Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Demon Twitcher or Simply Indigestion?

Look closely, it is!


21st Oct. As you know I’m not a twitcher as such but a change is as good as a rest. As I sat in the pub with a mate and ate my lunch it seemed a small demon twitcher was rumbling away within me, or was it the fish that had caused indigestion? Whatever it was I asked my mate if he fancied viewing the Glossy Ibis at Druridge Pools. The ‘Glossy what, where?’ was the reply. My mate's a none birder except when he is out with me, when at times it is forced upon him. I guess he’s grateful because as a non birder he’s seen some decent birds because of me. That’s how I look at it. Anyway despite the heavy downpour, thick cloud and stormy looking sea we decided to take a look. Neither of us was dressed for birding, or in fact, such lousy weather.

I’m pleased to say that with wet feet and wet everything else we arrived at the hide to find the Glossy Ibis close by. I’ve seen umpteen of these birds on my travels, but I have to confess it was good to have such a good sighting locally. The weather also ensured there were few people about. Only three other non twitchers in the hide, although one or two more approached as we left. A number of Snipe close by the hide too. I think my mate was secretly enjoying himself when I suggested we leave. Anyway he’s going home to look up Glossy Ibis on the internet.
I might be the last birder (although having said that I know I’m not) in the North East to have seen this bird, but no matter, a Glossy Ibis it remains and I watched it in peaceful surroundings, if somewhat wet, so my patience had been well rewarded. I may not be a twitcher, but neither am I a fair weather birder! The demon in me seems to have settled down a bit now.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

After the Rain.

All of these shots were taken just outside of the back door. All but one show rain drops caught in spiders webs.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Holy Island Invasion!

Time to go.
Lough and Dunes.

Fox Moth Catterpillar

Salad Burnet ???

Fungi ???

There's four Scaup there somewhere!

Spot the Birder. Newcastle L G in action.

10th Oct. It was neither an invasion of Vikings nor rare migrant birds, but of forty-one keen Newcastle RSPB Local Group members on their annual October trip to the island. Durham group were up there too. The early morning mists had soon cleared to leave us all in an excellent frame of mind and the island very atmospheric, an atmosphere added to by the haunting calls of the hundreds of Grey Seals basking on the sands. Some of the seals came up close giving excellent sightings. We were early arrivals on a then quiet island, having on the journey spotted Sparrowhawk and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We were soon around to St Cuthbert’s Island where we soon picked up on and near the island Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Red-breasted Merganser and Kestrel. Thousands of waders were way off in the distance. Flocks of Eider Duck were numerous as were small flocks of Brent Geese in flight. There was no bright sun to hinder watching and so Red Throated Divers, four Scaup, Razorbill and a Velvet Scoter were quite easily picked up on the water. Cormorants were in large numbers and a smaller group of Shag were found.

Around by the harbour Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtail were found. Over on the rocket field we found Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Snipe. By now gulls seen had been Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed. Black Tailed Godwit was also seen on the island by some members. After dropping one or two items onto the coach we set off along the long lonnen where we took a lunch stop where we were joined by nother more than Dunnock and Robin but talk of Yellow Browed Warblers has many of us making a U turn and retracing some of our steps. Those that did return were in the main rewarded by brief but good sightings of two Yellow Browed Warblers. I confess a lifer for me! Always good to see a new species even if somewhat plain as this one is.

As we carried on towards the Lough we found numbers of Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat. We had no sign of the reported Short Eared Owl. Only one member of our group did sight it today and that was our coach driver! We did find a few Red Admiral Butterflies, some large caterpillars (I’d appreciate an I D. Edit. Now confirmed as Fox Moth), some interesting fungi (again an I D would be appreciated), and lots of what I’m told was Salad Burnet Sanguisorba minor (again help would be appreciated as the leaves shown in my Blamey and Fitter book look nowt like this). One of our members who had done a bit of a sea watch had found Black Necked Grebe, Kittiwake and Guillemot.

We saw numbers of Gannet as we approached the Lough and a member suggested that they were out at sea. I certainly hope that they were, or following their dives they would have had severe headache! At the hide a group were watching the bushes. Someone had spread the word about a Lapland Bunting which all agreed was in fact Reed Bunting of which there were several around! When a further two reported Yellow Browed Warblers were found they had magically turned into Goldcrest. In the same bush was my bird of the day a stunning Brambling. At the Lough we added Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot and Pintail to the list.

During the day we had seen several Redwing, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, and of course the usual pigeons and corvids. There had also been numbers of Swallow and House Martins still on the island. Certainly there was no shortage of insects for them to feed upon and at one point I walked through a cloud of them. As we prepared to leave for our customary stop at Buddle Bay the clouds began to disperse and the sun shone. I hadn’t minded the cloud cover which had added to the atmosphere, especially during the morning, and had helped the bird watching. I can still hear those Grey Seals and see Lindisfarne Castle under a wonderful sky!

