Friday, 30 October 2015

Let There be Light and Short Eared Owls

29th Oct.  The heavens opened just as Sam and I left Killingworth, but by the time that we reached Brier Dene the rain had stopped although the cloud remained thick and threatening and there was still mist over the sea.  Surprisingly we only found a single Redwing in the dene, although the calls of others were heard faintly in the distance.  Blackbirds were everywhere and an occasional Song Thrush was seen.  Bullfinches were attracted to easy feeding and a Willow Tit was picked out from among parties of tits..  The star bird whilst we were in the dene was what appeared by its behaviour, a newly arrived Short Eared Owl flying overhead and westwards whilst being harassed by corvids.  The owl appeared to be seeking a suitable landing area, but the corvids ensured that it kept on flying westwards until out of sight.

Having checked the bushes and willows where the burn meets the coast and finding only Greenfinches (so few around these days), Goldfinches, Robins, Wren, more Blackbirds and an unidentified warbler, possibly Willow Warbler, we made off towards St Mary’s Island catching sight of newly arriving Fieldfares lifting off the cliff edge and flying west.  As the afternoon moved on the cloud began to break, the sun shone for periods and the mist departed which seemed to encourage a movement of birds.

As we walked around the back of the wetland a second Short Eared Owl was found hunting over the fields.  This bird eventually stooped to the ground and only its head could be clearly seen from behind the tall grasses.  As we watched over the wetland a few minutes later a Short Eared Owl lifted from the reeds and gave an excellent sighting as it flew north over the trees before disappearing.  We couldn’t be sure that this was a third owl, but we think it was.  At this point and with the air clear and the sun shining numbers of Redwing (and one or two Fieldfare) began to take to flight, but they were far out numbered by the Blackbirds.  Skylark, Linnets, Goldcrest and Reed Bunting were seen.

We walked to the mounds but found very little here although there are still a few Goldcrest and a male Blackcap about, although most Goldcrest have now moved on.  Flocks of Golden Plover called as they flew in clear skies.  A walk back to the wetland brought us more Goldcrest before we made for home as the light dimmed and a large flock of Curlew flew over the sea.  Little can beat the sight of Short Eared Owls.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Autumnal Impressions

Autumn leaves under frozen souls,
Hungry hands turning soft and old,
My hero cried as we stood out there in the cold,
Like these autumn leaves I don't have nothing to hold.
Paulo Nutini Lyrics

I think a little colour is needed during these during these days of damp and mist, so I’ve added some images taken on 27th Oct during a misty and damp walk through Holywell Dene and onward to the sea where visibility was poor to say the least, although Red-throated Divers were seen.  Bird life seen was sparse with Tree Sparrows and three Goldeneye at the pond and a lone Fieldfare, Treecreeper and a  number of Goldcrest in the dene being highlights.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Cygnus cygnus Drops onto Patch

25th Oct.  I received a text and a call informing me that there were four Whooper Swans on the lake.  As the derby match was about to kick off I decided to wait ninety minutes before making my way down there.  Such was the result it might have been better just to have left immediately.  Anyway I met Sam down there later and watched the four Whooper Swans, a family of two adult and two juvenile birds.  I understand that they had been active earlier in the afternoon, but by now they were taking numerous naps.  By their behaviour it was obvious that they had just dropped in for a rest and feed.  By 15:30 they were calling a good deal, wing stretching and head bobbing.  We felt that they might be getting ready to leave and sure enough the four birds took to flight at 15:37.


A very recently dead Canada Goose floated head down on the lake, three Goldeneye were seen and a male Sparrowhawk flew overhead.  The hoped for colourful sunset was not going to materialise and so we left as temperatures began to drop again.

