Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Hare grazing

Out sharp the last two mornings in search of Pied Flycatcher which is another addition to the PC list but unfortunately not mine. The advantage of being around at that time is that you catch some of the residents still breakfasting. I managed to sneak past them twice helped by the withering wind but eventually my scent was just too much even for the gale and off they went. Difficult making an efficient getaway with all these woolly lumps lying around.
This morning the wind had gone and in sunny conditions with the lightest of breeze the warblers were in song with the exception of Sedgie which has yet to grace the Carr with its presence. The scores today - eleven Willow Warbler, six Whitethroat and five Grasshopper Warbler. Almost back to normal service for the time of year but the flashes have dried up so other than Wagtails, Pipits and Wheatears the chance of good waders looks slim.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Turn to stone

 Up at Hauxley on Saturday this Turnstone coming into breeding plumage stood out.
But for some reason the complicated background totally threw the camera and none of the shots were properrly in focus
Grumpy old photographer!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

All white in the end

Having had the morning wrecked by work and weather (good job there's no women in my life as I'd get no birding done) I headed off to Whitley Bay where SPP put me onto the splendid Blue headed Wagtail. I then headed up the coast and was snapping away at some Turnstones when Phil called me. 'Is the Great White Egret still at Prestwick Carr?' he asked. My heart sank. 'What Great White Egret?' Patch nightmare as new bird was there and I was here. Off I set gambling on the A1 being quicker than the spine road. After following Sunday drivers, tractors and a clapped out Datsun I eventually got up to speed north of Morpeth and arrived on patch to find a whole team of twitchers all searching vainly for a bid white bird. Some aspersions were cast as to the validity of the sighting being in the horse paddocks where there were many horses, pipits, wagtails but no apparent Egret. I tried to turn a Mallard on the far flash into a Grebe but as we all stared into the sunlit fields I chatted to Ian, Bill, Tim, Janet and anybody else who would listen about Carr goings on but evenytually gave up. Back home for a Sausage and Pasta Bake I settled down with a glass of the red stuff when GB texted me that the bird had been found. I returned to find Craig watching the adult in breeding plumage standing next to the very flash of water I had been staring at just half an hour before. Patch well and trully ticked ADMc and BMo arrived and just as we settled down for extended viewing with the setting sun allowing better views, the bird took off and headed high to the north east.
Number 194 on the PC all time list and No 157 for me with the year list creeping up toward the ton. Come on down Little / Catle Egret!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Here's looking at you

The horse paddocks are still lifting with Pipits, Wagtails and Wheatears many of which seem unphased by human or vehicular activity perhaps indicating desperation to feed or being from wild places not burdened by human prescence.
 Always nice when you get a bit of interaction with species not prone to doing so.
Many though just keep their head down in concentration and ignore you. I wish that were so of the 150 Golden Plover in splendid plumage that I have again failed to get close enough for a decent shot. Other birds added to the list but avoiding the camera thus far are Redstart, Little Owl and Whitefthroat with my first Swift of the year over Kingston Park yesterday. I notice my work is also picking up just to hamper my birding.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

He's behind you

Not panto season yet. The Pheasant was quite safe as the Fox was badly lame on the left foreleg.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

That's an up turn

Whilst watching Avocets and chatting to RF at the weekend he mentioned he had observed the male walking alongside the female splashing her prior to mating. On the way back from Chevington I stopped to watch the birds further and an altercation between two pairs broke out with posturing and calling. This must have prompted one pair to renew their bond.
Firstly the male preened which I've always thought must be difficult with a upturned bill!
Then as predicted the male splashed the female using the side to side feeding motion and she adopted an inviting posture.
 No further encouragemnet necessary the deed commenced.....
and when complete the two scurried away like guilty teenagers.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

