Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Inland WEBS

With the usual WEBS counter for some of inland sites away, myself, SH, DM and IFo counted them on Sunday.
After a windy and uneventful count at Castle Island we headed inland to Angerton Lake near Hartburn. After avoiding the Red-Legged Partridges in the middle of the road we started the count. Resident species such as Mute Swans and Canada Geese were present along with returning Little Grebe, Oystercatcher and Curlew.

Next count was further inland at Rothley Lakes, a new site for me. Once we had fought our way through the plantation to get to the lakes we ended up counting Canada Geese, Canada Geese and more Canada Geese so it was swiftly onto our final inland site, Rayburn Lake. This was again another new site for me.
As we approached the lake which is rapidly drying up along its shore, probably due to the lack of rain and strong winds like on Sunday, two Whooper Swans flew off leaving only there Mute cousins behind.
Good numbers of Teal and Wigeon along with Lapwing and Curlew were also on the lake.

It still seemed firmly like winter in inland Northumberland which is much different from Cramlington at the moment as I have heard at least three singing Chiffchaff in the same area behind the Brockwell Centre over the last week.

Finishing the counts quicker than we had expected allowed us to time to visit East Chevington and the feeding station in front of the north hide. It didn't take long despite the wind for the Redpoll to appear. At first we could only see Lessers but then two obvious Mealy Redpoll appeared including once stunning Pink bird. Another joined them and two Bank Voles showed well under the feeders as he fed on the spilt seed.
Long Tailed Duck and the Red Necked Grebe were still present on the north pool.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

South West

On Saturday I headed to the South West of the county with LMD. Encouraging numbers of waders were back on territory around Allendale with Golden Plover, Oystercatcher and most impressively hundreds on Lapwing occupying the surrounding fields.

The wind was so strong it made getting out of the car a struggle so we spend most of the time from the roadsides. Plenty of paired up Red Grouse popped up from the heather and a Raven tumbled through the sky from a vantage point. Black Grouse were much harder to come by and we only ended up finding the one bird despite extensive searching.
My only views of Black Grouse prior to this were accross a valley through a scope so standing only feet away from an impressive male was the days highlight for me.

Grindon Lough was our next stop where only Tufted Duck and a few gulls were. No sign of any Geese never mind any White Fronted. Whittle Dene was a bit more active. The 3 long staying Whooper Swans had been joined by a further 20 in the fields west of the reservoirs. A pair of Great Crested Grebe were viewable from the hide as was a single Pink Footed Goose amongst the Greylags. Again no sign of the Bean Geese. Also a very obliging Green Sandpiper was wading its way through the channel that runs behind the reservoirs.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Through the week

On Monday I had my first trip to West Hartford in a while. A pair of Shelduck and a Lesser Black Backed Gull were new on the patch for me for the year, both were amongst the Lapwing, Oystercatchers and BH Gulls on the main pool.
As I was leaving I checked the fields behind the entrance plantation. Almost a year to the day since first seeing them for the first time at WH, I was surprised to hear the chirping of 5 or 6 Tree Sparrow in the hedgerow. As I left I could hear them from the roadside.

Tuesday night at 21:45 I was putting the bins out when I heard a strange high pitched call repeating and coming form behind the Brockwell centre.  After listening for a while I think it might have been a female Tawny Owl but I'm not 100%.

yesterday I went accross to Cumbria with Cain, as we drove just passed Haydon Bridge I spotted an odd looking mammal on the side of the road. We pulled over and checked and found the mangled remains of a Polecat! Its a shame I have never seen one in the wild and really don't know much about them, its a shame this was my first sighting.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Last night at 12:30 I could see movement at the bottom of my garden. Expecting the neighbours cat as usual I scanned the garden with a torch and instead caught the eye shine of a Fox!
It looked back at me before turning around and scampered back into the school field. Last February in the heavy snow I saw a Fox run through the field but presumed that it had been forced here because of the snow. It was probably the mildest day of the year yesterday so there no reason for the Fox to have been forced into the garden in an attempt to find food. They have been seen more frequently over the last couple of years around the estate so I wonder if the Fox is a regular and I just happened to have caught up with it now.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Through the week

For the second week in a row I had a garden tick. At 12:15am on Monday a single Golden Plover flew over my house, obviously it was only heard not seen.

