Sunday, 28 August 2011

It Might As Well Rain Until September.

The Wall Brown was pleased that the weather forecast was wrong as well!

It was difficult to leave these surroundings and such light.

I reckon the rainbow was a celebration of me eventually finding a Green Sandpiper this year!

27th Aug. That old Carole King classic was on my mind when I looked out of the window early on Saturday morning. I was due to give a talk at St Mary’s Island and had intended to go down there early to grab a bit of the atmosphere and do some birding. I was more inclined to go back to bed when I heard the forecast for worsening rain which was forecast for the day, but no, I’m an all weather birder so whilst I didn’t get down quite as early as I planned I was still down there just as the rain stopped. The tide was out and the atmosphere was indeed very good. I also caught sight of a couple of interesting birds, one of them being a Yellow Wagtail on the rocks south of the island and in with the large numbers of Pied Wagtail. I hadn’t expected anyone turning up for the talk such had been the poor start to the day, but it proved to be a success with twenty-four participants. Just goes to show that the weather does not put off the interested!

The talk was followed by a short walk and despite most of the terns having left the area by now we still had numbers of Sandwich Terns and someone reported Arctic Terns flying south, but I didn’t see them myself. It was the waders that made the day for most however. It proved to be an ideal time to show some the changing plumage of the waders and the large flocks of Golden Plover proved a great attraction. Many of these birds still retained much of their summer plumage. Mixed in with them were a couple of Knot, one still in fading summer plumage and another seeming to have full winter plumage. Several Wheatears where found in the same area. Ringed Plovers seemed to be especially numerous amongst the expected wader flocks. We ended things off with a walk around the wetland which brought little other than Whitethroat and Goldfinch although some saw a Sparrowhawk, and a Kestrel flew overhead. The Curlew flock was checked for Whimbrel without success. It had been enjoyable watching the flocks of waders both on the ground and in the air as the tide came in.

After my duties for the morning were over I had decided to walk up to Holywell by the usual route. Thanks are offered to the birder who put me onto both Sooty Shearwater and Arctic Skua. I later found another Arctic Skua, although not the Manx Shearwaters that yet another birder had been watching. A small flock of Common Scoter flew north and there were good numbers of Gannet, Eider Duck and Guillemot and a few Razorbills.

The walk through the dene was very quiet although I did briefly see Grey Wagtails and eventually found Chiffchaff which had been giving out huit huit calls throughout the dene. Blackcap was also heard. The white rump of Bullfinch was briefly seen flying away on the Avenue path.

Before reaching Holywell pond I checked out East Pool, but found nothing more than Moorhens. The pool here seems now to have lost the good area for waders as it has become overgrown in the main. On the way to Holywell Pond I counted circa one hundred and seventy Lapwings in the ploughed field. Even though not that far away they could quite so easily have been missed and I guess they were by most passers by. The whole flock just blended into the surroundings so well. It wasn’t until I focused the scope on them that the brilliant colouring of the plumage was picked up.

I arrived at the public hide to be told that a Spoonbill had disappeared only ten minutes before my arrival. Apparently it had flown in around the same time as a Curlew Sandpiper and a Ruff. The latter two birds had flown off almost right away, but the Spoonbill has stayed a short time but not long enough! None of these birds returned whilst I, and others alerted to the Spoonbill, were around. More Lapwings gave a total of two hundred and thirty-five. There were flocks of Greylag and Canada Geese and the pair of Mute Swans was there with the grown brood. There is a growing number of Teal on the pond now along with Mallard, Shoveller, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe. Numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls grew as I watched and Grey Herons were active.

