Monday, 28 November 2011

Holywell to St Mary's Island

Autumnal dene. In stark contrast to this time last year.

28th Nov. Having heard a not so good weather forecast for the next few days I thought I ought to make the most of today’s bright skies. I made for Holywell. It seemed to me quite a while since I had actually completed the whole of my regular walk, especially beginning it at Holywell. What a difference a year makes! Almost to the day, last year the all weather birders were almost frozen and had initially thought that shovels might be needed to even get out of the thick snow in Killingworth. No sign of snow today and very mild by comparison. I was all alone so only one all weather birder today. It was a quiet day people-wise so for much of the time my only company was the birds! I was nearly flattened by a cyclist, but as he didn’t mean me any harm, I’ll let that pass!:-)

I was soon looking at two Tree Sparrows as I took the path towards Holywell Pond and I later found four of them at the new feeding station. There may have been five, but I couldn’t be certain of that. A mixed flock of gulls lifted from the fields to the west of the pond. The two feeding stations soon supplied sightings of Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Once in the hide I found a female Sparrowhawk that flew across the pond and seemed to be heading straight for the hides open shutter until taking avoidance action at the last minute and flying through the feeding station. I also quickly had my eye on the European White Fronted Goose. I was to get a very close sighting of this bird later at the public hide. The bird’s pinkish bill, size, wide white ending to the tail and light colouring distinguishing it from its Greenland relative. Mind you, on colouring alone one could fall into a trap quite easily as in different lighting conditions the bird appeared to change quite quickly from light to dark.

The pond was generally quiet, with all of the Teal seemingly vanished! There were several Grey Herons about, Little Grebe, Pheasant, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. A single male Goosander was also on the pond. I seem to think this is a first for me on this walk, along with the White Fronted Goose. Perhaps I’m wrong about the former. A small flock of Lapwing were unable to settle and flew over the pond on occasions. Gulls were the usual Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. A small flock of Greylag Geese also flew over the pond.

I eventually made my way down the avenue in the company of three Bullfinches which stayed a few yards in front of me until I reached the dene. Their white rumps had immediately caught my attention. I hadn’t found any geese in the fields to the east but did find a small flock of six feeding Stock Doves.

Once in the dene it seemed more like autumn than winter. There is still quite a bit of colour about the place and the water in the burn was almost still in places. All seemed at peace with the world. Near the culvert I glimpsed a ‘dipping’ Dipper and as I raised my binoculars to my eyes to get myself a better look it vanished into the culvert. It did fly past again, this time giving out a call. In the same vicinity was a Grey Wagtail. This beautifully coloured bird is wrongly named ‘grey’ in my opinion. In comparison to my recent trips into the dene, today was beginning to throw up some good birds. My luck continued when I found at least two calling Nuthatches and a Treecreeper. Great, Coal and Blue Tits where at the feeding station, along with Wren Robin and Dunnock. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers where close by too. Further into the dene I found a party of eight Long Tailed Tits, another Bullfinch and a Kestrel which was constantly being mobbed by crows at it attempted to hunt out in the open. As I reached Seaton Sluice I found my first Redshank on the mud of the burn.

I found little on or over the sea apart from gulls, two groups of them appearing to be in a bit of a feeding frenzy, Cormorants and my old friends the Eider Ducks. I hoping for a bit more luck come December.

Below the Tower Hide I counted forty-four Knot. Other waders today were Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, and overhead displays of Golden Plover, good numbers of Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. The bay north of the lighthouse held good numbers of feeding waders. Disturbed on occasions by a couple allowing their two dogs to run into the flock.

I found Rock Pipits, Pied Wagtail and of course the flocks of Starling, but on the whole, the coastal area seemed to be devoid of small passerines. I can’t remember the last time I saw Stonechats in the area I used to come across them regularly.

The wetland was a pleasant surprise as it held numbers of Teal, Wigeon and at least seven Gadwall. I looked at it from different viewpoints, but the birds were half hidden and therefore difficult to count.

