Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday brunch...... a sarnie and some oysters

After the weather conditions of the last couple of days and having a couple of hours spare i skedaddled down to Tynemouth for a flying visit this morning early on. A quick trek around the undergrowth by the car park then up to the Spanish battery brought nothing much. Even in the buffeting wind a Kestrel held station immaculately above the cliffs as a look down to the rocks with an incoming tide brought me my brunch.
A Sandwich Tern and some Oystercatchers.
The rocks brought me a second Sarnie, Ringed Plover and the inevitable Turnstones before i headed down to the pier checking out the bushes below the Priory. No luck so along to the end of the pier, which was locked, and enjoyed views of the Fulmars and Kittiwakes on the cliff face above. I had planned to get some in flight shots but the easterly wind was fierce here and very penetrating. I gave up after twenty minutes or so as it got to the stage that i could barely see through streaming eyes. A pair of Gulls relaxed on one of the huge concrete blocks that adorn this area.
It was a heck of a lot colder than it appears here

 I stopped off to dry my camera and bin lenses from the fine spray i had felt in the air on the seat in the sheltered area opposite King Edwards Bay beach and it couldn't have been more different. In fact i had a couple of butterflies for company !
A Small White and a Peacock tucked away out of the wind.

Heading along to the vicinity of Priors Park, in almost balmy Mediterranean conditions, i encountered numerous Speckled Wood butterflies which even had the energy to compete with one another having pairs spiralling up on four occasions.
Speckled Wood
Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaffs, Wrens, Robins, Blackbirds and Goldfinches were all noted here.
Looking ahead, i think i might be back on Monday..........with a bit more time to scratch about.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Ynys hir

I was away last week in mid Wales in a cottage close to Tregaron but had no internet connection, hence the lack of posts. Was lucky with the weather by all accounts but on Friday morning headed off in torrential rain for the RSPB reserve at Ynys hir which is situated overlooking the Dyfi Estuary. What a marvellous place to visit if you are ever in the area. With a mixture of ancient Oak woodland, wet grassland and salt marshes the place has just about everything. I had forgotten that Springwatch was broadcast from here last year and will be coming into your front room again soon starting on 28th May,  Mondays to Thursdays for three weeks from the same location.
A room with a view !
 The rain abated around midday and as a consequence most of the bird life stayed under cover with the exception early on of a pair of Pied Flycatchers and Blackcaps close to a stunning pond which i'm sure would have been teeming with Damselfly and Dragonfly nymphs underwater seeing as the reserve boasts 19 species. I had seen a single Large Red Damsel a couple of days earlier at Cors Caron but there was no hope of anything today.
My one and only Damselfly. I had dozens while here last year.
Having left the woodland area and the sound of Willow Warblers everywhere but Wood Warbler less, i headed across the wetlands with Lapwings and Skylarks lifting all around and large numbers of Canada's scattered far and wide. A brief stop off for bait in another of the seven hides i had to choose from and views of the Cambrians as a backdrop.
The views were spectacular.


The rain had stopped and the sun had broken through so the waterproofs were put away. With the heavy rain the camera had remained under wraps except for when in the hides so it was nice to be able to have it at the ready when i came across my birds of the day, a couple of Ravens. One was frequenting a small wooded area at the edge of the wet grassland while the other remained out in the open initially.
An imposing specimen
The bird in the trees spotted me but seemed unperturbed and as it hopped about in the branches actually made its way closer. I spent at least ninety minutes in their company and privileged at that. Slowly moving about trying to get a clear shot through the overgrowth i managed a few images.

The second bird came to join us in the trees and i managed a couple of classic in flight Raven shots. As i left i noticed a huge nest slightly away from where i had been. Passing under the construction around thirty five feet up in an Oak i stood for a second with arms outstretched and i reckon it was between five and six feet wide and over two foot deep.
All fingers and no thumbs.

I continued my tour of the reserve but everything else was an anti climax. At the far end there had been sightings of Osprey in the Dyfi Estuary but i didn't see them.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sadder day. Death of a ghost.

Saturday became sadder day when HOWDON BLOGGER spotted a dead Barn Owl by the side of the A69. We were heading home after a brilliant days birding and suddenly we were both at a low ebb.
At 5a.m. we headed for Sipton Burn at the southern edge of Allendale Common hoping to see lekking Black Grouse. We heard, then saw, Red Grouse, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew then eventually had a couple of Black Grouse up on the hillside at The Combs which is sandwiched between Allendale Common and Tedham Moss but sadly no bubbling was heard. We spent a couple of hours at the site with very picturesque views of both the burn and surrounding area and had many more species. A couple of years ago accompanied by John, Langdon Beck was the site of a brilliantly morning with the Black Grouse lekking so i suggested we head down there to see what we could find. On the way we were side tracked by a field full of Golden Plover at which time we had a bizarre incident with a one armed gentleman who had a problem with Johns car, which was half way off the road, causing an obstruction and in the ensuing debate insisted John should hit him. Needless to say, seeing his condition John declined. (I was tempted mind)
We had immediate reasonably close views on arrival at Teesdale but alas too late for the Lek.
Male Black Grouse sadly no females present.
7 males in view at various times had us entertained for over an hour before we headed off to Cow Green Reservoir and the area around Harwood Beck. The reservoir was quiet, as expected, but the track leading to the burn held numerous waders all of which i have mentioned earlier with the addition of Redshank.
Curlew near Harwood Beck.
 Heading back towards Tyneside we spent time with the Red Grouse mainly in the vicinity of Bollinhope Common and very nice it was to. Lots of interaction between males and females and males and males. Fascinating to watch them with something going on all the time.A brief stop off at Bollinhope Burn brought us Grey Wagtails and a number of probable breeding Black-headed Gulls being as noisy as ever.
Red Grouse, male.
Red Grouse, female.

Although distant and not Lekking it was fantastic to have seen Black Grouse in Northumberland but Langdon Beck remains the best place to have comprehensive views. Even four days on i keep thinking of the stricken Barn Owl.