I took a slow walk along to the members hide as by now it had turned into a warm and bright evening. The morning weather forecast had been completely wrong, as there had been no heavy showers at all once the heavy rain of early morning had ended. I found a Great Spotted Woodpecker high in the trees next to the new feeding station. After a while I took a walk back to the public hide as didn’t want to miss any waders that might be around. On my return I found only the Lapwings. Then around 18:45 I watched as a wader flew in and landed in front of the hide. It was a Green Sandpiper. At last I had my first Green Sandpiper of the year. Definitely the bird of the day for me. I watched it at length before deciding to make off. A rainbow appeared in the sky to the east as the sun shone in the west. The lighting around the pond was bright and clear. It hadn’t been easy to move off. The wet morning seemed to be a long way off in time now as I wandered around to Holywell Village. Sand Martins and House Martins were added to the day list of sixty-eight. I'd found a few butterflies during the day too, in the main Wall Brown. Butterflies where the last thing I had expected as I had left the house in the morning!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Spotted Flycatcher on Patch

21st Aug. I left the house this morning and immediately felt the warmth of the sun, although the berries and changing Rowan Tree across the way suggested autumn was getting into motion. After the rain of the summer months things can only get better! I was greeted by Goldfinch, Swallow, Pied Wagtail and the calling of Wood Pigeons as I headed for the lake. The Swallow was the first of many to be seen today. On a sunny Sunday morning the small lake area is a tranquil place to be, even though I didn’t make it down there as early as on some recent Sundays. It’s an ‘in between’ phase for the birds on the lake now and there wasn’t very much about in terms of species. A lone Great Crested Grebe and two Common Terns further down the larger lake were about as exciting as it got. A few Swallows swooped low over the smaller lake.

Eventually making off towards the wagon-way I found a number of Long Tailed Tits in one of the mature trees in a garden on the estate. Once on the wagon-way proper both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were found. Numbers of Swallows were flying over and in the vicinity of the farm where it seems several had nested. More Goldfinches were around along with Chaffinch and Greenfinch.

Further along the wagon-way I left the path to walk through the small grassland area which is a good patch for butterflies. Today I found only whites and very flighty small butterflies which I took to be Wall Browns. I saw only one other larger butterfly later in the day which may have been a Red Admiral. It was hot by now and I was already feeling tired, perhaps dehydration was the problem. My little detour was not wasted and I found that a few smaller passerines where flying around in the taller trees. I soon got my eye on a Spotted Flycatcher. The star bird of the day and as well as a year tick it was a first on patch for me. I’m sure in past years Spotted Flycatchers would not have been uncommon on patch, as there appears to be ample suitable habitat in places, but this was nevertheless a first for me. There’s always something special about finding something like this on patch and on other walks I do, which to me is always every bit as rewarding as chasing some rarity that has often been initially reported by someone else anyway. As well as the flycatcher I found a rather stunningly plumaged Willow Warbler with very vivid supercilium, as well as numbers of Coal and Blue Tit.

I eventually reached the Killingworth to Holystone wagon-way and found a flock of at least sixty Linnets. It’s sometime since I have seen so many Linnets in this area. Another sign of autumn ‘me’ thinks, as numbers tend to build up in this area late in the year. The walk down towards Holystone was a peaceful one, and on this occasion unusually warm. This is usually one of the coolest places on patch with the winds coming across the open fields to make even a summer’s day walk a cool one. I found the pair of Common Whitethroat near their nesting area and as I was watching them another two birds flew out of the hedge. I didn’t catch sight of them well enough to definitely identify, but I’m pretty sure they were part of a family of Common Whitethroat. Anything on the ground in the fields would have been well hidden by the crops and I found little else other than corvids until I reached the stables where numbers of Swallows were really high indeed. Once past the stables I consider myself off patch and I headed through Holystone and onwards to the Rising Sun Country Park, noticing not much other than a pair of Collared Doves on the way.

