Monday, 16 December 2013

A load of Bull.

Managed a few hours up the coast on Sunday morning taking in Druridge Pools and Hauxley.
A Common Scoter on the main pool from the Oddie Hide was a nice surprise early on along with dry underfoot conditions on the approach to the hides. Drainage has been installed so no need to plodge any more when visiting. Two nice flocks of Curlew and Lapwing lifted over the Budge Fields while the remaining Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and Mallard pootled about unperturbed. No time for my customary walk from Druridge to Hauxley so I drove there.
There was a cutting wind despite the fine sunny conditions and nothing much exciting was seen from the water edge hides as most species were hunkered down. What is most noticeable is how well the Tree Sparrows are doing at this site. I remember not that long ago that if you saw a T.S. away from Big Waters it was a bit of an event. There were a number at Hauxley then but they were in the vicinity of the entrance. There are plenty of boxes up for them and they have spread, in good numbers, all the way along the caravan park side to the hide facing the beach. A great job. The hide I mentioned held lots of birds mainly on the feeders or below on the ground. Last time I was here a couple of weeks ago someone mentioned that they had seen a Water Rail in the bottom corner and sure enough the W.R. was in full view for the 20 or 30 minutes I visited the hide.

Highlight of my time at Hauxley had to be the 5 minutes in the company of a pair of Bullfinch not more than 2 metres away. Fabulous birds in nice light. Ahhhhhh.

A touch of the exotic in the north east.

Friday, 29 November 2013


I remember watching the video of the slaughter of Amur Falcons with tears streaming down my face.
This report in National Geographic had the same effect............for totally different reasons.

Up until this year, an estimated 120,000 – 140,000 Amur falcons (Falco amurensis) were being slaughtered in a remote part of north-eastern India at this exact time each year. In 2012, Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan documented this shocking massacre as tens of thousands of migrating falcons congregate along the banks of the Doyang reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland. Everyday thousands of beautiful Amur falcons were being caught in mist nets, plucked alive, skewered, and then smoked before transport to market for sale as a cheap source of protein. The global population of this record-breaking aviator and natural wonder would have been depleted had this slaughter in Nagaland been allowed to continue. This year no Amur falcons have been killed so far…

click HERE to read the rest of the article.
If you signed the petition congratulations, you might just have made some sort of a difference.
I will find myself sighning more e petitions from now on.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

BANG BANG, you're dead !

Reading the many reports of Woodcock coming in off the North Sea and the exhausted condition many were in took me back to Saturday afternoon.
The Lesser Grey Shrike got the day off to a brilliant start and watching The Stringer and J. S. putting out mealworms, showing concern for the welfare of the bird, lifted the spirits even higher. A more sombre mood later after John and I had visited Amble for lunch with the Gulls and we called off near Hadston Carrs to view the beach. Just before we got there, in the fields as we approached, we noticed three small groups of people with guns and gundogs on the edge of the wooded area facing the sea. Driving along the beach road we passed another couple of guys, again with guns and dogs, this time on the other side of the woods. On getting out of the car we were greeted with a cacophony of sound from the woods as a large party of killers and their accomplices screamed and yelled as their dogs barked and yelped and their guns discharged. The sight of Woodcock and Pheasant frantically taking to the skies in all directions, some of them disappearing from view as they headed out to sea, was a pitiful sight. I couldn't have believed that my heart could have sunken so low in such a short period of time at the behaviour of us humans. My mind went immediately to the poor Badgers and what those poor creatures have been going through recently.
I felt sick to my stomach.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Central Library exhibition by............

......a very talented local artist ALAN MOULD and his friend BOB LAINE.
If you've been in Thornley Woodlands Centre or stood at the Sherburn Estate Red Kite Viewpoint you will have seen some of his work without knowing.
Here are a few examples of that work.
Artwork associated with Friends of the Red Kites.
A couple of examples from his "Twisted Nature" series

These last three come under the heading "Digital Art"
You can see a lot more HERE
Call in and get something special for someone, or yourself, for Christmas.
I know that I will be.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Gosforth Park daily treble.

