Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Farnes boys and birds

While i was sitting a home bemoaning the miserable weather the guys on the Farne Islands had a little more to contend with. The poor birds also. Read about the horrendous conditions

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

You want yer 'hammers

And i got mine. Having left Big Waters i came across a pair in the hedgerow even before i parked the car at Mayfair Cottage. I was within 2 metres with brilliant views but the camera was in the back. I mentioned the Yellowhammers, as in the 3 hours i spent at Prestwick Carr i came across them on a number of occasions. Now i don't know if these were them same flock and very mobile but i don't think so. They were brightening up what was a grey morning. This had started at 4.00 a.m. with the intentions of heading up to Harwood Forest hoping to glimpse the Great Grey Shrike, the Butchers Bird as it is nicknamed. What an image that evokes. The forecast was for rain coming in from the south during the early afternoon so i thought that if i set off nice and early ( naffed off about the clocks "springing" forward) i could get a few hours in before the lousy weather. At 4.35a.m. it started raining steadily and i was having second thoughts and by 5.15a.m. it was hissing down and the expedition had been aborted. Big Waters to look forward to i though ( stop that laughing, you at the back). Can i just point out at this point that i had already been up to Harwood last Thursday, not only birding but i do some walking with my mate Jeff, usually in the Cheviots, but i had convinced him that a walk in Harwood would be nice and that something interesting might pop up. The forecast that day wasn't brilliant but would be improving but we had to put up with very thick mist for the 9 miles we covered. Plenty birds could be heard but only showed up as silhouettes on the trees. The "Butcher" can wait 'till after Easter. Is that how it works? I'll book it in for next week. Wednesday would suit me.
Back at Prestwick Carr, Zola would be impressed with these 'hammers, full of vim and vigour unlike his lot. Plenty Reed Buntings, lots of Pheasant calling, Corvids galore, all on the Carr but no Owls or Birds of Prey of any description. I always expect to see at least one Buzzard here.
In the hedgerow and tree line the usual Blue and Great Tits, Robins Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Chaffinches. There was however a distinct lack of Wrens. I spent an afternoon at Prestwick in late November when the leaves had dropped specifically looking for Wrens in the undergrowth and wasn't disappointed but was saddened i had no joy seeing any at all. This is my favourite time for birding as the foliage hasn't started to cover the trees and shrubs yet and not only can you hear the birds calling but you can still see them. Not the case in a few weeks time. The other highlight at Preswick was having a Chiff Chaff less than 4 metre away in the hedge singing for all it was worth as i leant on a gate scanning the Carr. And it didn't cost a penny........real value that. You can't actually put a price on that kind of thing.
Big Waters was enjoyable without being over exciting, although there was 5 stunning Pochard on the water and i had a distant view of a couple of Great Crested Grebe. Speaking of which, i had also planned to visit Killingworth Lakes but the weather closed in and as i headed back , the rain started so i came straight home.
Fingers crossed for Sunday as i fancy a trip to Geltsdale.

Images from feeding station at "Muddy"


