Saturday, 28 July 2012

Wind Ternbine

I started an internship in Blyth a couple of weeks ago for a few hours each week. I had to be in the last two saturdays as they were short staffed so once I finished headed off to Blyth Harbour.

A trawler had just arrived and with it about 300 gull mostly Herring. 10 Kittiwakes including a juvenile bird were sitting on the staithe next to the harbour masters office.
Most of the gulls had settled on the water and were feeding on scraps from the boat until the GBB Gulls landed and forced the others off.

After getting sand blasted by the strong winds on the beach I then got rained on, heavily as I watched a pair of Ringed Plover trying to distract me from their nest.
A Sandwich Tern landed on the roof of the big yellow factory just outside the harbour. It had a bill full of sand eels and then I noticed that it was feeding two large young. They dont breed there so must have landed still a strange site.

The best sighting though was an adult Roseate Tern on the small area of beach between the mains piers next to the much smaller pier. A few Common Terns were also there and soon a juvenile Roseate landed near the adult.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Last few days

I’ve been out a few times over the last few days. On Friday I went to Slaley with SH for Nightjars. There were a few hours before it got dark so we had a walk along the forest track. A pair of Kesrels which had been hovering over the clear fell were later heard screeching as they mobbed a Peregrine over the forest. A few Crossbill flew over in small groups and a rodding Woodcock flew low overhead.

As the darkness began to close in a Tawny Owl started calling and it wasn’t long until a pair of Nightjar’s were ‘churring’ away. They were difficult to place and as a result we failed to see them. Also I had my third Cramlington lifer of the year as a Whimbrel flew east over the house at 12:06 am. I’m not sure if there were one or more birds as I could seem to hear it calling for 30 seconds or so.

On Sunday we were out again for WEBS. As well as the regulars at Castle Island, 4 Green Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper were present on the island shore.

After the count we went up to Warkworth Gut. I mentioned during the winter that this site had a lot of potential for the future and our visit today started to show why. As well as the long staying Little Egret which was on the main water channel, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover was on the muddy scrapes just down from the car park.

Around 40 Pied Wagtails were dotted around the site and amongst a mixed group of them and Meadow Pipits on one of the scrapes were 2 juvenile Yellow Wagtails. Also a juvenile Wheatear was with them.

East Chevington was next where the highlights were a Kingfisher on the south pool and a summer plumage Long Tailed Duck on the north pool.

Cresswell Pond kept up its recent good form despite being Pectoral Sandpiperless. The only bird north of the causeway this time was a Yellow Wagtail.

4 Black Tailed Godwit slept near the sand bar and a Water Rail ran from the reeds just behind. Around 100 Swift were slowly flying south over the pond and the Ruff was still present from last week whilst a Med Gull followed a tractor in the field north of the pond.

This morning I went back to Warkworth Gut with LMcD. Minus the Little Egret all the same birds as Sunday were present plus a few extras. 2 Common Sandpipers and a summer plumage Golden Plover were new on the wader front and at least 7 Stonechat were in the dunes just off the main track. Two were fresh juveniles whilst one was a female and the other four were males including one almost completely black individual. One of the Yellow Wagtails was on the track and a Grey Wagtail landed on the mud near the bridge. On our way out of Warkworth 5 Redhead Goosander were on the river.

We checked for the earlier reported Spoonbills at Cresswell Pond but they had already left. A female Marsh Harrier graced us with its presence as it flew close past the car in a field near the pond.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Less local

After yesterdays success on the patch I went up to Cresswell Pond with SH this morning. The Pectoral Sandpiper was at the far end of the water north of the causeway with two Dunlin.
We took shelter from the wind in the hide. 7 Little Gulls were on the sand bar and 6 unseasonal Wigeon were swimming accross the water.
A large number of Lapwing, Gulls and Terns were resting on the grass to the left of the hide, strange to see Terns doing this.
Amongst the Redshank and other common waders on the west shore, a Ruff was picked out. It looked like a different bird to the one that was north of the causeway a few weeks ago. Also a Great Crested Grebe was diving near the west shore.

We briefly stopped at Newbiggin, Castle Island and West Hartford on the way back. Newbiggin was to full of people to hold good numbers of Med Gulls with only 4 seen off the south bay. Castle Island held all the WEBS usuals but no Green Sandpipers and WH is too full of water to attract anything.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Back to the patch

I stayed local today but slightly further afield than West Hartford. I headed for Beacon Lane in search of the Little Owl which is still hanging around. I had missed it on several occasions since it was first spotted in May.
After checking the trees just past the bend on Beacon Lane where it was been most often seen, I turned back. Walking back up the Lane the Little Owl flew from a well hidden fence post next to the hedgerow and into its usual tree. Unsettled by my presence it flew to the next tree along briefly before flying towards the area of trees nearer the Beaconhill estate.
From the Lane I could still see it sitting high up in the bare branches, turning its head around and staring at me with that grumpy face only owls can master.
This was the first Little Owl I have seen in Cramlington and along with Cuckoo is my second full Cramlington patch tick of the year.

