Thursday, 23 December 2010

Lapping it up at the lighthouse. Wed. 22nd.

I spent the most enjoyable 90 minutes birding for some time late this morning. A trip down to St. Marys Lighthouse seemed in order to see which birds have been displaced by the cold conditions. A quick neb on the wetland brought the sighting of a solitary Moorhen, slipping and sliding on the iced over water. I headed directly to one of my favourite spots at the end of the promenade. As i covered the few hundred yards from the car, looking over the railings, my eyes were drawn to a stunning Golden Plover. The light was good and this creature looked radiant. In amongst the browns and greens of the rocks and seaweed it was, well , golden. I continued on and dropped down to the beach, to the waters edge, found a dry rock and plonked myself down. In the words of Bob the weatherman, "it was nithering". But i sharp warmed up as i watched the Sanderlings scuttling to and fro, in amongst feeding on the wrack. A Black-tailed Godwit, Redshanks, Turnstones and a Lapwing were also feeding at the end of the beach where it meets the first rocks. If the Sanderlings had made me smile the Lapwing made me stop in my tracks. Just look here.............
...........isn't that lush? ( double click for more detail)
This bird stole the show. It hung around for 10 minutes or so. As i sat i scanned out to sea and there was a raft of Teal and Widgeon. Over 100 in number with a few Mallard in tow on further inspection. By now i was frozen to the core so had to move on. As i climbed the stairs back to the prom i noticed a number of birds at the base of it. First a Grey Wagtail, then a couple of Rock Pipits. A Ringed Plover was picking at the seaweed as was another Lapwing alongside a Redshank.
From upon high looking down to the rocks now, leaning against the railings lots of birds could be seen being slowly pushed in by the advancing tide. What was slightly strange was that they were not in huge flocks, as they quite often are, but scattered around. Other species seen but not already mentioned were Cormorants, in the water and standing wings open on the rocks. By far the most numerous at this stage Oystercatcher with just the one Curlew in amongst them. I was about halfway along the prom and heading towards the small bay to the north before i thought i might do a spot of Bunting hunting when my luck ran out. The sky had been slowly darkening and suddenly the light went and within a few minutes the snow started to fall. In no time it was whiteout conditions. Time to leave but i had lapped up stunning sightings of a LAPwing and not the LAPland Bunting as hopefully expected.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Every picture tells a story ?

I don't think so. These images were taken yesterday afternoon at the Rising Sun, Dukes Pond to be exact.
They could have been taken on a balmy summers afternoon. I can tell you that my eyeballs were stinging, it was that cold. The light, however, did have a "warm" feel to it. The Teal looking spectacular, a stunning duck. The juvenile Whooper still gracing the country park with its presence. Swallow Pond was absolutely bird less on the other hand. The whole area frozen solid and not even a few gulls were sitting on the ice. This is the first time i had seen it like that. No Water Rail in the ditch today but i was pleasantly surprised to see single Treecreeper and Goldcrest within seconds of each other when i first arrived on the outskirts of the park in the wooded hill facing Station Road.

      Male and female Teal looking stunning in the light.

      "Yes, i'm still here" trumpeted the young Whooper to the human.
       "I'm loving this fantastic weather over here"
       "Much warmer than back home, phew!"

