Sunday, 28 February 2010

Good end to a good month on the patch

I got a message from D McK this morning saying that a Green Woodpecker was showing well at Arcot Pond on the dead trees in the south west corner.

By time I got there there was no sign but a drake Shoveler - patch tick, asleep at the back of the pond made up for the woodpeckers absence.
I wasn't helped by the fact that two Harris Hawks were flying around.

Later on after dropping some stuff off at high pit we went for a quick walk around East Cramlington Nature reserve, which is within the cramlington boundary despite what I have been told.

After walking down to the end of the road before the track runs out I had only spotted a Sparrowhawk and as it started to rain I didn't hold my breath about seeing much else.
As we headed back I heard a Siskin - Patch Tick, call overhead. I finally spotted it sitting at the top of a tree, it was soon joined by another 12 which seemed to follow us back to the car.

Whilst watching them fly close overhead I heard the distinct sound of Crossbill - Patch Tick.
I heard them again a few times and even got brief views as two females landed on the top of a conifer before flying off.

60 - Shoveler

61 - Siskin

62 - Crossbill

Saturday, 27 February 2010

How it should always be

Since we were passing Arcot this morning I called in quickly to see what was around and to see if the rain had finally got rid of the ice, it had.

Why can't Arcot always be like this? It was full of wildfowl, compared to recent standards.
5 Mute Swan were hiding amongst the reeds and a good number of Coots were still around.
The Teal and Mallard group at the back of the pond still had at least one Wigeon amongst them along with 3 Tufted Duck - Patch Tick.

Two grey Heron were being mobbed by a flock of gulls over the pond and as this was happening I noticed a Goldeneye and 4 Goosander - Patch Tick, swimming accross the water, I don't know how I had missed them the first time.
The 1 Drake and 3 female Goosander swam the length of the pond before diving near the island in the north west corner.

58 - Goosander

59 - Tufted Duck

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Morning Out Afternoon Count

I went out with SH and DMcK yesterday to do the WEBS count at Castle Island, it was a short trip as Steve had to be back earlier.
After a quiet Webs count we walked up to the seaton cemetery area where the Waxwings have been seen through the week.
Intstead of driving up to the cemetery we walked through the gut which takes you straight to the site. In the gut a Grey Wagtail was bobbing on a rock in the stream.

There was no sign of the Waxwings at first then we were told that they had flown off into the housing estate where they were showing well in a tree.
We found them and watched the 12 birds sitting trilling away in the tree tops before being chased away by a pair of Mistle Thrushes.
A Sparrowhawk was in the area so this didn't help the Waxwings settle properly.

Next we went to the fields around Bells pond which to our suprises held no geese!
From the hide at Cresswell a Barn Owl was hunting over the roadside reeds before flying in front of the hide and off towards Warkworth Lane.
A microlight and a Helicopter went over the pond and the missing Geese erupted from the fields near Warkworth Lane and flew over the pond in five seperate flocks.
There must have been 4000+ Geese in the air before they landed back in the fields.
A single Brent flew from the fields over Bells pond followed by another six which were much closer just over the hide.

I was dropped off at West Hartford where I added two Oystercatchers to the patch list. They where standing on the ice amongst a group of Gulls.

Late afternoon I went back out with Steve who was doing the Cormorant count at Blyth Harbour. 99 Cormorants came into roost.
Also the Iceland Gull flew over and landed near by.

57 - Oystercatcher

Friday, 19 February 2010

Around the patch

Had a good walk around part of the patch today after the snow, starting at Arcot Golfcourse were a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Jays were seen but not heard.
I sat in the hide for a while but the empty feeding station wasn't attracting anything so off to Arcot Pond instead.

Only the back of Arcot Pond is unfrozen so all the wildfowl were grouped together. I had my highest ever count of Coot at Arcot with at least 14 on the water and on the ice.
5 Pochard, 4 males and one female were diving and three Wigeon, two males and a female were amongst the Teal and Mallard pushed up against the reeds.

5 Snipe flew accross the pond closely followed by a Buzzard which had been sitting in the tree by the broken gate.

A flock of Fieldfare and a couple of Song Thrush were feeding on the ground amongst the horses near Beacon Lane. I didn't see much else on the way home apart from three Bullfinch in seperate areas all looking at their best in the sunlight.

