Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End

Yesterday was a fitting end to what has been another very good birding year. Trips to Estonia and Mull and some very good lifers and county ticks (Ferruginous Duck, Little Bittern, Caspian Gull, Collard Pratincole and many more) have been the highlights as was the trip to birdfair and being part of the winning 2014 Northumberland Winter Bird Race team.

Yesterday I had a trip out with Cain, Gary, Ewan, Andrew and Rachel to Leighton Moss. On the way we stopped at Sizeurgh Castle in the southern Cumbria. Loads of Chaffinch, Gold and Greenfinch, Nuthatch and Bullfinch were briefly joined by one Hawfinch in the car park but the presence of a cat was making everything flighty. More worrying was the presence of a Grey Squirrel!

We arrived at a cold and icy Leighton Moss and walked along the reed bed surrounded path to the lower hide. Bearded Tit and Water Rail called tantalisingly out of view close by in the reeds on the way. A pair of Marsh Tit were working there way through the trees and the worlds most tame Robins and Pheasants ate dog biscuits from our hands!
From the Lower hide we had great views of a male Peregrine resting in a dead tree before flying around a bit. From the main hide at least 2 Marsh Harriers were in view but unfortunately no Bitterns showed.

We spent the last hour or two of light in the Eric Morcambe hide. Around 4 Little Egrets were on the marsh including two fighting birds whose awful vocals could be heard across the marsh. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the area; a Sparrowhawk sat patiently on a fence post and a Peregrine also hunted. This alerted the attention of a flock of Lapwing that took to the sky to avoid an attack. They looked amazing silhouetted against the setting sun.
 Our last treat of the day was a Kingfisher that flew past the hide and settled on a post outside the hide. It then began to hunt on the unfrozen water before attempting to smash through the ice.

Thanks to everyone for another amazing birding year, hopefully I’ll see you all soon.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Garden Tick!

Yes Tree Sparrow joined Golden Plover and Grasshopper as the third garden tick of 2014. Grasshopper Warbler sounds like a strange one but a reeling bird behind the Brockwell Centre in the summer was still audible from my drive.

A combination of work and illness over the last week has meant that I havent been back to see the popular Shrike at WH. This morning though I woke up to the sound of Tree Sparrows close by and when I looked outside and saw 2 males and a female on  the nearly empty feeders on the fence. They were very flighty so I never got a proper count but hopefully like the shrike they will hang around for the winter. Also a Chiffchaff that was present yesterday was still around this morning.

Monday, 15 December 2014

I've seen the butcher (bird)

Yesterday I was out for a few hours in the morning with SH. First stop was Holywell Pond which held a group of 18 Pochard and a ringed Med Gull was amongst the BH Gulls from the public hide. Arcot was quiet so Steve dropped me off at WH.  A LBB Gull on the main pool and a Stonechat on the reed tops on the Snipe field were the highlights until I noticed something on the row of dead trees running between the pools. It turned out to be Cramlingtons second and West Hartfords first Great Grey Shrike. This long overdue patch prediction soon moved further along the dead trees and later showed much more distantly in the tops of some bushes nearer the river.  


Monday, 8 December 2014

Cold Start

After an uneventful WEBS count we checked the river in front of the rowing club but there was no sign of the long staying Blue-winged Teal. Newbiggin was checked next mainly the Church Point area. Amongst the large gathering of Golden Plover on the rocks were a few Knot and Sanderling and a Grey Plover. On the cliff bank under the caravan park was a Black Redstart which showed well on the boulders. Also a few winter plumage Med Gulls were flying over the car park.

Amongst the Eiders and GBB Gulls in Blyth harbour was a first winter Glaucous Gull but not much else. I have seen and heard a few flocks of Golden Plover and Pink Footed Geese go over Cramlington in the last few days also.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

This week

On Monday I had the chance to go down to Teesside with LiverBirder for the Isabelline Wheatear- lifer, at Seaton Snook. It didnt take long or much effort to locate the bird which was really well camouflaged against the debris the tide had left behind.When it chased flies across the beach it moved with surprising speed as it also did when the local Pied Wagtails took an interest in it.

Today myself and Cain were supposed to go up to Harthope but decided against it after checking the weather. With conditions equally miserable locally we opted for Gosforth Park which at least has one hide to take cover in. Nuthatch, Jay and GS Woodpecker were all active in the woods as we passed through and 3 Roe Deer spotted us in the distance. Whilst watching the deer a Grey Squirrel jumped through the leaf litter. A large group of geese were in the field SW of the reserve next to the ever expanding pond. Amongst the 100+ Canadas and 20 or so Greylags were 2 European White-fronted Geese. Also a Canada/Greylag hybrid was present. From the hide a few Goldeneye and a pair of Shoveler were visible on the larger body of water and a few groups of Redpoll and Siskin flew over.

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.