn sun. It needed to as the wind was perishing.
I was joined by two others, both battling with camera equipment but the bird was quite unconcerned at our presence and had the good nature to wait till all problems were resolved and shots taken before flying off south.
Then on to Cresswell where the Jack Snipe bobbed up and down as did Sam, John and John. As we all watched a Barn Owl hunted the dunes before losing its first prey to a Kestrel, up to 200 Curlew came in to roost on the pond and a thousand or so Starlings did the same in the adjacent reed bed. Videos will no doubt be published.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Oh go on then

 So hard to resist
 I'm just a blogging floosy
Follow the crowd, that's what I say

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Buzzed off

I bet you thought you'd seen the last of Bee-eater images now the young bird has hopefully flown to warmer insect laden climes.
Of course, now the bird has gone missing I was called down to Sunderland on business so stopped off to check. Three camouflage clad, bin wearing birders were still there staring forlornly at the aerial where the bird had been. I nipped round the corner to the deli for another two small mince pies at 55p a shot (bargain) and returned where the shift had changed but no Beeter was present.
As I stuffed my face with pie a wasp landed on the windscreen so the nest which had provided good fare for over a week still had some inhabitants which had evaded the bonny predator as it looks like the one above did. (No John, it's not a smut on the sensor!)

Monday, 12 November 2012

Apologies to Wilson

Isn't it amazing that when under domestic and professional stress one's mind can wander and so on Sunday evening I took to investigating why David Maddison would have listed Little Stint rather than any of the commoner sandpipers. The first point established was that Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) could not have been the influence as the Scot had emigrated to America in 1794 and most of his publications were in that country. The first relatively complete list of the Birds of Northumberland was published by Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) in 1831, a year after Maddisons work was published so no responsibility there but the fact that Selby was natural history artist sent me rumaging for my copy of Thomas Bewicks (1753-1828) 'A history of British Birds' and there in the second book on waterbirds published in 1804 the above plate was located. Given the date and popularity of Bewicks work this would certainly have been available to Maddison and perhaps even encouraged him in his own writings.
I would therefore assume Maddison used Bewicks description to identify the bird although the relative scarcity of the species is confirmed by John Hancock (1808-1890) in his work of 1874 which descibes the bird as a September visitor and that he knew of only a small number of occurences.

Saturday, 10 November 2012


I've been sorting out my Prestwick Carr list with a view to expanding it to flora and fauna not that this is something exceptional as I'm following in the footsteps of a Dinnington school teacher called David Maddison who published such lists in a history of Prestwick Carr he wrote in 1830. I had a moment in town the other day so popped into the library and had a look at the original.
The birds section covers some 79 species of which there are some surprising inclusions and omissions plus a couple of puzzlers caused by the classification he is using which I suspect is Wilsons and known to be a bit dodgy. For example he lists Tringa pusilla, Little Sandpiper but I suspect he is meaning Little Stint although Common Sandpiper would seem to be an omission. Then there is the inclusion of Puffin, a bird known to stay local to it's breeding grounds and unlikely inland (although Little Auk after a wreck may be possible). I'll let him off with Gannet as I myself saw one over the Carr just last year but no gulls?
I do not intend this as a criticism of this splendid work. He adds 5 species to my list which currently stands at 192 compiled from 155 self sightings and records from Northumbrian Birds which summarises both the studies of Bolam and Hancock along with the records of the Northumbrian and Tyneside Bird Club. Next time I'm in town I'll check the lists of Bolam and Hancock for a comparison.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Spitting B's

So I was as I spent Sunday lunchtime under my parents sink battling with the marvels of push fit plumbing and the unblocking of same whilst accidentally loosening the washing machine water supply and having to block that particular source of water. Intentions of a trip to Seaburn went well and trully down the plug hole so a Bulleater is the best I can offer for brightly coloured individuals.
What's worse some B (which I emphasise stands for Birdwatcher) reported Waxwing on my patch at a time when I was present busy counting winter thrushes.........
and ice skating Pied Wagtails. It was that bloke in the red car I know it! Anyway, it was a pleasant fresh mornings walk before the call that sent me into plumbing hell.
Yesterday was also pleasant although an afternoon spent in the hide at Cresswell failed to find any bearded tits other than on my chest but did observe Jack Snipe, White fronted Goose, Long tailed Duck and a Short-eared, Barn Owl, Kestrel battle over the dunes. I failed in my photographers duty to record the event and the shots of the Snipe were pretty dodgy. Could be of a song in there...Stop stop bobbin....don't fret I'm just Pretending.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I had a dream last night where hundreds of Pied Wagtails exploded from the roof of my house! Truth be told when I looked this morning there was only one but posing nicely and I suspect I know what the dream was really about. Probably caused by the stress of the week. My poor old car had to bite the dust. Just no life left in the thing but it's been a good servant and a shame to consign it to the crusher. Those that know me will not be able ascertain when I invade their patch as the old bird crap covered Astra is no more and I'm keeping my new wheels secret so I can do so covert bid watching missions.
I took this video at the weekend hoping to get pictures of this gull paddling the ground to attract worms. I missed most of the paddling but managed to catch some five live football commentary by accident which seems to match the action!