Thursday, 21 August 2014

Done more than I can remember

Completely forgot to mention in my last post that I spend a week on Mull last month with Ciara L, Andrew D and Ewan M. Anyway a good week was had by all. Eagles and butterflies were the main highlights along with some good walks.

Last tuesday I headed up to Amble with Graeme B in search of the Caspian Gull. To our surprise instead of having to scan through the gull flock at the harbour we pulled up and saw Jack B and co staring at the chippy roof. It was there and stayed there for the next hour and a bit only moving occasionally to scrap for chips with the other gulls. In flight its wing moult could be seen.

On saturday I traveling down south with Cain, Heather D and Ciara L to Bird Fair. It was the first time any of us had been and we enjoyed some good talks and visited some good stalls. Camping overnight meant that we had plenty of time to do some birding from the multiple hides on site. Distant views of Ospreys were had from the visitor centre and a stack of waders including Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and Black Tailed Godwit occupied the mud. From one of the hides as it was getting dark we had brief views of a Badger and three cubs that ran through the long grass under the hide! Also a Long Eared Owl began hunting around the hide and flew straight past along with many bats.

Just remembered that I went to the Hen Harrier Day as well which was good despite the rain!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014


My 300 bird species in Britain finally arrived on Monay afternoon in the from of the Collard Pratincole at Castle Island. A great bird to mark this birding landmark and fittingly at a location where I have spent many hours helping do webs counts.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Wet but worth it

I was out in the rain this morning with SH and DM for WEBS. Castle Island was alive with wildfowl families of various ages but little else was on offer.
Despite the persisting rain we headed north to Druridge Pools. From the Budge Hide only a single Little Egret flew past. Cresswell Pond held one feeding Spoonbill but we did go into the hide.
Before headign back to Cramlington we called in at Newbiggin to count the returning Med Gulls. As we watched a smart adult med on the beach Dee noticed a Dolphin in the bay. Over the next ten minutes we spotted a total of 9 White-Beaked Dolphins and a single Harbour Porpoise very close in just off the Couple statue in the south bay. The Dolphins swam around and breached a few times giving me my best ever cetacean views in Northumberland. They were still there as we left and looked as settled as cetaceans can, well worth a look if in the area.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Return of a ghost

Despite West Hartford looking better than ever it still cannot pull in any waders just gulls. After checking the main pool I went to the smaller one last night where a Moorhen flew from the long grass dividing the two. As I looked up at the Moorhen something else caught my eye. A Barn Owl lifted from the grass NW of the pools and began quartering the field for the next 20 minutes up until 21:50. This is the first sighting at West Hartford for almost three year and only the second confirmed in Cramlington since then!

It was amazing to watch this silent hunter in the fading light along with a family party of Kestrels. Together they were hammering the WH mammal population.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A Little Bit

I spent the majority of my day off at Gosforth Park NR yesterday in search of the Little Bittern. As soon as I had entered the reserve both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker were calling form the same tree.
Unable to get a decent view from the full Pyle hide I wondered around the reserve for a while in the hope that the Bittern could pop up anywhere. It didn't and it was back to the hide where I managed to get a a seat. It had last shown 45 minutes before I arrived and was in the reeds opposite the hide. With my bins trained on that section for 4 and a bit hours eventually it paid off as I got very brief views of the Little Bittern flying through the tress to the right of the hide and out of sight. Although the views were somewhat disappointing I did see a flyby Kingfisher, juvenile Water Rail feeding in the mud to the left of the hide and brief views of a Hobby as it flew off having earlier been perched on a dead tree at the back of the pool. Also an Otter was constantly mobbed by nesting gulls and Terns from the raft as it swam through the water.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Estonia 2014 Part 3

Off on the road again the next day and it was a longer journey NW to Matsalu National Park. Along the coastal area of the reserve between Lihula and Virtsu is another massive tower hide the overlooks part of the extensive coastal bay. On the road to the hide a Hawfinch and a perched Rough-Legged Buzzard were seen from car. Whilst everybody else scanned form the hide I initially stayed on the ground near the harbour office. From here I had excellent views of a Caspian Tern as it flew through. The views from the hide were amazing and provided views of two pairs of Smew, Goosander, Marsh Harrier and a hunting White Tailed Eagle. Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper occupied the shallow water and Wheatear and Whinchat were also in the vicinity.