So autumn continues.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Autumn on Patch

 For some years now I have watched the changing colours of the Rowan Tree/Mountain Ash which is opposite my home, as autumn approaches winter, and although it hasn’t as yet reached its peak of beauty it is looking colourful and is laden with its usual crop of berries.  Surprisingly I have seen no Mistle Thrushes approaching for a feast so far.  What has been frequently heard and seen is the Grey Wagtail which for some reason is attracted to the estate.  It could be easily overlooked if it were not for the attention the high pitched call receives.  Another harbinger of autumn was the skein of seventy calling Pink-footed Geese flying south over the patch earlier in the month, another species probably overlooked by the vast majority of residents and yet a fairly regular sight at this time of year.

The patch is certainly looking autumnal, a patch that has always made me stop and think about its past, present and future.  Having just read Common Ground by Rob Cowen, I reckon I’ll be thinking in such terms even more.  This is an excellent read and covers the natural history of the Rob Cowen’s local patch, the edge lands of Harrogate, Yorkshire in a most unusual way.  As well as seeing things through the authors eyes we are presented with things seen through the eyes of wildlife, as well as learning of the history and possible future of the area and individuals with connections to it.  This is all related in a personal, informative and in a funny, poignant and informative manner.  I could relate much of the feeling in the book to my own feelings about my own patch, especially the changing aspects of it all.  I reckoned this book would appeal to Holywell Birder and so made him aware of it and guess what, yes he had just begun to read it and informs me that the author is to give a talk in Newcastle next month.

Rowan Tree
Sam and I were on patch the other day and found the lake still strangely very quiet.  Sam fears if it remains such we might have to start and take an interest in gulls!  There’s an article about gulls in the BBC Wildlife magazine this month with comments about some of the nonsense written in the media recently about these species.  There is a couple of Goldeneye about among the twenty or so Mute Swans and circa eighty Canada Geese.  As we checked the lake out a Kestrel flew overhead.  Now returning to looking at things through the eyes of wildlife I wonder what the Kestrel makes of what is happening locally.

We gave much attention to the tree species and I had never realised just how many Hazel we have in the area.  A Harvestman Spider was found and a number of Speckled Wood Butterflies were on the wing.  We later found two or three Red Admiral Butterflies and more surprisingly a Comma Butterfly.

Comma Butterfly
It was quite windy, so birdlife was not found easily, but once in the are of the village we did pick up tits including Long tailed Tits, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Bullfinch among other woodland birds.  We also had a good sighting of Grey Squirrel, only my second one on patch, the first being in my garden.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Lindisfarne.....What's in a Name?

Whilst on Lindisfarne on Saturday our talk didn’t get around to the meaning of life but it did focus at times on the meaning of words.  The name Lindisfarne in particular.  We felt this was a wonderfully evocative sounding name but we didn’t know where it had derived from, so I’ve done a little research since.

My research suggests that there is no definite source for the name, but several ideas.  My thanks go to Wikipedia and Magnus Magnusson.

Firstly Wikipedia’s wisdom.  Firstly it notes that Lindisfarne appears under the Old Welsh name Medcaut in the 9th century Historia Brittonum.  It’s suggested that the name derives from Latin Medicata (English = Healing (Island)), owing perhaps to the island’s reputation for medicinal herbs.

Annuls in the AD 793 record the Old English name as Lindisfarena.  The name Lindisfarne has an uncertain origin.  Lindis may refer to people from the Kingdom of Lindsey in modern Lincolnshire, referring to regular visitors or settlers.  Alternatively the name may be Celtic in origin , with Lindis meaning stream or pool.  Could this refer to the nearby river or Lough on the island?  The second element farne probably come from Farran meaning land, but may come from Faran, a traveller.  There is a supposition that the nearby Farne Islands are fern like in shape and the name may have come from there.

My second source which I perhaps place a little more academic reliance upon is from Magnus Magnusson’s 1984 edition of Lindisfarne and is in many ways similar to the above.  Below is a quote from the book.

