Monday, 19 December 2011

Stone me, more Shorties.

Having suffered a foot injury while out walking in Thrunton Woods last weekend a hobble along to Prestwick was the only venture out last week so it was fantastic to get out again on Sunday even if the wind cut right through. I parked up at Druridge Pools and headed straight up for East Chevington and almost immediately picked up on my hoped for species. A pair of Stonechats were feeding slightly apart in the dunes while a large party of Goldfinches lifted and dropped at different points around them. In the arable fields to my west as i continued on were Lapwings and Starlings galore interspersed with Curlews, Crows and a handful of Rooks. The track had been reasonable underfoot up to this point but was getting really icy now and care had to be taken in between looking around and looking down. The first of my Short-eared sightings occurred as i approached the north pool at East Chevington with two interacting and hunting, again the dunes being the location. The light was fantastic, the setting superb but the photographer inept so no images were collected as they continued, a little distantly as it happens, with a few dog walkers oblivious as they passed overhead. Adding to the scenic views were three Highland Cattle browsing in the tall grasses, stunning beasts, a joy to observe!
Isn't he/she a beaut. (never thought to look)
Lunch was taken in one of the "ice box" hides. The twenty or so minutes spent mainly entertained by a couple of male Goldeneye who dropped in with their female counterparts and a few Pintails caught the eye on the far bank. The return journey was a bit quieter but as i left East Chevingtons reed beds and crossed the small bridge two more Shorties appeared, this time overhead, but they came out of the sun so were already past me by the time the camera was located. Back at Druridge ten minutes in the Oddie hide brought me a tucked up Green-winged Teal while the walk back to the car brought me a bruised backside as i fell down twice in twenty seconds, ironically, as i had previously covered over 7 km without coming a cropper. Light had just about gone so i called off at Cresswell to see if the Barn Owl was going to show and was informed by two separate guys who had been in the hide that a Great Northern Diver which had been about for only five minutes had not long flown off onto the sea. A chilly hour around the farm buildings and track brought no joy with the Barnie.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Missing Hen Harriers

Read this from Raptor Politics,.

If you don't have it on your blog list i would suggest you add it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hair cut yesterday, blow dry today.

It was a bit breezy out there today and there was a tad more than a nither in the wind. The back of the neck was feeling the chill.
Getting binoculars, scopes and bags out of the car was a struggle at sunny Newbiggin by the Sea this morning but more than worth it. Killy Birder and i flew Mary Poppinesque along the shoreline to Beacon Point as right at the end of the beach the Desert Wheatear was spotted immediately. Enjoying great views in excellent photographic light Brian said "Go on, get in close and get a shot" "No" i replied. "I'll enjoy the views and get an image in a while" GUESS WHAT?  The bird became "mobile" and it was suddenly easier to capture an image of an empty crisp packet in a wind tunnel!! The little darling tormented the life out of the two of us along the cliff edge all the way along to the raised tee of the fifth hole on the golf course. It then, in the blink of an eye, vanished. "OH DEAR" i thought to myself. Everyone who had seen it earlier had commented on how accommodating it was. PHOOEY!. We kept blaming the wind. It was a stunner mind.
We did continue to foolishly kid ourselves we would relocate on the return journey. DID WE BOLLOCKS.
By way of consolation a bird was hopping along the path between the cliff edge and golf course and there was a bonny Snow Bunting. Not a bad second prize. Again no images as the bird was very flighty. Brian spotted a single Med. Gull on the main beach just before we left to head up the coast.
Cresswell water levels were very high and after a shortish visit to the hide the only birds worth mentioning was the large flock of Wigeon just north of the causeway in the field, this flock were commented on by a guy later on. Druridge Pools bypassed we continued on to East Chevington to be greated by a mini twitch of birders by hide number one all focused on the Greater Yellowlegs. I saw part of this bird a couple of weeks ago in the same location but that time the important part namely the legs were submerged, selfishly, it was wading, but today it was on the bank. An Otter was pointed out to us on a couple of occasions. Both times it was feeding, the first time it was wrestling with a large Eel, the second it was on the middle island with a much smaller fish. Some other nice birds were seen here but i'll let Brian continue the story here
I must put an image up so here is another of "Red" from the Rising Sun yesterday
Cracking days birding. Thanks Killy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Stag gering pose.