That's no goose

Saturday afternoon and a trip to Cresswell in the hope of a Garganey or rare Wagtail but none to be had although I found out later I was looking in the wrong place. As I arrived two birders who I see quite often but whose names I don't know said four Snow Geese had flown in but disappeared over the hill. Just as the couple were about to leave the birds re-appeared from Bells Pond and I beckoned them back only to see the foursome head off north. After a chat with RF and a fruitless search for Garganey at Druridge I headed to East Chevington where Jack was hunting for the same four. In Northumberland birding it's debatable whether searching is worth it as most don't count the Snow Goose as a real tick especially without carrier species like Whitefronts or Pinkfeet. We watched the pair of big birds and Jacks mate spotted the geese in grass field between Druridge and Chevington but well distant. Too curious for my own good I made the hike up the coast path but the wind was from the other direction, the birds distant and always walking away from me so the craptastic shot above is all I achieved and the grass meant no signs of rings could be seen. As I returned to Chevington the birds took off calling and flew onto the North Pool later to be reported on Birdguides at their grazing location.
The morning had been spent thrashing the patch at home with Grasshopper Warbler an immediate addition to the list. Water levels are dropping and I feared for the wader season but on the largest flash remaining 48 Curlew were joined by 13 Ringed Plover (new), 2 Redshank (new) and 2 Dunlin. The flock of Golden Plover was around 150 strong and Lapwing were present along with numerous Pied / White Wagtail and Meadow Pipit. Later in the day Tawny Owl was also added to the list bringing the day total to 58 species and the year to 90.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

What's that yellow thing?

Well initially it was the sun but that in turn attracted a smart male Yellow Wagtail to the patch. The day had started well and whilst being berated on the phone I watched as three Sand Martin and two Swallows fed behind my house. Commitments meant it was 3.00pm before I eventually got free and headed to the Carr where the remaining flash water in the horse fields was clearly the best spot.
The fields were lifting with Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail amongst which were at least four White Wagtail who fed with the Yellow chappie quite close to the road at the west end.
Further north at the back of a field the largest patch of water had 48 Curlew and a couple of Lesser Black back Gulls. Two birds standing apart from the rest attracted attention and scoping eventually found one to have the smaller bill of a Whimbrel although would you believe heat haze was a problem! This being the most difficult to observe is almost certainly the spot where rarer waders will hopefully shortly be found.
Back nearer the road the ditch has recently been cleaned and the muck left at the field edge must have been attracting flies as at least five Wheatear darted about the place occasionally posing for passing photographers. To complete the day two singing Willow Warbler were found bringing the tally for the year list from 80 to 86. Now for the weekend.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

No place to hide

First weeks of bitter easterlies, now a week of south westerly gales. Will it ever end and Spring start? This clan know all about basking in the lee of a ridge.
Two Jackdaw pairs are nesting furiously in the pine trees next to my drive the problem being that for every stick dropped in, one seems to get blown out. Not to worry, tidyness is not a feature of my property.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Surf n birds

On the coast at the weekend looking for something rare the usual suspects were just being moved on by the tide.
 I like the patterns made by the wing bars and shape of the birds against the turmoil of the surf.
From the Ted Rogers school of photgraphy. Three Sanderling, two Redshank, one Turnstone.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Buteo battles

Out in warm sunshine for a change the promise of migrants didn't materialise with ten singing Reed Buntings being the most notable feature and only three singing Chiffchaffs on a three hour walk but three Buzzards made for interesting viewing on the way home as they called and sparred high above the Carr.
Gently soaring they would circle each other then one would narrow it's wings into a shallow stoop and pounce on another who would respond by turning up to face the attacker.
Had it been in focus this would have been the classsic shot so I've pastelised it in Photoshop. Tonight, smarting that West Hartford had Willow Warblers before Prestwick Carr I was listening to oueet calls near the goats trying to decide Chiff or Willow when a splendid Swallow with long tail streamers flashed low over my head. Splendid to see him back.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

An average day

Head down concentrating
 Dashing this way....
 then that way...
and the smallest morsel of reward.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Bellasis blues