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Rising Sun, juv. Whooper

Having been laid low with a virus for over a week i dragged myself out in bitter conditions yesterday up to Swallow and Dukes' Ponds. Parking at Asda i ventured into the park along the main waggonway and didn't hear anything never mind see any bird for the first 10 minutes. First sighting being 20+ Siskins in Alders then things picked up with Tits, Blackbirds, Thrushes and odd Robins dotted around. Headed straight for the plantation ditches expecting and getting sightings of Water Rails. Two in sight, a juvenile and an adult about 15 metres apart, both feeding frantically. I spent over an hour here, trying, but not too hard , to get some images but not wanting to disturb the birds came up empty. Obviously with the birds being in the ditch and in the plantation the light wasn't the best so i kept my distance and just enjoyed observing the markings. I was frozen to the core when i left and moved on and headed straight to the centre, not for a coffee but stood reading the notice board half a dozen times thawing out a little.
On to Dukes Pond, on the look out for the juvenile Whooper which i came across immediately. The water on both ponds being 90% frozen so not much open water and here was the Whooper sharing what was available with Mallards, Coots and Moorhen. The bird left the water and slipped and slid across the ice and in doing so looked to be in fine fettle. Last week when the bird was in the prescence of the Mute cygnets it was approachable down to a distance of 3 metres but now it was on its own if i got within 6 metres it would move away. The conditions obviously no cause for concern for this bird but there were numbers of other species sitting looking disconsolate all around the ice on Swallow Pond. As i type this i can hear water bouncing off the bay window cills as the mini thaw promised starts to take effect. Great news. Lets hope it lasts longer than predicted...for the birds sake.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sunderland, Mackems.......Newcastle, sackems.

I used to love my football but cheating and greed have sickened me so much that i have almost turned my back on it. The thought of players earning 50, 60 and £70,000 and beyond a week makes me want to throw up, while the folks that support them struggle to get by. The sight of footballers screaming in agony, throwing themselves to the ground and trying every other trick in the book to gain the slightest advantage turns my stomach. You could say i don't enjoy it as much as i used to. The sacking of Chris Houghton just about sums up the state of the game, but above all that of my once loved Toon. The guy who owns it is a **** (you can put your own letters in) and i can't wait for the day he sells up and gets out of town.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Juvenile Whooper, Rising Sun

While the outlook for some birds at the minute is quite grim one specimens situation looks to be on the up. As conditions continue to be treacherous on the roads staying locally is the best policy so the Rising Sun was again on the agenda yesterday. Not too many birds at first and it was pleasantly quiet overall with the occasional squeal of delight coming from the hill of some sledder, who would have already been full of the joys of winter having been told not to attend school anyway. I got to Swallow Pond to find it 90% frozen with a distinct lack of birds notably ducks. There had been over 200 Widgeon here a couple of days ago. Dozens of Shoveller and scores of Teal but the only 2 ducks present were a couple of farmyard hybrids which came running over the ice from fully 100 metres away when they detected my prescence hoping for some scran. The chill wind was cutting and with some gulls the only other species around i decided it was better keeping on the move. With Swallow now almost totally frozen and recollecting the 5 Water Rail i had in the ditches in similar conditions last year i headed into the plantation but managed only a couple of Blue Tits, half a dozen Blackbirds and a brace of Robins. The lack of people and more specifically dog walkers was more than making up for the lack of birds.
On to Dukes Pond and was more than confused when i found the Mute Swan juveniles had increased from 7 to 8. There was a mini blizzard blowing as i got here so visibilty had dropped considerably and counted again. The cygnets were on the ground, with some tucked up and asleep and it was only after 5 minutes or so i realised that the extra one was the juvenile Whooper that had been hiding in and around the bigger Swallow Pond for the last fortnight or so. Bearing in mind that the Whooper had been hiding in the reeds all this time due to the fact that the male adult Mute had been terrorising it and others and it was with that birds offspring was more than suprising. Initially the bird was on the periphery of the group but as i observered for some time the bird moved into the middle of other swans and even close to the parent birds without any aggression from the adult male. I will be following the progress of the Whooper over the coming days.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Goosey, Goosey, Goosander