On my way home I took the long route back taking in Bassington N.R. and the gull colony on the empty factory roofs in the Nelson industrial estate. Bassington was dull with only a pair of Oystercatcher on the promising looking shallow scrapes in the NW corner.
On my way to check the gulls I spotted a Green Woodpecker on the path in front of me near Bolam properties. It flew to the other side of the road where it pecked at the gaps between the paving stones before flying into the trees nearer Bassington. As I walked along the path it kept reappearing and I could see form the amount of disturbed moss in the gaps that it has obviously been using this area for a while.

Amongst the gull colony I could see a few juvenile birds just starting to fledge. Although they were mainly Herring Gull I could see at least one juv Lesser Black Backed Gull along with 30+ adult Herring and 6 adult LBB.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Isle of Mull 2012

On 30th June I travelled to Scotland with Cain and the rest of the Cumbria University Wildlife Photography Society.

After seven hours our journey was complete and we had reached our destination for the next week, the Isle of Mull.

As soon as we got off the ferry and drove to the campsite at Killiechronan, I could see the subtle differences from the mainland. Carrion Crows had been replaced by Hooded and Black Headed Gulls by Common.

Killiechronan Campsite is on the shores of Loch Na Keal and provided us with excellent views of Mulls wildlife during the week.

Both Red and Fallow Deer occupied the fields behind the site and nesting colonies of Common Gulls were on a small island metres from the shore in front of us.

A Barn Owl hunted around the toilet block most nights, Sedge Warblers sang from every overgrown ditch and Hooded Crows and Raven could be heard early in the morning.

But perhaps most impressive of all was that a pair of White Tailed and Golden Eagles were breeding nearby and hunted over the Loch.

As soon as we started to pitch out tents the rain started but was gone by the next morning and only reappeared intermittently during the week where sunshine and high temperatures were more common.

Day Two: 1st July

Spread over three cars, the ten of us made the short journey to the harbour ready for a day trip to the Treshnish Isles. On the way we stopped half way along Loch Na Keal as three Otters were spotted in the water and a Harbour Porpoise.

After half an hour on the boat we reached Staffa where we could see the impressive Fingal’s Cave complete with volunteer bagpipe player.

In the sun we enjoyed watching the Fulmar colony on the cliffside and the Great Skua which was mobbed by them.

We were only allowed an hour on Staffa before moving onto the even more impressive Lunga. The sea around Lunga was lifting with Puffins, Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Seals both Common and Grey. If nobody has been to Lunga before then just imagine the Farne Islands only 100 times better.

If you though the Puffins on the Farnes were close then think again as the Lunga birds move around your feet and nearly land on you!

I left the others trying to get the perfect picture of a Puffin and explored some of the island. The noise of the seabirds is deafening as they flypast and over at all angles. Space is at a premium on the island and some Shags had resorted to nesting under large piles of rocks, their green eyes all that could be seen peering from the darkness.
One large outcrop of rocks housed hundreds of Guillemots, many of them bridled birds. A family party of six Raven circled the outcrop cronking as they went.

The most interesting thing I saw whilst watching the Puffins dive into their burrows was a Meadow Pipit take a Sand Eel which was dropped by one of the Puffins.

Unfortunately we only had two hours on the island, which isn’t long enough to take in all this almost prehistoric place has to offer.

On the way back on the boat we saw a pair of White Tailed Eagles sitting in trees near Loch Na Keal.

Back on the island that night we drove up to the satellites above Tobermory where amazing sunsets over the surrounding isles were photographed, even I managed to get one!

Look at Holywell Birder for proper pictures from Lunga

Sunset over the Island

Day Three: 2nd July

It was back to the mainland for another day trip this time to the Ardnamurchan Peninsular a short ferry trip from Mull. At RSPB Glenborrodale it was too cold and wet to for Slow Worms and Adder but a nearby White Tailed Eagle soaring over the car made up for this.

Unfortunately I was ill during the day and stayed in the car whilst the others went out to the edge of the peninsular to see the Seal colony.

