Tuesday, 31 March 2009


With the weather slightly warmer than yesterday I decided to walk through Nelson on the way home today.
I was walking through the trees in between Macdonalds and the train tracks when I heard a Chiffchaff calling.
I wasn't expecting to see one just hearing it was good enough but as I walked towards the bridge I heard it calling again and saw it hanging upside down on a branch. It let me watch it as it did some more arial acrobatics before disappering back into the trees.
By the time I got home I had heard another 3 Chiffchaff calling from various locations.

Chiffchaff - 76

Monday, 30 March 2009

Last of the winter visitors?

I got a call from Steve H this afternoon saying that there were 5 Whooper Swans on Arcot Pond.
10 minutes later we were there and watched the five Whoopers, (three adults and 2 Juveniles), as they put there heads under the water and fed. They stayed at the right side of the pond level with the dead wood.
I had just about given up hope of seeing whoopers on the patch until after October and was lucky to see these ones; I don’t think they will be there tomorrow.
The last time I had Whoopers on the patch was on 16th November 2007 when I saw 6 fly towards Arcot in thick fog over the high school field two days in a row, a lifer at the time.

The Swans were to far away for a photo and to white for my camera to pick up properly.
As we were watching the Whoopers a Sand Martin – Patch Tick, hawked over the back of the pond.
On the way back to the car we both stopped as we thought there was a Willow Tit calling from the hedgerow but we only heard the call once so we left it at that.

Whooper Swan – 74

Sand Martin – 75

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Short Trip

I was out with Steve H for half an hour this afternoon once the wind and rain had died down.
We went to West Hartford for the Short Eared owls, which have been seen recently.
After only a few minutes watching in the field behind the pool, a Short Eared hovered close to the ground before landing. It put its head up and looked at us with its yellow eyes before lifting up and flying around the surrounding area.
Not much on the pool apart from the two Shellduck, Teal and Gulls.

Went to Arcot briefly afterwards but nothing new there, anyway good views of the Short Eared was good enough for me, back to coursework I think.

73 – Short Eared Owl

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Gull chat and a possible White Wagtail

I had to take various photos for school today, all of which were conveniently near birds, I wonder how that happened?
First we went to Linton Lane this morning and after taking some shots went to the hide at the bigger pond.
On my way to the pond I had my first Chiffchaff of the year singing in the woods.
When I got to the hide another birder was scanning the pond. He thinks there might have been a kumlien's Gull amongst the group of gulls, which had just taken off.
We soon got chatting about gulls and how the list of their stages and subspecies is endless and confusing.
We came to the conclusion that I should just stick to enjoying the birds without worrying about that winter or race they are. I am still interested in these factors of the birds and it just adds interest to a sighting.
As we were talking we stepped back from the windows as the rain was coming through, once the shower had stopped a group of gulls landed on the water and amongst them was a first winter Iceland Gull. I left shortly after and the gull, which looked, like the Blyth harbour bird was still there.
After a few more photo stops we ended up at St.Mary’s lighthouse and with the tide out I had a quick walk around the North Bay.
On the shoreline there were 43 Sanderlings with a Curlew and Oystercatcher.
No sign of the early House Martin but I did have two Pied Wagtails on the rocks in front of me. After looking closer at the Wagtails I thought the right bird looked lighter and took one distant shot just before it flew off.
I looked back in my bird book and I’m not sure if it is a White Wagtail or just another Pied. Any ideas?

Monday, 23 March 2009

wildfowl Tick

I had another before school visit to Arcot Pond this morning. No sign of any Geese but dotted around the pond there were 1 Cormorant, 7 Coot, 2 Little Grebe, 9 Mallard, 6 Teal, a pair of Pochard, 2 pairs of Gadwall, 5 Goldeneye ( a good number travelling together across the Pond), 4 Tufted Duck and 1 Drake shoveler- Patch Tick.
A male Sparrowhawk was being mobbed by Jackdaws down the lane and a Roe Deer was feeding in the reeds at the south west corner next to two Reed Buntings.
Everything seemed more nervous this morning, all of the birds at one point lifted off the pond and circled before landing again. I was looking for a Peregrine or something but I couldn't see anything that would cause panic amongst the crowd.
The Shoveler (a bird that does what it says on the tin), was hiding behind two Mallards at first but flew from behind them into the open.