‘‘Lindisfarne, what a lovely, sensuous name it is.  It reflects a marriage between Old English and Celtic elements, although they cannot now be identified with any certainty.  Some say that Farne is a Celtic word meaning land, and lindis come from some stream associated with the island; others suggest a derivation from Scots-Celtic linn, meaning torrent or cascade.  For myself, I prefer to believe that lindis comes from the old English word lind in its meaning of shield (from the lime trees whose wood was used to make Anglo-Saxon bucklers).  Who can be sure?  I only know Shield-land would be a happily appropriate designation for the Lindisfarne of then and now.’’

Magnusson goes on to remind us that the Normans in the 11th century accorded the island with the official name of Insula Sacra, Holy Island, in honour of the early Celtic saints that lived and worked there.

I was interested to know exactly what bucklers were and found that they are the rounded shields used by the Vikings (and others).  There is a good depiction of bucklers here

Now I have a friend with the surname of Buckle and I was interested to know if his name may have derived from Buckler.  I found that it could have, but perhaps more likely it is derives from a maker or seller of (belt) buckles.  I must tell him when I send the Christmas card.

We also pondered over the meaning of lonnen as we walked along the straight lonnen on the island on Saturday.  What I found suggests that it is a Geordie word for lane or street or a more archaic meaning for an area where cattle are milked (no longer in use).  Now my first association with the word lonnen as a child comes from the term that is often used in Cumbria so I knew it was not just a Geordie word.  Having checked it out on a very interesting blog written by a Cumbrian journalist I found that the word lonnen seems to be spelt as Lonning in Cumbria again in that area it means lane, often hedged and the hedging covering old stone wall, presumably most often dry stone walls.  This latter explanation of the hedging and wall certainly reflects my thought of what a lonnen or lonning is.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ice Cream Birders on Lindisfarne

Seeing the sun as it wants to be seen by ev'ryone
Melting the sky throw a hole in your eye where the magic comes
Turning your heads to the skies with the clouds in your eyes
'cause you never know what you might find
Lyrics from Clear Bright Light/Lindisfarne

Barred Warbler.  Record image of the 'bird of the day' courtesy of Samuel Hood
17th Oct.  With Goosander and Common Buzzard seen on the journey north we crossed to Lindisfarne as the tide ebbed.  The pool filled sands of the vast open area always makes me feel that I’m entering another world, a more peaceful and at times silent world with wonderful atmosphere no matter what the conditions.  On arrival today it was dense cloud with only occasional rays of sunlight breaking through, but these rays gave a wonderful effect over the channel and open sea.  Small areas of brightness standing out from the greyer surroundings.  The horizon behind the Farne Islands was clear cut between sky and sea, the sky falling onto the sea like a theatrical curtain.  The RSPB Group members were quickly of the coach, but not as quickly as Sam and I left them behind and headed through the village.  We like peace on the island and made our way from any crowding.

I recently read some derogatory remarks about Lindisfarne on one of these web-sites that allow comments to be made about areas and places and where the authors of the comments know there can be little in the way of face to face comeback.  This sadly one of the negatives of social media and such like.  The derogatory remarks were made amongst many more positive ones and in the main seem to have come from folk who never left the village or the heavily walked track down to Lindisfarne Castle.  So many people don’t like to move too far from the car-parks and cafes which is a great shame as the island has so much to offer, not least in quiet contemplation and atmosphere.  Although not a shame for us who prefer peace.  For some I know the religious senses are touched on the island, but I can’t say that is what does it for me, although we all have our own God/s and for me it is the power of nature and the island has this in spade loads.  My God is nature and it has helped me through some difficult times and no doubt will do so again.

Once through the village, an interesting enough area, but nothing out of the ordinary Sam and I found our starting point for the walk around the island.  Brent Geese had been seen as we crossed to the island and there was many more close by us now (if there were any dark bellied amongst the pale bellied we didn’t pick them out), along with a large patch on the sands to our right which turned out to be a flock of maybe thousands of Golden Plover.  Bar-tailed Godwits were in hundreds.  Grey Seals were hauled out across the channel although I didn’t hear them calling as on past visits.  Oystercatchers, Lapwing, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Curlew were amongst other waders.  The haunting cry of the Curlew heard throughout the day.

