Could the photography bug be catching? Taken at the Gosforth Park NR feeding Station.
Sam has to be given the credit for finding the Green Woodpecker!
More practice required with the owls I think!
11th Feb. Set off this morning for Gosforth Park N R in the bitter cold along with Sam, AKA Bittern Man! Thanks to Sam’s dad for a much appreciated lift. A few cars parked at the reserve suggested that it might be busy, but in fact it was very quiet today and the way I like it. Two stops at the feeding station brought us Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Magpie, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin. Treecreeper was found later as we walked around the reserve. A black Rabbit was amongst other Rabbits feeding near the station. Roe Deer were seen in the woodland and the only squirrels seen were Grey Squirrels.
The paths in places were still frozen and in other spots thawed and muddy, so at times not easy to negotiate. The pool off the reserve held Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot and gulls. The pond was frozen solid and held only Wigeon and one or two Coot. A very healthy looking Fox made an appearance as it trod on the ice around the far edge of the pond. I seem to remember Foxes breed very early in the year and this one looked in fine condition. With not to many birds to take the eye I did take more not of the actual reed-beds which are quite impressive.
I hoped for a sighting of the Bittern, but didn’t think I’d be lucky again. As we entered the main hide we were told by a guy who was leaving that there had been no show from the Bittern/s. Within minutes of him leaving, and I suspect he had been there for sometime, Sam saw a Bittern lift from the reeds to our left and it give a very good sighting as it flew across the reed-bed and then disappeared into the reeds again. Sam has made two attempts to watch Bitterns and has been rewarded with some great sightings each time. You can see why I call him Bittern Man. We were joined in the hide by a young couple (nice to see young people taking an interest in the reserve and NNHS). Keen to get a photo of the Bittern I think, they were rewarded fairly quickly when the Bittern lifted again and flew across the reed-bed. There were no poses from the Bittern on the ice and next to the hide on this occasion, but that would just be spoiling us. By now the morning felt as though it was getting colder rather then warming up! It never did seem to warm up today.
We were undecided where to make for next, but eventually plumped for Prestwick Carr where I thought initially there were few people about, but they soon began to emerge along the hedge line. A Sparrowhawk was found hunting the hedge in almost the exact spot as we had seen one on the previous visit. This time a male bird was ensuring that the other species in the hedge (Blackbirds and Starlings in the main), were not going to rest easily.
It was early afternoon and there wasn’t much activity for the Short Eared Owls, so we walked along the ‘bumpy road’ and up to the sentry box. Bird life was limited today. We did see at least four Kestrels, a Common Buzzard and we heard Willow Tit. Unfortunately we missed the two Whooper Swans seen by Peter. I’m not sure how I missed them and can only assume that I had been concentrating on Sam’s Green Woodpecker! :-) We did have a chat to Peter along the way and talked about how the Short Eared Owls were hunting over a much wider area now. Peter’s suggestion that they had paired up seemed later to be confirmed by the way they seemed to be hunting in pairs. I also noticed that there was lots of calling between the pairs today too, more so than I had noticed on previous visits.
Once we got back along to where the photographers seem to congregate there was again little activity. Everyone seemed to think it was time to leave. I have to say once they had gone the Short Eared Owls made an appearance in numbers. I think it was around 3:30pm by now. Even I managed to get some photographs, but I think I’ll leave Sam to show his, as I more than suspect they will be far better quality.
It had been a cold, but very enjoyable day.