On Wednesday I was out with LMD for the first time this year. First stop was a birdless Maiden's Hall Lake. East Chevington north pool was full of Wigeon, Wigeon and more Wigeon. Amongst the Wigeon were a pair of Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Long Tailed Duck, 7 Shoveler, a few Pochard and the Red Necked Grebe.

Druridge Pools was also quiet with again more Wigeon on offer. 20+ Shoveler and 2 Pintail were also of note. The Twite flock was out of view at Hemscott Hill Links and Cresswell Pond held, yes you guessed it, more Wigeon. The track to the hide was alive with Tree Sparrows mainly because of the new feeders hung in the trees. No sign of any Scaup but a pair of Pintail were showing well on the sand bar and a Water Rail squealed from the reeds in front of the hide.

After failing to locate the Glossy Ibis at Tynemouth of  early Thursday morning, myself and Cain checked Holywell Pond instead. As we walked down to the hide a group on Greylags flew from the pond and landed in the field. As we scanned we spotted the White Fronted Goose amongst the group.
A good number of Gadwall and a few Pochard were on the pond but a rare bird at Holywell was the best find, a Stonechat on the wire fence in the sheep field.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Red necked but no Phalarope

With a few hours spare yesterday afternoon I headed up north with Cain. Grey Phalarope has been a bird that has eluded me for far too long now so with the long staying bird at Stag Rocks being seen again during the week hopes were high.
The tide was getting towards its highest and as a result Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck along with the Eider were just offshore. As the weather turned from grey and dull to greyer and wet to horizontal sleet the sea got rougher. Gulls were hard to pick out never mind a tiny grey ball of fluff bobbing on the waves so once again I failed to see a Grey Phalarope.

As we scanned from in front of the lighthouse, a Red- necked Grebe was sitting on the water just below the rocks. The only previous one I had seen from here was at least a mile out on a choppy sea amongst a raft of 200+ Scoter a few years ago. We were treated to prolonged views of the Grebe as it floated even closer on the rocks just underneath us not bothered at all as it dived  and caught fish. As it dived its whole body was out of the water and I even watched its shadow move under the water in the shallows.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Am I doing something wrong?

After news broke of the Yellow Rumped Warbler's location in Durham on Sunday morning I was soon there with JM and MA. The bird hadn't been seen for about an hour so like the 50+ people now gathered we wandered around the estate. Since the area it had been favouring was along the back of the estate we could see into peoples gardens and a lot of the gardens had not just feeders but feeding stations.
With rumours that the Warbler had just been photographed in a garden and was now amongst a flock of Goldfinch everybody lined up and scanned the gardens.
As we watched and waited, three Waxwings landed in a nearby tree. To most present this provided a brief distraction from the tense situation but to me this and the next few minutes were the highlight of the trip. With more rumours that it had moved further down once again we decided to stay watching the feeding station and play it cool. So whilst most charged away like a hoard of blood thirsty zombies we watched as the charm of 30+ Goldfinch danced around the feeders along with a single Lesser Redpoll, Willow Tit, Brambling and the Waxwings.
 Once the sighting was confirmed we moved down and got some ok views of the warbler. Highlights were when its Yellow rump was visible and when it ticked like a Robin as it flew along the area of scrub bordering the estate.

Dont get me wrong I like seeing any new bird but I had more enjoyment out of watching the feeding station than actually seeing the Warbler. It happened again today when I stepped onto the drive, I heard the familiar call of a Reed Bunting and look around just in time to see it fly passed from the neighbours fence. This garden first was almost as enjoyable as all of sunday. I'll never be a twitcher.