After a time we made back into the village and headed for the church grounds, vicar’s garden and the area beside St Cuthbert’s Island.  After chasing around for a Yellow Browed Warbler we did finally hear it, but the bird for me was the Brambling, heard before seen, one of my favourite winter visitors.  Mistle Thrush called from high on the trees and flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare flew overhead, probably newly arrived from off the North Sea and their differing calls were easily picked up.  Skylark was also seen. Finches and Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest  were amongst birds  in the vicars garden.  We met AJ here and we were to bump into him several times through the day.

Looking over and past St Cuthbert’s Island a Slavonian Grebe was clearly seen as were more Brent Geese and a lone Little Egret.

We headed for the harbour now picking up some passerines along the way including of course more Goldcrest.  The harbour itself provided Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Rock Pipits.  I was as usual reminded of David Copperfield as we passed the upturned boats.  Darkening cloud in the west threatened rain but apart from a sprinkle in the air this never materialised although it was still quite cold.  So cold the ice cream seller was almost asleep.  I thought we ought to waken him and support local tradesmen and so we had our ninety-nine as we headed past the Rocket Field where we found Wigeon and Teal.  A Sparrowhawk which seemed to follow us throughout the day flew over our heads as we 
 headed for the lonnen.

The hedges along the lonnen were fairly quite, but provided more Goldcrest.  I did catch sight of a Short Eared Owl which immediately dropped behind a wall and hillock.  As we walked towards the sand dunes we had some of the best birding of the day with at least one more Short Eared Owl, Long Eared Owl and repeat sightings of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin.  The Merlin provided one of the highlights of the day when Sam and I retraced our steps to get a closer sighting.  The Merlin left its perch on the stone wall and began to hunt, birds lifting as it swooped up and down, eventually taking a pipit which was taken off to be plucked.

Having had our fill of raptors and owls we headed for the dunes passing ten Roe Deer in their usual position in the fields.  Although this area is farmland, it has a feeling of wildness.

Once in the dunes we climbed to the top of what must be one of the highest natural points on the island.  We took in the views across the areas we had walked through and also watched eastwards over the sea and the Farne Islands and southwards to Ross Bank Sands and Bamburgh Castle.  There were few birds about, but we watched Gannets flying along the coastline.  Our walk eventually took us to the new bird hide at the Lough just as flocks of Teal flew in.  We had the hide to ourselves for a time and took lunch here.  Shoveller and Wigeon were amongst birds on the Lough.  After a time we headed back towards the village with plenty of time to look again in the vicinity of the church and vicars garden.  That turned out to be a very wise decision!  On the way we admired the changing light patterns across the Lough and over the dunes.  I was more than a little warm by now.  There were many more Goldcrests along the way.

Once back in the village we explored the church yard again and also inside the church.  As I mentioned earlier I’m not a religious person in the conventional sense but I do like religious buildings and stained glass windows in particular.  Once outside again we met Ian Kerr who probably knows the island and its wildlife as well as anyone.  He told us that there was a Barred Warbler in the vicars garden so it didn’t take us long to get down there were we found numbers of folk waiting for an appearance of from the bird which had not been seen for sometime.

I was aware that we couldn’t wait around for long as the coach would be leaving before the tide cut the island off once again.  The hedges and trees held far more activity than during our morning visit with the Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs` and Goldcrests showing well, as a Brambling called.  As we waited the sun came out and lit a passing skein of Brent Geese as they flew down the channel and past St Cuthbert’s Island.  This was another highlight of the day, a wonderful sight that could well have come from a Peter Scott oil painting.  Would the Barred Warbler appear?

