Monday, 28 February 2011

Five Reds

Another walking/birding morning out was in poor light. Parking up at Druridge Pools Bigfoot of Blyth and my good self headed towards the Budge Hide. A sighting of 16 adult Whooper Swans was a very nice start. Through the gloom they appeared like beacons. Harder to pick out were the other birds on the water which included large numbers of Teal and Widgeon alongside a sprinkling of Shoveler. I'm always saddened when i view this area as it has slowly turned into another pool whereas a couple of years ago it was a cracking place to pick up some nice waders with lots of mud glorious mud. Water levels must have been managed then and i remember also the majestic Highland Cattle that grazed here with nesting Lapwings running around under their hooves. I can remember where i saw my first of any species and it was here i saw my first Wood Sandpiper. What chance now?
On to the Oddie Hide admiring the coppicing work on the way only to find very little of note there.
Two brace of Grey Partridge (RED) lifted and whirred for a short time in the fields on our left as we headed for East Chevington. A falconer could be seen roaming the dunes to our right with the jingling of bells attached to the birds bewits ringing out from time to time as he allowed the poor creature to fly. Further on we had eight Skylarks (RED) rising from the vegetation and displaying at different times as we approached the reed beds at the outskirts of Chev. The Skylark displays stopped giving way to the sound of  occasional Reed Buntings. A pair of Stonechats were next observed. The female atop of a hawthorn with the male showing off, as usual, on and around the fence posts close by and on the fencing wire. I didn't hear it tapping stones together sadly. On our way to the first of the two hides we visited Lewis spotted something crossing the path in front of us. It landed on a fence post and there sat a Barn Owl. We rushed to try to get to cover so as not to spook the spectre and the hide wasn't too far away but as we did the bird lifted again passing behind the hide and dropping to the ground. It lifted for a short while before disappearing out of sight again this time we thought for good. Despite our disappointment mixed with euphoria we scanned the reeds for a possible Bittern. No luck so hide number two and coffee and bait was in order. The view from this hide not restricted by the reeds, a view over the water could be had. Plenty birds again but nothing exceptional, a large flock of over 400 Lapwings the highlight. The Barn Owl we had seen earlier suddenly reappeared just about in the area we had last seen it. We were treated with another ten minutes or so of low slow flight, hovering occasionally, dropping down and landing on posts. Lewis snapped away while i chose to just sit and marvel. It must have been after 9 by now and the reason the bird was about so late must have been the fact that it had been raining from 4.30a.m. when i had gotten up and had continued drizzling up until after 8.
       Barn Owl at East Chevington courtesy of Bigfoot of Blyth.

We headed back to Druridge taking in the dunes for part of the way but while back on the main track came across more Skylarks singing and displaying. On two occasions we enjoyed the sight of groups of between four and seven birds engaging in aerial dogfights chasing each other around vigorously.
Cresswell was visited on our way home. Got the Tree Sparrows (RED) but no Greenfinches, that i always look forward to seeing these days around the end farm building on the way to the hide. A couple of guys were already seated in the hide and mentioned that a Bar-headed Goose had been seen but it had disappeared behind a hedge, it never showed. Also a Ruff (RED) had been on the sandbar, it reappeared a few minutes later in amongst the Lapwing already there. As we left a female Peregrine (RED) was spotted sitting on a post to the side of the hide. Time pressing there was no chance for us to wait for it to lift.
Oh, i nearly forgot. Another first for me, this sighting at East Chevington also..........
in case you didn't recognise it, a Liverbird. Actually, that wasn't quite true, it was actually the Liverbirder we sighted at Chev. Pleased to meet a fellow blogger. Especially one who writes so eloquently.
The RED thing?       birds on the RED SPECIES LIST explained here

Friday, 25 February 2011

Jelly Ear on Elder

Auricularia auricula-judae.
Also known as Judas's Ear or Jews Ear.

      This example was found in wooded area beside Hadrian Pond, Wallsend.

      This particular fungus can be found on both dead and living wood any time during the year. The original name Judas's Ear is derived from the belief that Judas Escariot hung himself from an Elder Tree and in folklore it was suggested that the ears are his returned spirit.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Desperate to see a Yeti.

Not i, but my biding companion Bigfoot of Blyth is.
Failing miserably we decided to concentrate on the birds. Starting off on Holy Island, first major sighting was of over 200 Brent Geese feeding on the ground. Nice to see the Pale Bellied race having had encounters with the Dark Bellied last week. Firstly can i say a big up to any seawatchers yeaterday. It was absolutely perishing with a strong icy wind coming in off the sea. We spent 10 minutes trying to look out over the bay in front of the castle but the scope was being jostled around and that, acccompanied with streamimg eyes made life very difficult and being the old soft tarts that we are, we retreated to the other side of the Heugh beside the vicars garden. It was only very cold on this side of the island and the scope was much more stable. Nothing too exciting to be had to be quite honest. The highlight being Eiders on the water. Also viewed were Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlew, Cormorant and Knot. A wander through the properties on the way back to the car brought nothing more than a few Goldfinch, 4 flocks of House Sparrows at various locations, lots of Blackbirds, a few Robins and a couple of pairs of Collared Doves snuggled up.
Ross Back Sands was part of the original plan but due to the conditions we continued straight on to Budle Bay. Because we had only stayed on Holy Island for an hour and a half the tide was still relatively distant, along with the birds. Again, nothing startling but large numbers. Not going through the full list but Great Black-backed gulls much in evidence, vicious looking characters, quite superb. All the usual waders but no geese.
Stag Rock was given a brief visit with some more nice Eiders worth a mention.
Low Newton with its pool and scrapes was the next port of call on our way back down the coast. The scrapes were busy with 2 Bar-tailed Godwit looking smart in the still lousy light. Again an assortment of waders and ducks, nowt out of the ordinary. The pool held a nice number of Goldeye displaying leaving me wondering if this is where we get the expression "necking on". A relic of "THE GHOST OF STRINGER" can be seen and handled in the hide here.  There is a book of images of stonking birds captured in the area of which i recognise at least half a dozen from Newton Stringers blog from over the years. I did feel a chill run down my spine as i turned the pages..............maybe the hide is haunted.
We decided to call into Cresswell finally with hopes of Bitterns and Barn Owls. Not a sniff of either, the only sniffing at this stage was into a paper handkerchief (sorry) The main entertainment here was performed by the flock of 212 Lapwing which keep lifting from the sandbar but as is with the Peewit the next minutes were spent deciding whether or not to land. The flock would turn come in to land, some would, most would not, some that had would change their mind and lift again. The remainder of the flock would return again with the same result. After 7 or 8 goes, eventually all birds would have landed but twice as the last bird landed they all lifted immediately. In the hour we spent here this carried on like some sort of perpetual motion. Other species which were sitting on the sandbar watching this included over 100 Redshank, 224 Curlew and scores of Dunlin. Over the other side of the pond 7 Shelduck were doing their version of "necking".   They're all at it!.
Reeds and farm buildings checked without success we left Cresswell frozen to the core.
I haven't even looked at what images i did bother taking as i know they will be worse than the ones i normally include in my posts.
On the way home no Yetis were spotted either.
Skoda aren't getting them on the road very quickly, are they?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Reculver and Stodmarsh (Grove Ferry)

