Thursday, 10 December 2009

Simonside 8 12 09

Set off on Tuesday in beautiful conditions. No wind, no rain and the sun was shining. Picked up Jeff in Cramlington but as we proceeded through Morpeth and northwards the light deteriorated as the cloud descended. Never mind, as far as i'm concerned strong or blustery winds make for the worst conditions when out walking.
 We left the car in the parking area just past Lordenshaw and at the top of the first rise were greeted by the very seasonal tree in the first picture, mind it could have done with some nice lights.Despite the clouds the views were still cracking with a couple of Roe Deer and a Fox being the only mammals we saw. On the bird front, Red Grouse exploded into the air, whirred and glided regularly all the time we were walking. Apart from a few Crows and four Greylag Geese which passed overhead there was nothing to match the pair of Red Kites we had seen soaring in the Langlee valley last week.Oh yes there were some other birds i spotted, Swans, on Caistron lake, well as you can see in the pic it was quite distant and i'm not sure what type. You can see along with Caistron the meandering Coquet river also as it heads towards Rothbury passing Thropton on the way.
Due to the vast amounts of rain of late, underfoot conditions at times were treacherous and if not for my walking poles would have come a cropper on four occasions. If you are thinking about, or have just started doing any kind of "off path" walking get a pair of poles.

Merry Xmas..........BAH,HUMBUG

View N./N.E. towards Rothbury

View S. towards Fontburn Reservoir

View N. from Simonside Crag to Coquetdale with Caistron on left and MEANDERING River Coquet

Note the use of Meandering....Davy Tee

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Big Waters 5/12/09

I haven't been to "Muddy" for a little while and having seen the weather forecast, come hell or high water, i was going to commission the car this morning. I wasn't disappointed. More and more these days i find it harder to sit around in hides for any length of time.Thanks to Jeff Veevers i have discovered the joys of walking and although the hide at "Muddy" is probably one of the best sited and most comfortable, i enjoy viewing birds whilst out and about. I'm not knocking sitting around in any hide, the enjoyment i get from that is the patter with the lads and the advice i get from the experts to the continuous stream of questions i ask people. There are some very knowledgeable birders around and almost everyone that i have met have been very helpful.
My visit must have lasted 4 hours and only an hour of which spent in the hide. Like everywhere else water levels are high, i haven't seen the scrape opposite for the last 3 visits and the feeding station is partially under water. Stories of John Ballantyne watching the Kingfisher feeding in there were doing the rounds. It was fairly busy on the water with a female Scaup the highlight. Suddenly the Scaup was airborne, a series of ripples appeared on the water close by, then up popped the Otter. One of the lads managed to capture a shot of it with a fish it had caught before it disappeared into the reed beds to the right of the hide.
Before and after i had been to the hide itself i spent the rest of the time in the wooded area that the boardwalk takes you through. The lack of leaves on the trees now enhances the enjoyment i get from my birding as you can get good sightings of them scampering and scratching about in whats left of the undergrowth.The light and shadows cast also were absolutely stunning and i just stood and bathed in the glow. There was not a breath of wind in there and you could hear every sound clearly. Great tits and Blue Tits seemed to be everywhere. It
 appeared to me that they were reveling in the sunshine and had decided to have a game of tag in the trees. In amongst this there were up to a dozen Blackbirds scattered about with the usual alarm calls ringing out every few minutes. Chaffinches were in abundance, a number of which were hopping around on the boardwalk, along with a couple of Robins that made an appearance. I was on a tight schedule and had to get back with the car and reluctantly had to DRAG myself away. On the way out the resident Sparrowhawk landed on the branch of a tree less than 5 feet away but took one look at me and vanished as quickly as it had appeared. I was gutted as i had my camera in my hand at the ready but it had happened sooooo fast, but i did get a pleasant surprise a moment later when a Treecreeper appeared on the tree in front of me. This one didn't get away.               I reluctantly left, one happy man. I hope some of these images capture the atmosphere.

Scaup female

Pheasant male.........wader?????

These images were all captured in the wooded area

The boardwalk leading in to hide.

