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.