    Tree Sparrow


     and i had to include a Yellowhammer

Monday, 15 March 2010

Birding lightweights

Howdon Blogger picked me up in SEGEDUNUM at 6.00 a.m. Sunday morning and off we went. No, not a weight watchers meeting but Harwood Forest, Winters Gibbet specifically. Bright but very breezy in a chill wind at this stage and as we approached the gibbet itself the small silhouette of a bird could be picked out. John rattled off a few shots on his camera but as i fumble to change settings from the previous evening the bird lifted and flew off. Bugger! The target species which i could just about make out had gone and i had no record. And anyone who birds and likes to have a record of a sighting knows usually the second chance doesn't come round too often. Scoured the area for a further hour or so with no luck, we decided to press on towards what looked to be an interesting spot on the O.S map at Todholes. Unfortunately, but for a rather impressive Rookery there, ran out of road and decided to call back to the Gibbet before pressing on to Caistron.
Back at the Gibbet, nothing showing again so with heavy hearts set off again but as we did John slowed the car down then finally stopped. He struggled to swing round and get his camera off the back seat it which point i noticed a bird quite happily feeding on the road. AAAAAAHHHHH! It was the species we had hoped for. Not wanting to disturb it , John turned off the engine and started to let the car roll forward for a couple of foot then brake. Another couple of foot, brake again. This tactic worked a treat and as i took some RECORD SHOTS through the windscreen the bird disappeared from my view. John wound his window down, slowly leant out and pressed his cameras button. Sitting there rather frustrated i nudged him and suggested he took my camera and filmed the bird with mine. This we did for a few minutes, alternating cameras before the shadow of the car disturbed the bird and it lifted. That nice glow descended over me as i checked to see what JOHN had captured. The Crossbill, the bird in question was stunning. On the way to Caistron we stopped off a number of times, viewing the scenery as much as birding. The sound of Skylarks, Lapwings, which were displaying also, Oystercatcher and Curlew rose above the din of the wind which was still strong at this elevation. Nice to see the waders returning to the uplands to breed, birds i had been watching at the coast at St. Marys Island last week. As we dropped down it was time for lunch so we stopped off at a picnic area on the side of Grasslees Burn. Before we could get out bait out i spotted a Treecreeper and walked over to enjoy views of the lovely little bird. As it flicked from tree to tree spiralling up before it moved on John spotted a second. They came alongside each other, and as they did 4 Long-tailed Tits dropped down into the branches of the same tree. Absolutely precious. On to Caistron and we did a full circuit of the Lake calling into 7 of the 8 hides. Plenty of Canadas, a number of Greylags also on the goose front. Mute Swans, stunning Goldeneye, Tufted Ducks, Mallard, a pair of Shellduck were on the water along with a duck i haven't seen much of, Gadwall. Away from the main lake on one of the small ponds some more Gadwall, Coot, Moorhen and a sound which brought a smile to my face, first one then a second Little Grebe calling. A sound which to me means possibly no more sitting overlooking waterfowl freezing the old Albert Halls off.
A cracking afternoon, with a nice stroll out and about and nice views of the River Coquet also. On the way home a diversion to Prestwick Carr was suggested and the idea was taken up straight away. A nice way to end a brill. day watching an Owl or two quartering away in the fading spring sunshine. As we headed there the skies blackened and the heavens opened. John and i looked at each other but i knew we were going to press on. Then, not one but two rainbows came out side by side and the cloud lightened. On arrival at Prestwick we were joined by PC Wanderings first and by City Birding next. A right old mothers meeting. It was quietish but i spotted a Buzzard in the trees on the Carr, a bird that Peter knew well as it has a very light breast colouring, then within a very short space of time a Short-eared Owl made a show but put down fairly quickly. Peter and John observed a Barn Owl hunting by the main road for a brief moment but it also disappeared, not to be seen again. Meanwhile the S.E.Owl went up again briefly, the Buzzard dropped down onto a post but the light was going at this stage and i decided that at 6.45 p.m. that the knees and back were telling me to give it a rest. I suggested this to John amidst mutterings of part timers and lightweight birders. After all we had only done 12 hours and 45 mins. since setting off this morning.  

      Winters Gibbet

  Gotchya!  Crossbill (courtesy of J. Hall) but my camera. That's the B6342 in the background.

  Skylark      giving it wellie

  Gadwall on Caistron Lake

Friday, 12 March 2010

Oh Deer

Spotted 2 Little Owls at the Rising Sun on Wednesday evening. Went back there Thursday p.m. to see if i could get some better images. No show by Little Owls so in between while waiting wandered off a few times and around 5.45 p.m. as i flanked Swallow Pond heading to Dukes Pond the Star at the Sun appeared. Again the light had gone but enjoy what i captured anyway. The guy walks round like he owns the place.
You wouldn't expect anything else from the Monarch of the Glen.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I nearly wet myself.

