Sunday, 19 August 2012

Tyne and Marsden

18th Aug.  Today was planned as much as a landscape photography day as a bird/nature watching day and it proved to be successful and even dramatic in parts.

Sam and I began at Tynemouth where we found a few Small Copper Butterflies below the Priory.  They were there along with Meadow Browns Butterflies and White species. The Small Copper Butterfly usually has two generation per year in England and Scotland (although can have up to four generations elsewhere) and it is around mid August that the second generation is at its peak.  This is the first of this species I’ve seen this year.

Small Copper Butterfly
We soon headed off towards the North Shields ferry landing taking in an ice cream on the way and capturing some images of the Tyne.  The tide was quite a way out at this time.  Birds seen included a single Roseate Tern (there may have been more but I was relying on binoculars only today), along with fifty plus Common Terns and some Sandwich Terns on Black Middens.  Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Curlew were noted in small numbers and Eider Ducks were on the river and rocks.  Cormorants flew up and down the Tyne in some number.  I always enjoy the atmosphere and the short ferry crossing and we were soon on the bus to Marsden.  On arrival we walked the short distance from Marsden Village down to the sea and onto the beach.

The light was ideal for the effect I wanted.
Now that I think about it we were about to visit the 'dark side'

Looking up river with the tide well out.

Our first stop was at the Sand Martin Colony.  Numbers of the Sand Martins were still visiting the colony and we had some nice sightings of birds at the entrance holes.  These nests can go some way back into the sandy cliff.  It was also time for more photography and time to look at the limestone rock formations.  Both Razorbills and Guillemots were seen on the sea.  We walked along to Marsden Rock noticing numbers of Fulmer.  The lighting was generally good for photography all day and by afternoon the clouds which had given good effect were breaking up and leaving a clear sky.   After some exploration we headed for the lift at the grotto as the tide was coming in quite fast.  Sam commented on some youngsters going the other way thinking they were ignoring the tide.

Marsden Bay

Marsden Rock

We made along the cliffs towards Souter Lighthouse.  Unfortunately there was little in the way of butterfly life here on this occasion although there were numbers of Burnet Moths.  After more photography we decided that a cup of tea at the café was to be our reward.  After the break we made our way back along the cliff and soon spotted an inshore lifeboat heading for the shore.  I initially thought this was some kind of practice but Sam remembered the lads on the beach and thought it would be they that were getting rescued and this proved to be the case.  This was our drama of the day and gave further good opportunity for photography.  It wasn’t long before the police helicopter was overhead.  The lads were dropped off at the grotto lift and were met by more police officers when they stepped from the lift.  By now a police car and police van had joined the rescue team.  Sam and I pondered over the costs involved in all of this!

RNLI to the rescue

The boys 'terrifying' ordeal is over!

If they had hoped for a long boat trip they would have been disappointed, as they were dropped off at the Grotto where they were met by the police!

With more Police watching from the sky!

After the excitement we walked further along the cliffs.  The sea had been flat calm all day and Marsden Rock was providing some nice reflection.  After some rest we eventually made off back towards the South Shields ferry landing and once again timed our arrival perfectly.  There were only a handful of people using the ferry at this time of day, 6.30pm.  The Tyne was lit by sun but a cooling breeze provided a nice temperature for the return trip.  An odd Common Tern was seen from the ferry.

Seawater where we had previously walked

Looking south over a tranquil sea.

We headed for the fish and chip restaurant on the north bank and enjoyed a late tea, before heading home at 7.30pm.  Maybe not too much in the way of wildlife, but several elements combined to make this one of the nicest days I’ve spent in recent times, and it wasn’t just the ice-cream and fish and chips.:-)  It was noted that I’m more often to be seen with my photographic gear these days than with my telescope.  Great day!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Chasing the Dragon!

16th Aug.  Sam and I thought an afternoon in the sun might bring us some dragonflies so after stage three and the finishing touches had been made to my deep root filling in the morning, I was already by lunch time to begin the search.  We’d decided upon a visit to Big Waters and Prestwick Carr.