Visiting my grandson in Kent at the minute so ventured out on Saturday as the forecast was reasonable. Grey and overcast in the morning but at 14.30 hours the sun burst forth and it was beautiful.
The morning and early afternoon was spent at Reculver, a spot on the north coast of Kent in between Herne Bay and Minnis Bay. The beaches here are disappointing to say the least and shingle is about all you will get. The nearest sand being at the local builders merchants. On leaving the car park 3 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were immediately viewed from the sea wall but in the wrong direction from where i was heading and i thought i would possibly see more later. All the usually birds along the strand line but within 10 minutes i had picked up 3 small birds on the shingle. Getting closer i could see they were Shorelarks, a first for me as i had missed out on the bird at Tynemouth. I was interested to read that numbers can vary greatly from winter to winter. As i was taking in the Shorelarks waves of birds appeared up the coastline heading my way but quite distant. I was struggling to figure out what they were initially. As they got closer i thought they might be geese of some sort but the size didn't look right. There was 3 waves of 30-40 loose flocks of birds, but as they got closer i could hear them and realised they were Brent Geese, the Dark-bellied race, the variety you get in the south from Norfolk down over. More skeins of geese drifted in and landed with the others just offshore. No sooner than they had met up when they all lifted and passed overhead to the other side of the sea wall and onto the fields. They passed back and forth between the shore and the fields continually for the couple of hours i spent in the area with another 100 plus joining the 300 i had previously counted. They are a pleasant goose to spend time watching as they aren't as harsh sounding as, say, Greylag or Canada. Add to this the fact that the Shorelarks were putting appearances i had a cracking morning. Shame about the light. A Hooded Crow had been sighted earlier in the day further along towards Minnis Bay but 2 ageing local birders i spent 20 minutes chatting with could not locate it so i stuck with what i had.
      Shorelarks at Reculver.
      Dark-bellied Brent Geese "commuting" between sea and land.
      I included this to give an idea of the size of these birds. Look at the gull in the background. Light conditions not good.

Back to the car for 1.30 p.m. and off for an hour or two at the Grove Ferry end of Stodmarsh. A Song Thrush was singing its heart out as i walked into the reserve and i heard Meadow Pipits and a Cettis Warbler in the next moments. A view from the ramp gave me over 600 Lapwing in amongst over 300 Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Mute Swan and a few Gadwall. The Feast Hide pond held more Teal in with a pair of Shelduck, Mallard, Coot and a lone Tufted Duck. In amongst the huge expanses of reed beds a Marsh Harrier was watched on two seperate occasions, elegantly gliding over the reeds in search of prey. One dropped and not spotted again the other drifting off into the distance. Unfortunately neither came close enough for an image but i had great views. No Bitterns or Bearded Reedlings for me today as i didn't venture too far. The underfoot conditions this time of year as you head into the marshes can be described as treacherous to say the least. It makes walking in Gosforth Park childs play.
      Tuftie in nice light.


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How your M.P. voted on the SAVE OUR FORESTS issue

Just in case anyone who contacted their M.P. or signed the petition did not receive the information you can find out below how your M.P. voted. I'm pleased to say that i e mailed Mary Glindon the Member of Parliament for North Tyneside and she replied saying that she was in favour of saving our forests and consequently did vote YES.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


I hadn't seen this guy for ages.

Lifts my spirits sky high when i do. I will always include images when i come across him. Everyone stops in their tracks when they see this beaut in the park. Last year in the autumn he appeared most afternoons from three p.m. onwards for a spell. It was around threeish today so i'll see how it pans out over the next few days.
I had gone up to the Rising Sun this afternoon with the intention of spotting the Tree Sparrows that were reported by a gentleman who is a reader of this blog. The gentleman in question is called  Joe so HELLO SIR.  I promise the autograph next time we meet. Anyway, gentleman Joe had seen the birds in question in the vicinity of the visitors centre but i had no joy.
I almost forgot. Nice, if very brief sighting of a Weasel carrying a poor Mouse disappearing from one of the waggonways into the undergrowth beneath a fence. How could i be sure it was a Weasel ? Well, the dinner was almost as big as the diner.

Don't forget    double click does the trick.

SAVE OUR FORESTS............a forest is a place where nature takes priority over humans.