The park seemed pretty devoid of bird life, so feeling cream crackered by now I headed for the cafĂ© to see if a bite to eat might restore my vigour. The sandwich and cuppa tea didn’t quite work, so I added a rather nice strawberry tart, after which I walked around to Swallow Pond. In total I counted fifteen Lesser Black Backed Gulls in the vicinity. Two more Common Terns and a quickly disappearing Little Grebe were also seen. Common and Black Headed Gulls were on the water and quite a large number of Herring Gulls eventually flew overhead. The rest of the park was a desert. By now, as if to remind me that it was still summer, dark cloud had gathered and there was a short shower of rain. This cooled me down a little, but was soon over and the heat returned. On the way out of the Park I heard, but was unable to sight a Blackcap.

It had been a pleasant day and had thrown up the unexpected Spotted Flycatcher.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Bonaparte's Gull.....What's in a Name?

Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte is I am sure a familiar name to all! Nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, he appears to have had a turbulent, but comfortable childhood moving from place to place in Europe, his father having fallen out of favour with brother Napoleon. I believe a few other individuals (and armies) had a problem with that same Napoleon. Let’s just miss out all of the political stuff and jump to when Charles was living in Italy as a teenager with the title of Prince of Musignano. I did say that things were comfortable! At this time Charles had taken an interest in the scientific literature and ornithology. He found and shot (as they did) a streaky brown warbler and was unable to find it in his book. He prepared it and sent it to Temminck who went on to describe it as a new species, the Moustached Warbler.

Shortly after his nineteenth birthday Charles married his cousin Zenaide and they sailed off to live in Philadelphia where Charles began his study of American birds. By all accounts the marriage was not all plain sailing, however Charles did express his affection in years to come by naming a genus of doves, Zenaida. I bet that was a joy to the missus. I believe this genus includes the likes of Galapagos Dove, Mourning Dove and Zenaida Dove.

During the sea crossing to Philadelphia Charles caught and studied species of Storm Petrel and used this information for his paper ‘Four Species of Stormy Petrel’. The vernacular name of Wilson’s Storm Petrel stems from a proposal in the article to honour the then deceased American ornithologist Alexander Wilson. Charles produces a supplement to Wilson’s work into which he incorporated recently discovered species and the females and immatures of many of the common species. This included the Cooper’s Hawk and Say’s Phoebe which he named after friends. Also included were the first illustrations of American Goldfinch, Golden-winged Warbler and Cape May Warbler. Charles had great skill in the systematic arrangement of genera and species.

Charles appears to have born some influence upon Audubon who he encouraged to seek a publisher in Europe for Audubon’s Birds of America. If at least some Americans were less than keen on Audubon at the time! I don’t suppose that they like to admit that now.

In 1826 Charles left America and sailed back to Europe. He set up home in Rome in 1828 and made a home there for his family for the next twenty years. It was during this period that a small gull was named after him Larus Bonapartii. It had initially been named Sterna Philadelphia and then Larus capistratus by Charles himself. The specific name has since returned to the original although the English vernacular name still includes Bonaparte. In the mean time Charles turned his attention from the birds of America to the birds and animals of Italy and he published three volumes filled with such information, between 1832 and 1841.

Charles became involved politically and I shall skip that part of his life apart from saying that he did name a newly discovered bird of paradise Diphyllodes republica as a swipe at his cousin Louis Napoleon, President of France. This bird was included in a large work of the classification of birds of the world which he never finished prior to his death in 1857. I understand this work is still sometimes consulted, even today.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Philately Again.

The first day covers bearing the Alderney stamp mark and some very nice stamps of local birds to the Channel Islands have arrived. Not quite matching the quality of the Henderson Island FDC, but very nice all of the same. Now I just have to find myself an actual Balearic Shearwater!

I’m continuing to read Birds of the World book concerning Albatrosses and Petrels. Quite heavy going in places, but throwing up some very interesting points. I think I can now pronounce Yelkouan without a second thought and I even know what it means. Apparently it is Turkish for ‘wind fighter’.