It was still quite early, but the cloud was coming in, temperatures were dropping and the wind was getting up more strength, so rather than search the willows and hedging around the wetland I made for home. I had a species count of sixty-two today, in comparison the list last year was sixty-seven. It was interesting to go back and check. Last year the list had included two Brambling, (I remember Tom had seen a Woodcock fly overhead in Heaton), and I remember vividly the rather tired Brambling that was attempting to feed on the pathway to Seaton Sluice. As I journeyed home the sun was low in a yellowing sky. When I had arisen this morning the sky was red. I reckon I had made the right choice to get out today!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Short Eared Owl Remains on Patch

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see
I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me
Lyrics Elton John

Ok, Ok you have to start somewhere. Just included to let you see there is still a Short Eared Owl about.:-)

27th November. I decided to make for the wagon-ways this afternoon rather than the lake, as I thought it might still be rather windy.

I was down on the Killingworth to Holystone path before seeing much at all. I counted only six Linnets today, although I suspect there was a larger number down on the ground. The numbers of Fieldfare have risen from last week and I estimate at least one hundred and thirty were present in the fields and hedges today. Over head I had at least one hundred and fifty Golden Plover breaking into two then three smaller flocks.

Short Eared Owl was not on my expected list of birds, as I had thought they had moved on. I was very pleased when I saw one flying low over the ground some distance away. I had better sightings as I moved closer and I watched a single bird for sometime. It eventually seemed to take a breather and the cold was starting to get to me by now anyway.

The sun disappeared as I began my return walk, but not before large flocks of corvid lifted in front of it and flew off in the direction of Gosforth Park

Tribute to a Gentleman.

Not often I would stray from birds and wildlife on my blog, but I was really saddened to learn of the death of footballer Gary Speed (42) this morning. Football is a professional game with more than its share of over paid numb-skulls involved in it, and much cynicism. Never the less, I love the game and Gary Speed has always stood out as a decent guy and a gentleman. He served and represented every team he was involved with extremely well, including Newcastle United for several years. Very, very sad.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Friends of Killingworth Lake

22nd Nov. I had been told of an inaugural meeting by Sam and Brian R concerning the Friends of Killingworth Lake which was to take place this evening. I’ve not long been back from it and I’m pleased to say it was very well attended. Naturally there are interests in the lake coming from various viewpoints, but all in all everyone seemed keen to ensure good progress was made.

Yes, the now dead and unsightly floating reed-bed was mentioned on more than one occasion and it seems there are some plans to restore it. Wonder if we can get a larger one? I think you can be assured that Sam and the two Brian's will have something to say about conservation matters in the longer term.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Beside the Lake

Sun coming down on swan lake

20th Nov. I spent a short time down by the lake today. It was good to see growing numbers of Goosander. I counted thirteen, seven of them male. Most of the Cormorants were standing on the bare floating ‘thing’. There were seventeen of them in total. I counted sixty-one Canada Geese, nine Greylag Geese which includes the family of seven still staying in one party, and only one Goldeneye. There seems still to be few Pochard this year. There were of course the regular inhabitants. Gulls seen were Black Headed, Common appearing to grow in numbers, Herring and the odd Great Black Backed Gull.

On my walk to the lake I remember only seeing and hearing, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit and Blue Tit and of course the usual corvids and pigeons. A small flock of Goldfinch was seen on my return.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Down to Earth, Back to Patch.

19th Nov. I took a walk down the wagon-ways today. The usual garden birds where to be seen with Goldfinch flocks growing. The flocks of Black Headed Gulls were joined by a few Common Gulls. Collared Doves sat on the overhead wires. Once past the first farm the fields were very quiet until I found lots of Feral Pigeons and feeding nearby them at least six Stock Doves.