52 - Jay

53 - Great Spotted Woodpecker

54 - Pochard

55 - Wigeon

56 - Buzzard

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Train List update - another thrilling instalment

With nothing new seen last week this week I added 20+ Oystercatchers on a golfcourse outside Hartlepool and a Grey Partridge near Seaham to the list today. Also I saw another 4 Grey Partridge near Boldon.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

West Hartford Jack

I went to West Hartford today in the hope of flushing out a Jack Snipe. A quick look on the bigger pool which had a juv Mute Swan - Patch Tick, a single Shellduck and 20+ Teal.

I started looking at the far end of the marsh next to the road and worked my way inwards. At about half way along I hadn't flushed a single Snipe so I just stood still on the chance that something might move, it did.
I was in the usual Snipe area on the edge of the new marsh pool when a Jack Snipe - Patch Tick, flew from my right and landed a short distance away on the other side of the pool.
I waded my way through and flushed out 7 common Snipe which called as the flew off high in the air unlike the Jack.
Again I stood still and again the Jack took off this time after about a minute and it was only a ft or so away from me.
It flew straight past me and I was able look at it through my bins where I noticed for the first time how small Jack Snipes bill and body in general is compared to a common snipe.

49 - Mute Swan

50 - Jack Snipe

51 - Skylark

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Hat trick!!!

Out early again this morning with SH but not for birding in the county instead we headed south, North Yorkshire to be precise to see the Black Throated Thrush.

On the way down we stopped at Cowpen Bewley Country Park. There were 50+ Tree Sparrows between the hedge and the feeding station in the car park with Reed Bunting and Great Tit amongst them.
When we got to the pond I thought that it looked farmiliar and soon noticed the train track behind it, this is the mystery pond I have been passing every week on the train.

The male Ring Necked Duck - Lifer, was easy to pick out amongst a group of Tufted Duck at close range in the south east corner of the pond. Its silvery grey sides were the first features that I noticed. It didn't stay still and dived occasionally but still gave good views, a good start to the day.

The sky had been grey all morning and finally when we were on the North Yorkshire moors it began raining heavily then snowing.
A soon as we got off the moors the weather calmed down and we could see Whitby on the horizon, I didn't realise Newholm was so close to Whitby, only 2 miles away.

We parked and found the birds favoured spot, a front garden with a full feeding station. Only two birders were present and they gave us the bad news that Thrush hadn't been seen so far.
Whilst we waited the feeding station was full of life.
2 female and a male Bullfinch were on the log feeders with a good number of House and tree Sparrows and Chaffinch were also on the feeders and in the surrounding trees.
Also nice to see was a pair of Marsh Tit in the bushes of the next garden along, whoever lives there has an impressive garden list!

The two other birder walked off around the corner to where the hedgerow ends and the public footpath begins and as soon as they did the Black Throated Thrush - Lifer,
flew over the garden and landed in a tree at the far end of the street.
We followed it as it flew from one end of the street to the other landing in trees occasionally before finally it settled in the trees above the garden feeding station.
It also gave excellent views as it fed from the feeding station and sat looking at us from the tree.
Although it is not as impressive as the male BTT, it was still a nice bird and looked like a silvery version of a Fieldfare.

On the way back we stopped off at Saltburn were the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was showing well on the tide line, I picked it out on the way past in the car mainly because it dwarfed all the other gulls surrounding it.
Our last stop of the day was Newburn Bridge at Hartlepool. A Med Gull was amongst the BH Gulls on the sea front near to were we scanned the rocks for Black Redstart.
2 Stonechat and Rock Pipits were on the rocks and it wasn't long before the female Black Redstart - Lifer, showed itself all to briefly.
We got a few views of it as it flew further down the beach and could clearly see the orangy red under its tail.

All in all it was a very good day but the birds seemed to easy to see and find, if only it was always like that.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

One in one out

I was out early with SH this morning who was heading for Fenham flats and Stag Rocks.
On the way up the fog was quite thick but at the coast the sun had burnt the worst of it away and visibility was ok.
At Fenham there were 28 Whooper Swans in the fields right of the hide and Brent Geese and Wigeon were on the water. In total 112 Pintail flew past the hide.

Before going to Stag we stopped at Budle Bay as the tide was out. 2 Shovoler were the only suprising duck swimming in the channel.
Plenty of Grey Plover and Barwits were feeding on the mud and there were 4 Roe Deer in the field behind the lay by, one of which was feeding from a pheasant feeder!
The huge Lapwing flock which is in the bay took to the air as they were attacked from a Merlin and a Peregrine!
I missed the Merlin because I was watching the Peregrine catch one of the Lapwing. It wrestled with it in mid air before somehow the Lapwing managed to escape.
The Peregrine took another few lazy swipes at it before heading off away from the bay.
Steve thought that it was a Juvenile and probably not an accomplished hunter and this is why it didn't finish the Lapwing off.