Well, an interesting one.
I was told to get out and get my christmas hair cut by the gaffer and while out i visited the Rising Sun. Pleased i did as i hadn't seen the male Red Deer for quite a while. Always enjoyable, even if it was just as the sun was disappearing. He's a handsome beast, especially now with the antlers looking so good.
Nice to see also that the 8 European White-fronted Geese are still enjoying the sweet grass in the horses field and still very close to the waggonway. If you haven't already i would suggest you pop along if you would like a nice close view of these stunning might see the stag also. On Swallow Pond a single Whooper Swan and a couple of male Shovelers the highlights while the Dukes Pond Kestrel was hovering looking for its last meal of the day, as usual.

Monday, 5 December 2011

A couple from P.C.

A couple of images from last week taken at iso in excess of 3200 in very poor light but "touched up" in Lightroom. The rain started within minutes of me arriving at Prestwick Carr despite the forecast and i spent the next 45 minutes in the car.Post deluge i headed along for hopefully a late lunch showing by the Short-eared Owls and on the way came across a large flock of Redwing and Fieldfare. They were stretched along the hedgerow of the bumpy road and out onto the Carr. As usual as i got closer they lifted and either moved further along the road in front or out to join the others in various trees and bushes to my right. I hung fire by the small bridge and a few were brave enough to come back attracted by the large amount of food on offer.
The owls had indeed put back the lunchtime showing due to the rain. I was treat to over an hour of the birds, 5 at one stage, feeding and interacting. I left them still showing hoping for a view of the Shrike but struck out there.
I bumped into Brian (Killy Birder) with a lady friend who he was taking to see the owls as i headed back towards Mayfair Cottage and on to try and find the Bean Geese in the company of Peter (PC Wanderings). Brian fared well and had excellent sightings it transpired, whereas Peter and i ended up with distant objects about as far away in the field as was possible through the gloom which may have been geese.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Belly nice

Caught up finally with the  European White-fronted Geese at the Rising Sun feeding in the field to the east of Swallow Pond. This is a horse field and the grass is always lush here thanks, i would think, to the manuring it receives throughout the year. I've commented to folks before that the grass must be sweet as the Red Stag favours this field also and the geese have been seen here mostly since they arrived last week. A bonny goose with lovely markings across the adults bellies, making each bird very distinctive.
What a fine

Juvenile...less markings around beak and on belly.
Loads of Blackbirds around the park, great to watch them chucking the leaves around in the undergrowth. No other Thrushes to be seen. Dunnocks were prevalent  with a few calling and a few Tit flocks. Quiet otherwise but i did see the Jack Snipe momentarily as it lifted as a walker almost trod on it at the far edge of Dukes Pond, it shot off towards Swallow.
Here are a couple of more goose images to have a gander of.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

See gull........

Herring Gull
..............enjoy gull.Imagine heading down to the coast and not hearing the iconic sound of this gull. A handsome, slightly menacing looking bird that helps to keep the streets clean also.
You gotta love 'em.
As a small boy they were the sound of a Sunday afternoon for me. I lived in North Shields not far from the Fish Quay and i remember when the streets were empty on a Sunday after 2.30p.m. when the pubs had closed and almost every shop was shut. There was almost nobody on the streets, there was no reason to be. Sunday was a day of rest and you were not allowed to sell so many things, fish and chips top of the list i seem to remember, except if they sold them at the rare Chinese or Indian takeaway. Woodbines were 9d for a packet of ten....................
Anyway, i love carpets me...........sorry Herring Gulls.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Double take

Prestwick Carr Thursday early afternoon, no Great Grey Shrike to be seen and generally in was quite quiet but as i approached  "that" hedgerow six of the beauties could be seen to be on the wing. Must have caught the end of the activity as they quickly settled down. Five birds in view by now, four on their favoured fence posts with another over to the left in a Hawthorn. Gradually they disappeared and all was quiet again. After that the high point was a passing Red Admiral. I had seen one on Saturday also when i ventured up the track to the sentry boxes. That day i did see the Great Grey Shrike, my first. A good week for me as i had my first Greater Yellowlegs, which i caught up with at East Chevington having seen my first Grey Phalarope earlier in the day on Wednesday at Hauxley. All in between sightings of a Water Rail, Kingfisher, Whoopers and a single White-fronted Goose.
I had already started this post before reading Peters update today, obviously confirming the owls schedules at Prestwick. Must add that i did see a Common Darter very briefly last Saturday at the Carr.
Did you spot the second owl in the image??