I found no Short Eared Owls today. I know Holywell Birding was down there earlier in the week and didn’t find any then either. It seems that the birds may have moved on. I’ll continue to keep a look out.

There was still some interest to be had with a flock of about forty, very active, Linnet and I estimated about sixty to seventy Fieldfare showing very well on the fields and in the hedges. A flock of sixteen Lapwings flew across the area. The only other bird I saw in the hedge on the Killingworth/Holystone wagon-way was Dunnock.

After a while, despite the bright sun, the cold started to get to me. I watched the sun lower in the sky as I walked home. The light was as it can be in winter and shadows were long. A Pheasant crossed the road in front of me and went under the hedge of someone’s garden. Maybe it gets a regular feed there. The trees were being burnt out by the sun as I almost reached home.

Friday, 18 November 2011

European White-fronted Geese

The rising sun

18th Nov. I had a meeting to attend at the Rising Sun Country Park today so took the opportunity to go along there early and hopefully check out the European White Fronted Geese. I wasn’t disappointed. Eight of them showing nicely.

A party of seven Long-tailed Tits moved through the hedge as I arrived at the park. Swallow Pond held four Shoveller, three Gadwall and Little Grebe amongst the usual birds. Eleven Moorhens wandered around the field north of the pond.

What was I saying about becoming soft with all this good weather? I got soaked on my walk to the Country Park this morning, but still managed a shot of the sun rising over the Rising Sun.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Best Birding, but a 'Carr too Far'.

15th Nov. I feel at my best when birding and this past few days the birding has been at its best! Wednesday saw me at Pestwick Carr amongst the flocks of Fieldfare. Persistence meant that I ticked off the Great Grey Shrike, seen at distance, but very well. Only my second sighting of this species in the UK and a county tick.

Equally rewarding was watching the Short Eared Owls, four up in the air at one time in very good lighting conditions. I heard mention of someone sighting thirteen Short Eared Owls and one Long Eared Owl, all up in the air at one time earlier in the day. It seems they had likely been disturbed by a predatory fox.

16th Nov. This morning I was back to Prestwick Carr, this time with Tom. Sadly we did not find the Great Grey Shrike on this occasion, but it was not for want of trying. Never the less we were rewarded for our efforts in the cold, with flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing. Tom also picked up a perched Marsh Harrier. We both then watched it fly off to the south of the Carr. Bumped into PCW and regrettably didn’t think to tell him of that sighting. Apologies for that, but pleased to meet.

Great atmosphere on the Carr as we listened to the calls of Willow Tits whilst catching sight of a single Short Eared Owl which flew very low before dropping onto the ground again. Common Buzzards and Kestrels were also seen well. A male Bullfinch showed up well in the hedge. Unable to track down the Great Grey Shrike, we decided to head of towards Holywell Pond and to come back later in the afternoon.

Holywell Pond was at its most quiet with little about apart from Teal, Lapwing and gulls which comprised of Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. The new feeding station was bare of food, so not even the Tree Sparrows were about today. Work was being done at the members hide by volunteers in preparation for a walk down there on Saturday. We did find Greenfinches and a Treecreeper at the old feeding station. Neither Tom nor I had seen Treecreeper there before.

It was now time to head for Seaton Sluice and a much needed lunch at the fish and chip cafĂ©. Well satisfied we headed towards the Tower Hide area where there were numbers of waders including a flock of thirty-one Knot. Other waders seen on the coast today were Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. Just like Holywell Pond the sea was at its most quiet. Two or three Guillemots were picked up, as were four Red Throated Divers, Eider and Wigeon. Cold though it was the hide wasn’t required, as there was little wind and by now the sky was almost clear of cloud. There was a mist far out to sea. Rock Pipit was seen.

We were on four wheels today so the walking was limited and we set off towards St Marys Island. The wetland, which on first appearance seemed very quiet, was checked out and we did eventually find numbers of Teal, two Wigeon and nine Gadwall. A male Reed Bunting was seen in a bush someway off in the fields. We gave the area a good searching eventually finding the likes of Song Thrush filling itself with berries (the first one I’ve seen for a while) Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. A small bird dropped into the willows, but we never did trace that one.