As if timed to perfection the Barred Warbler did make an appearance just before it was time for us to leave, and it eventually showed really well in the open, it’s size being very notable having watched the other warblers and Goldcrest.  My bird of the day and another lifer for Sam.  I have to say that the Brent Geese in the sun provided the sighting of the day.

Well, our hours on Lindisfarne could not have ended in any better way.  We eventually made of towards Budle Bay where the light was very poor now.  Our short stop provided sightings of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese, many Shelduck and other waterfowl and two more Little Egrets.  Our final stop was at Bamburgh where some of us enjoyed a brisk walk to Stag Rock. It was very quite here although we enjoyed watching the juvenile Gannets diving into what must have been very shallow water very close to the shore.  We’d heard that there had been a White-rumped Sandpiper on the shore but that it had flown.  I can’t honestly say we lost any sleep over that fact.  As we headed back we watched a flock of Linnets in the fields.

So a very rewarding and all round great day.  I arrived home cream crackered wondering why anyone can not appreciate Lindisfarne.  At least seventy-two species of bird seen today plus one Red Admiral out in the cold.

18th Oct.  A much more leisurely day today with Sam and I walking along the sands from Blyth Harbour to Seaton Sluice.  Highlights included a skein of fourteen Barnacle Geese flying north, a party of forty-three Sanderling, feeding as only Sanderling do, a hunting Kestrel and the usual excellent chatter.  I was home in time to watch four of the six Magpie goals go into the back of the net.  Have faith!

Addendum.  I had planned some scenic images of Lindisfarne but lighting conditions were not at their best plus the mind was elsewhere to be honest, so only the odd image was taken.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Stranger on the Shore...Oh What a Lark!

 13th Oct.  Heading up the coast with Lee today and we just had to try for the Shore Lark.  Once along the beach  it wasn’t hard to find as we just had to look in the direction the cameras and telescopes faced.  Yes there were a few birders about, testifying to the scarcity of this species these days.  It’s only the second Shore Lark I’ve seen in Northumberland, the first one being self found among the Twite at Cresswell a few years ago.  Having had our fill and having taken a few record images we headed north.  A very nice species in the bag.  We stopped at Newbiggin to take in a few Mediterranean Gulls, well we had to pass the time away somehow.

Shore Lark record
On arrival at Cresswell Pond we found a number of cars parked.  Was there something special here we wondered?  Or was it just the warm sun tempting folk out?  The latter I think, but there had been a Firecrest there earlier in the day which we missed so we made do with numbers of Goldcrest and the Tree Sparrows along the path to the hide.  There was already a few folk in the hide and the pond was looking at its best, work having been carried out on the sandbank.  There was lots of mud and sand showing and numbers of waders.  Golden Plover, Lapwing, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Common Snipe were present along with Grey Heron and Little Egret.  Highlights however were the Water Rail and Kingfisher.  Both showing well in good light.  Now, I get a Kingfisher in perfect light and it is too far away.  Never mind it was still a nice sighting as it hovered over the reeds in front of us and landed on the post for a few minutes before flying off down the channel.  Wigeon, Teal, a number of Little Grebes and Lesser Black Backed Gull were around the pond apparently undisturbed by the flocks of sheep down for a drink.  The Lapwings put on a fine show when they lifted for no apparent reason.

Shore Lark

Distant Kingfisher

As we moved onto Druridge Pools a Kestrel was mobbed by corvids.  Speckled Wood Butterflies and dragonflies were in the air.  On the path to the hide there were more Goldcrest, a lone male Blackcap and flocks of Goldfinch.  The Cormorants, Grey Herons and Little Egret gave me some opportunity for photography.  The latter moved slowly along to the front of the hide but was disturbed by a Grey Heron just as I was about to take my image of the year! :-)  Then we were off and heading for home, but not before watching the male Stonechat

Grey Heron

Little Egret


Grey Heron

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Lapland, Fire, Crest and Yellow Brow

All images courtesy of Samuel Hood

11th Oct.  Sam and I had debated whether we ought to visit the coast on Saturday or Sunday.  Thankfully we chose Sunday.  We had a quiet start at Brier Dene.  What a difference a week makes.  Unlike the previous Sunday, today was dull and damp and there were far fewer birds about the area, although we picked up the likes of Grey Wagtail and saw a rather large looking pipit fly overhead which we will never know the identity of although the name Richard came to mind.  I was surprised there were so few birds attracted to the Rowan, Hawthorn and Elder berries.

