Saturday, 31 May 2014


There have been four or more Snipe chipping away all week on the Carr. One in particular has been there every day on a post about 80m into the field chip, chip, chipping on before taking off into display flight. I've taken a number of photographs but they were all dot in the distance so this morning I was pleased when I heard it chipping near the bridle track but of course it was between me and the sun.
Since it had been pretty obvious all week I assumed it may be bomb proof and walked down the track past the bird within twenty feet and turned. It allowed me the one shot perched on the sign looking back before flying off to its nest site deep in the reeds.
The yearly quest of getting a display shot in decent light continues.

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Pretty much everywhere but this particular deluge was running past the Simonside Hills on Saturday last.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Cocoon the prequel

No not a load of old gits being rejuvenated but a caterpillar of some sort (7-8mm black) stitching itself up.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Up & down

With the weekend set to be a bit wet even the male Swallows waiting for their broods to emerge looked a bit downcast. On the up side the weather meant there were plenty of flies about for them to feed on. I headed out as the sun replaced rain around 8.30. first sighting was a Greenshank in the horse paddocks edging the pc year list nearer to the ton helped by last weekends immature Marsh Harrier passing through.
Also in the horse paddocks the first hoards of young Starlings were gathered waiting not so patiently to be fed. As I write the Starling whose brood left their nest at the back of my house this week is giving an intense vocal display and no doubt a second brood will shortly be on their way. Blue Tits and Jackdaws also feeding in earnest whilst the first few broods of House Sparrows have also fledged their terrace home. Looks like quite a good year.
At Banks Pond the Canada Geese have hatched seven (honest, look carefully there's another yellow head emerging from behind the breast of the left hand adult) and here plus up up the bridle track Blackcaps are singing in earnest. Six species of Butterfly today including my first Small Copper of the year.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Not a hair out of place

Just need to sort out those awkward bits

There, just the job

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Summer colour

It's behind you
I'd be red in the face if I'd missed that

Sunday, 18 May 2014

When is a farm not a farm?

Answer..when it includes the erection of wind or solar panels and it just so happens that another greedy landowner has decided to cash in on the subsidies provided by his greedy landowner chums in government and try to erect a solar pv array on the fields at the west of Prestwick Carr. I say array but the proposal covers the majority of the fields to the west of the access road and bridletrack covering some 170 acres. The above view would be covered with strings of the things mounted on legs 1m high with a total height of 3m. Green Switch Solutions acting on behalf of Prestwick Hall Estates says that 'the proposal would not have a significant effect on the environment' although the criteria under which this is assessed clearly avoids visual intrusion which is then dealt with by saying  'due to the panel height not exceeding 3m the visual impact of this proposal on the wider landscape will be limited'. Clever when most of these hedges are only 1.2m high and certainly no solace to the residents of Cheviot View seen in the distance and already threatened by housing developments to their rear.

It's early days of course and the application is currently only a screen application which asks the Planning Authority if they require an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out but it's a prelude to a full Planning Application. The council have consulted with Natural England whose stated purpose is to 'ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations thereby contributing to sustainable development'. So you would imagine they may have some negative comment but apparently it's not located within, adjacent or in close proximity to an SSSI despite the two Prestwick Carr SSSI's currently under the stewardship of Northumberland Wildlife Trust being just 400m to the east and connected to the application site by the drainage system. I have taken the liberty of pointing that out to the dick (not his real name) who wrote the response.
Just in case there is some doubt as to the relevance of the site within the Prestwick Carr Reserve it is the only level grass area subject to intensive grazing and flooding making it an important habitat for both resident and migrant birds specifically Geese in autumn / winter of which Bean, Whitefront and Barnacle have all recently been recorded along with Whooper Swan. In spring Golden Plover (c500), Lapwing (c300) and Curlew (c100) gather prior to dispersal for breeding with large flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare on their return to Scandinavia. On spring passage Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Whimbrel and Wheatear are regular migrants with Black tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper other waders Shelduck and rarer species of duck such as Pintail and Gadwall if the area is flooded. Breeding birds include Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Skylark, Grey Partridge and Swallow with the fields being an important feeding ground for the other hirundines and Swifts along with Meadow Pipit, Linnets, Wagtails and most corvid species. Autumn passage will again see waders if flooding is present along with Whinchat and Stonechat. Rare birds have frequently been recorded on the application site including in recent years Great White Egret, Little Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Ruff, Bar tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Mediterranean Gull and Little Gull.
Barn Owls are present locally and Short eared Owls in autumn / winter. Pipistrelle Bats roost and feed on / adjacent the site and possibly Noctule Bats feed in September. There is some hope that a Water Vole population will be re-established now that the Mink population has been brought under control and Otters must use the drains edging the site. The open nature of the fields seems particularly attractive to Hares which are centered on this area of the Carr.
When there are acres of flat supermarket and warehouse roofs you could put solar panels on why put them in the rural landscape.'s easier and of course there's the profit to think about.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


A torrid week and still fighting the camera so just a couple to share. Insects and day flying moths beginning to appear. A well camouflaged Common Carpet...
and early fungi Egghead Mottlegill perhaps.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Catchy catcher