Both cream crackered today, me with my birding activity and Tom with his, plus some rather more serious commitments in his case, we decided that a return to Prestwick was going to be a ‘Carr too far’, so we contented ourselves with our achievements of the week so far and headed for home.

We’d clocked up sixty-seven species during our few hours out today and very pleasing that was. Never the less even more pleasing has been the quality of the birds seen this week. Birding doesn’t come much better than this and it hasn’t rained at all! The all weather birders (we’ll be getting soft with this ongoing good weather!) have decided to try and crack the one hundred species in a day record sometime in the future. Watch this space. I think I may be having a rest day tomorrow, but I shall dream about that tonight however!

Monday, 14 November 2011

All Weather Birders Make Dawn Raid!

Please believe me, there is a Green-winged Teal down there!

Before the rising sun we fly
So many roads to choose
We start our walking
And learn to run
And yes! We've just begun
LinkLyrics by the Carpenters

14th Nov. Tom and I had a date with two birds this morning and I was hoping that my success of the previous day would be repeated following Tom’s journey up from Yorkshire. We had arrived at Hauxley before the sun had risen and had not been enticed away from our date, even by the Barn Owl seen as we passed Widdrington. It was nice to be the first arrivals and our birds had not let us down. We shared the Greater Yellowlegs and the Grey Phalarope with the guy who had originally found the former bird and who had followed us into the reserve. It was nice to have close up views of both species and to finally see the Greater Yellowlegs in flight. It was an exciting start to the morning with Pink-footed Geese, Curlews, Black-tailed Godwit and a close fly by from the Kingfisher adding interest. Having found our target birds we could relax. I was delighted that Tom had met with success. Well satisfied we eventually set of for East Chevington with me suggesting that it probably wasn’t worth stopping at Druridge Country Park as time was limited today.

Our attempt at finding the Green-winged Teal amongst the large flocks of Teal was without success. There were plenty of other species to keep us happy including seven Pintail, fourteen Gadwalls, Wigeon and a Great Crested Grebe. Tom had being looking forward to experiencing the metal box hide. I’m sure he won’t forget it in a hurry!

Druridge Pool was our next stop, as the temperature seemed to go down rather than up. There was pretty much more of the same here, including another eleven Gadwalls. A lone Common Snipe was found plus a lone Canada Goose and Goldeneye. Little Grebes were also on the water. Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen as we were leaving. On the drive to Creswell Pond we passed by the flock of circa one-hundred Twite which seemed lively today. We decided not to attempt to check the flock for other possible species.

As we approached Cresswell Pond we could sense that it was frequented by a good number of birds today. Birds in the hedge included Tree Sparrows. Reed Bunting flew from the reeds. Lapwing numbers were in excess of four hundred I reckon and there were at least two hundred and fifty Golden Plover. The mixed flock was edgy and lifted several times but I saw no sign of predators. Other waders included Oystercatcher, two Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and five Common Snipe. There were large numbers of both Wigeon and Teal.

Whilst at Cresswell we heard that Slavonian Grebe had been reported at Druridge Bay Country Park. What was I saying earlier about it not being worth a visit? Then we also found that the Green-winged Teal was on South pool and not north pool which we had searched earlier. A decision was made to do an about turn and forget about our planned sea watch and visit to Newbiggin. There’s always another day.

On arrival at the park the Slavonian Grebe was found almost immediately. A very nice bird, and quite a close up sighting of it. We made off to look for the Green-winged Teal. As we were searching a couple of guys stopped in their car and told us exactly where it was. Thanks guys. We were able to get another very good sighting of this bird.

Somewhere along the way today we had two Sparrowhawks and two Kestrels.