Any horse racing fans tuning in might think that I had the tote treble up at High Gosforth Park a.k.a. Newcastle Racecourse and had won a few bob. Au contraire.
The treble I had was at the nature reserve and consisted of Water Rail, Kingfisher and Bittern, in that order. On a bright but blustery afternoon I was sitting in the main hide chatting with Paul the reserve warden when a Water Rail appeared in one of the channels cut into the reed beds. There may have been more than one but we observed the bird/ s on six occasions. Not five minutes later I said to Paul "Don't look now but the Kingfisher has just landed right outside the hide". It was on the closest of the perches less than 3 metres away but the sun was behind. It sat for a minute or so before shooting off up the right hand channel and settling on a single reed which buckled under the weight. It moved again after a short while to the opposite side and after another 30 seconds zipped off  and out of sight.
I had decided to hang around until dark to see if there were any Starlings coming in to roost and had decided to make my way round to the Pyle hide. On arrival to my delight I found that a large area of reeds had been cut and a large area opened up. Normally I only call in here for ten minutes and a coffee, not expecting to see too much but all this extra openness might just change things, I thought to myself. While watching the Cormorant tree something lifted out the corner of my eye. A Grey Heron. It was lost from view almost immediately but reappeared further left, or so I thought, and by magic it had morphed into a Bittern. A brief view as it dropped straight into the reed bed again but that was the treble up. I didn't manage to capture the W. Rail or Bittern on camera due to light levels (one too high, the other too low) but did get a brightly backlit shot of the Kingfisher.
While in the Pyle hide and before the light went I did have 2 groups of Starlings which twisted and turned and lifted and dropped. One group had 21  birds the other 7. They were 5 minutes apart but did drop into the same area of reed bed. The question many Starlings constitutes a murmuration ? Did I have 2 ??
As I left the reserve in darkness the sound of the gathering Corvids on the periphery of the reserve was LOUD. There were hundreds, possibly thousands. A few more than my Starlings, anyway.
Hundreds of Woodpigeons passed by overhead also.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Autumn fruits

A walk up to the Rising Sun Country Park earlier in the week was quiet on the bird front but the fungi were very much on display. I did discover over three hundred and forty fruiting bodies of Fly Agaric in an area measuring approximately 200m x 4m in the western plantation which faces Station Road in Wallsend.
Some of the various stages of the Fly Agaric.

.............and a couple of another species.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

It's good to be "back"

Have been venturing out in the last ten days or so for the first time in nearly a month previously due to chronic back problems. Missed some nice birds and weather in that time ,so no last hurrah on the Dragon front sadly. Did see 5 Common Hawkers at Holywell Pond and a single Migrant Hawker last Saturday with a few butterflies, mainly Speckled Woods, putting in an appearance.
Saturday brought me my first Redpoll at St. Marys along with Yellow-broweds and Firecrests and a trip up to Druridge courtesy of the Howdon Blogger afforded nice views of the Subalpine Warbler and a beautiful hovering Kestrel that hunted the dunes as a nice distraction when the Sub. submerged into cover.
Yesterday I ventured up to the Rising Sun, something I will be doing more often with the oncoming of winter and got rather excited with my first autumn Redwings. Only the 2, but still. Nice to see a couple of Dabchicks on Dukes Pond but viewing Swallow Pond from either the hide or screen can only improve as the vegetation dies back. I put my macro lens away for the winter at the weekend and of course forgot about capturing some nice images of the emerging fungi, of which I came across 3 lovely examples which I had to capture with the 300mm. When I sort through them I will post a few. I will post a copy of each species on I SPOT for possible I.D., as with almost everything I come across in the natural world, I ain't got a clue what they are. I just know they are stunning.
One image follows. One of my favourite birds, a Rook, which was making its' presence known on the stabilising cables to the masts north of St. Marys.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A stunner at West Hartford.

Shaggy Mane  or Inkcap.

Oh yes, and there was a Little Stint and a Sanderling.

These fungi are edible. If you fancy trying it here is a recipe. ENJOY.
A nice Riesling is recommended.