I was looking back on my patch year list and thinking what a good winter it has been on the patch with suprises like Tree Sparrow and Jack Snipe, I would have liked to get Whooper Swan, Wigeon and Goosander but it just makes from September onwards more interesting.
There seemed to be a movement of Whooper Swans heading north over the weekend so I could still get lucky and hear a few passing overhead.
I'm now keeping my eyes and ears peeled for Chiffchaff, Wheatear and maybe a White Stork overhead, even if it if the plastic bird.

Shoveler - 72

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I got a text from steve H today saying 2 SEO at West Hartford. I got there at 6 o'clock but there was no sign, there was nothing on the pool either apart from 2 Shellduck and 1 Grey Heron, the Teal were calling from the marsh area.
The sun was rapidly setting and I checked all the fence posts in the area as well as the fields behind and around the pool but nothing, they will be back.
Also I had a possible Grey Wagtail flying over ST. Peters school at lunchtime, it was to far away to ID without bins and the call sounded different to a Pied.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Memories of my best garden tick

On my way home today I checked the ploughed fields around Nelson Hill for Golden Plover, with no luck.
I was walking back to my house via the Brockwell scrubland not looking for anything in particular when I noticed an orangey almost diamond shaped bird flying towards me low overhead. At first I thought it was a Snipe but I looked closer and saw it was a Woodcock.
Usually a bird I associate with cold winter days not mild spring days, I think that it is a very underrated bird.
I watched it fly silently overhead before landing in a patch of thorn bushes and out of sight.
I was just thinking back to the first time I saw a Woodcock, which was in winter 2001. It was snowing and I was watching out the window when I thought I saw a cat moving slowly under the Plumb (bird magnet) tree.
I went into the garden to investigate and a Woodcock came into the open before flying of over the fence calling as it went.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

It must be Spring

The weather was so good today I decided to go to West Hartford for half an hour after school.
I added Skylark to my CLV list today as I heard one singing overhead.
As I was walking to the pool at West Hartford I noticed a small, dull brownish bird on the ground, which then ran into the grass and out of sight. It looked like a Meadow Pipit or Skylark or something but I thought I better check it out anyway.
I was about to flush it out when I was nearly taken out by a F****g dog! It also flushed the mystery bird, which I couldn’t find again.
That is the main problem with West Hartford to many dogs and their owners, inconsiderate ****s, rant over.
On the pool there were around 80 Gulls again but again nothing special amongst them, its about time a Little or med Gull turned up.
20+ Lapwing and Oystercatchers were at the back of the pool with one Moorhen and 1 Teal.
Also I flushed a couple of Mallards from the smaller pool, I then heard the two Shellduck that have been around for a while, fly over and saw them land on the main pool with 4 more Mallard.
5 Mute Swans were also there and another duck flew out of the marshy area to the left of the pond. I was hoping for Pintail or an early Garganey but it was another Mallard.A male Kestrel was hunting over the back fields and 20 Linnet were on the pylon wires.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Three geese but no Goosander

I quickly checked Arcot Pond after my first lesson today. The pond was busy today; BH Gull and Herring Gull were on the dead wood with two Oystercatchers.
2 Mute Swans were in the southwest corner with 10 Teal, 1 Grey Heron and 6 Mallard.
A male Kestrel was hunting over the trees west of the pond. In the middle of the Pond there were 6 Pochard, 1 Gadwall, 3 Goldeneye and 5 Coot.
As I looked at the back of the pond I saw 2 Greylag Geese swim out of the reeds and join two Canada Geese- Patch tick.
I then heard more geese and when I looked up saw 13 Pink Footed Geese fly northwest.
I checked the southwest corner again for the female Goosander (no sign), but I did see a Little Grebe on the edge of the reeds – Patch Tick.
I then heard as least two more little Grebes trilling from the reeds, the Canadas and little grebe now take my patch year total to 71.