It was reaching late morning now and we had to get back home. Just as we were getting ready to go I got my eye on a bird over the other side of the pool and I called ‘wots that?’ We both came to see at the same time that it was a male Hen Harrier. It flew over the tree-line and the fields before disappearing, not to be seen again. A fantastic sighting with which to end our morning’s birding. At least we were able to return some of the help we had received and raise other birders attention to the fact that the harrier was about. They watched for it as we left.

The all weather birders birding days are always great ones. Today was no exception and in fact rather exceptional, with some fantastic species seen, and all giving really great sightings. It had begun with the Barn Owl, my favourite species, and ended with the Hen Harrier, which is Tom’s facvourite. Come to think of it he had his favourite duck today as well, Pintail. I know he was more than happy. We had met some very friendly and helpful birders along the way which is always an added bonus. That early start had been well worthwhile. My thanks go to Tom. The week has only just begun!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Greater Yellowlegs after both Frustration and Enthusiasim

11th Nov. The weekend started with frustration as I made Pestwick Carr just before darkness set in. I was told on arrival that the Great Grey Shrike had not been seen since morning and had been chased off by two Magpies. I’ll have to try again I thought. It wasn’t a completely wasted short visit as it gave me one of the Short Eared Owls sat on the post. However I have my own in Killy!:-) Thanks to the guy who put me straight on it. Flocks of both Redwing and Fieldfare lifted from the hedges as I walked the long bumpy road. My brother had given me a lift up there and he didn’t even bother to get out of the car. Can you believe that?

12th Nov. This was to be a very different type day as I had a talk to give and walk to lead at St Marys Island. I was very pleased with the turn out which attracted thirty-three participants. One of them was a very enthusiastic UndertheHood Sam. It was great to have you along there Sam and I hope to get you closer to the birds the next time! Your photos are good anyway.

I was down to the island early so as to suss out what might be about later. I was rewarded with Woodcock which flew in off the sea and over the rocks and beach just north of the lighthouse. Come on get your bearings correct, it was actually just south of the lighthouse! It was also seen by at least one member of staff at the lighthouse. A great start for me and a year tick. I’m wondering if I should begin an off the sea list!

The presentation seemed to go down well, although I always feel it is difficult to judge when you’re the one doing the talking. I don’t set off with any thoughts off attempting to give minute identification details, but more a general feel of the waders to be seen in the area, along with some more less common ones that I especially like, and I like to throw in some information such as the naming of birds. I reckon after owls, waders and geese give me the most satisfaction. I like to try and get that feeling of excitement and exhilaration over to people who are usually lesser experienced but genuinely interested. Waders seen yesterday were Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Knot, Redshank, Curlew and of course my very own Woodcock. The Golden Plovers put on an excellent show right at the end of the walk and at about the same time a Sparrowhawk flew overhead. Here’s a fascinating fact I picked up from a talk earlier in the week from Tom Cadwallender. A cubic foot of UK estuarine silt contains more biomass than a cubic foot of Amazon Rainforest ground!

After the Walk and Talk I headed for the wagon-ways in Killingworth hoping for Short Eared Owls. I met up with the enthusiastic Sam again, and on this occasion also his dad. I’d found a distant flying Short Eared Owl just before their arrival. It was Sam’s sharp eyes that picked up another two birds in the fields nearer by. Sightings were not as close as they are on some occasions, but never the less very good ones. Sam’s first sighting of Short Eared Owls I believe. Great stuff, and good to share the sheer enthusiasm. It made me remember why I watch birds!

