Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A Warbler, a Killy and a Shrike!

More 'Hides With a View'. Shibdon and Clara Vale.

Atmosphere at the Carr

5th Mar. It was a raw morning when I arrived at the lake with a little time to spare before meeting Sedgedunum Warbler for a days birding. I took the opportunity to watch the pair of Great Crested Grebes on the smaller lake. Initially one of the birds, the female I assumed, was adding to what may have been the base of last years nest. The male was in close proximity seeming to want to ensure all was well. After a while the female climbed onto the nest and after a little hesitation was mounted by the male for all of three seconds. Previously his facial tufts had been spread widely. I couldn’t see the neck and head of the female as they were hidden by reeds, but I expect she had these out-stretched in typical mating fashion. This mating sequence took place twice as I looked on and on each occasion was followed by both birds facing one another closely, shaking heads and bill pointing. The female then continued to add items collected nearby to the nest with the male continuing to look on in close proximity. The pair then swam close to the nest area. It had been a privilege to watch on. I shall of course continue to watch progress as the days and weeks move on.

Having found John near the larger lake where Goosanders and Goldeneye remain, we left for Shibdon Pond, Gateshead. It’s a long time since I visited this pond and I was surprised to see how much work had recently been carried out on cutting down trees and removing reeds. There were areas showing that I had never seen before. On arrival we spotted a Sparrowhawk flying overhead. We then had a walk around the reed-bed areas before spending sometime in the hide. It was fairly quiet, but I did find two Lesser Black Backed Gulls (my first of the year), a single Ruff, Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon.

After a while we made for Clara Vale, stopping of at the very atmospheric Sled Pond. By now it was warm whilst in the sun, but bitingly cold when out of it. There were more Teal and quite a number of Wigeon on Sled Pond. Other birds included a pair of Little Grebe calling often. We had suspicions there may be another pair in the reeds. There was also a lone female Goldeneye.

Lunch was taken in the comfort of the hide at Clara Vale where we had just missed the appearance of a Kingfisher over the pond. There was a good selection of birds at or near the feeding stations. I seem to remember the list was as follows, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Willow Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jay (H), Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch. The Bullfinches stealing the limelight! Two Goosanders were seen in the distance, flying up the Tyne. Skylark was also heard in the area.

Prestwick Carr was to be the next stop and the ending to the day. I said to John that a sighting of the Great Grey Shrike would be a good ending. Neither of us expected to see it. Whilst I had spotted it last year shortly after its arrival the shrike has eluded me in 2012 and I had though like everyone else had, that this bird had now left the area, but no it is being recorded again.

Arriving to find there was little show from the Short Eared Owls, John suggested that we walk up past the sentry box and take a look for the shrike. In doing so, we found at least six Common Buzzards, five in flight over the trees and one perched in a tree, a pair of Kestrels, I believe we found at least two pairs on this visit, and four Grey Partridges. The hedges were quiet but did hold Long Tailed Tits, of which we saw numbers today.

It was on our return to ‘the bumpy road’, that someone put us onto the Great Grey Shrike (thanks for that) to the south and way off in the distance, but still giving a reasonable scope sighting. Fieldfare and MistleThrush were seen way off in the distance. The shrike moved along the hedge occasionally, initially away from us but then it flew northwards and was much closer. When it flew across the road and seemed to drop again we walked to near where we thought it had come down. This gave me my best ever sighting of Great Grey Shrike as it perched on the fence. The scope wasn’t needed, but never the less it did give the chance to see this bird in fine detail before it eventually took off and flew into the hedges of the fields east of the sentry box road. We watched it at distance again until it finally disappeared. It had replaced the Bullfinch as bird of the day. Then we found the Short Eared Owls and the Bullfinches dropped to number three!

We ended the day watching the Short eared Owls. There seemed to be a consensus of opinion that six separate birds had been seen. Certainly at least six. They were flying over a wide area although sometimes coming quite close to us. It seemed to me that once again a few photographers had left the area a little too early! I heard Willow Tit calling and saw more Long Tailed Tits! The sun came down to give a good sunset over the Carr. Sorry John I may not need you photograph after all! :-) We left soon after sunset. I was feeling as though I had been hung in a freezer for a while! John’s car registered that it was 1.5 degrees outside. It hadn’t felt that warm to me! The day’s list came to fifty-seven species. I was delighted to finally get that Great Grey Shrike on the year list. Thanks John.


  1. Nice account Brian, might save me posting!
    I KNEW IT !! As soon as i saw that sun setting, i knew i was for the chop.
    I never count how many species i've seen while out n about so interesting to see it was so many. A thoroughly enjoyable day.

  2. Aye, a very good day John. Ending in a wonderful evening atmosphere on the Carr.
    I'm often surprised when I count up, at the number of species seen during a day. Habit of mine to do a count as I always like to know the number.:-)

  3. Sounds like a most productive day and finally getting the Short Eared Owls must have been an added bonus.

    A very nice way to see the Shrike for the first time this year!

  4. Interesting info in the NTBC bulletin Mark, which underlines what a year it has been for SEOs. In January 2011 there was only one report of SEO in Northumberland. In January 2012 there was 100 reports from 29 locations, involving 83 birds!
    I know I personally have seen at,least 20 individual birds from 5 locations this winter.