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bit of sunshine on a miserable day.

Brightening up your day, i hope.
I'm taking you back to Sunday, 6th of November and a stunner. I'm posting this on Tuesday, 8th of November and the sort of miserable day that makes you want to chuck yourself off the Tyne Bridge at the thought of things to come. Having left Blyth South Harbour John and i ended up at Druridge Pools eventually. My first thought was to go see if there were still Common Darters at the end of the track heading out to Low Chibburn Chapel. For some reason we stopped off at the hide looking out over the Budge Field and a movement low in front of us brought one of the dragonflies i was after. It landed on the front of the hide in full sun taking in the heat that the sun was so generously providing as was the second Darter we found on a fence post when we moved along the track.
Common Darter looking dapper in late autumn sunshine.
Back along the track and views from the Oddie Hide included a fairly brief but clear sighting of a Water Rail on the far bank. Before Druridge we had called in at a very busy Newbiggin and with an explosion associated with Guido Fawkes sending every bird within half a mile of it up in the air we quickly headed up to the point. Jimmy Steele was set with his scope directed on the North Sea giving a commentary of some nice sightings as they drifted past as he told us of the Siberian Chiffchaff he had found at the mound earlier in the morning. We left him answering his mobile for the umpteenth time as news was obviously circulating of the bird and he issued instructions to inquisitive birders. 

Monday, 7 November 2011


On a beautiful Sunday in November with global warming flexing its muscles to their full extent Blyth Harbour was the first port of call. In quite quick time the sound of Snow Buntings carried on the still air and into mine and Johns (Howdon Blogger) shell like orifices. 8/9 of these delightful birds were in the vicinity but very flighty. We had the area to ourselves for around 30 minutes but gradually birders and "others" began to drift in, a bit like the sea in the tranquil conditions. The 8/9 count referred to the slight differing in opinion of how many birds were actually there. They did fragment into smaller groups on occasions and only settled occasionally. The top of the beach and the tall grasses in front of the wall, a couple of the jetties and in and around the industrial units seemed to be the favoured spots. Obviously loads of gulls were scattered about the area with numbers of Cormorants hanging out to dry occupying spots in amongst the sailing vessels. The sight and sound of Eiders, the males doing their "OOOH AAH missus" Frankie Howard impersonations and lots of necks being thrown backwards seemed to be impressing the girls. The thought of spring briefly crossed my mind.
Sundays best lookers,,,,,,,,,,,,who's a pretty boy ?
A couiple of other nice species soon to be seen in the form of a number of Shags opposite the jetty at the end of the beach. While watching the slightly too distant for an image birds, but hoping for a closer in flight shot the BONUS BIRD OF THE DAY appeared from beneath the calm waters of the estuary in the form of a Red-throated Diver.At a distance of approximately 25 metres initially views were cracking. It slowly drifted out of the harbour diving (the clue is in the name) and reappearing while i and another guy scuttled along the jetty trying to keep in front of it while keeping the lowish sun on our good side so we could fully enjoy the opporunity.
Juv. Red-throated Diver
Press F11 to enhance your enjoyment of the images. Enjoy.

Friday, 4 November 2011

S.E.O. W.H.

Arrived around 2 this afternoon at West Hartford having decided to get there early as far as the Owls were concerned and to have a leg stretch and wander about the site. All morning it had rained but by now the sun was out and the light was fabulous. Not much to report really, usual Tit flocks, numbers of Blackbirds, a dozen or so Redwings passed through but more importantly no humans. Very nice.
Headed back towards the two pools hoping for a Common Darter on the more northerly one but no luck. Took up position by the trees in between the other pool and the fire station and within five minutes at 15.45 a Short-eared Owl appeared in between the two pools and dropped into the reeds almost immediately. Out of sight for a couple of minutes but the bird showed almost constantly for the next 40 minutes. It tracked around the main pool from the northern corner through to the west almost systematically searching the short grass around the waters edge and landing on a fence post. It did this five times before covering the main reed beds, tracking across the field in front of the fire station then heading over to the small plantation beside the electricity sub station. Spent ten minutes on a post in this location before heading back over to what seemed to be its favoured area alongside the main pool.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Just the one..........