13th Nov. Txt from Cain (Holywellbirding). ‘Have you been up to see the Greater Yellowlegs’. Reply ‘No, are you going up’. From Cain ‘Yes in fifteen minutes if you want to come’. Reply, after giving it half a seconds thought. ‘Yes can I have thirty minutes?’ From Cain ‘OK.’ From Cain again. I’ll be there at 11:30.’ A quick bit of mental arithmetic made that twenty minutes rather than thirty, so I guessed he was eager to get away and thought I was dragging my feet. I hope he didn’t think I was still in bed! I was ready in ten minutes as it happens, so I guess I was eager too. The result was an excellent sighting of Greater Yellowlegs with the added bonus of a Grey Phalarope right next to it. Both UK ticks for me and I believe the Greater Yellowlegs is a first for Northumberland. It was a WOW moment for me. Would have, and I see has made a great photo. The poor Snow Bunting on the other side of the pond was almost forgotten in the excitement. Thanks a lot Cain. Much appreciated.:-)

So all in all, a good weekend. I’m looking forward to some more great birding this week. I wonder if I can catch that Great Grey Shrike!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Short Eared Owls Begin and End the Day.

There were few positives to World War 1, but at least it did bring to an end the idea of making Seaton Sluice a large holiday resort.

Morning sunlight

Morning advances

Gradual thaw

Frozen dipping pond

Open space

Reflecting at Holywell.

7th Nov. The most severe frost of the winter so far didn’t stop me taking a trip to Seaton Sluice, but by, it was chilly. The morning light was wonderful until eventually cloud began to appear from the south. I was taking note of the waders below the Tower Hide when up popped a Short Eared Owl which appeared to have been taking a rest on the side of the cliff. I assume it had come in from the sea this morning or maybe last night. After circling two or three times it flew off in the direction of Blyth. It was a nice beginning to the day. These Short Eared Owls seem to be everywhere at the moment.

The waders below the hide were being drawn closer together by the incoming tide. Represented were Oystercatcher, a single Grey Plover, Turnstone, three Purple Sandpipers, twenty-five Knot, numbers of Redshank and Curlew. I stayed out of the hide to admire the views towards St Mary’s Island and found my first Red Throated Diver of the day, close in. I eventually gave in and moved to the hide, but found that I was colder and damper in there than outside today, as there was no wind. Before I left, my score on Red Throated Divers was six, all individual birds. Four of which were flying north. Otherwise sea passage was vey quiet with only Cormorants, Eider and gulls. A single Rock Pipit was seen.

I decided that even if I stayed in the hide all day I wasn’t going to see much sea passage, so it was decision time. Do I walk to St Mary’s or take the longer walk to Holywell? I decided on the latter. It was still only mid morning. The hard frost seemed to have put new life into the area as bird sound was everywhere, but predominately the calls of Jackdaws, and it was nice that there was so few folk about. Redshanks were numerous in the saltmarsh area and Grey Herons stood motionless as their shape was reflected perfectly in the still and clear water. It’s at times like this that I wish I had a decent camera, but I can’t carry everything! I felt the sun’s warmth each time I moved from shaded areas and noticed that the frost covered plants were quickly being thawed by the sun’s rays. In places, droplets of water sparkled like jewels. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard chipping before flying off towards the east.

I was surprised at how many Coal Tits I saw today amongst the Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits, the latter only heard. I guessed that the dene would be far livelier than of late, but still decided today to take the high path that dissects the treeline and farmland. I was half hoping for a sighting of a disturbed Woodcock, a bird that I haven’t seen this year, but my hope remained exactly that! I did catch sight of a butterfly and assumed it to be a Red Admiral.

It wasn’t long before I had reached The Avenue and then Holywell Pond. The pond seemed to have been taken over by gulls which after checking seemed to consist of Black Headed, Common, Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. I shared my time between the public and members hides. Moving from one to the other I found Tree Sparrows in the hedge. I eventually saw four Tree Sparrows together, nervously attempting to feed along side the rather more daring Greenfinches, at the new feeding station. The station has been a success and thankfully not vandalised.

Birds on the pond included Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck. Grey Herons were at the edge of the water. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew high over the water. I was told that Red Kite had been seen near the obelisk yesterday. This was where they were seen two or three years ago and they hung around for a while on that occasion, so I shall keep a lookout.