Shaggy Mane Quiche

Serves 6 as a first course
The shaggy mane is a favorite mushroom among mushroom-lovers. The caps liquefy rapidly, so speed is essential in getting them into the pot. One ardent admirer of this mushroom takes a skillet and butter on collecting trips so that the shaggy manes can be eaten where they are found.
  • 1/2 recipe pie crust (page xx)
  • 5 to 6 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound shaggy manes, sliced
  • 4 shallots or green onions, minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated provolone cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups half and half
Prepare the pie crust. Roll the dough out to a 10-inch crust. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the crust. Crimp the edges.
In a sauté pan or skillet, fry the bacon until crisp, then remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and sauté the mushrooms and shallots until the shallots are translucent and most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated.
Spread the bacon over the pie crust. Add the grated cheese, then the mushroom and shallots. Mix the nutmeg, salt, and cayenne into the beaten eggs. Add the cream. Slowly pour the custard mixture over the bacon, cheese, and mushrooms.
Bake the quiche in a preheated 350º oven for about 35 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is brown.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Are you a Treki ? I am.

Nooooo, not that soap in space crap.  TREKTELLEN !!
If you are into vismig this is a place worth calling by, especially if you cannot get out daily for that seawatching fix. It features all the major seawatching sites around the UK and further afield. The likes of Whitburn, Flamborough Head, Spurn, Filey Brigg and St. Abbs Head have been included in my favourites list.
HERE is the link to Trektellen.
Now you can claim to be a Treki..............if you are not already a sad bustard.

The Howdon Blogger and i called in at Whitburn a couple of weeks ago on the way to Teesside and with the observatory being "open for business" we joined a very knowledgeable and helpful Paul Hindess and spent a cracking 45 minutes with him. He also writes a blog which lists his sightings from the observatory (he is down there almost every day) which you could add to your blog list.
VIEW FROM THE OBS is his blog.

For no reason whatsoever, here is an image of one of the four juvenile Marsh Harriers on view at Leighton Moss a few weeks back.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Humbug anyone ??

The second brood of the pair at Killingworth.

The adults went back to their nest on the smaller lake recently to start a second brood but a Coot family had taken up residence so luckily for us they moved over the road onto the ex floating reedbed.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Hollywell Heron.

Sitting at Holywell Pond this morning, I found myself singing along to Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel while watching this strangely posed Grey Heron and I can't for the life of me think why !

It might have had something to do with
THIS !! 

On the other hand one of my favourite and most graceful waders struck a different pose.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Saturday, 3 August 2013

For you, A.J.J.

I took this image a couple of weeks ago at Big Waters and it's the first chance I've had to go through those taken this day. Loved this particular shot of adult and juvenile Tree Sparrow in the feeding station. It just about sums up the good work carried out there by a sometimes unappreciated gentleman.
This one's for you, sir.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Super Dragonfly facts.

I've been following The Dragonhunter Diaries for a few months now and extremely entertaining it is too. Alans' last post was excellent. If you haven't bumped into his blog before here is your chance and make sure you read his Science fiction, science fact posting. Great reading but above all great writing !
Science fiction, science fact.  Can be found here

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

From the boardwalk................ Greenlee Lough.
Marsh Cinquefoil. Dyes were produced from the roots and flowers in days gone by and the leaves are reputed to be good for making tea.
Also known as Marsh Five Fingers. Related to the Wild Strawberry. A great scource of nectar for bees.

Common Cotton-grass...........a member of the sedge family and not a grass. 
Just a couple of the many species of plant.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Banded Demoiselle larvae, Bellasis Bridge.

I've had limited experience of identifying Dragonfly larvae and some, particularly the Hawkers ( Aeshna ), can be tricky. Not just for me but for the more competent Dragonflier. A guy called Steve joined me, he was there primarily to removed troublesome plants, and we chatted. I described the differences and nuances of the Banded Demoiselles i was watching and he gave me interesting info regarding what was in the River Blyth. He was telling me how much the problem with the American Red Signal Crayfish had increased telling me how they would just about devour everything they could eat and that if he put a net in he would expect 4/5 easily. He just happened to have one in his car and in a flash he had returned with said net and plastic bucket. The net was briefly swept through the water 3 times and the contents shown to me. Sure enough there were 6 in the bucket ranging in size but also in there was a Damselfly larvae. I was pretty sure it was a Demoiselle and having checked, it was.
Demoiselle nymph.
 Steve never handled the Crayfish, you need a licence, due to the problems with this species. The only river in Northumberland that is not infected is the River Wansbeck. The Crayfish has been known to move across fields in wet weather conditions to contaminate nearby streams !  A couple of images showing the range in size of the Signals caught. The Banded Demoiselle larvae is between 30 and 40 mm long to give you some idea.
The two larger samples were about 50mm long. Note the smaller third one.

