Wednesday, 26 May 2010

We have humbugs

My first visit to Killingworth since i returned and a chance to see how the Great Crested Grebes are doing. Well they have one young which can be only a day or two old. I sat for over half an hour before it appeared on one of the Grebes' back. The other Grebe had been missing all this time and had obviously been away feeding but when it returned with a small morsel of something in its beak the young emerged. The 2 G C Grebes on the smaller lake have 3 young who must be at least 2 weeks old and the difference in size is amazing. Other young will emerge over the next few days as they lay the eggs over a short period of time.
One of the things i did notice while wandering around the large lake is that there are 106 Mute Swans at Killy but only 2 pairs have had cygnets. That seems a rather low proportion. Numbers of Swift were over the water again and were joined firstly by Swallows but shortly after by House Martins. Always a marvellous site in spring and summer. Not that it was that warm early on but as the cloud disappeared and the sun broke through the temperature immediately began to rise quickly.
From Killy i had a trip down to the Rising Sun with the idea to visit Dukes and Hadrian ponds specifically. At Dukes pond a couple of Lesser Black backed Gulls were interacting with two Herring Guills and it was nice to see the Canada Geese with their 4 goslings were doing well and had not yet been driven away as in previous years by the Swans, in fact there wasn't a Swan to be seen. From the reeds the sound of Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting could be heard and from the longer grass in the meadow area the reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler was a first for me at the "Sun". On the walk to Hadrian Pond thoughts of Ruddy Duck, which i have sighted there for the last 2 years, crossed my mind but there was nothing more exciting than a pair of Tufted Duck, a single female Pochard, some Coot and Moorhen.

      Can you spot the "humbug"

       Look at the size of these

       Ariel entertainers

       Blue Tit making guest appearance

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Kent / Suffolk

Just to round off my Kent and Suffolk beano.(Species of note observed)

Walderslade..Iberian Chiffchaff
Stodmarsh...Cuckoo, Hobby, Marsh Harriers(M & F).

Walderslade just happens to be where my son lives so i had a 5 minute drive to locate the Iberian Chiffchaff.
My second visit to Stodmarsh and another fantastic day. The centrepiece of which are the massive reedbeds and the walk along the River Stour. More superb views of Marsh Harriers over the reeds and a frantic Cuckoo being pursued by, i know not what, over the river. A crescendo of sound would arise then drop away every now and then and finally as i was talking to one of the natives when this deafening noise started again it was revealed that the culprits were Marsh Frogs. A single frog would make a noise. Another would reply, then another, then another until it was ear bursting. About a minute later every frog would stop simultaniously and it would fall quiet. The local birders are driven daft by them. Finally as i was leaving around 1.30p.m. having been out since 4.00a.m. 3 Hobbies appeared overhead.
Minsmere...Nightingale, Green Woodpecker, Marsh Harriers(M & F), Bittern, Cettis Warbler, Spoonbill
Walberswick...Bearded Reedling.

Minsmere was a brilliant site to visit. Run by the RSPB it has 9 hides in all. Covering numerous habitats including woodland,scrub,reedbed, shingle beach and a large scrape area with small sand banks.
Walberswick is situated slightly further up the Suffolk coast from Minsmere and after leaving the car a fantastic trip through woodland skirted by magnificent open access heathland i came to the huge reedbeds. My time here was limited so i didn't manage to reach the coastline and the beach there nor did i have time to visit the nearby Dunwich Heath with guaranteed sightings of Dartford Warblers but i did get my elusive Bearded Reedlings. PING,PING.
I must return to both Norfolk AND Suffolk again soon and Walberswick is top of the list.

     View across Westwood Marshes, Walberswick

      The backdrop to Minsmere...............Sizewell B

      Marsh Harriers at Minsmere

      Noisy bleeder............Marsh Frog

Saturday, 22 May 2010


Observation of Redshanks leading up to mating. The male circled an almost motionless female, first displaying tail feathers before fully opening his wings before mounting.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Iberian Chiffchaff, Walderslade, Kent.

