Saturday, 28 February 2009

More inland Raptors!

As the title says I was inland searching for Raptors with Steve H this morning further north at Winter’s Gibbet.
On the way up we stopped quickly at Bolam Lake where the Redhead Smew was showing well at the far side of the lake.
Also there were 65 Mute Swans (making some strange noises), 7 Canada Geese and GS Woodpecker and Nuthatch calling from around the car park.

We parked at the lay by opposite the Gibbet and spent around two hours waiting. There was a slow breeze and the occasional shower but most of the time it was sunny, perfect weather to spot raptors in.
In the two hours we had 22 Fieldfare, 20+ Starling, Skylark, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Raven and two displaying summer plumage Golden Plovers.
In the way of Raptors we had 1 Kestrel, 8 Buzzard and 1 Goshawk which after we watched it for about ten minutes was chased by a Peregrine!
It was a male Goshawk, which lifted out of the plantation opposite the lay by and soared over the trees for about ten minutes. After being chased by the Peregrine it went back into the plantation and came out again for another five minutes.

Both Goshawk and Smew are favourites of mine, and both in one-day was a good way to end what’s been a good birding month for me.

Last stop of the day was Arcot Pond were I added two new birds to my year patch list. The first was a lone Greylag Goose which swam the length of the pond, the second was a Curlew which flew over the pond and landed in a near by field.
Also on the pond were 4 Oystercatchers on the dead wood along with the LBB Gull and BH Gulls.
4 female Goldeneye, 6 Mallard, 6 Pochard, 4 Teal and 4 Coot were there as well.
I had 34 Pink Footed Geese fly over CLV on Tuesday.

68- Greylag Goose
69- Curlew

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Big 200 and Beyond!!!

Was out again today with Steve Holliday and D McKeown. First we went to Castle Island for a WEB’S count.
There wasn’t anything much to report just, Shellduck, Canadas etc.
A quick stop at Killingworth Lake where we dipped on the Mandarin and Drake Scaup but I did get my first look at a Male Goosander.
Next we went over the border to Far Pastures to look for Red Kites. In half an hour we had 3 including one overhead.
Nothing from the hide but did have a Willow Tit feeding on peanuts in the Car park where it gave good views.
Before today I hadn’t heard a Willow Tits distinctive call and once I did I recognised it as a call I heard last year near Nelson Hill making it a patch tick.
Next we headed back into the county and across to Allendale to look for Black Grouse.
We checked a field at Sipton Shield and found three males, Lifer, Big 200!!!
I was glad to have such a good bird as my 200th.
On our way to another southwesterly location I saw three Ravens fly over at Sipton Burn, - Lifer.
We got out the car and heard them call, another very distinctive sound.
At the South Westerly location in the county I got my third lifer of the day, a Ringtail Hen Harrier plus a further 5 ravens.
A quick look at Arcot Pond on the way back added Oystercatcher to my patch year list.
200 at last…it’s about time.
67- Oystercatcher

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Hide

I have just finished watching a film called The Hide, which was on Film 4, I think it repeats tonight, I’m always a bit wary about Film 4 films because they have their fair share of crap but I stuck at it and found what I thought was a canny decent film.
It’s the first film I have ever heard of which uses a bird hide as it’s setting. One of the characters search for a Sociable Plover in Suffolk is the starting point and the film digresses from there but he does make references to a Zitting Cisticola in a car park somewhere and other lifers on his list.
It starts of slow but is worth sticking at, I did get confused when he mentioned something he had seen on the Blyth Estuary in Suffolk.
The line, ‘‘Chicken is a product not a bird’’, is the most memorable.I see there are still some Waxwings around Crammy with five near Shankhouse this morning. I had 30+ House Sparrows and 10+ Long Tailed Tits in my garden this morning, no sign of the Bullfinches since Monday.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

R.I.P ''Lazy Kestrel''