We began at Big Waters where the birding proved to be quiet to say the least.  A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers fed at the feeding station, Willow Warblers called, and on the water Little Grebes and Lesser Black-backed Gulls had plenty of room to themselves.  A Grey Heron was on the island and one or two Cormorants were about the area.  There wasn’t that many odonata about either, despite the sun.  We did find Common Blue and Blue Tailed Damselflies and a good number of Common Darters.  The highlight was a brief sighting of one Southern Hawker near to the hide.  Sam made me green as he described the Golden-ringed Dragonfly he had seen earlier in the week!

The most exciting find was in one of the ponds.  We found what initially looked a very strange species in the water and then realised it was a Damselfly or Dragonfly larva.  It looked very odd and it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the image that I realise it was tucking into some type of water snail.  From the size of the larva Sam and I thought it was a Dragonfly, but I think not as it has caudal lamellae at the tip of the abdomen.  At least that is what I reckon they are.  Finding predator and prey situations like this are not confined to the African Plains!  It certainly appeared to excite one of the local youths who came to look at what we were photographing.  His comment was something along the lines of ‘!!**?*!  *!?? What the !!**?* that?  I’ve never !!**?* seen anything like that before! !!**?* *!??!  Or words to that effect.  I’m sure David Attenborough must have said something similar on finding his first Komodo Dragon.

Well, as the young man said, !!**?** *??!  A joint effort.  Sam took the photo with my gear.:-)  Any I Ds appreciated.
Having had a chat with a friendly photographer in the hide, we left for Prestwick Carr.  Bird wise it was quiet there too, but it was getting hot and we had some hope of finding Dragonflies at Banks Pond.  No such luck, but we were lucky enough to bump into H D who offered us a lift from the bumpy road up to the pond.  We were shown his Red Kite Tail feather found whilst monitoring the birds.  Now I wouldn’t have minded that for my collection.  A nice little area at Banks Pond.  We saw a pair of Bullfinches along the way as well as catching up on some chat.  All we found were Common Blue Damselflies and a few Common Darters.

Back to the bumpy road and we were entertained by numbers of Green Veined White Butterflies and Meadow Brown Butterflies.  A Kestrel gave us a display in hovering close by the road and two or three Common Buzzards were seen in the distance.  We had a chat with a couple of the regulars.

Green Veined White Butterfly
The heat was proving tiring so we didn’t make the sentry box road.  I sat and ate my banana whilst taking in the strong smell of gas before we made off for home.  Not much in the way of birds, but there is always something to see and we had a great afternoon.  Watching nature is addictive, but only ever does you good!!!  Well, unless your really unfortunate I guess!

Plenty of Sun Flies out today

17th Aug.  More Rain!  Spider numbers growing in the garden and seem  not to be phased by the wet conditions.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Thank You

11th Aug.  Today was the day of the RSPB Presentation and Walk at the Rising Sun Country Park.  To be honest attendance was disappointing with total of sixteen participants.  However those who were there seemed to enjoy their time and they were treated to a great selection of images sixty-seven in total) all provided by Samuel Hood.  My thanks go to all who participated but especially to Sam for providing the images and for his excellent input into the presentation.  Sadly on this occasion Local Group members minds seemed to have be elsewhere and suggestions as to where varied from ‘on their holidays’ to ‘watching the Olympic BMX Racing’. I’m not so sure about the latter myself! :-)  The day didn’t begin to well when we found that North Tyneside Council had hired to us, equipment containing software which barred our using it!  Now can you believe that?  Sam saved the day by getting his dad to whizz him home and collect a laptop.  Full marks to Sam and minus 10 to the council!  I was assured by a member of staff that we won’t be charged.  They can count on it that we won’t be paying!

Sam and I enjoyed the day and I gained the impression others did too.  The walk that followed the talk didn’t bring us too much in the way of birds, but by now the sun was out and the views from the old pit heap were enjoyed.  Sam and I did briefly see a Tawny Owl which appeared to lift from the ground with prey.  This was early afternoon.  Unfortunately no one else saw it!  There were some interesting grebes about to keep people focused and after a cuppa at the café, when everyone else had gone Sam, Mark and I watched a Sparrowhawk flying over Swallow Pond.  I was really surprised to see so few hirundines about today with maybe only a handful of Swallows seen.  There was a number of Common Terns and Lesser Black-backed Gulls around Swallow Pond area.