After recovering later on we went out at dusk, I say dusk but it was so light 2:00 in the morning looked like dusk. Plenty of Wheatear flitted around the rocks on the roadside and a Short Eared Owl hunted as the light faded.

Day Four: 3rd July

Whilst the others went on a seven hour cetacean boat trip, I stayed at the campsite. I missed crippling views of Minke Whale, Common Dolphins and Basking Sharks along with Storm Petrels but all was made up for.

Sitting scanning the Loch from the campsite I saw the whole Common Gull colony take to the air. Out of nowhere a White Tailed Eagle appeared low to the water before rising as it was mobbed. Soon it dropped down and landed on the island only metres away. It stayed there for a few minutes hopping around the grass as it avoided the bombardment from the gulls. After managing to escape the eagle appeared an hour later again close to the shore this time as it caught a fish. We had excellent views of the eagles all week but these were by far the best near the campsite.

Also that day I walked a few miles along the edge of the Loch at low tide where the best bird of note was a Greenshank fishing in one of the pools.

Day Five: 4th July

Another boat trip was planned. This time on the sea just off the mouth of Loch Na Keal. That trip was one of best birding experiences of my life.

The eagle boat tour lasted a few hours and also provided good views of over ten Black Guillemot as they swam next to the boat, a few Manxies and Rock Doves on the cliffs along with a heard of Feral Goats.

At first the White Tailed Eagles stayed a long distance away circling the boat, but as soon as the engine of the boat stopped and the fish were thrown it didn’t take long until a pair of eagles appeared.

Over the next hour they dived down and took the fish next to the boat avoiding the gulls as they went. One of the eagles sat on the nearby cliff edge before diving down next to the boat.

It was amazing to see these incredible birds so close up and the free coffee and biscuits made the whole trip very civilised.

In the evening we visited a vast site where a pair of Hen Harriers and at least three Short Eared Owls hunted. Sitting in the road the birds got quite close including a stunning male Hen Harrier. A family of Stonechat were also nearby.

Almost in the darkness we could see an Otter take its prey onto the bank and eat it before swimming back out into the Loch.

As we approached the camp a Barn Owl flew in front of the car so he stopped and opened the window just in time to see it hovering along side before turning its head and looking at us.

Day Six: 5th July

We spent most of the day in Iona, commonly known as Corncrake Island. Once on the island we only had to walk past the church yard before the first Corncrake could be heard calling from a small area of garden. Despite hearing over seven birds only metres away at times, we never saw any of them.

After a few hours on the beach we headed back to the mainland. A quick stop near the ferry terminal provided more good views of ringtail Harriers and an Irish Hare openly feeding in a field.

Along with Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper is the most numerous wader on Mull so much in fact that we often saw them sitting on telephone and other overhead wires.

Day Seven: 6th July

Waterfall In Aros Park: Insert Twin Peaks theme tune here

We spent most of the day relaxing around Tobermory but did visit Aros Park just outside Tobermory. The highlight was a Dipper near the waterfall.

We spent out final evening watching a Golden Eagle nest. One of the pair were sitting on the nest before the other soared high over the mountain and came back to the nest.

Golden Eagle was my only bird lifer of the trip but Harbour Porpoise, Red Deer, Fallow Deer and Irish Hare were all new.

Many thanks to Cain for organising the trip and doing the driving and thanks to the others for the good company and for being such a good laugh.

Cain: Nike Airs on with pants tucked into socks, you can take the birder out of Whitley Bay but...

Official Mull Bird List

Mull List: 93 species

Official list of birds seen on Mull (including Treshnish Isles and Iona) from 30th June until 7th July 2012. In order they were seen.

30th June



Common Buzzard

Hooded Crow


Lesser Black Backed Gull

Common Sandpiper

Herring Gull

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail


Common Gull

Greylag Goose


Grey Heron

House Martin


Song Thrush


House Sparrow

Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove

Great Spotted Woodpecker



Mute Swan

Collard Dove


Sedge Warbler

White Tailed Eagle

Ringed Plover

Red Breasted Merganser

1st July

Willow Warbler

Blue Tit




Lesser Redpoll



Wood Pigeon


Great Black Backed Gull





Common Snipe




Black Guillemot


Manx Shearwater

Great Skua




Arctic Tern


Rock Pipit



Sand Martin




Short Eared Owl



Tawny Owl


2nd July


Spotted Flycatcher

Barn Owl

3rd July

Great Tit


Mistle Thrush

Storm Petrel

4th July

Hen Harrier


Canada Goose

Reed Bunting

5th July

Grasshopper Warbler


Tree Sparrow




6th July

Garden Warbler



Coal Tit

Golden Eagle