I also learnt of the Manx Shearwater that was ringed when fully grown in 1953, that was re-captured at Copeland Island, Northern Ireland, in 2003, and therefore was at least 52 years old.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Meeting with Bonaparte's Gull

14th Aug. The all weather birders managed to find a day’s break in the rain, and to celebrate took the fast train to Chester le Street where Tom and I met up with that well known character Foghorn also known to friends as Andrew. I’m wondering if Tom had chosen rail travel in the hopes of repeating an exciting sighting of Hobby that he had had this week on a train traveling ‘up north’. The journey was cheap and fast, and so fast it allowed little time to look out the window for birds. We were soon off towards Saltholme after picking up some refreshment.

We watched the pool from the roadside. We didn’t plan to enter the RSPB reserve as such and in any event where there long before opening time. We laughed at the idea of the cafes ‘birders breakfast’ at 10.00am. I’d had my breakfast four hours earlier than that! The hoped for Little Stint could not be found on the causeway although I did catch sight of a small very light bellied wader flying beside the hide and wondered if that might be it. It disappeared quite quickly so I couldn’t be sure. Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin were amongst birds seen as were numbers of Lapwing and Shoveller. We moved off in the direction of Greatham Creek and Seal Sands before the reserve opened, but intended to come back to view from the hide.

The creek was initially quiet, with the tide being at a low point. Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew were quickly picked up. There was no sign of Spotted Redshank. From the hide area over looking the sands we found numbers of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, and at least three Grey Plover one of them in stunning summer plumage and that bird qualified certainly for the most stunning bird seen during the day in my opinion. I noticed a small flock of Dunlin fly in over the sands and think that this is likely to have been the flock we found on our return walk. It included another cracking bird, a Little Stint in wonderful plumage and so small against the Dunlin. The mantle V very obvious. There was now no need to return to the reserve now. Also around were Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Shelduck, growing numbers of Teal and Greenshank. Butterflies began to make an appearance now as it was getting really warm. By the end of the day we had seen Whites, Common Blue (in numbers), Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Wall Brown. The Common Blues especially showed well and were involved in courtship.

There was never any need to reconsider plans as the weather was good, so we head off towards Crimdon for the Little Terns. I was pleased to hear that they have been successful with productivity this year as apposed to last year when almost all of the young were predated. Many of the terns had already left the area, but we had good sightings of adult and juvenile birds along with a few Sandwich Terns giving an excellent size comparison. There were Linnets and Goldfinch in the dune area. After quite a quick visit we were off to Hartlepool.

It was hoped we’d find Rose-ringed Parakeet in Ward Jackson Park. After I picked up the call and briefly saw one bird fly through the trees I was beginning to think that might be it. Eventually we heard the calls of the flock and saw maybe 10/12 birds fly overhead. Lesser Black Backed Gulls were visiting the pond.

Next on the list was a visit to Whitburn to try and track down the Bonaparte’s Gull. I’ve seen many of these gulls on the Pacific coast of Canada, but that was sometime ago and in any event I was hoping to get it on my UK list. The list is growing, slowly I grant you, but it is growing! On arrival we found several birders looking at the flock of Black Headed Gulls. They all left without success. We stayed despite the sea watching being quiet. Not much was picked up on the sea at all apart from Guillemot, Razorbill, a couple of Fulmar, the odd Gannet, Cormorants and Gulls. It was high tide and the rocks below us held Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Sanderling and Redshank. Andrew having seen the Bonaparte’s Gull previously was confident that if we gave it time, the bird would appear. So we spent some time in the now pleasant conditions passing the time of day and people watching. It wasn’t too long before the Bonaparte’s Gull flew into the area almost directly in front of us. A cracking sighting indeed and we watched the bird at length as it moved slowly along the coastline, close in and just below us. Patience is the name of the game. No other birders had remained. For the third time in just over a week I have found birders have missed the bird they were after, as they have moved on too quickly, in each case just before the bird has flown in. I know Andrew has photos on his blog and I’m sure that there will be more.

Time was now catching up on us and there was a train to catch but not before paying a visit to a site well known by Andrew near his home. It was a good way to end the days birding. My tally of species is around fifty-five for the day. It could have been more I’m sure but we did target certain birds. We were all satisfied with our day in Durham so we’ll be back! Shame we missed the Wilson’s Phalarope, but as I said last night, you can’t expect to get everything! I did add four species to my year list.