......but it was the first day of November. I walked up to the Rising Sun yesterday with a target species in mind but was side tracked on arrival by a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. Determined to get a nice image in the lush light i pursued the birds for a good thirty minutes. Either they were on the wrong side with the sun behind, partially hidden by leaves and branches or just kept ahead of me as i followed them along the waggonways. I finally gave up and had no sooner left them that another flock came towards me from the opposite direction. These were in the shade so i moved on to the small ponds at the edge of the plantation. I was hoping for a Common Darter, but i had arrived later than i had planned and although the sun was still putting out a bit of heat you could feel the afternoon chill that you get at this time of year just kicking in. Checked out the timber platforms immediately without success then into the reed bed areas, again nothing about. With the sun low in the sky anything on the wing always catches the eye so i stood for ten minutes, nowt. One last chance, check out the trunks of the trees and eventually the one and only dragon tucked away but with the beautiful sunlight glistening on the creatures wings. 
Basking Dragon.
I've seen some nice bird species lately. I had a thirty second view of the Pallid Harrier at Saltholme while out with John (Howdon Blogger) the other weekend, this despite John leaving me to search around the reception area while he was standing outside enjoying a fly by. NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY. Last Sunday i ventured down to Sleddale having discovered at the last minute the car was available. On a stunning day i had prolonged views of both Rough-legged Buzzards, a juvenile and an adult female. Fantastic birds to observe hovering, hunting low across the terrain or climbing on the thermals. Got a couple of record shots and having gone off mid afternoon to explore Hob Hole a picturesque ford on Baysdale Beck and returned an hour later i was gutted to miss out on  brilliant images as the bird appeared from behind me within twenty metres only to realise my camera was on the car seat. Earlier in the morning i had decided to explore Scaling Dam while in the area and stayed there until lunchtime having explored the nature reserve area and found a circular trail which took you out and away from the reservoir and onto the edge of the moors and beside a nice wooded area. I had forgotten that a Red-breasted Goose was there (and still is) but came across a flock of around 140 Fieldfare and numerous Red Grouse in between a Stoat chasing a Rabbit across the hillside in front of me.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Jack Flush

A walk up to the Rising Sun this afternoon was my first visit there since before the school summer holidays. Kids on holiday again by the looks of it and with dog walkers everywhere i didn't linger too long anywhere around the park. I did find time however to rescue a Common Darter from one of the ponds. While i was enjoying the sunshine and the company of another of the species my eye was drawn to movement and there was the poor creature flailing about in vain trying to escape the clutches of the water. I found a branch from a tree and it clambered aboard and rested on my hand while it started to dry out. It was fascinating watching it at such close quarters as it preened its head and eyes with its front legs as a cat would do. Having enjoyed close views for 3 or 4 minutes i popped it on the timber platform where it rested for another 5 minutes while fluttering its wings then lifting off.  
Common Darter drying out.
Moving on i didn't bother with either the hide or the screen overlooking Swallow Pond but instead took a walk out to Scaffold Farm to see if the Tree Sparrows were still about. On the way i did see some nice fungi but was disappointed to find a couple of large bracket fungi which i have admired on a dead Birch for some time had been torn down by some mindless moron. A nice Song Thrush, a couple of flocks of Starlings and a number of Robins were birds i came across while on the way to the farm where i did find the Tree Sparrows along with some House Sparrows and a Goldfinch. I want to capture an image of a Tree and House Sparrow together but, as in the past, they were too distant. I decided to head back home via Dukes Pond and as i circled the pond the previously sighted Jack Snipe lifted and flew low about 8 metres from under my feet to the reeds further on. I took a wide berth as i continued around the pond and got close to the spot where i thought it had landed but it lifted again and went back to the area it had been originally flushed. Further on i found myself in amongst a mixed flock of tits on either side of the waggonway close to the Organic Farm. The majority of these birds looked to be Long-tailed Tits so in fading light i tried to capture an image. Not very successful, as you'll see.
Not the expected LTT i had hoped for.