Actually, to be politically correct i should have started with HELLO DUCKY. This elegant bird is a diving duck, with the term Sawbill applied due to the serrated mandibles. The three pictured below were spotted on Killingworths smaller lake. Goosanders are regular visitors to Killingworth at this time of year along with Mergansers. I had a walk around the larger lake also hoping to find an interesting goose in amongst the Canadas and Greylags but with no success. Numbers of waterfowl are increasing with a noticable number of Pochard but surprisingly no Goldeneye yet.
I headed down to the Rising Sun from Killy but it was quite quiet. I called by Dukes Pond first but a dog walker sporting the cackiest khaki strides ever was at the edge of the water with the dog taking a dip and i didn't stay long so obviously didn't see the Jack Snipe that Simon told me that he had lifted from the reedbeds 20 minutes earlier. The large numbers of Redwing amd Fieldfare that frequent the large field by the farm have yet to arrive, but i was more than happy to make do with the Little Owls that adorn the former explosive outhouse nearby. The juvenile Whooper Swan that i mentioned recently is still in and around Swallow Pond. I didn't see it but heard it, this time however it was near the hide on the waggonway.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

H.M.S. Ark Royal, River Tyne.

Entering the river, where she was built, for the last time.
...........the fog on the Tyne greeted her.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Swallow Pond Whooper

I have frequented the Rising Sun Country Park more often recently, as i always do at this time of the year. I tend give Swallow Pond a bit of a wide berth during the summer months as it gets very busy with the kids being on holiday and the improved weather bringing more visitors in.
The Whooper in question is a juvenile which has been residing in the reed beds on the bank opposite the hide on the waggonway. The bird has been there for over a week, having been terrorised by the resident male Mute Swan who rules over his patch fervently. For the 30 minutes that i sat the Whooper kept peering over the top of the phragmites, stretching its neck like the periscope of a submarine, surveying the scene. It never ventured onto the water however and i presume the main reason it has been there for so long is that it is reluctant to do so which is possibly not allowing it to achieve lift off. I won't be back until next week and will be interested to see if it remains. The Mute Swan has in the past dispatched numerous ducks and geese and one of the locals was telling me he had a pair of juveniles pinned in the south west corner for a few hours on Monday. Numbers of ducks have been increasing on the pond with over 120 Widgeon sighted on Tuesday. Teal, Shoveller, Tufted and Pochard are showing well also. One other species of note, an Otter has also been appearing over the last few weeks occasionally.

My favourite resident of the Rising Sun made an appearance while i sat. I haven't seen him for some time so i was overjoyed when i spotted him.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Phwoarrrrr, look at the wattle on that !!

Red Grouse on Guisborough Moor.

Green Woodpecker on the edge of Guisborough Woods.

 .................Don't forget to double click, you'll see the wattle in all its glory

With a good weather forecast i took the trip down to Sleddale that i had cancelled last weekend. I was obviously going to try to view the Rough-legged Buzzards but having seen the area on Memory Map had decided a nice walk would also be on the agenda. Arrived at 8.15a.m. and spent a chilly 30 mins. at "The Chevrons" without any success so decided to park along Percy Cross Rigg and start walking from there. A good craic with a few birders while at The Chevrons, two of whom had been there since just gone 7a.m.
Anyway, in perfect conditions for walking,birding and photography set off  before dropping down to the track that passes Sleddale Farm in the valley. As i walked Red Grouse were rising all around me. I did go possibly 10 minutes one time without seeing any but otherwise they were lifting every couple of minutes. Must have seen over 150 birds while i was there. As i rose up from the valley with Codhill Heights on my left and Gisborough Moor to my right i flirted with the Cleveland Way for a short time. This took me to the edge of Gisborough Woods which i skirted for a few km and as i did so caught a flash of vivid green which rose up into the tree tops. A Green Woodpecker came to rest but as i shuffled closer dropped down to the floor of the woods. Just before i left the edge of the woods to travel along the eastern side of Sleddale i got a quick glimpse of a pair of Bullfinches. Heading in a southerly direction with Gisborough Moor now on my right, i proceeded along North Ings Slack crossing Whiteley Beck towards the end just before coming into Commondale. No more birds of note on this section but still Red Grouse lifting all around me.
I was now on the B road heading back to The Chevrons and as i arrived there spotted the two guys from earlier. By now it was 2.30 and all they had seen in that time was a Common Buzzard and a Hen Harrier. So the Rough-legged Buzzards hadn't shown all day and by now there was a gallery of around 20 people with cars littering the roadside on the climb to said Chevrons. It really is a good view along Sleddale. Another 30 mins.and more craic before setting off to finish my walk. In all i covered 14.3km. and ascended 323metres.
A cracking day and if you like to do a bit of walking while birding, highly recommended.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The amazing EXPLODING Smokeball.

