Saturday, 19 December 2015

Cresswell Long-billed Dowitcher

My fourth view of this bird but first time i pointed the camera in its direction. The results are very average but it was on the sand bar to the right hand side of the hide by far the closest that i had seen it. I see this as merely a record shot of the sighting.

Here are a couple of slightly better images.
Bittern, Gosforth Park.

Waxwing. Woodhorn Motors, Ashington.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Most folk, especially the missus, think i am and i confirmed the fact by heading out to Gosforth Park in driving rain for a few hours yesterday morning. The bonus was that i had the reserve to myself only bumping into one guy, Peter, as i left. Nice start in the feeding station where i captured the image of the Nuthatch. Treecreeper and Great-spotted Woodpecker expected but always great to watch along with the regular catch at the beginning of December. Not much from the new hide although a dozen m. & f. Shoveler were nice to see dropping in together. Again pretty quiet in the Pearce hide with a Kingfisher fly through x 2 the bright spot. I did spend an hour glued to the reeds about 3 metres back from the pond to my right as my partner who was there during the whole of my visit, a Grey Heron acted as my second pair of eyes. Transfixed and totally ignoring my attempt to capture its attention on 2 occasions it gazed in the one direction for ages. Eventually i got movement in the reed bed  where it stared but the hoped for Bittern never appeared before i left.
Not a nut in sight for it to attempt to incubate !!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Fired up.

Yep, that's how i felt last Sunday at Tynemouth having gotten one of my bogey birds, the Firecrest. I had rang THE Howdon Blogger early to see if i could join him at Big Waters if he was going but he was sooooo busy he hadn't  heard it (that's what he said) i'm pleased to say. This left me to my own devices. Couldn't get out until 9 anyway so when i saw a Firecrest reported at the end of the pier i was off down there. PC Wanderings was already on site and was actually trying for the Ring Ousel which was also about as he had already seen the Fiery One. He warned me that there were a few Goldcrests about and that it might take some spotting. He wasn't kidding. So i started the birding version of Where's Wally. I did get some nice views but getting an image was a different proposition so quickly i decided i would just enjoy what views i would get.
The mouth of the River Tyne on Wednesday at sunrise.

I was out with Howdon Blogger on Wednesday and so we started our day at Tynemouth. All the migrants had moved on and it was very quiet. A quick visit to St Marys produced little so we headed on to Seaton Sluice where we had an hour. All the usual stuff on the rocks and nothing much on the sea until a Short-eared Owl came in off the North Sea. A couple of circuits of the rocks and cliffs being harassed by corvids, it gained height and slowly drifted west inland.
Onto Blyth for the Shorelark hopefully and sure enough it was still there and continuing to  provide close views. I'm sure you've seen enough images of it.
Back to St Marys after lunch and it had picked up a little. Again, many of the usual suspects from the prom. with good numbers of waders building. A Peregrine Falcon suddenly appeared at proceeded to head up to and land on the lighthouse. It was out of sight to us but it soon  swooped down and headed for a flock of  birds and as one peeled off it was straight onto it. Somehow the bird eluded the falcon which looked as if it was going to land on the cliffs but a couple of Crows put paid to that and off it flew. The wetland held little of note on the bird front but a couple of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers were perched up enjoying the sun. We managed 4 or 5 Goldcrests in the Willows but that was about it.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Last hurrah

Apologies first of all for the lack of postings recently. I've discovered Twitter and have to say i enjoy using it. It's instant and i can post thoughts or comments as i think of them and importantly before i've forgotten.
Last week the weather was superb and was a chance to go seek out a few dragonflies. It has been an awful year for odonata thanks to the indifferent weather. I found myself cancelling the few dragon outings i had planned and can only remember using the macro lens once in earnest. I visited Banks Pond near Dinnington on three occasions in seven days. The last visit was relatively quiet and although the sun was shining initially there was a chill in the air and when some light cloud drifted over the drop in temperature was noticeable. Despite the conditions and lack of numbers i did get my best dragon of the week. I espied a Hawker moving around the perimeter of the site and thankfully it dropped down into the vegetation at the north end. As i approached i could see it was a female and was pleasantly surprised to find it was a Common, a species i hadn't seen here before. On a later date i bumped into Peter Fletcher at Tynemouth and asked if he had seen any Common at Banks but said as far as he could recall he hadn't. A handful of Common Darters were perched on stones at the north end absorbing as much heat as possible. I found a single Black Darter and spotted two Migrant Hawkers eventually on the lookout for females on the larger pond. I was only there for just over an hour.

On the second of the three visits i was with THE Howdon Blogger and we had good numbers of Common Darters many of which were in tandem ovipositing. Hard to give exact numbers but possibly 20- 30 on the larger pond and 10-15 on the smaller. Great to watch as they danced about the water. A few Ruddy Darters were favouring the sphagnum moss around the perimeter while a half a dozen Black Darters  were in the spagnum and grasses close by.