Friday, 21 October 2011

He works in mysterious ways.

How did he know ???
I was away in Kent last week and while there i visited Stodmarsh. Top of my list was to get some nice images of Bearded Reedlings. I wasn't happy with good sightings of Marsh Harriers or the fly by of a Bittern. I heard, but never did see my target species and returned somewhat crest fallen. While i was away i was keeping track of the Lesser Scaup and Mandarin at Cullercoats and North Shields. They were still here when i got back and caught up first with the Lesser Scaup at Marden Quarry first then headed straight along to Northumberland Park. The Marden Quarry bird was always too distant for decent images but i still got good views of it and as i was travelling along The Broadway in the direction of Tynemouth i spotted the above sign emblazoned on Cullercoats Methodist Church's exterior.
Divine message
Of course the Mandarin Duck was sitting waiting for me when i arrived but was in shadow under some overhanging trees. He didn't look as if he was going to move in the foreseeable future so i had a potter. I enjoyed sightings of Blackbirds ( i had seen large numbers at Marden Quarry) Blue and Great Tits and a Treecreeper while i sat on the pond wall along with quite a few Crows while meandering around for five minutes. I was joined by Cain (Holywell Birding) who had also been out of the area recently and who i had already bumped into in Cullercoats and had expected to see here also. The bird was still tucked up and in the shade and Cain, who was on a tight schedule jokingly asked if i had any bread. While we waited we were joined by Mike Coates who it turned out is the chairman of The Friends of Northumberland Park and who gave us some interesting information on some of the species which inhabit the park. I knew the name and he confirmed that he regularly posted butterfly sightings on the north east conservation butterfly site. He also informed us that he had acquired monies from the Lottery Fund to do some work along the old coal railway line which runs into Tynemouth Metro Station. I look forward to visiting both that site and the park next year. They had Holly Blue butterflies in the park in April he told us, along with some other nice species.
Cain had to leave to do some studying and a few minutes later a local couple turned up and proceeded to feed the Mallards with a few slices of Mothers Pride ( it may have been Hovis's Best of Both thick cut, i must admit i'm no expert) and the Mandarin was out in the open and making his presence known as the ducks jostled for position in the bread fest.
I'm the dandy highwayman.......................
This was my first sighting of a male Mandarin and while it was .............interesting i must admit the view that both Cain and i had of a Grey Wagtail was actually more enjoyable. Anything but grey these birds, i reckon.
Grey ???? What the heck is grey about this beauty?
It WAS interesting. 
It has to be said that the quality of the water in the pond was a bit dodgy, to say the least, and this was confirmed by one of the couple who told me that his dog had jumped in on a previous visit and was stinking and had to be scrubbed down before he would let it in the house. I also had a couple of Crows sitting on the pond wall at one stage looking down a bit puzzled.

Click on image and press F11 for better views

Monday, 10 October 2011

Turtle Dove, Big Waters.

Caught up with this little beauty yesterday morning while out with John (Howdon Blogger) but the light wasn't the best. Had decent views nonetheless in trees close to the football pitches just behind the car park off the entrance road. Ten minutes later it had lifted and as the first crowd of birders was starting to built John and i left for our trip "around the doors". Called past Arcot on our way to St. Marys Lighthouse, half a dozen or so Snipe taking flight from the pond edge the main highlight. With it being Sunday, St. Marys was fairly busy so there was a fair bit of disturbance on the rocks and in the northern bay by the humanoids so hopes of enjoying watching waders wasn't high. Enjoyable, but short views were had of a few species. One Curlew held John and my attention for a good five minutes as it probed its way along the waters edge only to be set to flight by some burk with a camera that got too close. Tynemouth was to be our last port of call with half of a bag of chips, some glorious Starlings, a few juvenile Herring Gulls and the ubiquitous Black-headed Gulls providing the entertainment seeing how as, the Yellow-browed didn't want to play.
Having finished my painting chores around 3p.m. i hurriedly showered and headed back up to Big Waters with Prestwick definitely on the cards for around 5p.m. Picked up on the Turtle Dove immediately in the trees again on arrival having passed a few birders standing on the entrance road scanning the fields. Before i could give them a shout the bird lifted along with a few of its Collared Dove pals and by the time i had joined the other guys it was out on the newly ploughed area of the field where they had been watching. It moved around the field a few times having been disturbed by tractors, dog walkers and aircraft but stayed in view all the time even coming to rest on the chain link fencing to the compound around the mast.
I left for Prestwick hoping to get the "daily double" up with the Ringtail but no such luck. Even the owls weren't playing ball this evening with very late shows in quickly fading light.
Well done Tim for getting up the treble never mind double.
Turtle Dove, Hen Harrier AND Lesser Scaup !!!!!!                Very nice.
Turtle Dove.   double click to enhance your enjoyment.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Prestwick Carr.......without the s.