Smokeball is an alternative name for the Puffball and if you continue on you will see why. It is a common fungi occuring on the ground in deciduous woods. What you actually see is the fruitbody and these specimens that i found were on the side of the pit spoil heap of the former Rising Sun in a wooded area that overlooks the country park. I actually discovered these fungi months ago but they were finished for the season so i made a mental note of their location and was more the happy to rediscover them.
The first image shows a young fruitbody. It is covered in "jewels" and whitish in colour.
In image two you can see that the Puffball has matured. The colouration having gone from whitish to cream to brown. You can see the apical pores from which the spores are dispersed.
Image three and i have caused the specimen to disperse the spores in a smoke like cloud. I actually tapped the body with a small branch a couple of times taking care not to breath in the spores as it can cause lung disease.
In causing the fungi to EXPLODE i hopefully helped it to spread further afield.
The last image shows the fibrous inside after expulsion..

Saturday, 30 October 2010

2 species, 4 images, no waffle...........NICE

Reed Bunting


..............taken at St. Marys Island, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear.
             ( don't forget to DOUBLE click to enhance the enjoyment  )

Monday, 25 October 2010

Killy and The Carr

Having seen the forecast last night and a car available to me i set the alarm for 6.45 this morning. I wasn't disappointed as the dawn broke and the light looked superb. I popped outdoors 3 times in the first couple of hours and feeling the temperature, or lack of it, kept finding "little jobs" to be getting on with delaying my departure.
O.K.         It was freezing outside, the words, monkeys, balls and brass came to mind, but not necessarily in that order and i didn't actually leave 'till gone 11.
I hadn't been up to Prestwick Carr for a while so decided that was the place and would call past Killingworth Lake for a quickie on the way. You can get some nice waterfowl on the water in winter ( WELL THAT'S HOW IT FELT ) but not today. There were numerous birds about but only the usual suspects, the highlight being 3 cormorants. Oh yes, and it was bitter in the biting wind which scythed across the larger lake.
Off to Prestwick within 20 minutes and on arrival, as i organised myself and changed footwear, 3 Common Buzzards drifted gently over the wooded area in the "military zone". I had 2 species in mind. I had hoped for a possible Short-eared Owl and i ALWAYS see a budgerigar err Yellowhammer.
Set off up the track to the sentry box and a battle ensued. A battle between the wind and the sun. The sun was winning the fight on my right hand side but was getting slaughtered on the left.
Not much on the way up to the gate by the box. No sign of any Swallows and only a Robin and some Blue Tits (no jokes please ) to keep out the chill. There was however a bit more activity in the area close to the derelict building. A scan in the area where the Tawny Owl had been resident earlier in the year produced nothing but all around were the sounds of Blue and Great Tits, Wrens, another Robin, at least a couple of Blackbirds and a lone Goldfinch! I eventually located most of the birds but never reached into my bag for my camera until i caught sight of a Willow Tit. Lush. Didn't want to spook it so i just watched it through the bins for 2 or 3 minutes then slowly sidled into my bag and got the camera out. While i was doing this it called and an immediate reply came back and i could see a second bird a couple of trees further along the track. I tracked the first bird with the camera for a further minute or so but never got a shot off and it eventually disappeared in the foliage never to be seen by myself again. Totally gutted as the light was still superb but i did get great views for 5 minutes so can't complain. Back to the car, a coffee and off along the bumpy road but no owls and only Bicycle Bill worth mentioning...........and NO BUDGIES EITHER!!!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Fungi in Fenton Wood nr. Ford, Northumberland