Since my main birding aim for this year is to get 120 species on my patch year list, I decided to walk from my house to the windmill on the border of Cramlington, somewhere I don’t check regularly enough.
After calling at my friend’s house we started at the marshy field at East Hartford. 100+ Linnets were flying around as well as two Stonechat, Reed Bunting and 2 Snipe were flushed.
Are aim was to flush the Teal onto the pool at West Hartford and check for Green Winged. A Green Winged Teal could easily hide for weeks at East Hartford and nobody would find it.
We flushed the Teal and after circling the marsh they flew off towards West Hartford.
When we got to West Hartford the Teal hadn’t landed on the pool but in the marshy patch left of the pond.
On the Pool there were 2 Mute Swan, 11 BH Gull, 2 Common Gull and 1 Shellduck- Patch Tick. The Shellduck flew off with the gull flock a while later.
The marshy patch left of the pond is flooded at the best of times and I thought it would be worse after last nights rain and the resent snow but the for some reason today I could walk in even further than normal.
I got to one of the open areas of water where I could hear the Teal calling but they soon flew off back to East Hartford.
There were 50+ Teal and still there could be a Green Winged, but I wasn’t going to chase them all day to find out.
Whilst walking around I flushed 30+ Snipe and 1 Jack Snipe. I didn’t get a long look at the Jack but it was silent when it flew and unlike the others it flew low to the ground and landed quite quickly.
I also noticed that it had bolder yellow stripes on its back in flight but it was to quick to see its beak size.
We found a gap in the hedgerow near the road and were climbing through when I found the body of a juvenile or female Kestrel in the ditch.
At first I thought it was missing its head but I flipped it over and found that it had a broken neck, apart from this it was in good condition.
The last few times I have been to West Hartford I haven’t seen the ‘‘Lazy Kestrel’’, which has been around for months. I can only think that this is the same bird and that it was a road victim.
Every time I saw this Kestrel it was either sleeping or very poorly trying to hunt for food.

We were also going to explore the small ponds and reeds behind the factories but since the last time I was there a private land sign has been put up and we couldn’t be arsed to run away from another Farmer or security guard.
There wasn’t much in the stubble fields around the windmill apart from a few Skylark and Carrion Crows.
In the past I have had Grey Partridge in the fields there and Holywell Birder has had a Red Legged Partridge, a bird I still need on the patch.

Shellduck - 65
Jack Snipe- 66

Monday, 16 February 2009

Holywell area

I was at Holywell Pond this morning with Holywell Birder. We stayed in the members hide for a couple of hours and in that time saw 2 Mute Swans, Coot, 17 Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Wigeon and Teal on the water.
Two Whooper Swans flew over and tried to land but the resident Mutes made sure they weren’t going to.
Both feeding stations were busy as usual although the Bramblings haven’t been seen in a while.
Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Long tailed tit, Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, 20+ Greenfinch, Blackbird, GS Woodpecker, Moorhen, Pheasant and Water Rail were all present.
Two Canada Geese landed in the water and swan into the reeds as did a Greylag, also a female Sparrowhawk flew across the water.
We walked through the fields around the obelisk and managed to find Egg Pond where we flushed two Mallards. A couple of Skylark were singing in the fields and a Shellduck was on the flash near the pond with three Moorhen. The Moorhen got spooked and one of them flew into a tree, something I have never seen them do before.I have noticed Magpies starting to collect nest materials around Cramlington over the last few days, spring must be coming soon.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Ducks, Ducks, Ducks

I was out early taking photos for school at the Newcastle Quayside, nothing out of the ordinary seen; Common Gulls and a Cormorant with a white head were the best.
When I got home I saw that the Green Winged Teal- Lifer, was still at Bothal Pond, so after visiting family in Morpeth we went.
I also had a quick walk along the river at Morpeth where a female Goosander was showing well on the riverbank with a group of Mallards.
When we got to Bothal the Teal was nowhere to be seen. I met a group of Birders further down the track that also couldn’t find it but five minutes later managed to pin point it, sleeping on the waters edge. It was probably missed by a lot of people because a wigeon kept walking in front of it and covered the crucial white stripe.
There were about 100 Teal around the pond in total as well as a good number of Canada Geese and a single shoveler on the small flash near the pond.
At Cresswell Pond 1000+ Pink Footed Geese were in the field behind the pond. 3 Scaup and 2 Grey Partridge near the car park were the highlights, no sign of the Bittern.Only one more Lifer and I am on 200, I wonder what it could be?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Who says February is boring?

Quite sad looking, lonely this valentines day?

A bit of a show-off!

Distant Glauc

I spent two hour at Blyth Harbour this morning to try and find the Glaucous Gull.
As soon as I arrived the Iceland Gull was standing on the edge of the pier only a meter away from me and was happy to have its picture taken.
It flew around the harbour a few times and settled on the pier opposite.
All the other Gulls in the harbour joined the Cormorants in raiding the boats coming into the harbour.
A quick scan and I found a 1st winter Glaucous Gull next to a group of Eiders on the water. I managed to get a distant shot of it to confirm it wasn’t another Iceland.
The Glauc swan under the pier the Iceland was sitting on, as if for comparison.
I noticed the difference straight away; the Glauc was much stockier with smaller wings and a more angry expression.
Eiders, Shag, female Merganser etc were also in the harbour.

