Monday, 17 October 2016


One of the supporting cast.
Sometimes the birds and light come together and i cannot think of anything more satisfying.
Not so early on Sunday as i went down to Tynemouth to have a wander around and see a first for me in the form of a Dusky Warbler. I know the area well as i'm a regular visitor and having seen a good number of Blackbirds & Robins i then headed to where the Dusky had been reported. Some prolonged views but getting a decent image was another matter and very quickly i decided to just enjoy the bird and if i did come out into the open would then try to capture it. It could be seen without foliage blocking the views occasionally but always fleetingly and combined with the fairly poor conditions i didn't even tried to capture one image. Thoroughly enjoyed my first sighting and a dozen or so of the lads attending made for good craic. The heavens opened and off i sped. A few hours later, having visited my sister in Cullercoats and been fed n watered by her, i resurfaced just north of St Marys Island in Whitley Bay.
By this time the clouds had cleared and we had nice conditions in the main. A Barred Warbler had been spotted briefly a wee bit north from where a few birders and i were anticipating the sight of the Pallas's Leaf Warbler that had been present from the previous day. The Barred was never seen again as far as i am aware but the Pallas's gave brilliant, if slightly distant views for the next couple of hours. As before quite a few birders came and went, or remained, and the craic was more then enjoyable. To add to the enjoyment of my second newbie of the day dozens of Goldcrests were flitting around the mound like little jewels. One of the best birding afternoons that i have spent i reckon. I didn't manage any decent images despite everything in my favour to capture that superb "keeper" but i'm happy enough seeing the birds without taking a pic. Any images are a bonus in my book and not the be all and end all.
I have to say that the Pallas's Leaf Warbler was by far more stunning than i had absolute beauty of a bird ! ....and the Goldcrests set it off nicely. It verged on birding heaven yesterday.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Avocet success and other stuff at Cresswell.

It was great to hear that six of the seven Avocet chicks that hatched at Cresswell Pond were flourishing. I'm not sure if it still is but not long ago it was the most northerly breeding site in England. It's not surprising they do relatively well when the parents are feisty enough to see off even a juvenile Peregrine. Overhead threats come all the same to our Avocets. Even the arrival of a MEGA at Cresswell in the form of a Red Kite didn't stop our belligerent parents going up on an intercept course. That and some attentive corvids meant that the Kite was around for a matter of moments, sadly.
Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank in recent weeks have made the  birding superb. On another occasion i enjoyed the spectacle of a Stoat appearing from the reeds then have a "daft" ten minutes, something you would be more used to seeing your cat do. It was brilliant. From rolling about on its back and jumping up to grabbing the reeds by wrapping its front legs around them then hurtling off, stopping, turning and returning to do the same again with the same clump of reeds. It did this three times. A Little Egret that was coming into land on the sand bar spotted the action and "buzzed" the Stoat before touching down. The Stoat stopped in its tracks and sat for a second before whizzing over to the bird as it landed and returning the favour by "buzzing" the Egret which lifted briefly out of the mustelids reach. A Water Rail appeared into view before having to race off out of view down one of the "rides" at the back of the pond chased by the mammalian killer which reappeared moments later Rail less. I did take some images but it was out of range for my 300mm lens and i was left thinking that if THE Howdon Blogger had been videoing this that he might have captured some vintage footage.
Another apparent success story in the Druridge area are the number of Little Egrets these days. They have apparently bred in the Bay area for the last three years and i had a nice surprise when i had eight at  Cresswell the other week. I have heard of a report since of 14 !!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Dragon surprise.

I decided to call in at Prestwick Carr for around 90 minutes before heading along the road to Banks Pond to do some Dragonhunting. It was a beautiful morning which had started rather chilly after the clear overnight skies. I heard more birds than i saw with a Willow Warbler giving me the only half chance of an image as it fed and called in the treetops. With foliage often restricting views i gave up trying to capture it but the best photographic opportunity was yet to come. Ironically that opportunity came if the form of a Dragonfly !
This Southern Hawker appearing around the side of the hedge line and landed in front of me. "Brilliant" i thought but less than thirty seconds later a second Southern Hawker appeared and landed around 80 centimetres to the right of the first.
Prestwicks Buzzards were very vocal most of the time i was there. A couple of Kestrels seemed to be communicating with each other and Willow Tits made their presence known. Over fifty Barn Swallows were feeding and making plenty of noise just before Mayfair Cottage as i returned to the car.
Banks Pond was a wee bit disappointing to be honest. A distinct lack of Hawkers while i visited but decent numbers of Emerald Damselflies and Common Darters. A few Common Blue & Blue-tailed Damsels and a couple of Black Darters was about it. This mature male Black was the highlight along with a fresh Common as i left.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Avocet update.

