Sunday, 31 May 2009

Strange Plover

I was out with Steve H this afternoon, first stop was Beacon Hill. Steve had been here a while ago and had both Spotted Flycatcher and Marsh Tit but neither were around today.
We walked up to the cottages from the car, which was parked near the crossroad, but there was no sign of much really, Robin, Blackbird and Garden Warbler was about it.
Steve had an insect County Lifer on the side of the road, a Speckled Wood Butterfly.

A Cuckoo was calling from Longhorsley Moor so we watched from the metal gate and a few minutes later it flew into a group of trees and out of sight.
It flew around the moor again and landed on a fence post were it called again.
Another Cuckoo then started calling on the other side of the moor, which caught the other bird’s interest and stopped it calling.

Next we went to Druridge Pools were we struggled to get parked. From the Oddie Hide a Wood Sandpiper was in the remaining pool of water with 2 Ringed Plovers and a Lapwing.
5 Highland Cattle were in the middle of the pool and the Wood Sand darted between their legs to feed in the mud.
3 otters were on the main pool, 2 of which sat on the tiny island in the middle of the pool.

A quick stop in the hide at Cresswell gave god views of Sedge Warbler and a male Goosander was on the left bank of the pond.

With water levels being so low in the bay we went to Castle Island in search of waders.
The entire Island was visible and on the river surrounding it were 79 Mute Swans and 76 Canada Geese.
After scanning the Island we couldn’t see any waders apart from a Grey Plover, which was a strange inland record.
It wasn’t in its full summer Plumage so for a minute it had a look of an American Golden Plover, but after watching it for about ten minutes, decided it’s bill was to big. It fed on the Island bank before sitting down, not moving from the same area very much.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Nightjar Night

I went with Steve H and Holywell Birder to Acton Fell last night to look for Nightjars.
There were many places which looked good for Nightjars around the Slaley area but Acton Fell also gave us a good chance of seeing Owls as well.

We parked on the roadside overlooking a clearing in the plantation, which bordered onto Moorland.
We had a quick walk into the forest but headed back soon after to try and get a good view of a Nightjar whilst it was still light.
Red Grouse were calling from the moors behind the clearing and 27 Greylags flew over.

BH Gulls and Curlews were constantly flying over and calling which made things more confusing as we were listening for the Churring of the Nightjars.
We were sitting on the edge of the clearing when I saw something out of the corner of my eye, flying towards the forest.
It was a Nightjar – Lifer, we all got good views and it was still light enough to see the bird in colour rather than just a dark shadow.

Soon after we heard a bird churring from the edge of the forest where we had walked past before.
We scanned the trees but it was to well camouflaged and high up in the trees to find. A few minutes later it flew over the clearing before landing.
The Nightjar in flight looks completely different to what I imagined and looks to me like a cross between a tern and an owl.

As well as the Nightjars, a Cuckoo was calling from the forest behind us and a Woodcock was Roading overhead.
Before we left the clearing the Nightjars began churring again and we had brief views of them in between the trees. Another flew a few meters past my head!

We met another group of birders on the way out of the forest who had had similar success to us.
As we were leaving two more Nightjars flew over the car and back into the forest.
We got out to see if they would come back but instead we heard two Tawny Owls calling near the car.
In total we had 5 Nightjars!

Thursday, 28 May 2009


I helped Lindsay McDougall do some Atlas work yesterday morning at Havannah NR.
On the way to Havannah we stopped at the roadside at Dinnington to look for Little Owl but there was no sign.
The rain turned to patchy drizzle as we walked around the site.
Before yesterday I had only heard of Atlas work but wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
Areas like Havannah must be the more exciting areas of the grid as I can imagine some areas can be a bit bleak especially in winter; still it’s a good chance to explore sites you would normally overlook or never even know existed.

We tried to do a circular route of the site starting in the car park, go through the first area of woodland, checking the bordering fields, check the ponds and then check the rest of the woodland leading up to the new plantation near the Sage building.