Coal Tit

Treecreeper 1

Treecreeper 2

Blue Tit

Friday, 27 November 2009

BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS......and more birds

Today i continued the quest for the definitive Water Pipit pic, and i did venture further at St. Marys. I saw more birds today, both numbers and species, than i had in the last 3 weeks or more. I did start at the northern end of the promenade and the W. Pipit immediately announced its presence. The sun was shining and in the sheltered corner of the beach felt very pleasant but it was far more windy up in the open. The Turnstones and Sanderlings were rummaging about in the seaweed that has been collected in that corner as they have done the last twice i've been down, but this morning were joined by a Grey Wagtail and very quickly after a pair of Pied Wagtails. The Water Pipit continued its movements back and forth on the bank below the Pitch and Putt and i managed a few more, more than average shots of it. Having spent a very enjoyable hour or so i thought i had better move on before getting too settled.
I normally go down to St. Marys as the tide has turned and is incoming but this morning it was already in . It was however on the way out and as i followed the line of the prom as the rocks came into view it looked as if all the birdlife in the area had come down to the coast to enjoy a bit of sunshine and some slightly less blustery conditions. The rocks were a hive of activity, dozens of Redshank, hundreds of Lapwing, pockets of 20s or 30s of Sanderling, Turnstones doing what Turnstones do, all over the place, numerous groups of Oystercatchers and 34 Ringed Plovers gathered together on a couple of rocks. Obviously there were Gulls everywhere, Black Headed being the most along with Herring and Black Backed. As i scanned a little further the ever growing numbers of Golden Plover caught the eye. Within a couple of minutes, and for whatever reason, birds started taking to the air from every area of the rocky shoreline. A flock of Starling suddenly appeared from over my shoulder and joined in the display and for a short while became the focal point. But not to be outdone from what seemed to be two or three different directions loads and loads of Golden Plover dropped down to join what was already there and formed a greater flock and started doing there thing. Although not as acrobatic as the Starlings the advantage they do have is the way they almost twinkle in the sky as they twist and turn and the light catches them at different angles. They did what looked like a couple of circles of the lighthouse itself then started to fragment. As everything slowly decended back to the rocks a party of 30 or so Curlew came down to join them. After the lack of activity almost everywhere i had visited recently this had felt like some sort of grand firework display. You know, when you stand there with that silly satisfied look on yer face.
The water was receding off the causeway by now so i had a walk around the island but that WAS quiet. Never mind, i wandered back to the car via the full length of the prom., just in case the Snow Buntings had arrived and as i came up by the Pitch and Putt the pair of Pied Wagtails were bathing in a small puddle on the edge of the 14th tee . I turned to head to the car and there in the field next to the caravan park were ALL of the Golden Plover. Now, i had counted them the day before on the rocks but this was different. There were at least three times as many but there was no way i was going to be able to count these. Golden Plover as they are , they were spooked and the whole lot went up and off again. Nothing noticeable on the wetland a couple of female Shoveler being the highlight there. All in all a cracking morning out SUN, SEA, SAND and BIRDS BIRDS BIRDS..............heaven.

     Grey Wagtail 1

Grey Wagtail 2

Pied Wagtail 1

Pied Wagtail 2

I liked the composition of this
Rock Pipit ?

Golden Plover

Golden Plover
we have lift off

Thursday, 26 November 2009

St. Marys Island & Holywell

Water Pipit
St Marys beach

Sanderling in flight
St Marys beach

Sanderling feeding
St Marys beach

Curlew wading
St Marys beach  

Golden Plover
aerial show   

male & female Teal
St. Marys wetland

Juvenile Blackbird
Holywell Pond

I'm slowly getting the hang of this blogging lark and i am managing to download some of my other cameras images. Tues and today i went down to St. Marys Island in order to have a look at the Water Pipit. Thanks to Brian Robson who i had bumped into for the first time at Killy. Lake previously, i managed to locate the bird immediately. I spent the whole of my time there on Tues. in the Water Pipits vicinity at the end of the prom but each time it came within decent range a nice dog and walker would disturb it. ( They've got to shit somewhere i suppose) While i'm on the subject, can anyone understand the mentality of those twits (sorry, i spelled that wrong) that hang their dogs excrement in neatly parceled plastic bags in trees. Bustards ( oops another spelling mistake). I enjoyed watching it and every time it returned back to its favourite area it would announce its arrival. Very vocal. I didn't manage any decent images so i decided to return today.
This time the weather was a lot brighter but very blustery. I decided to call into Holywell Pond on the way down from Segedunum and on the path in at the back of the school was greeted by this lovely juvenile Blackbird feeding in the trees. I carried on towards the public hide meeting Davy Tee on the way, who told me not to bother as there was nothing on the water at that end of the pond and that it was all congregated up beside the members hide. About turn and sure enough there was quite a number of birds outside the hide. All the usual suspects you would expect but Davy pointed out that there were 2 Common Gulls towards the middle of the water. The light was nice and took some shots of a few Pochard that were diving and fishing and as they came up the water was glistening on them but they turned out to be too distant. After a smashing couple of hours headed down to the coast. Looked into the wetland after parking up where there were more than the usual smattering of ducks. Down to the prom. overlooking the rocks where the tide was about halfway in. The birds were quite distant, but there was a large number of waders of all varieties. Of note about
30 Curlew but what caught the eye was the large gathering of Golden Plover. I often wonder who does this, but proceeded to try and count them. 1, 2 , 3  blah, blah etc etc .......there was between 1100-1200. After a while a number of them tried to impersonate a Starling aerial display...........7/10   not bad but not up to Starling standard. Moved to the end of the prom and down to the beach whereupon the Water Pipit took one look and buggered off., I took it personally but immediately a Golden Retriever ran over to the seaweed pile where it had been. The same comings and goings as yesterday as the dog walkers passed by so i took consolation with the Ring Plovers, Turnstones and my personal favourites the Sanderlings as they all combed the waters edge. I will call down again soon if the Water Pipit stays but this time will have a tour around.......i might spot a Snow Bunting.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Killingworth Mute Swan