I’m off to re-read up on Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, whom the gull was named after, and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Good Evening!

8th Aug. Tom, Cain and I set off for Holywell Pond shortly after 4.00pm, Tom and I having very briefly spotted a Little Gull flying over Killingworth Lake. We were hoping for lots of waders at Holywell, but in the event it was a very different atmosphere than from a couple of days before. The heavy rains of the weekend had been and gone and it was a pleasant evening. There is definitely something that appeals in summer evening birding and I enjoy it greatly, and even better when in good company.

The gull flocks were checked out thoroughly without throwing up anything to excite. Unfortunately neither the mud area on the pond or East Pool held any waders. Even Lapwings were noticeable by their absence. We did have good views of two Black-necked Grebes. Other birds of note were a party of eleven Gadwall, the still lone Wigeon, a Sparrowhawk flying across the lake carrying its prey, and seven Golden Plover in flight.

We eventually made off towards Seaton Sluice via Earsdon and stopped at the Bee-hive flash were we found the Spotted Redshank immediately. This bird has been flying to and fro between Holywell Pond and the flash. It gave an excellent sighting.

Once at Seaton Sluice we had to say aurevoir to Cain who has a trip to Switzerland to plan for. Tom and I headed for the tower hide and the area around it for a short seawatch. Not really expecting too much we soon had very close in dark phase Arctic Skua in our sights. This entertained us for a time as it attempted to parasitize the Kittiwakes. We ended up with three sightings of Arctic Skua during our short watch, but we believe that we saw only two separate birds. All the sightings were close in. Tom found a single Manx Shearwater heading north and we were also entertained by a large number of Gannets feeding not far from land. Other sea birds included Eider Duck, Common Scoter, Guillemot and Razorbill.

Our aim was to reach St Mary’s Island as the tide neared its height in the hope that Roseate Terns would be seen on the rocks south of the island. On the walk we had large numbers of waders in Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover (some still in almost full summer plumage), Dunlin, Sanderling (now in winter plumage), Turnstone, Knot (still showing summer plumage), Redshank and Curlew.

At one point whilst looking for terns the air was full of the smell of burning rubber as the moronic boy racers sped dangerously around the main car-park no doubt showing off their (self) perceived skills to equally moronic girlfriends they had in tow. Sad that these attention seekers have nothing better to do with their time. Not only do they have time to spare, but they also appear to have wealth, such were their souped up cars. Wealth, but little brain I suspect, as there were families with kids down there, whilst these lunatics drove around as though they were at Brands Hatch. I’m pleased that the police eventually arrived, no doubt to have a little chat with them.

There were lots of gulls loafing on the rocks but few terns. We did find the odd Common Tern and several Sandwich Terns. We also found a Black Tern in flight its colouring and head markings very noticeable. A new one for my year list. Unfortunately it didn’t land. A Grey Heron that had been standing in one of the rock pools decide to do a flyover and all life on the rocks took off not to return. It had turned very cold by now and Tom and I decided that we had had enough for the evening and so made off towards home. It had been a great evening despite the lack of terns in number. The light had been very good and the waders in particular had been shown to their best. We had ended up with a good list of gulls too, Black Headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black Backed, Great Black Backed, Little, Kittiwake and I’m thinking we also got a quick sighting of Mediterranean Gull although I remain unsure about that one.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Before the Rains Came!

5th and 6th Aug. Friday offered such a wonderful summer evening it would have been wasteful not to venture out, and with some decent birds being reported at Holywell I was pleased to be offered a lift down there by CS (Holywell Birding) who was accompanied by SW (British Birder). The area was attracting a number of local birders including Sedgedunum Warbler (pleased to met you John). My tick list of bloggers is slowly building although John assures me we have met before.