Continuing on the fungi theme, these images were captured on a return visit to Fenton Woods. Mr. Cheviot and i had been out walking 2 weeks ago and had called into this area of the woods at the northern tip to examine some cup and ring markings indicated on the map. Having found the markings we spotted some lush fungi as we exited the woods to continue the walk on to Ford Moss. The day we did the walk was the Friday before the large fall of migrants down the east coast. That particular day the conditions had been very misty with a steady N/ N.Easterly wind not making visibility of Ford Moss very good so a return visit to the Moss itself is on the cards. Anyway, i waffle. Remember "more waffling than warbling".We called back to explore the wood further last Thursday spending 4 hours or so but knowhere near covered as much ground as we wanted. Mr. Cheviot had spotted some stunning Fly Agaric last time but was disappointed not to find any this time. Any names put forward would be extremely well received. Enjoy.

      The 2 specimens in this image were 125mm and 170 mm in size and partially hidden in the bracken undergrowth. Very striking.
A very different feel to my previous posting of fungi. This time reduced if hardly any light resulting in use of flash and long exposures.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Depressed? Miserable? Weather getting you down? look here...........

These are some images i captured at the Rising Sun Country Park the other day, you know, THAT day when the sun was shining for a couple of hours. They certainly brightened my evening up when i was sorting them. There is nothing nicer than a quiet autumn day when the sun still has the remnants of its summer feel. That pleasant warmth and golden glow that it casts.
But that was then.........and nowt more miserable than when the sun aint shone for a few days. As is the case at the moment with either the cloud cover or mist. I've included one of the last Dragonfly i've seen for a few days in with the fungi.

If they haven't managed to cheer you up a little i suggest you go to the cupboard and get out that can of Heinz Cream of Tomato, heat it in a pan, pour into a mug and cup it in your hands as you consume it.
......and finally my last Dragonfly so far this year, a Darter, soaking up the suns rays. I hope i see a few more Darters and will be disappointed if some Hawkers don't reappear also before the end of the month.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Orange-flanked Bush Robin

Decided to visit St. Marys' this afternoon to view the above bird......WHAT?
O.K.   Red-flanked Bluetail if you like, but can i point out at this stage that the Robins in the vicinity had a problem with it and quite a few chased it off. I rest my case, you honour. I think THEY might know better than US. What a spanking AND obliging little beauty. As per other bloggers, light was awful so no decent images ( "It doesn't stop you other times!" was the call from the cheap seats.) i thoroughly enjoyed the 90 minutes i had with it, made even more enjoyable by the appearance of the Stalker sorry Blogger from Howdon, whom i haven't seen for a while. After sharing the bird and some banter for 20 mins. or so we had a wander round in failing light picking out large numbers of Robins. Others seen included Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Blackbirds.
Before my jaunt to St. Marys' i had called past Tynemouth, but all the stunners have moved on. The Shorelark had been viewed in the morning but was absent when i was there. I still enjoyed my visit as it was an area i played around as a child. Recollections of sitting on Lord Collingwoods canons and scrambling about in the Spanish Batteries came flooding back. Aye, and the Black Middens.
Does anyone remember the stench from the Guano Works that drifted up Tanners Bank. I can smell it now!!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Migrant Hawker - Cowpen Bewley

On the day i espied the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Greatham Creek i called into Cowpen Bewley Country Park on the way home hoping for some success with dragonflies. I was not disappointed.
The first 4 images were taken around the small pools by the main lake. The final image was captured as i was returning to my car via the wooded area just behind the reception centre. I was stopped in my tracks by the pair of Darters as they appeared overhead before dropping into the trees. Don't forget to double-click on the images to appreciate the beauty of these extraordinary creatures. Whilst magnified take a close look at that last image to see how the male Migrant Hawker is embracing his partner.
Some like it rough, they reckon!