Later on in the day we were at another part of the national park, here we visited the Matsalu Natural Science museum which was well worth the visit. From another tower hide, this one a rusty converted telephone mast with the missing roof visible in the undergrowth beneath, a male Hen Harrier was the highlight.  A Thrush Nightingale was singing from the scrub along the river bank too.

On route to our final stop at Haapsalu, we briefly stopped at a village whose name I don’t know. The small pond in the centre of the village held a drake Garganey and a Grey Headed Woodpecker showed from the trees behind the pond. Also on the way we pulled over and marvelled at the site of 140+ male Ruff in full multicoloured plumage together in the same ploughed field. They looked even more spectacular when they flew off and over the car on mass.

Haapsalu which looks like one big impressive film set, boasted another impressive area of reeds and a huge lake complete with a tower hide. A Great Reed Warbler deafened us as we approached the hide and as the sun set a White Tailed Eagle flew low over the lake which flushed at least 30 Grey Heron to the air. A massive number of pairs of Great Crested Grebe were on the lake and some had nests close to the pier. On the section of the lake in front of our hotel for the evening there were three pairs of summer plumage Slavonian Grebe which looked amazing in the late evening sun. Also some summer plumage Little Gulls hawked insects over the lake.

With an early start and early flight back on the Friday we didn’t have time to stop anywhere but did manage to pull over in time to see an Elk standing out of the open on the edge of a forest. Even without antlers it was still a mighty beast despite its dopey appearance. It didn’t stay long before melting back into the forest.

An amazing end to an amazing trip with great company and laughs. Thanks to everybody again, until next time...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Estonia 2014 Part 2

The next morning the clearing was as empty as when we had arrived but 10 Hooded Crows were attracted to the mess left by the Racoon Dogs. On our way back to the car the sound of Wood Warblers filled the air along with the call of multiple Cuckoos. Cuckoos proved to be very common throughout the trip but typically they were heard more than see. The next leg of our journey had us travelling south to Tartu with a few stops planned of course.

First stop was Alam Pedja which is another boardwalk trail through a giant woodland bog.  From the tower hide overlooking the bog, Tree Pipits descended from the tree tops and another Great Grey Shrike was spotted. Looking towards the famous ‘’Hollywood Hill’’ we could distantly see one then two Lesser Spotted Eagles. Although distant we still saw them perform some aerial acrobatics before disappearing below the tree line.
Another impressive tower hide
As we headed back along the track to the car something large and black flew in front of us before landing on a tree next to its nest hole. It turned out to be the bird of the trip, a Black Woodpecker! As we watched the Jackdaw like woodpecker climb up and around the tree trunk another briefly appeared. Despite having the safety of the nest hole so close the Woodpecker stayed in view for around 15 minutes!
Throughout the week whilst travelling along long stretches of road we saw loads of nesting pairs of White Stork. Many were adding sticks to their impressive ‘nurseries’ and whilst stopping in a supermarket car park we were even treated to views of a pair bill clapping.

No words needed 
Next stop was the underwhelming looking Ilmatsalu Fish Ponds near Tartu, how deceiving looks can be! The surrounding fields over the river were full of constantly flighty White fronted Geese and the reed beds had multiple Marsh Harriers quartering them permanently whilst Honey Buzzards flew above the distant plantation. The paths between ponds were lifting with Blue Headed Yellow Wagtails and as we passed one of the canals a Thrush Nightingale was singing from the scrub on the opposite bank. It was surprisingly obliging hence the photo below.
The biggest pond had a diverse mixture of species including typical winter ducks like Shoveler, Pintail and a Whooper Swan as well as waders including Stunning summer plumage Spotted Redshanks, male Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit and the most Wood Sandpipers I have ever seen. A large gathering of Swallows over one of the smaller pond attracted a Hobby which gave great views as it flew low overhead before diving at the Swallows. It was eventually mobbed by others and flew out of sight. We also had fly over Little and Great White Egrets.

After arriving and finding somewhere to sleep and eat in Tartu we headed out to a Great Snipe Lek site. Unfortunately only one bird was showing and I just missed it as it disappeared back into a gully in the field.

Final instalment arriving soon...