Sunday, 30 January 2011

NW of the patch

As soon as I got off the train at crammy station on thursday I added to the patch list, a Rook was sitting on top of a lampost near the car park.
Whilst walking down the cycle track past Northburn School a Brambling and a few Siskin were in the bushes with the ususal flock of Green and Goldfinch.

I went to West Hartford with SH this morning in search of Jack Snipe. As we approached the marshy field a Grey Partridge was calling from behind the fire station.
No Jack but 20+ Common Snipe were around the deepest part of the field.
Whilst watching the Snipe, out of nowhere a Peregrine flew low overhead before gaining hight and landing on the pylon behind the smaller pool. It stayed for a minute or two before flying off SE.

A part from 3 Mute Swans on the pools it was quiet so we off to Hartford Bridge. 3 Dogs were swimming in the river so no chance of the Dipper being seen.
At the Windmill site a Pheasant ran accross one of the fields and on our way back through the industrial estate, 8 Feral Pigeons were on a factory roof, thats two embarassing patch ticks out of the way before the end of January. I can't believe I still need Pied Wagtail!

I will post the Cramlington Patch list league table towards the end of the week when I have everybodys totals.

44 - Rook
45 - Grey Partridge
46 - Peregrine
47 - Pheasant
48 - Feral Pigeon

Friday, 28 January 2011

Any Ideas?

Before christmas I found a memory card my parents had lost in 2008. I t only contained their holiday photos from a trip to Norway they went on, but amongst them I found two photos of a strange looking crow.
I asked my dad about it and he said that on a board of recent bird sightings next to where he had taken the pictures, the bird had been called a Norwegian Jackdaw.

From looking at the photos I think it is a young Hooded Crow but could be wrong. Any ideas?

Click to enlarge but the quality isn't that good

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Haw and More

Yesterday on my way to do some work for my project on Woodhorn, we stopped at the Hawfinch site (thanks again for the directions LiverBirder).
I met GB and LR who had been scanning the tree tops for over an hour with no luck. No sign of any Marsh Tit but a Nuthatch flew over. We decided to check the first row of Hornbeams again and within minutes Graeme found a Hawfinch – Lifer, sitting in the top of the row less than half way along.
It stayed there for about ten minutes before flying off after a Sparrowhawk began hunting around the paddock. Since I first saw a picture of a Hawfinch in a book in first school I have always wanted to see one and it didn’t disappoint.

Today I went up north with SH and DMcK, first stop was Fenham flats. Brent Geese and Pintail were surprisingly distant but still impressive. Whilst walking along the shoreline right of the hide, 15 Grey Partridge flew from in front of us and landed amongst the rocks and seaweed, something you don’t see every day. A flock of 30+ Yellowhammer were working there way along the dead trees and bushes bordering the fields. As we were leaving and passing the hedges just before the railway line, 40+ Tree Sparrows took to the air before dropping back into the hedge.

Budle Bay was quiet as was Stag Rocks, well by its usual standards. We still managed to see 5 Slavonian Grebes, 3 Long Tailed Duck and a raft of Common Scoter. A few Razorbills and Red Throated Diver were also on the sea.

We stopped at Newton next. Amongst the 200+ Greylags and 30+ Pink Footed Geese in the flooded fields north of Newton Pool were 8 Eurasian White Fronted Geese. Whilst looking at the Geese Steve spotted a male Peregrine sitting on the fence post above the geese. It stayed for a few minutes, preening and watching the ground around the geese before, landing on the ground and running across the grass and jumping on something which we think was a Wood pigeon before flying off with it over the back fields. We think it must have winged the bird and dropped it amongst the geese before checking where it was from the fence post.
Through the scope these were my best ever views of a Peregrine.
At a quiet Newton Pool there was one Whooper Swan amongst the Mutes.

East Chevington and Creswell Pond both held good numbers of duck, mainly Wigeon at EC with 4 Pochard amongst them.
At Creswell the tide was rising so large amounts of Waders, were flying over and landing on the far spit. Whilst checking the waders which had landed in the field to the left of the hide a Ruff was spotted amongst them.

Last stop was Arcot Pond and as soon as I opened the car door I saw a Treecreeper low down in the trees to the left of the layby opposite the metal gate. As it flew off we could hear another calling a few trees along. 1 Siskin and 2 Bullfinch flew over as well and my first ducks on the patch this year were 1 Mallard and 15 Teal on the pond.

39 – Treecreeper
40- Siskin
41 – Bullfinch
42 – Mallard
43 – Teal

Monday, 17 January 2011

One missed one found

Out for Webs yesterday with SH and DMcK, at Castle Island which although unfrozen was very bleak.
Viewed from the metal gate opposite the Windmill at Woodhorn were 4 distant Greenland White Fronted Geese amongst a group of Pink feet. I had only ever seen the Eurasian race of White Fronted Geese before yesterday.
Whilst looking through the scope at the Geese 6 silent Waxwing flew over which I missed, (one missed).

In Blyth Harbour I had my best ever views of Red Necked Grebe, hopefully it will stick around so that it can be seen in summer plumage.
Whilst waiting to look through the scope at the grebe again I noticed a Snow Bunting sitting on top of a trailer, (one found).

Back in cram the only wildfowl on Arcot were 3 Mute Swans. A walk around Arcot golfcourse provided a few more patch ticks. A Common Buzzard was circling the pond area, whilst both GS Woodpecker and Nuthatch were heard calling.
On the way home 3 Lapwing were in the ploughed field between Nelson Hill and Focus. Whilst watching a Brambling on the feeders in my garden 70+ Pink Footed Geese flew north.

