Friday, 31 January 2014

Dark times

I had a wonder to West Hartford yesterday afternoon. Nothing much at all on show. A flock of Lapwing feeding in the cut fields opposite Bedlington Golf Course and a Pheasant that shot accross were both patch ticks for the competition.
Almost as soon as I had got back I was out again with SH to check for owls. On the bird race my team had two Tawny Owls calling form the woods near Plessey so that is where we checked. From the pull in passed the windmills towards the farm on the banks of the River Blyth we waited until dark for an owl. Eventually one distantly and briefly called nearer the river. Also a bonus Golden Plover flew over calling, another tick for me.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Through the week

A few bits from the last week. Last Saturday I went up to East Chevington with Cain to see the Starling murmuration. A bit more impressive than the one over my house, around three thousand birds were preforming overhead as dusk drew closer.

Its amazing how such large numbers of birds can just all of a sudden disappear and then swoop overhead out of nowhere. Before dropping into the reeds on the south pool for the night the Starlings made a strange sound with their wings which I wasn't aware they did before going to roost. Once they had all landed in the reeds a small group of six Starling flew passed including one leucistic bird. Also on the north pool there were plenty of Goldeneye and three Long-tailed Duck.

Whilst on the bus on monday I saw the Little Egret on the Horton Burn and then standing next to the pipe that runs through Shankhouse Bog. Yesterday morning I checked Arcot Pond and the southern stream with SH. Nothing much out of the ordinary but I added a few missing birds to the patch list for 2014.

This morrnig I was back out with Cain this time at Gosforth Park. 100+ Wigeon were on the pools along with a few Shoveler and Gadwall. A Water Rail screeched from the reeds near the boardwalk and we briefly saw a Bittern in flight before it dropped down back into the reeds.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Green Gloss

It didn't look like sunday would be off to a good start as the rain stotted off the car as myself, SH and DM drove up to Castle Island. We decided to work backwards and started at Lynemouth Flash. No sign of the Glossy Ibis reported the day before so we checked the flooded fields between the flash and Cresswell Hall Farm. Just as I was about to get out of the car I spotted it standing in the middle of the field next to a pair of Mallard.  After seeing the 2009 bird I had forgotten how small Glossy Ibis are especially next to Mallard who looked almost half the size. With a break in the rain we stayed and watched for a while as the Ibis fed on worms and let off a strange grunting type call.

Next we checked for the Green-Winged Teal at Druridge Pools. Surprisingly easy to find it was sitting in the long grass with its Eurasian counterparts before flying off nearer the pools. I think this was the first time I have seen a GW Teal head on so that I could see the vertical strip on both sides. At one point the Teal was standing next to a Black Tailed Godwit. A load of Shoveler and a few Pintail were on the pools from the Budge Hide but we had just missed the Little Gull.

Eventually we attempted the WEBS count at Castle Island. Not surprisingly we got wet and didn't see much although an unexpected highlight was a dapper looking drake Scaup swimming downstream with a group of Tufted Duck.  I had pre-arranged commitments for the afternoon so I was dropped off back at Crambodia instead of going to the north of the county with Steve and Dee. Once again Grey Phalarope conspire against me, one day I'll see one.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Like Chuck Norris...

Like Chuck Norris, the Sparrowhawk is a species you dont go looking for because it finds you, well at least thats what another ginger bearded soul tells me. Yesterday there was proof of this when I noticed a huge orange barred male perched in the trees just above the fence line in my garden.
I have noticed white streaking on the back of some Sparrowhawks in the past, not sure if it is an age thing or not but yesterdays bird also had two white patches on the back of its head which gave it a menacing eyes on the back of its head look. As the Starling murmeration gathered over the school field the hawk flew off keeping low to the ground. It felt like an attack on the flock was imminent.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Two Kings

I had a walk along the Horton Burn and around the old fire station fields today. No sign of the Little Egret but a Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher were next to each other on the stretch of the burn at Northburn Park. A Moorhen was sitting in a tree feeding on berries further along the burn and a roost of 10+ Blackbirds were gathered.
From the last footbridge before the fire station road, one Kingfisher flew west along the burn whilst another flew east and through the tunnel. This is the first time in a while I have seen two Kingfishers on the burn at the same time. No snipe at all on the fields but a pair of Mistle Thrushes chattered overhead.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Siberia to central Asia

Last weekend myself, Cain, Jack B, Dan McG and Tom M did the Northumberland winter bird race for the second year in a row. Somehow we ended up winning so not too many details on our route. An excellent day with some decent birds seen, one of the best was the Siberian Chiffchaff at the Gut, St.Mary’s. It showed well at the base of the willows as dusk descended. This was the first time I had seen a Siberian Chiffchaff and could notice a few subtle differences, mainly the call.

Continuing the theme of potentially splittable warblers, Cain and I were looking into a Tynemouth garden this morning at the Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat. Again some subtle details were noticeable but I’ll let the experts decided. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Dog walkers do have their uses

Finding the first Little Egret on the Horton Burn to be exact. After hearing the rumours that one had been seen around new year then seeing one on the River Blyth on the 1st, it wasn't surprising that it returned and is still being seen on and off. Favouring the section of the burn with the widest grassy banks near the park, I had excellent views as it waded through and fished on the burn. Also present were Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Redshank and Great Black Backed Gull. Not bad for a small concrete covered burn running through a housing estate.

Friday, 3 January 2014


Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed watching the Starling murmuration over my house. This is the first year that this had happened. During the summer the summer Northburn first school decided to cut down most of the trees between the school and the cycle track next to my house. As a result the Starlings have been roosting in the one significant tree left which is partly in my neighbours garden. 

Not as impressive as the murmuration at East Chevington but still managed 100+ birds last night as they swooped over the roofs and school field. It seems that every Starling form the estate gathers before roosting in the tree. Its amazing standing in the garden just listening to the sound of 100+ Starlings in the dark.