I have known of this journey to my sons for something like 4 weeks and about 3 weeks ago the alert of an Iberian Chiffchaff in a place in Kent had me more than interested as this happens to be where he lives. But that was over 3 weeks ago and i have kept a countdown ( cue the clock and music) going since then. To be truthful i was totally confident that the bird would still be there and on Sunday morning as i walked into the clearing i heard the distinctive call that i had heard on the Kent Ornithilogical Site's pages and looked straight up at the bird, which at that point was high in the canopy. The bird very kindly dropped down and allowed a few photographic and camcorder opportunities then flew back up on high. I did have my wife and grandson in tow so i could only stay for a very limited time and will return before i leave the area. I'm not great with colours but the length of the wing and the song are the things that were obvious to my very limited birding skills and although its "only a Chiffchaff" as i have read a quite a few postings at various sites i do feel i have seen and particularly HEARD something different. Anyway, the camcorder footage is very limited and something i hope to improve on but below are a couple of images of said bird.
I have been to Suffolk for a couple of days and what a fabulous place to visit it was. Bird wise, i had sightings of Spoonbills, Bearded Reedlings ( of which i dipped in Norfolk last month) but above all had views of 5 different Bitterns, one of which held a silent captive audience for fully 45 minutes.........aye 45 minutes. More of which in my next posting.

     The light wasn't brilliant, so will call back again before i leave.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Pochard images.....the return

I posted images of a Pochard at Killingworth Lake last Friday. This Friday i am going to post images of a Pochard at Killingworth Lake.
"Hang on a minute!" i hear you shout.
THIS Pochard is the female to last Fridays male.

Whilst there i also captured this image.....

........the Great Crested Grebes on the smaller lake have had young while the pair i have been following still have at least 2 weeks remaining. I had a brilliant 10 minutes or so when 12-15 Swifts suddenly appeared over head. They whizzed about, chasing each other playfully then as quickly as they appeared they were gone. 
While out briefly on Wednesday these two kept a close eye on me.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Seawatching at the Rising Sun ???

Called up early evening the other day and was pleasantly surprised to see a field full of Corvids. The field in question had been ploughed and the furrows must have been over 300 m.m. deep. Hence the field looked like a bubbling sea. While the lightly ploughed field last week had attracted Gulls and Woodpigeon this held large numbers of Jackdaws, Crows and my favourites Rooks. As the furrows were so deep the birds would completely disappear and reappear from view as they hopped, skipped and jumped around, as they do. This reminded me of watching rafts of birds on a heavy sea as the waves rise and fall doing there disappearing acts.

.....................meanwhile on Dukes Pond things hadn't worked out as i expected. The Canada Geese do have young and the single Swan has turned out to be as aggressive as ever. I hope he doesn't drive them off this time. I had stories of the pair on Swallow Pond drowning the young of Mallards, Coots, Moorhen and Canadas from one of the regulars.

....a nice quiet swim around the pond turns into....

....attack of the killer Swan

....look at the concern in the Canada's eye.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Upper Teesdale, Sunday