I was hoping for waders and a single lively Ruff soon obliged and hung around for most of the time we were in down there. It wasn’t long before the juvenile Mediterranean Gull was also found amongst the Black Headed Gull flock. It did take a little while longer before the Greenshank flew in (my first sighting of this species in 2011). There seemed to be no sign of the Spotted Redshank although it had been heard just before we arrived. One gent left to look for it at the Beehive Flash and low and behold it flew in minutes after he had left! It was in cracking plumage and the highlight of the evening for me.

Everyone was struggling to find the reported Black-necked Grebe. We weren’t sure if it had been an adult or juvenile bird that had been seen. We searched the East Pool for the Green Sandpiper, but never did find it. Grey Partridge and Snipe were found here and the Greenshank seemed to be spending time flying between this pool and the main pond. The East Pool has been looking as though it was ripe for throwing some more waders up and this has proven to be the case. I don’t think we will have seen the last of them!

Cain found a Wigeon amongst the Mallard and Pochard and the main pond held numbers of Little Grebe and gulls including attractive Lesser Black Backed Gulls. Grey Herons were also to be seen.

As the sun began to lower and a wind of change began to gather, we moved off towards the members hide. The cooler breeze was welcome after the humidity of the preceding days The object was to ensure the windows and door was locked. However Stephen, a serious twitcher in waiting I reckon, got his eye on what he thought might be the Black-necked Grebe. A quick look through the scope confirmed a juvenile Black-necked Grebe in front of the hide. A very nice way to end the evening as the sunset.

This morning I had the chance to visit Cresswell Pond with a friend from the local group. We hoped to arrive there before the rain did. On arrival I was told by someone just leaving that there was a Green Sandpiper. Great I thought, as I need that one for the year list too. Before going to the hide though we were entertained by birds feeding on the road to the farm and this included Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Linnet, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail and Grey Wagtail. A Yellow Wagtail on the wires completed a set of wagtails. Also on the wire was Tree Sparrow.

There was no sign of a Green Sandpiper from the hide, and no one else in the hide had seen one. I added PA (Crammy Birder to the day list here). A Little Egret was showing nicely and it wasn’t too long before I found the Ruff. Other waders included Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, two-hundred and fifty plus Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Snipe. Apparently a Spotted Redshank had been reported earlier in the morning. One guy we got speaking to left to look for it elsewhere. Just like the previous evening, no sooner had he left and another cracking Spotted Redshank flew onto the sand bank, showing really well. Patience is the lesson I think!

I counted at least another four Yellow Wagtails to the left of the hide before the rains came. A Sedge Warbler flew in to land briefly in front of the hide and to the east side of the pond were numbers of Sandwich Terns and maybe three Stock Doves. By now the rain was heavy so we made off for a cuppa. Rain stopped birding, but we had spent a good hour and a half enjoying some good sightings. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t caught out in the deluge of this afternoon. It may bring in some good birds for next week.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Philately will get you everywhere!

Birdwatchers are often compared to stamp collectors, well the compulsive listers and twitchers are anyway. Why not throw on your anorak and be both birder and stamp collector.

An interest in ornithology can lead you in many directions. If anyone had asked me twelve months ago where Henderson Island was I wouldn’t have had a clue. I do know now. Henderson Island is part of the Pitcairn Group of Islands. Ok, so those of you with a good knowledge of geography will be asking yourselves why on earth I didn’t know that anyway! Henderson has the largest pristine raised coral atoll in the world and is home to a number of endemic species. Several of them threatened. The Henderson Petrel Pterodroma atreta breeds there, but is heading towards extinction. 95% of the petrel chicks are killed by rats within one week of hatching and that’s over 25,000 chicks every year. The plight of the petrel has captured the attention of the RSPB and the society has initiated the Henderson Island Restoration Project which involves the eradication of introduced rats. Those rats may be squealing as I type, as the RSPB operational vessel will be at Henderson during August and September of this year. Two helicopters will use GPS technology to methodically drop poison bait across the island. Unless you’re an appreciator of rats I’m sure you will agree that this is a good project to undertake. I visited Ailsa Craig off the coast of Scotland last year and it too had a problem with rats, although on a smaller scale. Success in getting rid of the rats has brought benefits to birds there.