Sunday morning and the weather was calm so I headed up to Bellasis Bridge for some contemplation and the hope of Chiffchaff or Sand Martin. The Skylarks were singing and the river back to somewhere near normal levels but the banks have suffered greatly over the winter. The area to the right above where the rushes that would be home to Banded Demoiselles have been scoured clear.
Many of the banks have collapsed totally and I would bet that which housed the Sand Martin colony has suffered a similar fate. No Martins were present and as I walked to the copse north of the bridge there were plenty of calling Tits and some Redwing but no ChiffChaffing.
After some five months the farmer has finally been able to retrieve his round bales of straw although many are likely to be burnt as waste. One up side was that the remaining stubble housed numerous battling Skylarks and a flock of 48 Meadow Pipit along with a smattering of Pied Wagtails but I'm sure if the weather stays dry the field will shortly be ploughed and the habitat lost. Over the road, a mere four Lapwings displayed in a field of winter wheat that appears to have survived...
... but further south though the crop appears to have been lost the lying logs giving some idea of the extent of the flood. It's hard to believe that this is the location I heard a Corncrake last July although that too would be caused by the wet weather as the grass hadn't been able to be cut following the rains last April.
As time passed increasing numbers of cyclists passed through some in groups of up to twenty many in converstion and often very loud. The single chaps were a bit quieter although a couple of them looked ill advised to attempt the long deceptive climb back up the hill. Numbers approaching 75 in the time I was there was many more than usuual then as I got back to the car a phalanx of 25 motorcyclists drove north in line astern. My peace shattered I discussed life with the lady who pulled in behind on her horse amazed that the beast had not reacted to the traffic. As I got in the car the wind was picking up and swinging to the cold east again, Chopins Raindrop Prelude played on the radio and I pondered over the future.

Monday, 8 April 2013

One CC

Back on patch but I bet it didn't bargain for this weather. No 79 on the PC list.
It seemed to be finding plenty of grubs on the bark though accompanied by non stop huitt calls.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A mixed bag

At least three pairs of Long tailed Tits nest building on the Carr
 Spot the pair of Dipper at Bywell Bridge
and a smart Pheasant although still no migrants other than a flock of forty or so Redwing and the odd Fieldfare that Manic M and I chased up the bridle path last evening. Slightly unusual in that it's normally Fieldfare that are the late stayers.

PS. 18.10 Chiffchaff feeding furiously at end of wor road. Spring has sprung.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

March highs

Despite the lows of the weather March has been a soaring success for raptor sightings.
O.k this one's a bit common but top and bottom are special
Not quite the usual view of this bird. Pity the photographer missed the best focus

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Patch update

Despite the lack of migrants which is probably a good thing considering the weather the PC 2013 list has crept on. Clearance of the ditches north of the sentry box has seen running water which has attracted a Kingfisher which I've flushed the last two evenings and am now hoping to stake out. Some hope as my view to date has been a flash of turquoise disappearing under a bridge then over fields to escape! Also heard was a Grey Wagtail and seen a possible White Wagtail in the horse fields.
These fields also attract gatherigs of Golden Plover less than recent years numbering up to 150 rather than the usual 500 but some splendid summer plumage birds if only I could get close. Two Dunlin added nicely to the total but Curlew, normally up around 40 - 80 were late arriving and have peaked around 30 birds. Lack of worms due to the flooding suspected as the reason. The water levels are beginning to drop but Ducks are ever present with plenty of Mallard and Teal joined by pairs of Tufted and Wigeon at Banks Pond and a pair of Pochard which I missed. Two then three Oystercatcher have returned to breed along with a pair of Lesser Black back Gull and both Grey lag and Canada Goose are well established.
My emergency feeding regime has attracted Willow Tit, Dunlin, Great Tit and Reed Bunting in order of safe distance but one Robin still demands a hand feed on occassion. Water Rail and Buzzard are very vocal with Magpie and Long tailed Tit clearly nesting. Recent days have seen the ground dry enough for the farmers to be out ploughing and hopefully spring is around the corner. The list rests at 76.