I decided it was time to head for home as I was intending to take a look for the Short Eared Owls in Killingworth in the afternoon. I suddenly realised that I couldn’t find my keys. A search brought nothing until I eventually found them in one of my many pockets, but a pocket I never use!

After a very short break at home I headed off along the wagon-way. It was cloudy now and already showing signs of darkness even though only 3:00pm. I was almost into Holystone when I thought I might as well give up the search. It was turning dark and I could feel dampness in the air. To be honest I don’t feel relaxed down there once the light begins to go. I began to retrace my steps, content that I had seen an owl this morning, and just as I set out I had a wonderfully close up sighting of a Short Eared Owl as it flew low down by the hedge that divided it from me. It was a good, but short sighting, as it dropped into long grass and didn’t come back up. It was the only owl I saw this afternoon, but at least it shows the likelihood is that we still have more than one Short Eared Owl on patch. I headed home pleased with my success and to nurse a cold. An early night tonight I think.

I'm always glad to see young people taking an interest in wildlife. Take a look at Sam's blog and website. Some great photos!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

North Shields and Tynemouth

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain,
I know that you can love me
When there's no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
Even cold November rain
Lyrics...Guns and Roses

Maybe the lack of birds raised my interest in pub signs.

A bit colder down here.

I have my eye on this block for a luxury riverside development. If you would like to join me in this venture please send cash deposit in large plain brown envelope to Killy Birder, C/O Box 666, Cuba. You know that you can trust me!

5th Nov. I began my walk from North Shields in rain this morning and the rain continued until I had reached Northumberland Park. I was planning the route for a walk to take place in the spring which seems a long way into the future at present. There wasn’t too much around in the form of birds in the park, although the autumnal look of the place was rather nice even in the dampness. The Mandarin Drake appears to have left, but at least I had a sighting of Great Spotted Woodpecker, heard before seen, and a party of Long Tailed Tits.

I took a walk down Tanners Bank keeping an eye on the tree area, but found little. I did find a Carrion Crow with deformed bill and some which were partially leucistic. The smell of raw fish was not pleasant and almost put me off my lunch, but not quite! I took an interest in the pub signs. Lots of gulls, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Just before I reached Tynemouth I spotted a skein of forty-five Pink-footed Geese just off the river mouth flying south. I took a look around the tree area at the foot of Collingwood’s monument and Priory Park. A pair of Blackcap was the highlight and in amongst the party of tits, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.

The tide was high, but I still managed to find Oystercatchers, Turnstones, and Redshank to add to the Lapwings I had seen in the fields as I passed through Shiremoor earlier in the day. Eider Duck and Cormorants made up the cast. Someone told me that Twite had been reported near the priory during the morning, but I saw none.

It is always an atmospheric walk down there and today was no exception. When I returned home there were three noisy Mistle Thrushes near the berries where I had seen a Redwing in the morning.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Short Eared Owls Back On Patch.

3rd Nov. A txt from Cain alerted me to the fact that Short Eared Owl/s had been reported on patch. The afternoon light was just beginning to fade a little but I reckoned if i stepped out I could be along the wagon-ways and still have time for a good sighting before dark. So off I went.

There wasn't time to take much interest in what else was about. That's not normally my way, but the cloud seemed to suggest that darkness would set in quickly. As I neared the area a passing dog walker confirmed that she had been watching owls in the area that I had expected to find them. As I walked down the pathway a Short Eared Owl flew from the hedge and across the field to join another hunting Short Eared Owl. Both were very active and giving good sightings. They eventually flew off across the fields. On my return I found that one had perched in the hedge again, not very far from the footpath.

By now the light was really going, but a lone Kestrel still hovered over the fields. With all the activity at Prestwick Carr I had more than half expected Short Eared Owls to turn up on patch again this year. After the good sightings of two years ago I had kept a close look out over last winter, but found nothing. I'm hoping we have over wintering birds here.