Canada Goose - 70
Little Grebe - 71

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Out of Action

The lack of posts recently is due to me having four pieces of coursework at once. It is looking like I will not be able to get out until the end of April. I might manage a few hours during the easter holidays.
I got a text from steve H saying 10 common and 5 Jack Snipe at West Hartford this morning and Goosander on Arcot Pond.
I'll try and get to Arcot sometime tommorrow as I still need Goosander on the patch this year.
Hopefully there will be some good migrants coming in mid May, just after I finish school.Then I might move on to a new adventure and patch. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Great Grey

Last weekend whilst looking for Goshawks with Steve we took a quick trip to Harwood Forest and were talking about wintering Shrikes in Northumberland and said there has to be one hiding in Harwood somewhere.
After seeing there were two separate birds reported this week, I felt even worse, knowing that I couldn’t get out at the weekend.
I found out that Holywell Birder was free on Friday afternoon, same as me so we planned to look for both Shrikes to give our selves a better chance, so at 1 we left for Black Lough.
We didn’t know exactly where the Lough was so we just walked up the hillside and found it next to a plantation.
We met another birder along the way whose name I still don’t know, (sorry) and searched the area around the Lough.
After walking around a bit further we found the boulders where it had been reported.
HB then found it on the horizon standing on some tall grass; it then flew over the brow and out of sight.
After another half an hour searching the field where it disappeared we found it again standing on the long grass, this time a bit closer. It kept diving onto the ground and then flying a short distance before landing again.
Eventually we lost it as it flew into the scrub next to the caravan.
It always feels better having to work to see a bird rather than just getting out the car and it being there.
We walked back to the car through the plantation but nothing apart from a dead Buzzard was there.
It was starting to get dark and we had good views of the Shrike so we didn’t bother with Harwood and went to Bothal Pond to try for the Green Winged Teal, which was there this morning. All the Teal had moved onto the smaller flash next to the pond but no sign of the GW Teal.
I see that a Barnacle Goose was at Swallow Pond yesterday; I wonder if it was the same one that was at Arcot on Sunday?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

New Link

Just though I would do a favour for a friend and say that he now has a blog: http://holywellbirding.blogspot.com/. Good luck...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Hareside Waxwings

I found some of Newton Stringers Waxwing flock from yesterday on my way to school this morning. 35 were in two separate trees next to the small building at Hareside first school. I could hear more trilling from behind the construction wall next to the new part of the school but it is impossible to see from the footpath.
I looked on the ground and saw 5 more at the bottom of the tree.
They had gone by the time I walked home and I had no sign of yesterdays Peregrine or grey Wagtails. I have been told that March is one of the best months for birds in Cramlington and yesterday helped that claim.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Once again, as the title says I dipped for the first time on the patch this year.
I was in focus when I got a text from Steve H saying 2 Canadas and a Barnacle Goose in a field opposite Arcot pond.
I was straight off to see what would be two patch ticks.
First I checked the pond but nothing apart from 2 Coots, 1 Cormorant and a few gulls.
Then I checked all of the fields until I got to Damdykes but no sign.
I am not to bothered about missing the Canadas as I’m sure there will be more but the Barnacle Goose would have been an unexpected addition for the year and the patch.

On the way home I had an optimistic check at West Hartford, no sign there either.
On the pool at West Hartford there were 2 Shellduck, 5 Teal, 4 Moorhen, 2 Mute Swans, 20 Oystercatchers and 80+ Gulls, nothing interesting amongst them.
I have just seen that 64 Waxwings were seen this morning near Hareside first school, I might check them tomorrow.