Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Good Starts

I got a text from Gary at CLV sports centre on Saturday morning saying that he had just seen a Black Redstart around the car park. This was the first BR record for Cramlington and I was soon there with Liverbirder. We had a few brief sightings of this very flighty bird around the sports centre and the tennis courts before it flew into scrub at the back of the field along with a female Blackcap. I had brief views in a similar area on Monday too.

Sunday WEBS count at Castle Island had a few highlights including two Kingfishers chasing each other along the shore. I could hear them long before I saw them and at one point they flew just over my head! Also a Little Egret flew east down the river which was our first on a WEBS count After the count we went to the rowing club past Stakeford Bridge were the Blue-winged Teal was showing well on the near shore, happily feeding despite the rowers on the river. 

With reports of no further sign of the Siberian Stonechat at the Spittal area of Newbiggin we decided to check the dunes along the Wansbeck Estuary in case it was there. Similar to last week Goldcrest were all along the tracks and five Little Egret were scattered along the river. Whilst watching one close in on the north shore we spotted something moving fast through the low tide. It was an Otter carrying a flatfish in it mouth. As it pulled itself up onto the rocks beneath us it was joined by another two, slightly smaller Otters (presumably a family group.) The two smaller ones wrestled with the fish before the all disappeared back into the water. Other than in Scotland I have never had such good views of Otter, truly amazing to watch.

There was no sign of the Siberian Stonechat just  a pair of  European Stonechat. More winter thrushes were in the bushes along the bank as was a male Blackcap. Our last stop was North Blyth. As we drove along the main factory access road Steve spotted a female Snow Bunting on the fence. We stopped and drove back and it was still there at touching distance on the fence. I really didn't look well.  Of the three Black Redstart reported in the area we saw two being chased by Robins on the rocks below the car park.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Warm Autumn

I was out for a few hours with SH this morning. We went to the scrub and bushes bordering the north side of the River Wansbeck between North Seaton and and south Newbiggin.
Bullfinch were everywhere, Redwing, Song Thrush and Skylark flew over in small numbers and so did a few Redpoll. A small group of Mallard on the river were joined by two Dark-bellied Brent Geese between the river mouth and the road bridge. 20+ Carrion Crow and eight Magpie were feeding on the large amounts of Sea Buckthorn that cover the banksides and 60+ Pink Footed Geese flew south over.
In the bushes surrounding the old car park were a few Goldcrest, two Reed Bunting and a stunning male Brambling which showed well before flying deeper into cover.

The area of dunes around the caravan site looks good for migrants but today we only found a male Stonechat. On our way back the three Little Egrets that had been on the river had now increased to five and they were roosting in the trees on the opposite side of the river with a few Grey Herons. By the time we left seven were in the trees! Also a Kingfisher flew up river near the Egrets.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Out at last

I was out with LMcD yesterday morning for the first time in a while. The day got off to a good start with a GS Woodpecker in my garden. On our way up to Druridge Bay we spotted some geese in the fields south of the Linton roundabout. 200+ Pink Footed Geese were accompanied by 100+ Canada Geese in the fields. Pink feet were flying over everywhere in skeins all morning but not many landed.

At Widdrington Moor Lake the Slavonian Grebe was showing well in the shallow west end near the bank but not much else was around. On the north pool at East Chevington there were two female Pintail and a few Mergansers and at least four Stonechat between the hide and the road.

Stopping at the metal gate at Hemscotthill Links we could hear then saw seven Snow Bunting flying together over the dunes. A mixed flock of 200+ birds contained mostly Goldfinch but did have a few Linnet and Twite amongst it. Also seven Grey Partridge were in the field next to the inlet.

Despite it being late October, Arcot Pond is at the lowest water level I have ever seen it. The legs of the gulls standing in the middle of the pond can be seen! Two Terrapins were on a fallen log in the SW corner and a drake Shoveler was amongst the Teal. Also in the SW corner was a single winter plumage Black-tailed Godwit.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Petrel Patience

With conditions looking good for a seawatch I headed to Church Point, Newbiggin with GB last sunday. Early on we heard that a Fea's Petrel- Lifer, was being tracked up the coast in yorkshire so with nothing else planned we diceded to stick it out all day on the off chance that the Petrel made its way further north.

The first out was hard work due to the sun but a steady stream of Gannets and a few Manx Shearwater was a good sign.  Wildfowl were present all day mainly small groups of Wigeon heading north but a few Brent Geese, Common Scoter, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser and a Velvet Scoter were also noted. I heard but never saw Pink Footed Geese and a Tree Sparrow came in off the sea. 

Now used to seeing Med Gulls at Newbiggin it still looked strange seeing them on the sea, some were quite a way out to. 20+ Sooty Shearwaters passed during our time watching the sea including some very close birds. As more time passed and more reports of the petrel surfaced, more birders appeared. Somebody picked out a Sabine's Gull amongst a feeding flock of Kittiwakes. It stayed for around half an hour before heading north. 

By the time the Fea's had reached Whitburn the sun had vanished and fog had set in. The tension was unbearable by the end as it headed past St.Marys but we all managed to get onto it as it appeared from the fog. What a bird! My best ever seawatch and best ever sea bird, a day that will stay long in my memory. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Good enough for me

After failing to locate the Blue-winged Teal- lifer, at Castle Island during our WEBS count on Sunday morning I went back on Monday afternoon.

A large gathering of Ruff were on the mud under Stakeford Bridge on both days accompanied by 2 late Common Sandpiper on Sunday and a Spotted Redshank on Monday. Two Greenshank and another Common Sandpiper were further up river past Castle Island on Sunday and were replaced by three Little Egret on Monday. I saw a Little Egret in the same place on both days, on the Sleekburn at low tide.

Groups of Teal were scattered across the river and after scanning them all with no luck I got a text from Birding Sometimes saying it was coming down river towards the rowing club. As I looked across I could see it swimming near to the bank albeit distantly. By the time I got around to the other side of the river I saw it fly off back to where I had been. At least I was able to appreciate its name as it flew low over the river.

To my untrained eye I see nothing wrong with it and would like to hear an explanation as to why it is being touted as a hybrid. I'll leave that one to the experts.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Little Redwood

After news of the Woodchat Shrike at Prestwick Carr broke on monday, myself and Cain went straight up for it. He got good views as it hunted its way along the hedgerow west of the viewing platform. It was nice to see a Woodchat Shrike in good plumage compared to the last one I saw a few years ago in Hartlepool.

We were also out for a few hours yesterday afternoon starting at Cresswell Pond. A Little Egret was fishing,  Little Ringed Plover on the mud north of the causeway and a Little Stint followed a flighty flock of Dunlin around the north end of the pond.
Druridge Pools was quiet, the highlight was a Weasel that ran in front of us as we drove along the road. Again quiet on the bird front at Hauxley but busy on the mammal front with a Stoat running around the main car park and surprisingly a Red Squirrel sitting feeding on a nut feeder in the car park.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

3000

Had my first trip to West Hartford in a while tonight and was very pleasantly surprised. The sound of Swallows filled the air as I approached the site and as I got nearer to the pools I could hear more and more gathering over ever expanding reed bed. As the sun faded more came until around 2500-3000 birds were swarming the sky. They spiraled downwards and went to roost in the reeds in small groups until they all went down on mass and the "running water" sound could be heard. Truly an amazing spectacle and probably one of the best sightings on my own patch.

Plenty of bats including a Noctule were over swooping over the pools where a Greenshank and 2 Ruff were also present. As I was leaving I saw a Fox scurry accross the road near the entrance in the glow of the street light.