Despite the drizzle the birds were still in full song with Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler the first birds of the day. 11 Willow Warbler were recorded in total.
Pied Wagtail flew over and Robin, Wren and Blackbird were all over the reserve.

In the fields a pair of Lapwing with three young were tying to camouflage themselves in the mud.
A pair of Yellowhammer were feeding on the ground next to the pond and another was calling from the backfields, as was a Reed Bunting.
A pair of Moorhen with young and 3 Mallards were on the pond.
A Garden Warbler was singing from a tree on the woodland track and now I am starting to notice the differences in Warblers songs such as Garden Warblers and Blackcaps.
2 Blackcaps and three Whitethroats were also singing on the track.
After scanning the farm fields just outside the reserve we headed to Hazelrigg to record the species absent from the reserve such as House Sparrow, Swift and Swallow.

We quickly checked Arcot Pond on the way back but a pair of Common Terns were the only birds of interest.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


I called in to West Hartford for half an hour tonight around 9ish. Almost all of the water is now dried up on the pools but only 2 Curlew, 2 Shellduck and 10 Lapwing there.
I watched the pool in hope of something dropping in for 20 minutes but nothing.
All the action was on the way home as first I flushed a Grey Partridge from the long grass near the rubbish pile.
It ran low to the ground after seeing me before flying onto the marsh. I could hear it calling after that.
There were 6 Skylark in the field between the rubbish pile and the new proposed fire station but then I noticed something on top of a piece of the long grass which looked to small for a Skylark.
At first I thought it was a Stonechat but a closer look showed that it was a female Whinchat – Patch Tick.
The strong white band above its eye was the main give away. It flew further back into the field an out of sight.

101 - Whinchat

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Friday Night

I went up to East Chevington with Steve H last night to see if the Quail was still around.
We stayed for about half an hour but no sign of the Quail. On the north pool the water level looks a lot lower than usual but the only wader was a Redshank.
Two male Marsh Harriers were also around, one flew south after being mobbed by four Lapwing.

At Druridge Pools a Black Tailed Godwit and a Snipe were the only wader we could see from the new hide. Four Hares were running around the field as well.

Nothing much at Cresswell Pond apart from a Greenshank and a Common Sandpiper on the far shore. A Shellduck with only one chick didn't look as well protected as the birds at Blyth.

We decided not to look for the Bluethroat at Newbiggin after being told that it was proving hard to find and even harder to get a good look at.

Friday, 22 May 2009


I have now finished school forever so I now have more time to go birding. This morning I went to the Blyth Estuary with Steve H.
The tide was low and there were plenty of waders on the mud. In total we had 222 Ringed Plovers, only 6 Curlew, 26 Dunlin and 8 Shellduck.
A pair of Shellduck swimming on the water had 9 young with them. They swam up the river in a straight line before landing on the bank.
Later on we noticed the adult Shellduck chasing a Carrion Crow. The crow was trying to take one of the chicks but another adult Shellduck flew over from the other side of the estuary and helped the parents, which eventually chased the crow off for good.

The Ringed Plovers were scattered all over the estuary and on every piece of exposed mud groups of 20+ could be seen.
We also checked the Bates Filtration Pools further up the path but only a singing Sedge Warbler and Moorhen were about.

On the way home we checked West Hartford. Just before we got to the pool a Juv Peregrine- Patch Tick, flew low overhead.
The Peregrine was a light brown on its under and upper side and was low down enough to see the black markings on its face.
It drifted towards the group of Lapwings in the fields near the farm at East Hartford.
I have never had such good views of a Peregrine and I could now see how broad winged and tailed it is compared to other birds of prey.

100- Peregrine Falcon

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Little Suprise!