33 - Mute Swan
34 - Common Buzzard
35 - Great Spotted Woodpecker
36 - Nuthatch
37 - Lapwing
38 - Pink Footed Geese

Friday, 14 January 2011

The owls are not what they seem

After almost finishing both of my assignments during the week I finally got the chance to do some birding yesterday. Cain (Holywell Birder) came down to Middlesbrough to pick me up and we went off to Saltholme.

After a quick stop in the visitors centre for breakfast we accidentally ended up going on the (pensioners) owl tour.
Whilst waiting for the walk to begin a Little Egret landed on the visitors centre pool near to the window. It or another bird was seen flying around the reserve throughout the rest of the time we were there.

We were told that up to 7 Long Eared Owls have been seen in the communal roost site but only one had been found before the tour began yesterday.
With about 30 people wanting to see the owls we were allowed to view from a distance in small groups. Cain with his hidden ability to see through trees managed to pick up the LEO straight away but I could only see it when looking through the scope.
My poor knowledge of tree types didn’t help when Cain was trying to describe the area the owl was in but the fact that it was roosting behind a branch and only half of its body and its ear tufts could be seen didn’t help. There was another LEO near it but I couldn’t see that either.

Before leaving we checked the Saltholme pools hide where 8 Pintail (6 Drakes, 2 female), 1 Shelduck and a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers were on the water amongst large numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall.

On the way home we stopped at Cowpen Bewley Country Park where the Ring Necked Duck was still showing well amongst the Tufted Duck and Pochard.
This is presumably the same bird, which has over wintered at Teesside for the last couple of years. It is almost a year since I saw Ring Necked Duck at this site, at least this time it was a lifer for Cain.

The patch list has been largely ignored since the 1st apart from the birds I have had in the garden but this morning I planned to twitch the 28-32 Waxwings LMcD had found at East Cramlington during the week.
Before leaving there was a lot of activity at the feeders and after a while checking with the bins a pair of Brambling dropped in.

When we got to the site at East Cram there was no sign of any Waxwings.
On the way back I noticed 5 flying around the treetops opposite the High Pit chippy. We pulled into the Burton House car park to get a better look but by this time the birds had landed out of sight.
I then heard the distinctive trilling coming from behind the car. 4 Waxwings were feeding on rotten apples on a tree in the car park. After watching them for 5 minutes the 5, which had disappeared, flew from one of the joining gardens and began feeding on the apples.
As if it couldn’t get any better, a male Blackcap (the first over wintering one I have ever seen), joined the Waxwings.

30 - Brambling
31 - Waxwing
32 - Blackcap

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Three more

I’ve been in the house finishing off my coursework for uni all this week. I was hoping that I would have added another 10 or so species to the patch list but the presence of a Sparrowhawk most days has meant that the garden has been very quiet.

Only three birds added, all were seen on Tuesday. 7 Jackdaw flew over the house and a Common Gull was amongst the BH Gulls on the school roof.
The final of the three was a Lesser Redpoll, which landed briefly on the fence amongst a group of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.
I think there were more in the school field but the flock took off before I had a chance to check properly. I didn’t think I would ever have Redpoll in the garden again.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Patch update

Just totalled up what I have seen on the patch so far this year. In Order:
Green= birds in garden

1. Blackbird
2. Herring Gull
3. Black Headed Gull
4. Collard Dove
5. Kestrel
6. Carrion Crow
7. Woodpigeon
8. Grey Heron
9. Kingfisher
10. Redwing
11. Wren
12. Magpie
13. House Sparrow
14. Robin
15. Chaffinch
16. Snipe
17. Goldfinch
18. Woodcock
19. Great Tit
20. Dunnock
21. Greenfinch
22. Blue Tit
23. Coal Tit
24. Starling
25. Long Tailed Tit
26. Sparrowhawk- a nice Musket was sitting on the fence this morning

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Good start

Out with SH and DMcK this morning. Started the day at Blyth Estuary. Good count of Grey Plover (20) and Bar Tailed Godwit (15).
Amongst a flock of Linnets in trees near Baites Filtration Pools there were at least 5 Twite, the first time I have seen Twite in trees.

At Newbiggin 16 Brent Geese, (14 pale, 2 dark) were on the shore just off Beacon Point. Whilst throwing out bread on the seafront 5 Med Gulls were amongst the gull flock, which landed.

QE2 had the highest number of birds we saw during the day. Only part of the water has thawed and on the open water were Goldeneye, 32 Wigeon and 135 Coot.
On the ice gulls and corvids were feeding on a dead Canada Goose, a Med Gull was among them.
Amongst the Mute Swans being fed in the car park was a Juv Whooper Swan, which is probably the same bird, which has been seen at Swallow Pond over the last month.

In the fields opposite QE2 there were 91 Mute Swans, 1 adult Whooper Swan and 3 Barnacle Geese.

Back on the patch (which now has the added competition from the Liverbirder who has entered the patch competition 2011 along with me, LMcD and DMcK), We checked the Horton Burn first.
Apart from 2 Redwing it was quiet until a Kingfisher flew west from the fire station end.
At West Hartford the best birds on offer were Snipe and a Woodcock.
I haven’t totalled up the birds I saw on the patch today yet but its always good to get Kingfisher out of the way early, it can be difficult.

Juv Whooper at QE2

Image courtesy of Steve Holliday