Problems of biodiversity loss cannot be ignored, although I’m sure it is easy to bury heads in the sand, and I think it important to be aware of conservation around the world and not just ‘at home.’ This is the reason I sent for my First Day Cover of ‘Rare Birds of Henderson,’ I received it, and another I have for a good friend of mine just the other day inside an envelope with a rather nice Pitcairn Islands postage stamp on it. As well as the Henderson Petrel, the Henderson Crake, Fruit Dove, Reed Warbler and Lorikeet are all featured on the stamps. The Pitcairn Philatelic Bureau has agreed to donate a small amount to the RSPB for every First Day Cover Sold.

I also being looking at some of the postage stamps that feature birds, available from around the world and I’m beginning to think I ought never to have giving my boyhood stamp collecting up! I do still have a small stamp collection that was passed on to me by my elder brother when he gave the hobby up. I’ll have to have a look at it just in case I happen to own a rare postage stamp worth £1.000s!

I did find another recent first day cover featuring birds, including the Balearic Shearwater. This one is from Alderney. It caught the eye as I visited Alderney as a teenager on an Ocean Youth Club trip (I’d won a place in a Daily Mirror Competition, but that’s another story). This one should be in the post now!

As someone comments on the Birdlife International site…….. ‘What a great way to introduce youngsters to birds and conservation’. I’d only add never mind the youngsters, what about the oldies too? If you’re interested take a look at

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

New Patch Tick.


A floral edging to the lake.

Green Veined White (male) Butterfly.

2nd Aug. After the heavy rain I decided to pop down to the lake and try once more for these Little Gulls. I’d seen that JB had photographed them yesterday! I started the walk in a very fine shower which was quite welcome in the growing humidity.

I watched the lake for sometime, and in particular watched the Common Terns. No sign of Little Gulls though! I wasn’t going to be removed despite the halo of tiny flies around my head, in what was now growing heat. I caught sight of a small bird flying into the reeds, so moved down a little. After a while I began to hear the bird calling from deep in the reed cover. I initially thought it was Sedge Warbler, as I’d heard one singing here earlier in the year. Patience paid off and the bird began to appear moving low in the reeds at first, but then giving a beautiful sighting as it continued the short and quiet calling from high on the reeds. It was my first ever Reed Warbler on patch and seen wonderfully within a few feet of me. I’d been told last year that they had been spotted, but never found them then.

A lone Great Crested Grebe was on the larger lake today and the occasional Swallow swooped low over the water. Gulls included at least five adult Lesser Black Backs, Black Headed, Common and Herring Gull. Reflections on the smaller lake were good today and this included the reflection of the sports centre which I thought might have been detrimental to the lake when I saw it being built. It appears to have had no ill effects and shows that wildlife and buildings can get along together if handled well. Which in North Tyneside, is just as well! Mint, of which I love the smell and taste, edged the lake.

I eventually returned by way of the playing fields and church grounds, hearing the huit of Chiffchaff and the tacing alarm call of Blackcap on the way. I had a good sighting of the male Blackcap. I checked out more gulls on the fields, but found only Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gull. There were numbers of white butterflies around today. What I think was a Green Veined White (male) Butterfly danced and fluttered over a female as it sat on the low grass stems. There appeared to be no physical contact and another male seemed to join in briefly. The first couple flew off and eventually landed near to one another just a few feet from their initial contact. The male began his fluttering over the female again. The female then went onto the lower stem of the grass and closed her wings. I’m not sure if this was a come and get me signal, a get lost signal or whether she may have been laying. I suspect the latter.

I walked home in sun, heat and humidity with storm clouds still about. Summer is clearly not over yet though!