Monday, 25 February 2013

Out of County

A change of scenery is nice from time to time especially in birding. So this morning myself, SH and DM headed south to Teesside.

Our first stop was Hartlepool Marina where as soon as we pulled up into the car park we could see a close in Slavonian Grebe. I got probably my best ever views of a winter plumage slav and soon after I got my best ever views of a Black Throated Diver as it came to the surface under the Premier Inn. The two swam the length of the Marina staying under the water for long periods of time along with three Little Grebe.

Next we walked across the bleak Seaton Snook where eventually we found the flock of 15 Snow Bunting amongst a pile of rubble. Some nice males were viewable amongst the flock in flight.
Although the snow of Northumberland was not as heavy in Teesside we still caught the odd sleet shower and the freezing wind followed us all day.

Later we walked along a section of Greatham Creek before turning back and seeing the Greenshank wading in the creek under the road bridge. Whilst watching we could hear but never saw a Spotted Redshank.

Amongst the Greylags and Canada Geese at Cowpen Marsh was a sleeping Dark Bellied Brent Goose and eventually the Tundra Bean Goose showed itself distantly on top of one of the grassy mounds dotted across the marsh.

A short time later we ended up at Dorman’s Pool where we walked along the ridge above the pool next to Reclamation Pond. Whilst up there we were shocked when we looked and saw that the rec had been filled in with what must have been a quarry’s worth of rubble. The last time we were there we were watching an American Wigeon!
There was no sign of the Smew or Bittern on Dorman’s but there were at least 12 Pintail, most of them drakes and what probably the same amount of Pochard in the whole of Northumberland on one small section of the pool.
Whilst scanning the reed edges for the Bittern SH spotted the elusive Green Winged Teal swim out and join the Teal on the pool. Instead of the usual 30-second views of GW Teal we were treated to prolonged views as it swam and flew around before settling on the pond with the Teal. Also form our vantage point over the reeds we heard at least three separate Water Rail squealing.
A quick look on west Saltholme Pool provided us with good views of a dapper looking drake Scaup and a pair of Great Crested Grebe.

On our way back we stopped at Seaton Common. I hadn’t appreciated the sheer number of gulls in that area with hundreds of gulls on the various pools across the common, on the tip, in the air and over towards the mouth of the Tees.  Despite searching I couldn’t find a Caspian Gull but there could have easily been one on show if the gulls weren’t so active. As well as the number of gulls there was masses of corvids and Starlings performing aerial displays above the tip.
The last area of the common we checked was the near the entrance to North Gare. A Little Egret was feeding in a small channel along with some Grey Herons. We soon located the gulls, which had just landed, and we just got onto them in time to see a juvenile Glaucous Gull take to the air and fly north towards Seaton Carew.

Our last stop was Ward Jackson Park in Hartlepool where at least eight Ring Necked Parakeets were heard and some were sitting together in trees near the pond.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Still around

We were passing West Hartford in the car this afternoon and with the perfect light he stopped to see if the SEO was hunting.
As soon as we got out the car we could see it hunting around the fire station field before it landed on a fence post along the entrance plantation.

As we got closer I could hear the trilling of Waxwings and looked up in time to see nine flying south together over the substation. They circled the area for a minute before landing in the trees above the West Hartford Business Park sign. They spent the next five minutes dropping down from the trees onto the berry bushes before a land rover got too close and they flew off over the roundabout into the Northburn estate.

They were probably part of the larger flock seen around the Northburn area for most of this year. The flock hasn’t been seen for a week now so they way have split up and some may have moved into theBedlington area.

We watched the Short Eared owl hunt near the main pool before another was spotted hunting nearer the farm. The two then hunted near each other and flushed a Grey Heron from the reeds. The pool was still full of Teal and a single Curlew landed.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


I had a successful early morning visit to West Hartford and Arcot Pond this morning. Whilst out and about on the patch yesterday there was a light northerly passage of Siskin and Skylark, which were also on the move today as I walked to WH.

I saw the Short Eared Owl for the first time this year at WH as I arrived, it then sat on the fence outside the fire station. A few Crossbill were in the plantation behind the substation before flying off. The strangest site of the morning were 5 Cormorants, which flew south together over the substation. One appeared by itself later and circled the pools but never landed.
The pools held around 60 Teal, a lone LBB Gull, 1 Oystercatcher and a Shelduck. A Moorhen called form the reeds, 4 Roe Deer were feeding together behind the main pool and a Stock Dove flew east.

After alerting Liverbirder to the Hartford activity he kindly dropped me off at Arcot Pond. It is still nice to see the pond alive with wildfowl but there was no sign of yesterdays Pintail pair.
Still the pond held 2 female Goldeneye, a pair of Pochard, 1 drake Goosander, Wigeon, 20 Tufted Duck, 3 Canada Geese, 2 Gadwall and 2 Cormorant.

The walk home was quiet. No sign of the Little Owl along Beacon Lane but at least 6 Yellowhammer on the lane and 60+ Siskin feeding on Alder at Beaconhill play area.

The only birds of note at Bassington NR were a grey Heron and a GS Woodpecker.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Staying local

After an average webs count yesterday myself and DMcK explored the patch. It wasn't off to a good start as we got to West Hartford and a local youth football team were preforming some military style training exercise along the old road but fortunately they never went further than the rubbish pile. But that wasn't everything as a lass on roller skates wearing a tiger print onesie was being pulled along by a Pitbull Terrier, only in Cramlington!
Suprisingly this flushed all the gulls and a lone Lapwing from the pools but we did get there in time to see the LBB Gull flying off. The pair of Stonechat were chasing each other from fence post to fence post near the smaller pool. Hartford Wood and the steps down to the riverside were quiet although 3 Cormorants flew east along the river together.

After leaving WH we walked through the Nelson Industrial Estate which was Waxwingless and ended up at Nelson Village. Around 100 Redwing and a single Mistle Thrush were feeding in the horse paddocks on the edge of the village. They made for a spectacular site as they all flew off on mass as a Sparrowhawk dived through the flock. Also a Grey Wagtail called as it flew over Crowhall Lane.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Different yet mostly the same

I had my first visit to West Hartford this month late this morning. Amongst the Herring and Black Headed Gull on the main pool was a Lesser Black Backed Gull which soon flew off towards the industrial estate.

50+ Teal were on the pool's edge and a male Stonechat tacked away from the mound inside the metal compound. I could only find two Common Snipe and a female Stonchat in the marshy field bordering the main pool.

Now that all the snow has melted away most of the water has filled up the fields and a lot is probably in the old mine shafts which riddle Cramlington's underground. The snow has taken its tole with a lot of the bare trees now collapsed but it has also had a positive effect. A combination of snow melt and last years rain has increased the amount of reeds and other pool side vegetation. Long grasses now surround the site and two new shallow pools have been formed in the stubble fields.
I now hope that the increased water level in the main and smaller pool will attract more wildfowl and gulls whilst the new shallow pools attract more waders.
Having a relatively new site as your patch means that you will encounter more change until the land settles but WH is a non managed site on top of an old mine so change will always happen.