I stood and watched this Mute Swan as it bathed for what must have been 15 minutes. Here are some images i captured during that time.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Killy Goosanders--Grafitti bridge

Is this art?

Goosanders and Goldeneye Killy Lake

Sunday morning decided to have a trip up to Big Waters and decided to call past Killy on the way. As i arrived there was a bit of a downpour but it stopped after 10 minutes or so and brightened up to be a nice morning. I spotted a lone male Goosander on the larger lake and not having any decent images of said species decided to capture it. Easier said than done. It decided to spend the majority of its time in the centre of the water and on the odd occasions in ventured towards the side , by the time i got somewhere close it buggered off again. Yes, weve been there dozens of times. After over an hour of this and some ropey shots i made my way to the smaller lake before i left for " Muddy".
As i approached there was the outline of 3 Sawbills with the now bright sun behind them. It was 2 female and 1 male Goosander, " I DON'T BELIEVE IT ! " i thought to myself having chased around after there pal, and these were less than 15 metres away at times. The shots above were taken on my Canon compact as i've been having trouble downloading my images taken on my EOS Canon coz the files are too big. Anyway they will have to do 'till i get a prog. organised to compress my photo files.
Having succeeded in capturing the Goosanders i decided to head off to B. W. but on the way i realised the time was getting on so instead stopped off at Weetslade C. Park to have a walk and give the old knees a work out. Not much in the way of bird life to be seen except for 3 Kestrels hovering in the air together, but as i wandered off down one of the waggonways towards Burradon i spotted this fantastic work of grafitti on the concrete work of the bridge. I think some grafitti is brilliant and this effort is fabulous. I've just checked on Memory Map and this passes under the A189 and the waggonway heads away from the car park at Weetslade.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hollywell Pond...Jack Snipe

A trip to St. Marys Lighthouse mid afternoon yesterday turned out to be disappointing as i failed to locate the Firecrest that has been around for the last few days. After a dry but miserable half hour, the drizzle started and with that the mist began to thicken. From the prom. the usual selection of gulls and waders. Along to the island, causeway then beach nothing much startling but got my first close up glimpse of one of my favourite wintering birds, Sanderling. I found a nice rock close by to park my bum and spent a delightful half hour watching their keystone cop style antics at the waters edge. No matter how cold it is , i always get a warm glow when i sit and watch these birds. Away from the water there was an abundance of Redwing, Blackbirds and a number of Robins.
This morning i ventured down to Hollywell Pond which was quite busy. Large numbers of gull, Black Headed, Herring and Black Backed which when not on the water formed an endless stream to and from the direction of Seghill Tip. A large flock of Lapwing were interrupted for a couple of minutes when 30 odd Starlings descended on the water and decided to have a collective bathe. Unaware of this, there were 34 Canada Geese, 18 Greylag, 44 Mallard, 8 Tufted Duck and various small numbers of Coot, Moorhen, Pochard, a couple of Grey Heron, a Cormorant, 16 Teal feeding on the shoreline and what looked like a male Shoveller in eclipse. Anyway in amongst this lot over to the left of the public hide in amongst Bull rushes at the corner of the bay i spotted a Snipe. By now the mist was slowly beginning to drop and visibility was OK but starting to deteriorate. I had seen half a dozen Snipe up at Big Waters a couple of times in the last 10 days and i commented to Dave, who frequents the pond, how bright i thought the stripes on the back were. Never thought any more of it but then there were more Snipe that had flew in. By then another couple of lads had joined us and one said that one of them was a Jack Snipe. Sure enough, with a number of birds together you could see how much smaller the Jack was, along with the shorter bill and different colouration. It was also noticed to be slowly bouncing up and down. I must thank Bob Dac for the excellent views i observed from his scope as the mist was spoiling good views from my bins by now. No pics of Jack but couple of Teal and what i think is the Shoveler in eclipse taken on my compact Canon.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Harlequin Ladybird

Whilst up at St Abbs Head i noticed this Ladybird. For those who don't know there is a species known as the HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD which has been invading our shores since 2004. This invasive species is jeopardising many of our own46 species of Ladybird and needs to be reported if spotted.
Now i am not sure if this is a Harlequin, i can't remember the exact size of it but it almost has the letter "M " formed within its spots. Can anyone help as i may need to report it. Many thanks.