Dave E. saw the Avocet adults lead 3 chicks away from Cresswell Pond and into the surrounding fields !!
One of the adults previous to pairing up.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Fingers crossed.

After several days of wondering when, the first Avocet chick was seen when the adults on the rear nest at Cresswell did an early morning change over on Tuesday 12/07/16. Great to see after last years annihilation of the 5 nests on the sand bar of this furthest northern breeding site in England. Following that wipe out it would have been understandable if no Avocets had of tried and it was looking like that for quite a while despite some potential residents. 
I've sat longer than usual in the hide on 3 or 4 occasions in the last week or so hoping to capture the first sighting of the young 'un and was more than happy to have managed it. A true record shot as the image is heavily cropped. Fingers crossed no foxes return like last year as Avocets are feisty birds and will see off most potential predators especially avian ones.
I'm pretty sure the adult in the photo was ringed as a juvenile at Cresswell Pond as one of the first youngsters that created the record i mentioned earlier but i am just waiting for confirmation. It would be nice to think so.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

It didn't quite add up.

Had a trip up to Fontburn Reservoir on Sunday. I was going to walk out of Greenleighton Quarry, something i've done a couple of times but on arrival it was cold, windy and the clouds were very threatening. I spent 45 minutes in the area but then decided to head to the main car park and see how the weather was by then. I took my time calling off at a couple of spots on the way and by then it was looking a bit better. I had an enjoyable if quiet few hours around the reservoir, the nature reserve and above on the moors but the highlight by far was on my return.
I was only some 100 metres from my car when, as i approached a slight bend in the path a rabbit came out of the undergrowth, hopped across the path and into the tall grass on the opposite side. It was 11.15 and i thought to myself "Very strange at this time in the morning" as it was within 10 metres of a number of fishermen along the waters edge. Almost immediately i found out why the bunny had shown.

This Adder had obviously stumbled upon the rabbit which had sent it packing. It didn't seem to have a problem with my presence and i enjoyed its company for a good 5 minutes. As is always the case i wish i had had another shorter lens with me as i couldn't capture the full length of the snake, i had taken a couple of pics on my phone but they weren't the best. I did lay down to capture some shots but the 300mm lens i was using did mean i couldn't get too close so i was pretty much safe. It spent most of the time scenting the air so i reckoned it was still interested in which way its potential quarry had gone and it did head off into the grasses in the same direction. A brilliant encounter with an awesome creature.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Budge Field bonanza and a traffic cone in Kent.

I hadn't thought on until Liam pointed it out to me on Twitter that i had had a canny couple of days at the Budge Field, Druridge Bay.
Shared these two Spoonbills with DAVE on Wednesday.
Not for long as half a dozen of the Exmoor ponies were getting carried away with the joys of spring and started galloping around the field spooking the Spoonies, never to be seen again !
The Great White Egret, which had eluded me for three weeks was finally espied.
It just hadn't been there when i was, although i was away in Kent for the middle of those three weeks. Speaking of which.
I experienced what must have been the worst weeks weather that they have had in Kent in spring in living memory. It was awful.....almost like being back home in the north east (it was even worse back home apparently) My visits mainly concern my grandchildren these days but i try to manage a full day out but due to my son moving soon a planned days dragonhunting with WARREN had to be cancelled which, as it happened, would have been a disaster given the conditions. Apologies again Warren for having to cancel.
I did fit in two of my very early (4a.m. - 11 a.m.) mornings. One of which i spent at Cliff Pools and heard a Nightingale and heard then saw three Cuckoos interacting. Didn't even get the camera out of the bag due to awful light. For the other i bit the bullet and did the 45 minute drive down to Dungeness so i could spend a mere couple of hours there. Like most of this years birding on the whole, a bit disappointing due to the conditions with one exception, this beautiful Hobby along the track to the ARC gravel pits which allowed me to get within four metres of it as it sat on the ground. I spend sixty of my allotted one hundred and twenty minutes with the bird. Time well spent. It did alight to a telegraph pole and to some bushes a couple of times but returned to the ground many times with one exception, the time it landed on a traffic cone which was nearby for no apparent reason.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


A selection of images i've captured in the last month or so.

Black Tern.

Common Tern, Buzzard.

DRURIDGE BAY, Cresswell Pond.

Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Pintail.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Druridge waders

 Greenshank at Druridge Pool, Druridge Bay. I had it for all of twenty seconds. Enough time to grab an image though.

This Common Sandpiper was one of two which hung about at the same site for much longer.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Cresswell Pond and Budge Field

It was nice to see the actual rising of the sun above the horizon at sunrise once again after weeks of grey skies. I called in at the north end on arrival at the pond on Tuesday but no Long-billed Dowitcher. There were six Avocets initially, two of which made their way to the sand bar later in front of the hide where i went to next.
Last year when i saw the first signs of the Avocets looking to make nests my heart soared, Tuesday when i witnessed it my heart sank recalling how the five nests on the sand bar were wiped out last year systematically by a fox. I can only see the same thing happening again.
I did catch a pair mating last week, which i had almost forgotten about.
They deserve better. They are stunning creatures and always give me a lift when i encounter them.  I managed to capture this individual in flight in lovely light around 6 a.m.
The Dowitcher could not been seen from the hide either when i got there and after twenty minutes or so i saw Rob S. initially creeping low towards the causeway then lying prone with his camera photographing something. It had to be the LBD i thought to myself. You can see Robs images HERE
Before i headed back to the north end to join Rob i noticed the battery was getting low on my camera and thought that i had better put a new one in before i went out to join him. Being the age i am i totally forgot and on checking my settings when i got into position on the causeway was horrified to realise the camera could go dead at any minute. I decided i had better take single images on timer but the LBD, as with other times i had caught up with it, was feeding continuously in that familiar sewing machine action so getting a shot of the bird with it's bill was difficult...and something i didn't manage. Never mind, it was great to see it looking stunning as it further goes into breeding plumage in some decent light for the first time for me. A full battery would have meant i could have taken bursts of shots to capture the brief moments it raised its head. Next time......if it stays.

Last Sunday while visiting the Budge Field i was lucky enough to find a Jack Snipe. It showed really well and was next to a Common Snipe for a short period which gave brilliant size comparison. It put the bird out on Twitter and within fifteen minutes i was joined by five other birders asking where the bird was. I left them to the bird in not the best of moods as not one of them had the courtesy to thank me for putting them onto it. Just me ?? or what.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Then and now.

The Long-billed Dowitcher is still hanging around at Cresswell Pond and seems to be favouring the pool just north of the causeway path. I got within a few metres of it again this morning as it was feeding well once more. Starting to colour up nicely as the following image shows. Beneath is the image i captured on the 15th of March for comparison. No luck with the light again. I had the bird for about twenty minutes sharing the experience with Dave and Andy C

Top image 10/04/16 bottom image 15/03/16

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Meet Chester.

This male Red Kite being harassed over the Derwent Valley in Durham had a wing tag number 76 which according to Friends of Red Kites website has been named CHESTER and was released in the Chilterns in 2006.

During the winter months you can see CHESTER hanging about near the Gibside roost site but over the years he has hooked up with female Red Kite RED ARROW, wing tag WT32 and on at least two occasions have successfully raised chicks. Other than in the winter months many of CHESTERS sightings have been around the Rowlands Gill area.

Ironically i hadn't had a Red Kite this year so it was nice to get four interacting over the Gibside area before a couple of Buzzards appeared close by. Chester had this Corvid on his tail for a couple of minutes distantly and as he decided to try and shake it off he headed mine and Liams way. Twisting and turning, upside down in this image, his stalker stuck close by.

They both just about headed directly overhead and eventually the Crow gave up and left CHESTER in peace. Stunning aerial antics while the chase was on.

A fantastic day out with Liam @notsotweets and Doug @Jarrowbirders who Liam and i met up with at Derwenthagh Park before heading out to the North Pennines and Weardale before Doug had to leave us around 2pm. Doug showed us around a few of his sites while i reciprocated with a few of mine. While out and about we had our first Wheatears of the year at Bollihope Quarry and a dozen Black Grouse close to their lekking grounds in Weardale. I pointed out where the lek takes place but followed up by mentioning to see the birds in action means being there at first light, something i've witnessed on 7 or 8 occasions and is thoroughly worth getting out of bed for. Although the birds are relatively distant you still get clear views and the sounds they make raise the hairs on the neck !!! Lots of other birds seen with a calling Redshank coming into breeding plumage another one of the highlights. The craic was brilliant guys. Cheers.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

First ones in.

I love the walk between Druridge Pools and East Chevington at this time of year especially in the area around the Coal Road. Always the first place for me to get the first migrants calling and displaying.