On our walk to wards St Mary’s Island we found watched a Goldcrest fly off the sea and land on the low mud cliff side and slowly work its way to the top feeding frantically on the way.  Little did we know that this was to be the first of so many Goldcrest seen as the day moved forward.  Rock and Meadow Pipit were also seen, as were numerous Pied Wagtails.

We began to watch the waders on the low tide line until a friend of ours bumped into us and asked if we had seen the Lapland Bunting.  We knew that one had been reported earlier in the morning, but had not intended to search for it and our reply was in the negative.  It’s just over there was the reply.  A few yards away a handful of birders watched along the pathway.  So easy to find Lapland Buntings then!  We watched this bird at length and at close range.  I took the opportunity to take in the characteristics of a species as it fed oblivious to us watchers. I’ve seen this species only briefly in the past and it was a lifer for Sam.  There’s a wonderful quick painting of it on City Birding’s blog which I feel captures the likeness and character so well.  During our watch Goldcrest began to fly from the sea towards the wetland.  Golden Plover and Lapwing were up in air, although other waders on this occasion didn’t take up much of our attention.

Once around by the wetland we stopped counting Goldcrests such were their numbers which increased even more as the day went on.  You get a new perspective of Goldcrests during a fall such as this when the birds are so busy feeding they seem unphased by the presence of us humans.  We put a few folk onto the path where the Lapland Bunting remained, only flying off occasionally when disturbed by passersby.  A Kestrel was chased off by a crow.

We had been chatting to a fellow birder from Durham who asked us where the mounds were as he had been told there was a Firecrest there.  We decide to have a walk along there with him and it wasn’t to long before we had picked up the Firecrest from among numerous Goldcrest.  It was pretty elusive, but when it did show it showed really well, if fleetingly.  Lifer number two for Sam and a real nice find.  We decided to hang around the area rather than walk to Seaton Sluice and made our way back to the Lapland Bunting after carefully checking out all of the mounds.  On this occasion we missed the Peregrine Falcon hunting across the fields and we didn’t spend much time looking across a quiet sea although we did pick up a couple of small flocks of Wigeon.  Teal and Mallard were later seen on the wetland.

We decided after a break for lunch that we deserved an ice cream.  We ate it and Sam suggested that it would be good if we could report having seen Yellow Browed Warbler whilst eating an ice cream.  Well no sooner had we finished licking our lips we did hear Yellow Browed Warbler in the area that we had sighted one last week.  On this occasion we couldn’t get our eyes on it.  Hearing is believing as far as we are concerned.  We walked around the wetland again and watched the Goldcrests at length before making a last visit to the Lapland Bunting.

There was tension in the air as the Lapland Bunting seemed almost doomed as it was narrowly missed by a car along the roadway.  Now that the tide was up the bird appeared to be flying onto the road when disturbed as it was unable to gain access to the rocks, now covered by the sea.  All was well when we left and folk continued to seek it out.

A great day with some really great sightings and some friendly chat with fellow birders and non birders too who were simply taking an interest.  Butterflies were on the wing too despite the damp and chilled air and these included numbers of Red Admiral.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Northumbrian Magazine Article and a Trip to the Coast

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
John Keats

4th Oct.  I have a three page article published in the Oct/Nov edition of the Northumbrian Magazine.  It focuses upon young naturalist and photographer Samuel Hood and importantly contains a number of his recent wildlife images.  I’m sure once word is out the magazines will fly off the shelves so don’t miss your chance to get a copy as you know you’ll regret it if you don’t get your copy!