The late afternoon atmosphere was equally good at the bay too, where although the tide remained quite far out there were birds in good numbers. There were more Brent Geese and we added Pink-footed Geese, Shelduck and Grey Plover to the list. There was good numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. After around thirty minutes of watching the bay we were on the coach for the return journey and our compulsory bird count. The list today came to 84 species! Then as we were nearing home several of us who had not drifted off to dream land caught sight of a Common Buzzard as it flew in front of the coach, bringing the list up to 85. As I said, bird of the day for me was the Brambling.
The only headache of the day was wondering how we can transport so many members in future as demand for places is growing fast. Thanks to Durham RSPB group we managed to get seven members on their coach today. I must say it’s not a bad headache to have as recruitment of new members has been my top priority. Such numbers can be easily managed when divided into smaller groups ensuring everyone has a good day. The next group trip is to Martin Mere.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A Song from Killy.

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Sunday, 4 October 2009

OK, I've Chosen My Horse!

Killy's Horse
Red Admiral Butterfly


4th Oct. After being out with a group in the winds yesterday it was rather pleasant to be out on patch alone this afternoon where calm had returned and the sun continued to shine, at least most of the time! I took a photo of the Rowan opposite my house.

The first thing I noticed as I walked through the church grounds was that there were a number of Red Admiral Butterflies about. On my return walk I found more in the small park area. What I have read so far suggests that this has been a good year for butterflies, blip or not. I did read somewhere that it had not necessarily been a good year for Red Admirals although I’ve seen lots. The second most important thing on my walk was a horse. Anyone who reads this blog, and I hope someone does, will remember I fancied getting myself a horse to ride around the patch and further a field. I have decided against the race horse I recently spotted at Holystone and my heart has been well and truly drawn to one I saw today. Tis in the photograph. This one I think would do me nicely. As you’ll note it is a little tubby and small. The tubbiness will I feel slow it down a bit on gallops and over jumps and this will be good until I get more riding experience. Its back is not to far off the ground either and this will save me the cost of any mechanical aids to lift me on it. I think I could manage a Frankie Dettori jump onto and from this one. I’m so taken with this horse I’m already thinking of suitable names for my equine companion.

The Grey Heron was in its usual place next to the smaller lake. There was no sign of the Great Crested Grebes. At least one adult and two juvenile birds remain on the larger lake however. The numbers of Common Gull are beginning to increase and as usual there was large numbers of Black Headed Gulls. Other birds seen were Mute Swans (the numbers seem to increase every time I visit!), Greylag Geese (2), Canada Geese, Mallard, Tufted Duck (numbers increasing), Coot and Moorhen. I noticed a different Grey Heron fly over and a Grey Wagtail flew across the lake. I also noticed the Brown Rats were around in number. As I walked past the small patch of reed one was startled by me and appeared to jump slightly into the air and scurry of at some speed. There were people sitting on the bench nearby so I had to appear ‘cool’ about this. Thank God it didn’t run towards me! They can certainly shift when need be. I passed some guys playing cricket and from the style of one or two of the players I think I have hope left yet as to my fitness! Perhaps they had been to the pub prior to the game.
As I walked home I thought I was going to get a smashing photo of a rainbow across Killy, but it faded quickly so I failed with that one. There was little bird activity today to be honest and I saw very few passerines.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Wind, Water and Whoopers!

Holywell Dene and tranquility out of the wind!
3rd Oct. One thing about leading pre-planned walks is that you have got to get there what ever. When I heard wind this morning I could have happily rolled over and gone back to sleep. Instead, I was off to Holywell Village and surprisingly fifteen other, gluttons for punishment, I mean, group members and prospective members turned up. After a brief introduction in the bus shelter, I wonder how many bodies you could get in there if need be, we were off to the pond just about as the heavens opened. I began to wonder if this was rally a good idea! Not to worry, after sheltering under the trees we thought the wind would dry us.

The pond bird life included, Grey Heron, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen. There was also the odd Lapwing and large flocks of gull. Enough interest to keep people happy anyway. It was just as well, as we found practically nothing in Holywell Dene with most birdlife seeming to be keeping heads down in the depth of the bushes. Long Tailed Tits proved to be the highlight. Despite the winds of today and lack of birds it was surprisingly pleasant and tranquil down there as I told people of Hubert De La Val in an authoritive manner, as if I’d known the man all my life. Hubert owned the dene and probably a great deal more at one time. Apparently he came over with William the Conqueror. I’d never heard of the guy until I read up about him on Thursday evening. Andrew Bell a 13 years old mine worker who had his head squashed by moving tubs in Holywell pit, was another I read about. At Andrews’s inquest it is recorded that ‘he should have waited until the tubs were staionary.’ Thank God for unions! Andrew is buried in Earsdon churchyard. The water in the Seaton Burn was extremely low.

I decided to return via the paths on the opposite side of the burn rather than through the open grassland such was the winds.
We stopped of at the pond on returning and founsd a flock of Lesser Black Backed Gull and just before we were due to leave six Whooper Swans flew in as if by prior arrangement, ending the walk on a high. It had been a really sunny day after that initial downpour and everyone, I think, left having spent an enjoyable four hours, in the main out of the winds