I was in Manor Walks this afternoon and I got a text from Steve Holliday saying 13+ Tree Sparrow on the Beacon scrubland, I finished in Subway and was straight off to Beacon Lane.
After nearly breaking my neck on the ice, I took the over the bridge route to Beacon Lane and just as I crossed the bridge 10+ Tree Sparrows- Patch Tick, flew from the stubble field and into the trees.
The hedge row where they had first been seen was being cut by the council tree chopping van so I stood back and watched it flush out 10+ Tree Sparrow, 15+ Yellowhammer, 40+ Reed Bunting, 20+ Chaffinch, 16 Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush.
Also 60+ Carrion Crow were flushed from the stubble and 50+ Skylark were flying over the field.That has to be the best twitch I have ever had in Crammy, what a day.

This week I have also seen 18 Fieldfare feeding on berries near Nelson Hill, have had a pair of Bullfinches visiting my garden everyday and had 50 Pink Footed Geese fly over Sainsburys car park today.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A few Surprises

I went up north today with Steve Holliday, D McKeown and Grahame Bowman, Sorry if I got your name wrong Grahame.
We took a quick diversion to Newton Links car park on the way up to check for the ring ouzel.
We soon found it flying around the dunes near the Dung pile along with other thrushes.
It flew around the fence posts and then into a tree at Newton links farm.
Not a Lifer I was expecting to get until around April but still it got the day off to a good start.
On the way up we quickly checked East Fleetham for Corn Buntings, but there were only 9 Yellowhammer, 18 Skylark and 1 Tree Sparrow in amongst the House Sparrow flock.
Monks House Pool had 5 Whooper Swans and 2 Hares in the field behind.
Next we went to Stag Rocks where in about 45 minutes there were 30+ Eider, 30+ Common Scoter, 1 RB Merganser, 30 Purple Sandpiper, 1 Kittiwake, 5 Fulmar, 18 Long Tailed Duck, 5 Red Throated Diver, 21 Slavonian Grebe and my second lifer of the day, a Great Northern Diver.

We got the tide times wrong today so the tide was well in as we got to Budle Bay, but a quick stop at Warren Mill Produced a Dipper.
From Harper’s Heugh lay-by the 400+ Pale Bellied Brent Geese, 100+ Greylay Geese, 20 pink Footed Geese and 60+ Barnacle Geese were forced onto the fields from the rising tide.

It was a similar story at Fenham Flats where the tide had cleared everything away. 50 Pintail did fly west towards the causeway and we had a possible Little Egret near the causeway but it was too far away and hazy to confirm.

An unsuccessful Bittern twitch at Cresswell Pond was our next stop. 80% of the Pond was frozen and all the Wildfowl was pushed to the southwest corner. 4 Pintail, 3 Scaup, 3 RB Merganser, 6 Tufted Duck, 50+ Wigeon, 30+ Teal and 4 Moorhen were there. A Buzzard flew across the back of the pond near 27 Canada Geese and two Water Rail ran in front of the hide.

Half an hour at Blyth Harbour gave us good views of 2 Iceland Gull which looked different from the one I saw last week but were to distant for a decent photo.
The Harbour also had 34 Eider, 97 Cormorant, 13 Shag, 1 Rock Pipit and another surprise bird of the day, a Kingfisher which flew up the river, under the pier and around the harbour before landing on the railing near the Harbour Master’s office before flying out of sight.

After today my county year list is on a canny 104.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I saw 16 Waxwings again at 2 this afternoon in the Blagdon Arms Beer Garden. Also this morning I had 11 Greenfinch in my garden, the biggest number in a while.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Thirsty Waxwings?

I was doing the usual route to school past Parkside this morning when I heard a trilling noise nearby, then I saw 16 Waxwings in the main tree of the Blagdon Arms Beer Garden. It was starting to snow so I only saw them briefly and when I went back at lunchtime they had gone.
Just seen a report of a Bittern at Alberlady Bay, another example of how widespread they are becoming this winter. After seeing this report I am not ruling one off my Arcot Pond list, yer the cold must be going to my head.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Iceland Gulls

I took Blyth birders advice today and went to Blyth Harbour for white winged gulls between 11:30 and 12:15.
The usual suspects were around Eider, 2 female Mergansers, 3 Juv Shag, Cormorants etc but no seal.
I then checked the harbour in front of the Harbour master office and found a Juv Iceland feeding on the seaweed with GBB’s.
I have never seen Iceland’s this close up and the bright whiteness and long wings really stood out.
It soon got spooked and flew around the harbour out of sight.
The weather wasn’t as bad as yesterday so I tried to get some decent shots of Eiders and other gulls until I had found the Iceland again.
After a few shots of the Eiders the Iceland Gull swam out from under the pier and I got the photos above.
I watched it for another 15 minutes as it flew around the harbour before it flew further up and joined another Juv Iceland. I was going to get a photo but they were slightly further out and a mini hail shower was starting so I went home to watch the dooms day derby instead
I’m guessing that the Gull I photographed is a 1st winter but I’m not sure.