From Stag Rocks we could see a huge flock of 400+ Common Scoter on the sea with a few Guillemots and Razorbill around them.
Amongst the flock was a dusky looking Red Necked Grebe - Lifer, which dived for long periods of time before we could get good views.
Also 10 Red Throated Divers, 10 Long Tailed Duck, 4 Red Breasted Merganser and 6 Slavonian Grebes were on the sea.
18 Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks and Fulmar pairs were resting on the castle walls.

Instead of heading south straight away we stopped at Newton Pool, somewhere I hadn't been before.
On the way to the hide there were 5 Dark Bellied Brents in a flooded field. Nothing much was on the pool but we did get close up views of Goldeneye and Gadwall.

Out next stop was Hemscott Hill links were 22 Twite were on the wire next to the cow field.
We scanned through the large number of geese which were in the fields around Bell's Pond.
Canada and 8 Barnacle Geese were next to the pond whilst Greylags and 500+ Pink Footed Geese were scattered around the other fields. Eventually Steve picked out the Bean Goose which had more characteristics of the Tundra race.

We stopped quickly at Woodhorn flash south pool were 4 Greenland White fronted Geese were between the pool and the railway line.

Last stop was West Hartford were we tried to flush out a Jack Snipe but only managed 22 Common instead. 2 Short Eared Owls - Patch Tick, were flying around the field next to the new fire station and along with a few other patch ticks, two Goldcrest were in the trees opposite the fire station.

44- Short Eared Owl

45 - Meadow Pipit

46 - Pied Wagtail

47 - Goldcrest

48 - Lapwing

Also I have decided to remove the Hooded Merganser I saw at Saltholme in the summer from my life list after I found out about the reputation of Scaling Dam Reservoir, ( the site it was found at) and the fact that a male has now turned up at Saltholme.
This evidence put the females origins in serious doubt and I want a clean list.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Train List: Week One

Since September when I started at Teesside uni I have been getting the train home for the weekend on Thursday afternoons.
It is an hour and 20 minute journey from Middlesbrough to Newcastle which goes through a large part of the north east.
Whilst on the train I have noticed that it goes past a number of different habitats and locations and so to kill the time I have decided to start a train list, the lack of proper birding is going to my head!

The first species to be added to the list was the one footed Feral pigeon which is always hanging around Middlesbrough station.


3 Feral Pigeon
1 Magpie
2 Starling
1 Carrion Crow


3 Woodpigeon
4 Black Headed Gull
1 Kestrel (hunting over the A19)


1 Blackbird
2 Collard Dove


1 Herring Gull

Just outside Billingham there is a small pond with a hide which the train passes although I am still not sure what it is called.
The pond was 80% frozen but I still managed to see 1 Mute Swan, 20+ Coot and 40+ Teal gathered in the open water in the centre.

The usual good views of the Saltholme area to the right were blocked, not just by the people sitting opposite but by heavy fog which disappeared around Hartlepool.

Seaton Carew:

20+ Rook (on the waste ground outside the tip which had hundereds of gulls circling it)
40+ Canada Geese ( on a pond in the middle of a housing estate opposite Seaton Carew station)


Nothing new there but there were four people with scopes scanning the beach

I didn't add any more species until I saw a Pied Wagtail in a flooded field outside Heworth.

The large pools outside Boldon (Boldon Falts?) were completely frozen so nothing new added there also I didn't get good views of the north sea either today.

I got home earlier than expected today so I had a walk down to Horton Burn to check for the Kingfisher again. On the way I flushed a Grey Wagtail - Patch Tick, from the side of the burn.
I met LMcD half way along who was watching 2 Redwing and a Song Thrush.
No sign of the Kingfisher but 3 Moorhen - Patch Tick, flew from the bank side at the fire station end.
Also on the way home from Newcastle on the bus I added Feral Pigeon and Rook to the patch list as they were both around Manor Walks.

40 - Feral Pigeon
41 - Rook
42 - Grey Wagtail
43 - Moorhen

I nearlly forgot, I was woken up by the hooting of the Tawny Owl outside my window last night, the first time I have heard it this year.