A late start as Howdon Blogger had trouble getting his head off the pillow so i wasn't picked up in Segedunum untill 5.03 a.m. Off we set for the Langdon Beck area on our quest to see the Black Grouse Lek. On the way we passed Raby Castle and revelled in the sight of huge numbers of Red and Fallow Deer chilling and chomping on the front lawn. What a start to the day, how were we going to top that? On we went and soon were following the path of the Tees. The Langdon Beck Hotel appeared and the directions said "after 600 metres turn right, then on past the cattle grid and look down into the valley below"..........they weren't wrong. Although there was heavy drizzle and the mist hung close to the contours of the surrounding hills,  that unmistakable "bubbling" sound could be heard and through the gloom 12 strutting Blackcocks and a lone Greyhen could be made out. I immediately got a lump in my throat, and although because of the mist the views weren't brilliant somehow the birds shone through. Something else caught my eye and there in amongst the Grouse was a tented hide. The birds seemed oblivious to it and continued there frantic displaying, in fact at one point one of the males jumped up on top of the hide and continued his " Jagger on speed " impersonation. We must have been 150-200 metres away but i almost felt part of it. If that wasn't birding heaven in won't believe it but a Woodcock was on the ground not more than 8 metres away!!!!!!! I didn't know where to look. The Woodcock sat for a minute or two then started sloping off across the field and slowly disappeared. I turned my attention back to the Grouse and John and i watched for.......i don't know how long. The mist did lift slightly and the stuff coming out of the sky altered between rain and hale intermittently ( well it is May ) but i didn't manage any decent images of the Black Grouse, however i did manage this shot of the Woodcock.

......what a poser

The rest of the morning was spent touring the area taking in Cow Green Reservoir and passing over Harwood Beck spotting numerous species all of which can be read on Howdon Bloggers blog.( i hope )
Early afternoon we moved on to Derwent Reservoir. I'm not a great one for sitting in hides but i must admit it was nice to get out of that nithering wind. My first time and although it wasn't teeming with birds it is a very nice place to visit. Nothing startling was seen BUT  we did hear a Cuckoo. Whittle Dene on the homeward journey and i heard my first GREAT SCREAMING LITTLE BIRDER. As John climbed out of the car to view the Common Terns he unfortunately left his thumb in the door. OUCHY!!!!!!!! When he climbed back in i could feel the glow coming from said thumb and i swear i could hear it throbbing.
I look forward to closer views of Black Grouse but the memory of my first sight of the Lek AND the bonus of that Woodcock will linger in the memory banks for a long time.

A sad note from the trip was the sight firstly of a dead Mole hanging on barbed wire above a 3ft wall beside a recently tilled piece of ground at a property in Durham. Having just recovered from that sickening sight, another 20 metres along the wall a further dozen Moles in varying states of decay were also "on display" . Some people are despicable.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Pochard images

Captured some nice shots of this Pochard at Killingworth this morning. This is a bird i have never managed to get too close to in the past and while i had captured some slightly distant images earlier on my visit i was surprised when the duck eventually ventured closer.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Stag night

I ventured up to the Rising Sun Country Park this evening and after hanging around the organic farm area on the look out for a possible sighting of the Little Owl without success i headed along the waggonways towards Swallow Pond having heard a cacophony of sound arising from that area. As i approached i soon realised that the noise wasn't actually coming from the water but from the field opposite. The field had been recently ploughed and had attracted loads of Gulls and something like 300 Wood Pigeon.
   A selection of Gulls including Herring,Black-backed including both Lesser and Great and Black-headed.( click to enlarge)

On Swallow itself there were the same selection of Gulls, Common Terns, Mute Swans, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard along with Coot and Moorhen. I decided to check out Dukes Pond and on the way i bumped into the Red Stag. He is however looking more Bambi and less Monarch of the Glen on account of his lack of antlers which it seems he has just shed. Still a magnificent beast nonetheless.

On to Dukes, which was fairly quiet. The pair of Swans looked to be down to one. God knows how but it means that the pair of Canada Geese sitting by the water may get some peace if they have young. For the last two years a pair of Canada have had goslings only to be driven off by a cob with cygnets.

   A handsome pair, don't you think? long as they keep their beaks shut

Back to the farm and car. Approaching the farm i caught sight of this stunner.

.........and a quick look with the binoculars brought distant views of the Little Owl. A very nice couple of hours spent in Segedunum.

I must mention a brilliant day out with John on Monday which took in Allen Banks, Briarwood Banks, Plankey Mill, Cupola Bridge, Alston and surrounding areas of the North Pennines then back via Whittle Dene and Prestwick Carr finding over 50 species. An account of which can be seen