 Three male Migrant Hawkers were patrolling the the reed beds, one of which came close as i sat by the smaller pond having a drink, its wings clattering the reed stems as it passed. John put me onto a pair of Migs in tandem flying but they were distant and heading off into the trees. I did however manage to capture a couple of in flight dragons.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

This one's for you Alan.

Migrant Hawker
Captured this beauty along the path heading out to the stile at Druridge Pools one day last week. It's a favourite place of mine for autumn Common Darters although it has been a little disappointing this year, as has another site at East Chevington and the whole year generally. I've only taken my macro lens out with me on a handful of occasions and can only remember the one time i used it in earnest.
Out with THE HOWDON BLOGGER for the first time since before xmas last Saturday and it was great to spend time in his company again after all this time. Circumstances had put paid to much of his birding at weekends this year but he retired a few weeks back so watch out for him blogging again. I hooked up with him again on Sunday morning to join him on the "Big Waters Old Codgers Walk" where it was quite quiet on the birding front but nice numbers of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers were seen.
Went for a couple of hours to a secret location to do a bit of Dragoning in the early afternoon sunshine.
Rewarded with Common, Black & Ruddy Darters. Migrant & Southern Hawkers. A few Emerald Damselflies were scattered about also. Didn't have the macro in my bag so had to settle for using my 300mm which was frustrating.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

First Barnie capture for a while.

Although i see Barn Owls at a few sites when out most mornings recently they have been quite distant. This is the first to come within range for an image for a while.

Although i see them less i've had more close encounters with another species of owl.
A little Northumbrian.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Looking promising IF....

....the outflow channel is kept from blocking at Hauxley. I have little interest in the new hide they are building on the reserve. I seem to remember that the previous "hide" had double glazed windows that didn't open....i found the experience strange ! I don't know when work at the reserve will be completed and it is fully reopened again but in the meantime i've taken the opportunity to visit the Ponteland Hide and following the work done opening up the above mentioned channel i was excited at what i saw when i open the shutters. Shallow water and MUD....something in very short supply normally ( although with the lack of rain recently we have a couple of decent sites at the minute) in Northumberland.
Ponteland hide birds
Waders at Hauxley      OMG
I had a Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, 6 Ruff, 2 Common Sandpipers, Redshank and a Little Egret in the all too short ninety minute visit. Birds were disturbed first by a couple of guys in high vis jackets "surveying " some of the work already done then finally everything disappeared , as i did, when the mechanical digger sprung into life and trundled in the the vegetation at the southern end.
Since my last post i had a couple of days in South / East Yorkshire visiting a very disappointing Potteric Carr reserve...13 hides and only one worth visiting, as it turned out. To be fair the weather was very poor and the chance of some dragon/ butterfly hunting was non existent. The following day had me at Kilnsea and Spurn and it couldn't have been more enjoyable. Again the weather wasn't great but i'll be returning again in the future. Extremely strong gusting winds had most of the birds hunkered down but i had a fabulous ten minutes with a Kestrel that was hunting on the path not eight metres away.

I'm not bovvered

Back home in the Druridge area a pair of Curlew had bred having two chicks on the Budge Field (the first recorded from what i understand) and at least one of them looked to have survived. The parents noticeable on most visits and the young seen occasionally.

One of the young 'uns
A yellow Wagtail looked stunning beside Bells Farm cottages one morning in decent light ( for once)
I managed seven Med Gulls another morning at Newbiggin but couldn't get a decent image but captured this guy with a B.H. Gull for company early another day. Twenty two Meds were reported around the same time by someone.
Little Owls and Kestrels were the stars when i met up with Doug, Jarrow Birder on Twitter, on another occasion. He showed me around the Leas, Whitburn C.P. and Jackies Beach where we had a stunning Knot in full breeding plumage and another interesting wader but, as usual, a dog walker lifted them almost as soon as we got on them. Doug had to get back home at lunchtime so i visited Marsden Old quarry afterwards and spent some more time in the company of Kestrels, this time an adult and a couple of juveniles. Super, smashing, great.