I did, with excitement. Next month we are renting a cottage in Norfolk. It was booked months ago and with my son and family visiting for a few days, the "jolly" was mentioned so i thought i had better check it out. The cottage is in a place called Bramerton and the property itself backs onto the River Yare. It has its own mooring and a dingy is supplied and motor launches can be hired, it says. Stuff that, i want to potter around in the "dingeeeeee", try not to capsize and get some wildlife shots. Hog heaven!!!!! I can feel a slight damp patch now. Looking on Memory Map i find that directly across the river is a spot called Postwick Marsh, yes straight across (pass the tissues) and within walking distance along the banks of the Yare in order are...........( i just can't stand it!!!!!!)     Surlingham Broad, Bradeston Marsh, Strumpshaw Fen And Rockland Broad. Almost every one has a LITTLE BLUE BIRD on it on the Ordanance Survey map. A bit like the LITTLE BLUE BAG you used to get in the plain flavoured crisps. Yes, you do remember, don't deny it. There was something about that LITTLE BLUE BAG, i think it was the way it was twisted closed, that gave it that little something you couldn't put your finger on. Anyway...........LITTLE BLUE BIRDS, its the first time i've noticed a flock of these on an O.S. before. Hence the leakage. A bit like seeing your first Bufflehead, as the folks living in and around Langton Herring in Dorset will tell you.( its just a Goldeneye with a big splodge on its head).
You were warned...............more waffling than warbling.
If anyone knows the area i am on about and can recommend any hidden gems by the way of birding sites i would be eternally grateful.Ive been restricted in my birding for the last few days and only managed a couple of rushed efforts ( cheers Howdon Blogger) so no decent birdie shots. "Nothing new there" was the cry from the balcony.
So here are two images of the main reason for the lack of birding. These two pics just about sum him up. No need to explain. 

Ewan Atkinson......   his mum got the shock of her life when this came up on my computer.

,,,,,,,and this was the very next shot, i think it reflects kids at this age perfectly.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Make hay while the sun shines

Well..........get out while the sun shines.After lunch headed up to Big Waters in beautiful full sun. On arrival  thought that i would see if the Green Woodpecker was still around but unfortunately not. I understand this particular specimen stays for a few months over the winter and having not seen him for 3 weeks i reckon he is away. It was quiet in the wooded area by the boardwalk. I had taken my fold down chair and plonked down behind the screen at the feeding station. I've done this before and like the fact that you get a nice low level view, totally different from the hide perspective which must be 2/3 metres above the ground. Another reason is that you sit opposite the Tree Sparrows favourite spot in the bushes.Loads of Tree Sparrows as ever, Chaffinches in abundance competing on the ice covered ground with numbers of Dunnocks and a couple of Robins. After a while these birds were joined by 3 female Pheasants, a couple of Moorhen appeared and from the undergrowth another female, this time a Reed Bunting. Turning my attention to the feeders themselves, Blue Tits, Great Tits, a solitary Coal Tit and a male and female Siskin were on the nyger seed. Just before i left for Prestwick Carr for the last hour of daylight a Great Spotted Woodpecker landed in the trees which i watched for 10mins.
At Prestwick i was hoping to see an owl or two. Getting out of the car straight away i came upon a Grey Heron "fishing" in the still waterlogged fields. A couple of Robins and a Blue Tit could be heard singing in the trees that line the "wonky" road as i walked along and passed the goats. A couple of bearded heads peered out from the doorway. I took up my place leaning on the metal gate that i normally frequent when i'm here and a few hundred metres further along the road i noticed 4 people. looking through my binoculars i recognised them as regulars from the hide at Big Waters and they were all focused in front of them at the hedge line. Sure enough perched in a small tree what looked like a Short-eared Owl but it was a distant view for me. I watched it for some time, but it was happy where it was. The light was fading fast and the birders along the road dispersed. Time to leave i thought but as i was turning to leave something caught my eye. The Short-eared Owl had lifted and was hunting on the Carr. Not much light now but the brief sighting of it in the air was worth it. Heading back to the car thoughts of a Barn Owl crossed my mind but it was not to be. Bill "the bike"  made his usual appearance saying he had seen 3 Short-eared all sitting in a row on fence posts earlier this afternoon.

On and around feeders at Big Waters


  Great Tit

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Once Bittern, twice shy

Say no more.
Spotted this afternoon at 2.45 East Chevington, my partner in crime Jeph Veevers thinks he saw a brief glimpse of another 2/3 minutes earlier but he isn't sure. I know there have been sightings of Bittern but not if more than one. If so this guy "skulked" across the area of cut reedbed possibly following on, whereas if correct the previous specimen made a short aerial flight.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Sled Lane Pond

Whilst out on Sunday with Howdon Blogger we came by chance on Sled Lane pond. There were a number of people feeding the Mute Swans. In close attendance were Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and in the wings waiting there turn Black Headed Gulls, all with there sights on a bit of grub. However also on the pond were some Goldeneye but the thought of a slice of Hovis never crossed their minds. What do you think?

      In a while there may be the patter of tiny webbed feet but will they be their MOTHERS PRIDE.