Two more tiddlers alongside the Damsel nymph. We saw examples in the river around 100mm long.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Black-tailed Skimmer, Kibblesworth.

First visit to the Brickworks Pools gave me my first Black-tailed Skimmer of the year. Last week at Banks Pond i had hundreds of teneral Damselflies lifting from the grasses surrounding the pools yesterday at Kibblesworth it was the turn of the Common Darters. You could almost feel the panic as these fragile beings lifted in unison from my presence and drop to another area of grassy shelter to enable the maturing process that will see them in the arena that is the pond. Only the mature specimens that are ready to engage in conflict are seen here. They will all get there eventually.
Impossible to count the numbers of Four-spot Chasers around due to the constant squabbles that break out between the perched or patrolling males but there must have been over forty. The females, like the newly emerged, keep away from the water unless they feel the need to oviposit and you can see why as, when they do make an appearance are hassled constantly by male after male. Three sightings of a male Emperor, five mature Common Darters and five sightings of female Four-spots made up the Dragonfly contingent. All the expected Damsels were there in nice numbers. Lots of coupled and ovipositing pairs.
Butterflies abounded.
Male Black-tailed Skimmer, Kibblesworth Brickworks Pools.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Next Generation.

Appologies to you Trekkies calling by to see what Jean Luc Picard is up to these days. This post actually concerns the egg laying of an Emperor......or should that be Empress. For Data fans, that is a Dragonfly. Here is an image.
Live long and prosper.
Ovipositing female Emperor Dragonfly, Banks Pond.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Home sweet home.

A trip out to Greenlee Lough yesterday under fabulous skies in rising temperatures. Setting out from the permiisible car park at Gibbs Hill, up to Greenlee Farm, then down to the Lough itself. An hour in the hide there, thirty minutes on the boardwalk over the mire. Back to the hide for lunch, then back on the boardwalk and out over the farmland to the car park again. 7.5km the distance with a barely significant ascent of  72 metres. Most noticable was the number of Chimney Sweeper moths. More than a thousand on view but not one image taken. They took ages to settle when disturbed and when they finally came to rest it was usually buried deep in some tall grasses. Almost impossible to get a clear shot and my back was soon telling me to desist. I listened. I mightn't always listen to the missus but i ALWAYS listen to my back.Nice to see good numbers of Meadow Pipts in the morning, i arrived there shortly after seven, loads of interaction and quite a few displaying. The Lough was pretty quiet. The hoped for Osprey didn't materialise, perhaps i had used up my quota as Mr Howdon Blogger and i had one flying over the A69 just west of Hexham on Saturday. A Pied Wagtail, Mute Swans, Mallards and a Redshank was all i had on or around the water initially. Seven Curlew dropped in a little later. Reed Wabler and Bunting made noises beside the boardwalk. The highlight of the day came in the form of a Wasp. I noticed the nest, which was attached to the top of one of the shutters, between 40 -50 mm in diameter. Thinking it was most probably an old nest before the Wasp in question turned up on two occasions and did a little construction before disapearing inside for a while. No idea what species, an suggestions would be appreciated. I'll put an image on I Spot with some detail an see what they say. I know of Paper Wasps, but the ones i've seen have had football sized nests.
BEFORE alterations.

Still during
Spot the difference.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

No water = No B.B.C. = no suprise.

Called in at Little Waters in passing yesterday to see how the Broad-bodied Chaser situation was but as the meadow pools have dried out i drew a blank. I did get brief sightings of a couple of Four-spot Chasers in amongst the longer grasses and this stunning Common Darter made the short visit worthwhile.
A sight to put a smile on your face. It did mine.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Four-spotted, four views.

Over forty Four-spotted Chasers were on the wing at Banks Pond at the weekend when THE Howdon Blogger and i visited the site. Two Emperor Dragonflies patrolled the larger pond and hundreds of Damselflies, many in tandem and ovipositing, were present. While the Four-spots were available for photo opportunities the Emperors, as they do, were constantly on the move often over the areas of open water. Lots of aggresive behaviour shown by the male Chasers, often engaging in very fast interactions with others before usually returning to their favourite perches.