Early visit as no time during the day. Oystercatchers playing noisy chase games this morning. Garden Warbler still singing and one Wheatear remains. 
It's nice to see at least four pairs of Lapwing on territory but yet to see any young.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The problem with Prestwick Carr

It's quite difficult to get a recording without a plane as backing track. Nice Garden Warbler singing up the bridle track all weekend and just to complicate song ID a Blackcap about 50m away. The Cuckoo seems to have moved on but up to seven Wheatears and a Whimbrel in the horse paddocks.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Good job they nest three times a year

After the loss of the first fledged Collared Doves to the local cat now hopefully moved on with it's owners the pair nested again in a more exposed position at eye level four foot from my back window. They were diligent parents and two eggs duly hatched with two young becoming more visible by the day. I returned home last Sunday morning to the alarm calls of a Blackbird in the same tree so looking out of the kitchen door the sight of dove feathers on the ground was not a good omen. I went upstairs to the window and there being harangued by a male Blackbird just feet away was a male Sparrowhawk tucking into Sunday lunch. The adult dove must have escaped in a flurry of feathers but the young were left to the attentions of the hawk who having eaten most of the first young staggered around the poorly built nest for a while before flying off with the remains, no doubt a gift for Mrs Sparrowhawk. The remaining dead youngster was a sad sight but I left it knowing the hawk would return for seconds as it duly did some time in the afternoon.
Next day, as if nothing had happened the adults were back inspecting the nest and re-affirming their bond on the kitchen roof but a third bird now joined them presumably another male sensing an opportunity to mate. Battles ensued and today on returning home one of the birds lay dead on the drive. Cause of death unknown but I wouldn't imagine a fight between Doves would end in death so likely distracted by the chase got careless and hit something.
Third time lucky?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Going Cuckoo

One did singing from the back of the woods on the Carr yesterday from 10.30 till dusk then it was my turn overnight as I struggled to ID the shot above. Whilst listening to the Cuckoo, watching three cracking summer plumage Golden Plover and a number of Wheatears one bird stood out having a very dark line up the chest (although in my initial discussions with GB and AJJ I thought this was a rear view I've changed my mind) Well distant and with malfunctioning camera I took six shots as it stood up on dung piles looking for insects then scurried after them just like a Wheatear and of similar, possibly slightly smaller size and a little more furtive. With only bins at hand I returned to get my scope but you know the result. The bird was not to be found although hardly surprising as all the horsey set were emerging to tend their steeds. A mega that has got away or a pixel aberration?
Also of note the Redstart female has joined her partner up the bridle track with Garden Warbler singing well nearby and a pair of Gadwall added to the list courtesy of GB.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Out of.........

it, patience, cash would all fit but mainly focus as camera and lens appear to have had a major falling out so non of the pics are worth viewing full size but the small scale gives the gist. Saturday morning was Sedgie time with ten or more singing and displaying with Whitethroat, and Willow Warbler as supporting artists. Two Blackcap sang near the golf course bringing the pc list to 90.
A rare glimpse of singing Grasshopper warbler was nice but Yellow Wagtail still evades me and I must have eyeballed every dandelion in every field on the Carr.
The first obvious young on the Carr with this brood of Mallard hatched at the ideal time for a bit of dabbling. Mother must have chosen a good nest site as many nests fail when the water levels suddenly rise as they did on Thursday. They also fail in dryer years when the levels drop away to nothing in the ditches and nests once supported on floating vegetation fall into the ditch.
This morning another singing Blackcap up the range track although I spent a good fifteen minutes to get a good view and prove it was not a Garden Warbler as the song was a bit scratchy. Also signs of Long tailed Tit breeding as one of the pair gathering food in the hedgerow had a well bent tail but I failed to track them back to the nest site.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Supplemental star date 02.05.14

Blackwit moved into the horse paddocks so better views
A couple of shots and then Err1 camera fault so the rest trashed

Patch perfect

Thursdays rain has made Prestwick Carr just right for passage migrants. All the ditches are full and lots of flash water lying. GB texted me yesterday saying he had two Yellow Wagtails, two Whimbrel and a Black tailed Godwit. I couldn't get there till late and couldn't find any of the aforementioned however did find a Common Sandpiper and three Wheatear so with hope in heart it was up at sparrowfart this morning and out to see what I could find. With a backing track of Willow, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroat, Curlew, Skylark and Lapwing it was a beautiful way to start another day. Black tailed Godwit was first on the large flash above viewable from the main road. Also 4 Greylag geese and a Roe deer in the pic.
The horse paddocks unusually held little other than this female Wheatear on the same spot she was last night and a couple of Pied Wagtails and loafing male Mallards. Further up the bridleway two male Wheatears perched on a sunlit fence line but all too distant for the lens. A Whimbrel called from the sheep fields to the north and overhead two Shelduck brought the pc list to 89 for the year. A late Fieldfare was flushed from the same spot for the second day running along with a pair of Grey Partridge and despite not finding the Yellow Wags a good prospect for the weekend.