"Is that a Kestrel ?"                          "No, don't be daft. It's a Ringtail"

Tuesday, 4 October 2011's not just about owls.

As this Willow Tit mooching along the hedgerow goes to show. I heard the unmistakable call and had to go in search. Next i heard another unique call, "chiff chaff, chiff chaff". Pursued that little fella for a good 10 minutes as he/ she switched between bushes, sometimes "peeping", but couldn't get a focus to get an image. The resident Mute Swans circled overhead for a moment before taking up residence by the pond, part hidden by the trees that the SEO and LEO's have been roosting in. It was around 10a.m. by now and none of the Owls were showing, despite the fact that there had been rain most of the previous day on Sunday. I was wandering around up and down the bumpy road and spotting flocks of tits making their way through the undergrowth. A few flocks of Goldfinch passed overhead along with numerous sightings of Kestrels and Buzzards, most of which being harassed by Corvids of one species or another. I was going to have a walk up by the sentry boxes yesterday but as i checked my watch i realised i was fast running out of time so had a slow wander back to Mayfair Cottage where i was parked. I came across two parties of Bullfinches as i did, one had three in it and the other six. All birds were male with some younger ones in amongst them. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011 show in town, bar none.

I've visited Prestwick Carr (without the s) five times in the last seven days and have no images worth showing anybody but i don't care. My lens is only 300mm and i realised early on in my visits that one of the owls was going to have to perch or come quite close to have anything half decent. It has happened on one or two occasions but always in less than decent light for photography but the spectacle of these fantastic birds "doing their thing" has been brilliant. I think it tells you how tricky capturing these birds has been by the lack of crisp images being exhibited on the net by what has been a bank of big lenses most evenings.
Yesterday before my visit around 4.30p.m. i met up with Mr. Cheviot for a leg stretch and parked by Rumbling Kern and proceeded up to Craster and back via Howick Scar and Howick Hall. A beautiful day (again) but very little of interest along the coast understandably given the weather conditions for the last few weeks. On arrival at Craster i left Jeff for 45 minutes contemplating his navel and the harbour while i nipped up to the Arnold Memorial Nature Reserve expecting the Wryneck or Bluethroat that it promises on the information plaque as you enter. What i got was strange. Sitting there in the dappled light of the trees with a steady fall of "autumn" leaves fluttering down all around me, blackberries ready to pick on all the brambles and a full chorus of Robins singing their hearts out but i was like a summers day. It was very tranquil mind.
Having dropped Jeff off mid afternoon on our return i continued on to Banks' Pond to have a couple of hours before the Carr. I had done this also on Wednesday and had been rewarded with sightings of Common Darters, a couple of what i thought were very pale Emerald Damselflies ( but they didn't have there wings at 45 degrees) and fly through by Hawkers on half a dozen occasions. One of the Hawkers had to have been a Migrant Hawker i reckoned by its size but i never got a clear view of markings on any of the six occasions. While walking the coastal path earlier in the day i had sightings of quite a number of butterflies including numerous Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admirals and a brace of Speckled Wood but at the pond a speck of blue moving in the grasses caught my eye. When i went over it was a female Common Blue.I haven't seen a blue butterfly for ages.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Storming Snettisham