I couldn't beat the darkness home, but I did manage to out pace the downpour of rain.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

All Weather Birders Avoid Arrest at Spurn!

31st Oct. I was up before the larks and down in Yorkshire meeting up with fellow all weather birder Tom before the light of day had fully developed. Before traveling to Spurn we had a date with a great bird. We just had to find it first which in the event didn’t take too long. It was the Great White Egret at Sprotbrough Flash, just outside of Doncaster. It gave us a very nice sighting to begin the day. I’ve been on foreign trips where this bird is often passed over as birders search for other interest. I don’t understand why! As well as the Great Egret other interest included good sightings of Kingfisher as it flew across the water and perched in the reeds, at least forty/fifty Gadwall, two Little Grebes and Grey Herons. We both agreed to re-visit this site in the future and give it a little more attention. It was a very nice area.

We were soon heading in the direction of Spurn, passing through Hull and past the Humber Bridge. It was during this journey we saw a small skein of Pink-footed Geese and started counting our first Kestrel sightings. At least nine Kestrels were seen during the day. It was now we began to notice a police presence which seemed to remain with us throughout the day. Even during the quietness at Spurn we were passed a few times by police cars, and call me paranoid if you want, but I could swear they were weighing us up. Surely it isn’t unusual in the area for guys to be seen prowling in the bushes with binoculars and telescopes?:-)

We searched Easington Village thoroughly for Firecrest and Pallas’s Warbler, but had no success. We did have a Lesser Redpoll calling as it flew overhead and landed giving us a good sighting. We walked the hedges of the terminal as well hoping for Yellow-browed Warbler, again with no success. The hedges were busy with tits, Blackbirds and Goldfinch. Driving along to Spurn we found Merlin flying near to the road.

Once down on the shore we were impressed by the wader flocks which included thousands of Knot, some of which took to flight in typical Knot fashion. Some Grey Plovers (a favourite of the all weather birders) gave fine sightings along with the likes of Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew. In the distance, a Little Egret was seen.

The scrape was quiet, as was the area in general, but we did get a brief view of Water Rail and good sightings of Redwing. Although there were no large numbers of migrant birds, this didn’t take away anything from being in this area. It is a very atmospheric and to my mind a mysterious spot. I could feel a novel coming on, but I believe that has been done before! The now dark clouds overhead added to the atmosphere and mystery as we watched some individuals working out on the sand and mud flats with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds and adding patches of light to the wide expanse of wilderness. It recalled a scene from Dickens. Calls of Curlew and other waders were occasionally picked up, all adding to the atmosphere. It’s several years since I was last at Spurn. I don’t think it will be so long before we go back!

We did watch the sea from the hide for a short period but there appeared to be no passage of seabirds. Reed Bunting, Linnets and Meadow Pipits were all picked up as was the odd Red Admiral Butterfly.

We came back to Easington to search the hedges again. I’ve done a lot of hedge watching in October! We did see at least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers during the day. Fertiliser had been added to the fields and I commented that it wasn’t the sort I’d like to use as aftershave. Goldcrest was heard calling from deep in the hedge way and some excitement was caused when we found a warbler. After some patient watching it turned out to be a female Blackcap and we also found the accompanying male bird. Another bird which teased us from deep in the bushes, turned out to be a House Sparrow.

The time came for us to return to Doncaster via industrial Hull. I thought Hull looked nicer in the dark! Seriously, I like industrial sites, especially when lit up at night. By now we seemed to have shaken off our police escort although I wondered whether I might be followed onto the train.

It had been a great day and I had added a couple to my year list in Great Egret, which in fact is a UK tick, and Merlin. I’d like to thank Tom for the driving and company and also keeping me updated as to the Magpies progress during my journey back to Newcastle. The second goal went down very well with my can of lager. I was home in time to see the victory sealed.