Saturday, 11 July 2015


Since i started Tweeting my blogging has tailed off a bit. I find being able to express yourself there and then more than satisfying. It's nice to report any decent sightings as you find them giving others a chance to get along to see whatever it is if they are in the vicinity and vice versa.
That fabulous pond just outside of Dinnington has pulled me in a couple of times recently. I have been going out early quite a lot recently but now the weather has finally improved it's great to get out looking for dragons when the car is available later in the day. Not too many odonata about early mornings the way the temperatures had been in June. Lots of damselflies at the pond, many of them tenerals lifting from the cover of the surrounding vegetation as i walked gingerly passed them. A number of newly emerged dragons moving off also in the form of Common Darter. Now i have to admit i'm pretty shit at capturing in flight dragons so the 4 male Emperors were never going to appear here unless they alighted but they didn't so they won't. An ovipositing female will however.
I'm including a second image of the "Empress" because there's an in flight damsel, a fabulous capture (ahem), and a teneral damsel under the dragon on the leaf, a strange place to find one !
I always find it exciting to find my first exuvia of the year and more so if i can get my hands on it. Very fragile like rice paper almost. This time the emergent dragon was close by, a Southern Hawker. My first of that species this year and a nice way to find one.
here is the emerged adult (excuse the poor dof, getting back into the swing)
While sitting by the smaller pond looking into the pristine water i managed to capture a damsel larva swimming by. There was a Great diving Beetle nymph also which i sadly missed. It had captured a damsel nymph and was taking it into cover to be consumed. Fearsome creatures i have read....and they look the part !!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Passing time.

I'm killing half an hour before i head up to Druridge for my appointment with sunrise. This morning it's 04.29 but having had the longest day over a week ago the days are getting shorter and in a few weeks it will be noticable. Make the most of it while you can, that's my motto.
Highlights in the last 7 days ?
Not too many as the birding inevitably starts to slow down for summer. 3 Little Egrets on Cresswell Pond and a single bird of the same species 30 minutes later on the Budge Field. I had a Cuckoo on the fence line to the right of the Budge Screen on Friday. It disappeared into the trees behind a couple of times and was almost on the same post when i looked out from the other hide a couple of hours later having been up to East Chevington. At least a couple of chicks were being fed by Swallows in the Oddie Hide. Speaking of chicks, one pair of Ringed Plover had a single chick on the beach by Chevington Burn while another pair had two. Having seen the odd Yellow Wagtail in and around the dunes just past the Bells Farm cottages over the last few weeks i was lucky enough to get one in my favourite spot for them on the cut grass in front of the cottages. The car making for the perfect hide, as ever.

Elsewhere i did capture this Black-necked Grebe as it got as close as i've seen one at this particular site. Quite heavily cropped though. I have to say that i do love the Canon 6D with its' full frame. I've heavily cropped a few images on my blog but i don't seem to lose too much quality. The autofocus on birds in flight does let it down slightly.
My early starts mean i'm back home by midday usually so i haven't done any Dragonhunting yet up here but that will change soon. Time to dust the macro lens down in preparation.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Kent odonata.

I was house/ cat sitting in Kent for my son recently and had a Dragonfly and a Damselfly on my must see list. The Beautiful Demoiselle was found thanks to local birder Warren on his patch at Pittswood.
By way of thanks i invited him to join me at Westbere Lakes the following day and we both got a lifer in the form of the Scarce Chaser Dragonfly. I picked up on an imm female in vegetation by one of the ditches then we both had a mature male perched on the edge of the Great Stour river which runs next to the lakes.
SCARCE CHASER  immature female.
SCARCE CHASER mature male.
My bonus was finding a Red-eyed Damselfly while i was at Dungeness RSPB. It was a bright but very breezy day and all the Damsels were hunkered down on the leeward side of any vegetation around the gravel pit pools. A female Hairy Dragonfly was also a nice suprise elsewhere on the site.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The demise of the Cresswell Pond Avocet nests and a Spoonbill.

I returned to Cresswell Pond for the first time in over a fortnight early on Tuesday morning and was saddened to see that all the Avocet nests had been predated and not even the adults were around. I e mailed the trust a few weeks ago to let them know that the first bird was on the first nest here but apart from an automated reply to say they had received the e mail i heard nothing more from them. I watched over the following weeks as more and more birds were deciding this was the place for them to start their new families. The main reason i had contacted the trust was the fact that the nests would be so open to predation whether it be from animals or even humans as access to the sand bar was easy enough from in front of the hide. I bumped into a couple of trust workers putting up a compound on the beach at Chevington Burn for what i thought would be the Ringed Plovers but was inform by one of the guys that it was in fact for Roseate Terns. Whatever it was for when i saw the Avocets at Cresswell i thought that something along similar lines might have been erected temporarily somehow to give the Avocets some sort of chance. Sadly, as it turned out they were left to get on with it and the sandbar is now missing these beautiful creatures. Hopefully the Wildlife Trust will turn their thinking away from Hauxley for a short while and consider a strategy that might give the Avocets a fighting chance of rearing young at Cresswell Pond next year. I'm sure a consultation with other reserves that have these birds breeding there would help them come up with something.
I did have my spirits raised somewhat when a stunning adult Spoonbill dropped onto the pond early on. It eventually made its way in front of the hide and thus allowed for a few images, a couple of which are here.