Visited the RSPB site at Snettisham early last week. I hear it was "wild up north", well it was wild down there as well.Managed to get along early evening as high tide was around 7pm and was looking forward to a rare east coast sunset. Although the wind was howling the skies were bright. That is 'till half an hour to sunset when a bank of thick cloud buggered that idea up. The sight of thousands of birds being driven landward by the tide on The Wash mudflats was stunning. At one point a huge flock of birds in the distance went up and it looked like a twister! I called back again on Thursday morning for another couple of hours while on the way to Titchwell, this time the tide had already turned and had views of roosting birds waiting for the mud to return. It left Titchwell in the shade to be honest.
Spot the Oystercatcher. Waiting for the tide by one of the series of lagoons excavated during World War II for gravel. 45 minutes and they were back on the mud.
Grey Plover looking very dapper still in summer plumage.
Cracking Ringed Plover "beachcombing" the shoreline.

Friday, 9 September 2011

If you want to get a head get a G.P.S.

The Head in question being Coquet Head, the source of the river. I never thought that you could be moved by standing looking at some tall grass with a gurgling sound coming from it.
Setting out from beside Chew Green, Mr. Cheviot and i headed along the Pennine Way in so so conditions initially, on our quest A brief chat to a couple who were walking the whole of the Way and with the Scottish Border immediately on our right we picked up the small track which was to lead us to our goal after only a few metres. The G.P.S.indicated immediately where we could find it as without the gadget it may have proved elusive.
The view from the head of the river towards the Coquet Valley
We left the scene happy chappies and continued our walk back-tracking on ourselves for a short while before leaving the "official" Pennine Way and joining the alternative Pennine Way. There were hundreds of Meadow Pipits all the time we were out and apart from a couple of Swallows and a few Corvids here and there, as expected not much about. A brief venture north of the border into Scotland for about 20 seconds as by now we were following the line of the border fence........Mr. Cheviot wouldn't join me, he said he didn't have his passport with him.
The land of the Jock. Expect whisky, ptarmigan, haggis and a lot of "red" people.
We were actually "winging it" as far as the walk itself was concerned as the original plan A had been scuppered due to the red flags in the Danger Area. An encounter with 3 Mancunians who were doing the P.Way in stages, due to work commitments, in 2 and 3 day stages. They were looking forward to the free beer you get at the end of the walk which they were expecting to down, along with a few more today in Kirk Yetholm. Up to Brownhart Law then back on the true Pennine Way along a stretch of Roman road called Dere Street then past the Roman remains and we were back at our set off point having covered only 14 km. but had more importantly to us managed a total ascent of 398 metres.
We are so lucky to have all this on our doorstep. Everyone you bump into whilst out and about who are visiting the area tell you so.
Ironically we saw more from the car while out. A Goosander was spotted on the river in the morning and i saw her on the return home. Also seen before we had reached Alwinton were a Ring-tailed Hen Harrier, 2 Buzzards on fence posts overlooking the river. 6 female Goosanders afloat together along with the single female i saw again from the morning. All sightings were very close and of course camera and bins were in the boot.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Shibdon/ Thornley/ Derwent

