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.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Close encounters

I've been waiting for news of the Avocets returning at Cresswell Pond having only been twice previously in the last 6 weeks since the work on the culvert between Cresswell and Druridge Pools caused the road to be closed. Early morning starts are now on the agenda which meant that although i had to get the car back by 11 on Monday i could still get out for a few hours. The weather was awful with leaden skies and steady drizzle unrelenting in all the time i was out so i knew i wouldn't venture far from the hide at Cresswell, my planned destination having found out the Avocets had indeed returned the previous day. I had the Long-billed Dowitcher almost immediately directly in front of the hide and as close as you could expect to see it but it was partially hidden by reeds. Very frustrating. Around 800 Black-headed Gulls lifting en mass from the surrounding fields, dropping in on the pond and returning was quite a spectacle. 5 Red-breasted Mergansers which didn't hang around too long and a nice drake Pintail kept the spirits up, despite the drizzle soaking my gear on the shelf in the hide blown in on a steady cold, cold northerly. After an hour or so 3 Avocets were suddenly on the western spit, great to see them back. There is something about there grace and beauty, coupled with their feisty disposition, which captures my imagination. The line that Chris Packham came out with a while back that they were the Audrey Hepburns of the bird world rang true immediately with me. There was plenty going on around the pond, all common species and there was some good craic with the few birders present. I thought i would call in at Newbiggin for a short visit on the way home but as the Avocets had disappeared  that i would quickly pop along to the northern end of the pond to see if any of them were hidden from view so i could capture my first image of the year. One of the birds was there but at the back of the pond but unbelievably the Dowitcher was feeding, sewing machine like, on one of the small flashes in the field by the footpath that leads to the causeway. I took a few quick shots in case the bird flew off but it was feeding so intently i don't think it was aware i was there initially. I crept slowly forward resting on the slightly wobbly perimeter fence posts. I got within 4 metres of the bird eventually before leaving it and a Dunlin to continue probing in the water.

I found out later that having uploaded the image to Iris on Birdguides that they were using it on their Review of the Week 9th-15th March. which you can read HERE

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Oot n aboot the last couple of weeks.

In no particular order.
Had no luck with the Black Redstart at Tynemouth (it has gone now) and this lush Grey Wagtail was some consolation.No white wingers at North Shields Fish Quay on the way there.

Work continues on the culvert under the Cresswell to Dru Pools road so have only called into Cressy the once in the last 5 weeks or so. Nothing too much of interest as the LB Dowitcher was missing and a spring tide the night before meant that water levels were disappointingly high. Called by Newbiggin on the way up and had a couple of Med Gulls.

Straight after Woodhorn Church gave me many common species getting into the springtime mood before this Buzzard breezed over.

Another day around the Druridge Pools area a Scaup was noted on the main pool. (heavily cropped image)

The Budge Field has a mixture of winter and spring birds now. Many Wigeon and Teal plus the odd Pintail still in residence but numbers of Lapwings with the first displaying birds at the beginning of the week begin to grow. Curlew numbers are still quite high as are Shoveler. Short-eared Owls still patrol, mainly in the dunes, with lunchtime a regular time to see one. The odd early Barn Owl sighting becoming more often around Dru while i had 2 Barnies another day a bit further up the coast in the early evening within 15 minutes of each other. This guy flew almost directly over me.

While the next bird was flying in the vicinity of one of my favourite late summer Dragonhunting sites. There's a small "educational pond" with a platform and a couple of seats and it's a cert for Common Darters and occasional Hawkers and is the site of my only encounter (sound only) of a Bearded Tit at E Chevington.

Not the greatest images as the light was fading fast and ironically a ribbon of cloud had drifted over the sun shortly before the Barnies appeared. The light had been superb as can be seen in this image of one of the "beasts" at E Chev.

What a difference a bit of light makes.
Around 400 Pinkfeet have been hanging around the Druridge fields with 4 White-fronts in amogst them but i always catch up with them when the light has gone. 16 Whoopers have also been knocking about the same area with 12 of them sometimes in the same vicinity as the Pinkfeet but the other 4, a family party of 2 adults and 2 juveniles have always been in the field opposite the cottages as you approach Dru Pools. Occasionally they all hook up. Here the "dirty dozen" dropped onto the Budge briefly before continuing on the join the other 4.

A walk down to the burn mouth at Chevington is a must now to see how the Ringed Plovers which breed on the beach there are doing. Plenty of interaction (when not being disturbed by dog walkers) with 24 Sanderling and a single Turnstone joining the 15 RPs the other day. Have been guaranteed soaring Skylarks for the last week and i had a couple, one calling from a prominent tussock while the other only lifted a metre or so while calling, very close together as i headed to see the R. Plovers. On the way back 2 birds, which i presumed were the same birds, were locked in a ferocious battle on the ground. They rolled about in the grass for a good 30 seconds battling away before disappearing down a small bank and out of sight. A couple of images of our fabulous Skylarks to finish.