Sam and I were down at the coast today and began our walk with a look in Brier Dene.  On arrival we watched a small skein of Pink-footed Geese fly south along the line of the coast.   I don’t really know why we haven’t given this area more attention in the past.  It was heaving with birds today, many no doubt attracted by the abundance of autumn berries, and we counted at least twenty-five species of bird along what was maybe a three/four hundred yard walk.  Species seen and heard included more Pink-footed Geese, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, overhead Skylark and Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Willow Warbler, thrushes, tits, gulls, corvids and finches.

After longer than expected in the dene we walked along to St Mary’s Island from where we watched six Harbour Porpoise which appeared to be feeding off Blyth and Grey Seals.  The sea was a mill pond but quite misty at this point in time.  The thin mist did clear to leave perfect light conditions as the day progressed.

On the way to the wetland a Peregrine Falcon was seen in flight and amongst the disturbed Wood Pigeons.  It wasn’t too long before we found a Yellow-browed Warbler which gave a brief, but clear sighting on the wetland.  I note it was one of many along the coast today.  This particular bird was in the same area as Goldcrest, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Waders seen today included the flights of Golden Plover, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew.

Kestrel was seen as we walked towards Seaton Sluice and on arrival at the headland we found the air air over the sea much clearer.  A number of Red-throated Divers were seen as were a few Brent Geese (pb) in singles and pairs.  Another skein of seventy-three Pink-footed Geese flew south.  Gannet, Common Scoter, Eider and Guillemot were also seen.

Just before we made for home two Wheatears landed briefly on the headland before continuing their journey.  Speckled Wood Butterflies had been numerous today especially in Brier Dene.  It had been a great way to spend the last day of excellent weather before today’s rains began.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Kingfisher (and Bittern) Show

1st Oct.  The hours passed quickly during another afternoon under the sun in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.  There can’t have been too many first days of October that have been so warm.  Summers over and the best seasons are beginning.  Sam and I spent a rewarding time looking at the trees.  It’s time I paid more attention to trees, and I have made a note to keep a scrapbook of leaves and other information next year.  Butterflies in the form of Large White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and many Speckled Wood also caught our attention, as did the large number of dragonflies enjoying these days of warmth and mellow fruitfulness.  Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Common/Migrant Hawkers were seen.

As well as a relaxed wander around the reserve we spent a good length of time in the new hide, and if time is to be spent in a hide there are few locally that can beat this one.  We were rewarded with an excellent sighting of Bittern as it flew over the pond and I was able to make use of my new lens (yes I’ve finally got one, and a new camera body will be next) when the Kingfisher arrived.  Now I think I’m turning into a real photographer, not that I’m claiming that my images are class, but I am beginning to complain a lot about lighting conditions.  It wasn’t bad light today just not the right kind of light!  Even Sam told me to stop complaining, although on reflection I’m not sure how he had the nerve!  Anyway the Kingfisher put on a fine show and I won’t complain about that.

As I heated up in the hide there were other sounds and sights to entertain.  There’s quite a number of Willow Warblers remaining in the reserve and the calls of Water Rails could be heard close by us.  Common Snipe showed really well and a flock of Lapwing paid a fleeting visit.  Grey Herons occasionally tricked us into thinking that the Bittern was lifting from the reeds and two Common Buzzards mewed and flew overhead.  Occasional Jays flew across in the distance and Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard.  The pond held the likes of Little Grebe, Shoveller, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon and Teal.

It had been an excellent few hours and as we left the reed-bed a Bullfinch showed briefly but beautifully in the dappled sunlight.  An exotic bird indeed.

The reserve is attracting far more people these days, although how many will be around when the walk involves ice and inches of mud remains to be seen.