I was handed a poem that one of the participants had written over a cup of coffee and I have included it below.  I’m sure he won’t sue me over copyright! :-)

We came out to the Rising Sun with the RSPB
But there was not an awful lot of birdy things to see.
Sam and Brian saw a bird, I don’t think was a phoney
They said it was an owl they knew, and that its name was Tawny
But we did see another bird worth going all that way
But what exactly that bird was, I’m not supposed to say.

Thanks to all who  supported the day.

No photography for me during the day as I was too busy.  However I include some of my continuing practice images of Common Terns over Killy Lake.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Waders, Moths and Butterflies

9th Aug.  Once Sam and I had put the finishing touches to our presentation (i.e. added some of Sam’s class photographic images) due to take place at the Rising Sun Country Park on Saturday, we headed off towards St Mary’s Island.

Plenty of waders but not a lot of chances for photos.
On arrival the sun was shining and the day warming up.  Very good in one respect, but not so good in another, in that it encouraged everyone else out too!  One group that had been let out to play was the local boy/girl racers who may have wallets stuffed with notes, but brains stuffed with cotton wool.  At one point their noise ensured there was little chance of the waders settling down.  Happily the waders were around far longer than the racers.  We gained some nice sightings (if not too many decent photos) of flocks of Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone.  Also seen were a few Redshank and Curlew.  Golden Plover numbers seem to be growing steadily and many of them could easily have been missed as they were as usual so well camouflaged on the rocky islands.  In fact I’m sure most folk were completely unaware of their presence.  There was little in the way of bird life to be seen over or on the sea.  Common Terns and Sandwich Terns flew north and south along the coastline.  I almost forgot that it is around now that Roseate Terns ought to be appearing near St Mary’s Island.  The tide was well out so we were there at the wrong time to get decent sightings anyway.  Happily good sightings of them have been had earlier this year.

Plenty of chances with the Burnet Moths however.

A rather faded Common Blue Butterfly at not the best of angles. 

Rather a better result with the Meadow Brown Butterflies.

As the afternoon progressed the sun became brighter and can you believe we suddenly realised we were in danger of sunburn.  Now hasn’t that concern been a rare one this summer?  We suddenly become aware of numbers of Burnet Moths that began to appear everywhere.  I’ve never seen so many of them ever before.  It gave some grand opportunities for photographs.  Another thing that is a rarity down on our coastline is someone wandering around with a butterfly net.  I can’t recall that last time I witnessed that.  As well as the Burnet Moths we found a good number of butterflies in quite a small area.  Those seen were Large Whites, Small Skippers, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue, Meadow Brown and Small Heath, and I think Ringlet.  The Common Blue that I managed to photograph appeared to be well worn.  I’m surprised at the scarcity of the Common Blues as I’ve seen them in larger numbers in this area on previous occasions.  To cap it all I have had the first butterflies of the year on the butterfly bush back home.  These were a single Large White and a single Small Tortoiseshell.

We did see a Kestrel hovering over the wetland area, but our minds having been taken by waders, a visit to the lighthouse and then the butterflies and moths, ensures we completely forgot to take a closer look at the wetland area.

It looked to me like a really nice day to be out on the water.  That wasn’t to be for us, but we did have a very enjoyable wander anyway.  Wandering like this at a slow pace has been my style this year and I’ve always found this is what I most enjoy and what is often the most rewarding way to spend time.  It was too hot to move fast anyway!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Summer at Last!

2nd Aug.  With it having been so poor a butterfly season, I was pleased that one of the first significant things I saw during a short visit to the Rising Sun Country Park was a resting Common Blue Butterfly along with many flighty Meadow Brown Butterflies.

Common Blue Butterfly
Almost the first bird I heard and saw on arrival was a Blackcap.  Apart from this the hedges appeared to be devoid of much bird activity.  Sizable flocks of Goldfinch were eventually found as were Greenfinch and Chaffinch.  Swallow Pond held a growing number of Pochard, at least six Little Grebe, Common Terns and Lesser Black-backed Gulls amongst the usual inhabitants.  Perhaps the best sighting in the park was that of the Wood Mouse which crossed the path and stopped around for a short time.