The pics i want to show won't download. I took them in raw, edited them, then into pics on computer but have noticed they are now "tif" does this cause a problem? Anyone know.
No pics for the moment.

Frustrated blooger

I don't know how many times i have sat down since my last post and not actually written a word. It's like this. I set off in my walking boots, rucksack full, batteries charged and raring to get out there. I don't give a toss what the weather is, (obviously a bit of nice light would be an advantage) it's just nice to get out and about. If i see something new, speak to someone interesting or learn something new i am a happy man.
When i get back i download and go through my images from the days explorations and decide which pics i will use on the blog. This is where the trouble starts. You see, i don't know much about anything that i come across, be it bird or fungi or insect or whatever. SOOOOO, when i have picked the pics, i have to do some research on what is in that pic. Then after 3 hours of hunting out the fungi i managed to capture underneath that dead branch, it's usually 1.30 a.m. and i haven't even identified what it was. AAAAHHHHH. Mind you, i've thoroughly enjoyed myself. There is so much out there to learn about. Anyway, that is why i am so slow posting my blogs.
Since my last post i have visited Rothbury, Upper Coquetdale, St. Abbs Head, Eyemouth, Cresswell, Druridge, Holy Island and Budle Bay and not managed one post.
Until now. I visited Seaham on Sunday and followed a walk i had which took in Blast Beach and Hawthorn Village amongst other places. There was a gusty westerley blowing so not much at sea but joined a couple of people searching out a Yellow-Browed Warbler at the south end of Blast Beach. Half an hours crack while we waited but no joy so off i set. I'll catch it on the way back. Passed a disused quarry (which i later found out was Hawthorn Quarry) and hung around hoping to capture sight of a bird of prey possibly, only to see a few Crows but was informed by a guy in Hawthorn Dene when i got there that Peregrines had nested last year but not this. Through Hawthorn Village onto the Dene....loads of fungi pics.....but on the way out was puzzled by the sight on the ground only 1 metre from the path. A Great Spotted Woodpecker had snuggled up and went to sleep. It was in the grass without any cover. I stood over it for a couple of minutes, actually trying to figure out what i was looking at, i knew it was a G.S.W. but couldn't figure out what was going on. Anyway eventually i disturbed it , at which it turned its head looked at me and casually flew into a nearby tree. Is this common behaviour? On the way back i called past the site of the Y.B.Warbler but no luck and took in Blast Beach, as i had read that it had been used in scenes from the film Alien 3. I know why........what a strange landscape, and a reminder of the pollution man has caused over the years.
Here are a couple of pics

Friday, 25 September 2009


I feel quite guilty. I decided to start blogging without realising how busy i am. From now on i am going to make time to update. Here are a number of images from the last few weeks.
I have been away visiting my beautiful Grandson in Kent. I did managed a little birding while there and visited Elmley Marshes on the Isle of Sheppey. This is a RSPB site in the North East of Kent and comes highly recommended if anyone is in the area. The main thing that actually sticks in my mind from the visit was the thousands of pounds worth of pumping equipment lying around all over the site, ready to be used if water levels needed adjusting. I am relatively new to birding but have heard a lot of moans about water levels or the lack of management of some sites i have visited up here. This certainly wasn't the case at Elmley.
My local haunt normally is Big Waters, or muddy ( any blues people will know Muddy Waters) as i like to call it. This is in no way a swipe at the water quality there, just my sense of humour. However i haven't been as often in the last couple of weeks as thanks to PC Wanderings blog, have been up to Prestwick Carr ( large Blue British Shorthair jumps onto lap at this point making my typing errors increase by 50 %) marveling at the Short Eared Owl that has been showing there. I aint got any pics as there has not been one reasonable photo opportunity but the Owl has been brilliant to watch. I like to walk while i'm out and about but have tended to hang around while at Prestwick, not wanting to miss any of the S.E.O. action so i need to explore a little more. Whilst waiting for said Owl i have been entertained by other species but mainly the Buzzard family that frequent the restricted zone woods, all four of which made an appearance together last Wednesday evening for best part of an hour. Can i also thank Peter ( PC Wanderings) and Bicycle Bill for answering my endless stream of questions about Prestwick and birding generally, they are a joy to talk to........very helpful.
I warned you there would be more waffling than warbling. Here are some pics.........when i started originally it was about birding but i have seen so many fantastic things around me that i love everything about nature, so the images i capture now can be of anything. Nature is wonderful, i only wish i'd discovered it when i was younger.