Got a call from Steve H tonight saying there was a Little Egret- Patch Tick, at Arcot pond! After missing the GW Egret last month I knew I had to get there before the jealous Grey Heron chased it away.
I got to the pond about ten minutes later after scrounging a lift just in time to see the Heron chase the Egret off the water. It flew around the trees at the back of the pond before landing in a tree near the south west corner.
Steve scoped it and for once I could see the yellow feet which are usually covered in water as well as the long white hair on the back of its head, I should really find out the technical name for those hairs.
It didn't stay in the tree long and it flew off west. I have never seen a Little Egret next to a Grey Heron before and really appreciated the Little in Egret.
As we waited in hope of it returning a Common Tern - Patch Tick, landed on the dead wood in the middle of the pond.

98 - Little Egret

99- Common Tern

Monday, 18 May 2009

New site and new birds

Up early for a trip to Harthope Valley yesterday with Steve Holliday and Dee McKeown.
I had never been to Harthope before and was told it is probably the best upland site in the county, I agree.
Before we got to Harthope we did a Webs count at Castle Island, not much out of the ordinary there apart from a pair of Wigeon and a Juv RB Merganser.

Just out side of Wooler a Red Legged Partridge was standing in a field, a bird I had previously only seen dead in the county.
In the Valley we checked the trees around river, the lack of leaves on the trees made viewing slightly easier. Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and 2 Redstart were calling. We had a brief view of one of the Redstart in the top of a tree before it flew off.
A Green Woodpecker was also calling and I just managed to see one as it flew from tree to tree over the river.
Siskin and Redpoll were overhead and a family party of Long Tailed Tits were also in the trees around the river.
Before we set off on the main walk, we saw 2 Whinchat, 2 Cuckoo, another R L Partridge, another Green Woodpecker, Buzzard and a Red Grouse on the track near the river.
Birds I was surprised not to see were Meadow pipit, Skylark and Raven or any corvids at all.
As we headed back to the car after the walk a Tree pipit- Lifer, called from, a tree!
We had good views as it flew up in the air before dropping back onto the branches like a small paper ball, well that’s what their flight looks like to me.

Next we headed off to Long Nanny.
As we approached the dunes next to the Tern Hut the noise of the huge colony hit us.
We watched the Terns from the Hut and the women there told us there were around 650 Arctic terns. Amongst them on the beach were there smaller cousins, three Little Terns- Lifer.
After heading south we stopped at the Coquet Island viewpoint near Hauxley where two Puffins- Lifer, were on the water off the island. There were probably many more but they were too distant to pick out, I’m planning on going to the Farnes during the summer so I should get better views there.

We called into Druridge pools to try for the Wood Sandpiper but were instead surprised to see a Spoonbill on the Budge field.
The Spoonbill I saw at Cresswell last year was almost all white but this one had a yellow ring around its neck and yellow parts on its crest, which it showed well as it, scratched its head with its foot.
A BH Gull mobbed the Spoonbill and it flew off and circled the plantation before landing again.
A Drake Garganey swan across the water before disappearing into the tall grass. No sign of the Wood sand or any other waders so off to the mound at Newbiggin.We gave it an optimistic 15 minutes but nothing. There was also nothing at Arcot, are last stop of the day.

Friday, 15 May 2009

West Hartford after the rain

I got a text off Steve H this afternoon saying there was a Greenshank at WH, a few hours later I went down for a look.
Only one Sheelduck on the pool and the Greenshank- Patch Tick, on the exposed mud at the back.
I checked the small pool and as I did I heard the Greenshank call and saw it fly off before it landed in the marsh after flying up and down the road for a while.
As it took off I just managed to see the cigar shaped white patch on its back. 2 LBB Gulls were on the grass near the roundabout and a Chiffchaff was calling.
20+ House Martins and 2 Swifts were flying low over the pool, some landed on the mud.

I had a quick check at Arcot around half nine the other night but not much apart from 7 Pochard.
Also I flushed a Roe Deer from the rubbish pile at West Hartford on Monday.

97 - Greenshank

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

WH Dusk

I was at West Hartford between 9 and 10 last night as the light was fading.
Pheasants were caling most of the time and I heard at least five.
3 Shellduck were flying around the back fields before landing on the water. A single Redshank was the only wader I could pick out.
As I scanned for waders I noticed one in the north east corner of the main pool. I couldn't get a good view as it was in the shadow of the trees so after wading through the bog between the two pools and flushing a Reed Bunting and three Moorhens, I managed to get a good view of, another Redshank!
Also three Curlew circled the marsh calling. I'll go back another night this week.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

WH Waders at last!