After a cuppa in the café and a chat to some of the park staff I made my way to Seaton Sluice for lunch.  It’s quite a while since I have visited the fish and chip café and I was very impressed by the new décor.  Very nicely done indeed and the fish and chips were as good as ever.  There were small rafts of Guillemot off the coast along with Eider Ducks and both Common and Sandwich Terns.  There was hardly a breath of wind on the cliff and the day was heating up nicely.  Numbers of Starlings perched on the buildings.  More than I have seen in this area recently.  When seen in such numbers it is hard to believe that total numbers of this species is down 70/80% since the 1970s. 

Seaton Sluice Starlings
The walk through Holywell Dene was as always very pleasant but there were few birds showing.  There were good numbers of dragonflies over the burn (the first time I have seen any in number this year).  Most of them were Common Darters, although there may have been Ruddy Darters too which I’ve seen in this area on occasions.  One or two were larger, but I was unable to get a decent sighting.  Little doubt that they were hawkers.  A single Red Admiral Butterfly, a single Speckled Wood Butterfly and a few White species was a disappointing butterfly haul.  I would have expected much more on such a day.

Once out of the dene and on the way to the pond, at least a Yellowhammer was heard and a Reed Bunting seen.

Although the water is gradually lowering in the pond it’s just not right for passage waders as yet with little to no mud edge showing.  Small groups of Greylag and Canada Geese were in the field to the left of the public hide.  I wondered if these Greylag  Geese may have been the ones seen flying over the Rising Sun Country Park earlier in the day.  I was told the protective Mute Swan keeps these geese off the water.  The pair of Mute Swans were at the other rend of the lake today with their cygnets so the geese did get on to the water without problem.  I counted six Common Terns flying close to the island.  One of them was a juvenile bird which perched on the fence post for a time.  Presumably this bird resulted from the work done on the island to provide a breeding area.  I missed the Marsh Harrier.  A party of Pochard was on the water as was a Little Grebe.  A Grey Heron stood at the edge of the reeds.  Sizable numbers of Swifts flew both east and north of the pond and as someone suggested they may have been benefiting from insects disturbed by the work going on over the farmland.  It seems from the numbers of Swifts I saw at Prestwick Carr earlier in the week and these ones today, that they are ready to move on southwards.  Numbers of House Martin were in the area, but few Swallows were about.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen high in the trees beside the feeding station.

I noticed that Bittersweet is becoming more extensive in the hedge on the edge of the NWT reserve.  A wonderful little flower, sometimes referred to as Woody Nightshade and a member of the nightshade family.  Although the berries are said to be very bitter they are not very poisonous, although I won’t be trying them so as to confirm this.  Some green berries were there along with the flower and they will gradually turn a bright red. 

Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara

I ended the day with a lager and a sighting of a dead Common Shrew in Holywell Village.  By now it was as hot as I have felt it at any time this year. 

Common Shrew
3rd Aug  I noticed that the lone Goosander still remains on Killingworth Lake.

4th Aug A pair of Common Terns feeding a juvenile which was sat on the ‘floating thing’.  I’m pleased this ‘thing’ has some purpose!  The Common Terns seemed to be catching some food in the pools of water which gather here.  It gave me the chance of perhaps my best Common Tern images yet, although not easy to focus here.  I haven’t sorted the images as yet.  I found Soldier Beetles as I walked home

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

More Macro

31st July.  After a spell of watching some bird action on the lake (a Little Grebe remains) I took some time out to look for insects.

Small Skipper Butterflies seem to have reached a peak in numbers on the little patch I watch.  There were many of them although I think numbers will soon fall.  I noticed male Small Skippers on several occasions following Meadow Brown Butterflies and have since read that the male skippers will investigate females of any species.  I was very pleased with this image.  It was the only Small Skipper to settle. 


I got my eye on the Two-spot Ladybird as I sat beside the lake.  It was very obliging.  

There were some very attractive insects about and this was one of them.  I need to get myself a decent insect guide book because the Collins I have is useless.  An i d would be much appreciated.  It's another image that I was very pleased with.

The sun brought the best out of this Blow Fly.