Arrived at Shibdon Pond hide early on Sunday morning and was greeted by both the Green Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank in amongst the massed ranks of mainly Black-headed Gulls. Other notable birds on the pond included Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants 7 of which were on one of the rafts and 3 in the island tree,14 mainly juvenile Redshanks and 100+ Teal. I had spent the first 30 minutes or so on my lonesome and was alerted when all the gulls lifted and had a smile on my face when a juvenile Peregrine Falcon entered stage right, flew over the water briefly then turned and headed towards the A1. A couple of minutes later one of the local birders joined me in the hide and immediately asked if i had seen the Peregrine which in turn put a large grin on his face. It was needed by a few of his pals and himself for a patch tick and i was the witness he required and was used for verification as he told a couple of his mates as they joined us over the next hour. He was having a bit of a gloat, to say the least.
I left to go to Thornley Woodlands hide to meet Simon from Durham, a guy i had met a few weeks earlier and had arranged to team up with to do some mainly Odonata photography. This meeting had already been put on hold a couple of times and conditions weren't the best so after a brief, almost birdless spell in the "bird" hide we left to see what the clearing pond had in store. I wasn't very hopeful as there was a slight chill in the gusty wind and the sun wasn't much in evidence. At the pond however the wind wasn't too bad and we had 2 female Southern Hawkers ovipositing and a little later a male made a brief appearance. Our views were good but too brief to be honest and a few times had to rely on a pair of Speckled Wood butterflies battling for supremacy of a patch of the woods  which included long bouts of spiralling. It was a fierce encountered i reckon by butterfly standards and could not pick a winner. Kibblesworth had been our destination of choice but we decided not to bother and took a walk along the River Derwent, first in the direction of Clockburn Pond (nothing much seen, except people) then back along to the weir and bridge on the way to Swalwell Visitors Centre. No hoped for Sand Martins by the shingle island but we did get a much expected Dipper and a lone female Goosander under the bridge. That was it while i was out with Simon and as the weather wasn't going to improve i suggested we curtailed our meeting so as to watch a bit of footy. After Simon had left i decided to return to Shibdon as i hadn'y been out much recently and the football could be watched another time. I did miss 10 goals but i did bump into and have a good craic with Morgan, whose images i've seen before on birdguides, and shared views of a Sparrowhawk that set up shop in a tree at the edge of the pond for a good 10 minutes. The light was at a premium all day so photographic opportunies were limited even though the birds came reasonably close at Shibdon. Below is the only image worth showing here, and guess what ? IT'S A DRAGONFLY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Female Southern Hawker having a break from ovipositing and taking in the rays on the odd occasion the sun managed to break through.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A bird

Very rare on this blog these days.
St. Marys Calidris Alpina 

Tell y's a dragon
Sympetrum striolatum................. East Chevington.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Utterly Butterly

With decorating ruling my life at the minute i decided to give it a miss on Sunday and drag myself out for some fresh air and a stretch of the legs. On arrival at Druridge Pools the weather was very pleasant and i was blown away with the activity going on all around on the walk to the Oddie Hide. The walls of the embankments were alive with insects, it seemed to be that everything had decided to take advantage with the warmer conditions. There are large numbers of Teasel here and they were awash with butterflies mainly Peacocks and Red Admirals but i did pick up a lone Painted Lady, my first this year. Large numbers of Wall Browns were not only on the vegetation but scattered around on the ground favouring the bare patches of earth with huge numbers of Whites, mainly Green-veined occupying the smaller flora. Other notable insects included various species of Bees, Hoverflies and Moths. The occasional Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselfly along with a couple of Common Darters represented the Odonata.
It was a bit quieter however looking out from the hide. On the water there was nothing exceptional, but i was enjoying a Little Grebe going about its business immediately in front of the congregation of four. It was Sunday, after all. A couple of Common Sandpiper were keeping one of the avian disciples entertained as they periodically chased each other about on the rocky foreshore. One of which would fly off briefly and land on a rock on the edge of the water to our left before coming back onto the ground and searching in the vegetation before the process would repeat. The guy in question letting out the occasional mild expletive as he had missed his target again. A Snipe was close by having its Sunday morning lie in and was not at all disturbed by these antics.
A Peacock, the most striking of butterflies in my opinion.
Red Admiral, there were some "prettier" examples i captured but the folds on the rear wings caught my eye.
Red Admiral again, this time showing the fantastic under wing markings.
........and finally a Painted Lady. This specimen looked almost washed out compared to the other species about but it is that long since i last saw one i can't remember if that's how they do actually look.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Emerging Southern Hawker.

Howdon Blogger had an almost full sequence of images of an emerging Hawker at Big Waters. I have posted a few at different stages of the metamorphosis showing the development of the wings.This dragonfly is a Southern Hawker which was taken at Thornley Woods pond which is a fantastic place to get close to dragons due to its compact location. This species is very inquisitive and will fly close to investigate you. This species will be on the wing until late September possibly so if you are in the area head for and go past the bird hide,  having gone up and over the mound using the stairs, turn left at the bottom and follow the trail into the woods. At the second trail marker( a white figure on a blue background) bear left and there is the pond. Even if there are no dragonflies spend 30 minutes in the peace and quiet of this clearing in the woods.