The lack of post recently is due to coursework deadlines etc, so I’m just managing the odd visit to West Hartford.
After the rain this afternoon I thought that it would be a good time to visit West Hartford so I checked at half 5 when the rain had stopped and the sun came out.
Despite the showers the water level at the pool is even lower. After a quick scan I could only see a couple of Gulls and 2 Shellduck.
I checked the small pool where 2 more Shellduck flew off and joined the pair on the main pool.
A Swift – Patch Tick, flew low overhead, struggling against the wind.
I looked back onto the main pool and saw the two pairs of Shellduck fighting, one ran forward with its neck out stretched and its head low making a grunting noise, I’ve never seen them do this before.
As I was watching them fight I noticed two-summer plumage Black- Tailed Godwits- Patch Tick in the water near the back of the pool.
Behind the Shellduck I could see a Lapwing, which was now on the exposed mud at the back of the pool, next to it was a small wader running along the shore.
I moved around to the other side of the pool where I met Lindsay McDougall who had also seen the BTG’s.
We moved closer to the back of the pool, to try and identify the wader, which had now disappeared.
We found it again and saw that it was a Little Ringed Plover- Patch Tick.
It was too small to be a ringed plover and it was paler with a black beak. It ran up and down the shoreline before settling down on the mud.
A curlew landed on the smaller pool and a few Mallards and Jackdaws flew around the main pool.
I have been trying to work out the official boundaries of Cramlington recently but it is proving harder than it sounds.

94 - Swift

95 - Black-Tailed Godwit

96 - Little Ringed Plover

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Blacktoft Sands

I was out early this morning with Steve Holliday, Dee McKeown and Lindsay McDougall for a trip to Blacktoft Sands in Yorkshire.
We took the scenic route on the way and it paid off as a couple of miles away from Blacktoft two Barn Owls were Hunting over the fields on opposite sides of the road.

When we got to the reserve it was fairly quiet for a bank holiday, as we were paying in the visitors centre 2 Marsh Harriers lifted from the reed bed.
We went to the Marshland Hide first where around 50 Avocets were dotted around the water showing the divide between Northumberland and Yorkshire with 4 at Cresswell the other week being a very good sighting for the county.

Also on the water were Coot, Gadwall, Shoveler and 36 Black tailed Godwit, which circled overhead.
A Barn Owl came out of its nest box and began hunting over the reeds. 6 Stock Dove were also flying around.
Around the bushes and reeds bordering the reserve and in the car park were Tree Sparrow, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Swift.

From the Xerox ? Hide two Ruddy Duck and a G C Grebe were on the water along with more Avocets. In total we had 176 Avocets not including the ones flying overhead.
The water level was quite high on all the pools with no exposed mud but despite this, 20+ Black Tailed Godwit were wading through he water with 5 near black Spotted Redshank- Lifer.
I studied the Spotted Reds closely and noticed the grey mottling on their backs, which stood out on the black plumage. One of the birds flew in front of the hide and called to complete the identification lesson.

Marsh Harriers were constantly dropping in and out of the reed bed and there were between 6 and 8 birds in total I could see but they did move around quite a bit so some could have been the same birds.
We didn’t just get brief views, they were dropping from the sky almost like falcons and for the first time I heard one call, it sounded like a Buzzard mewing.
As we watched one land on top of a pile of cut reeds it flushed two Bearded Tits- Lifer, which I just caught sight of but not long enough to identify if the sex.

A Buzzard and a Peregrine were high up in the sky and a Sparrowhawk flew low over the reeds.
Two little Egrets landed on the pool next to us after flying across from the river.

After leaving the reserve we headed to Swinefleet Common to look for Dotterel. 6 yellow Wagtails were around, mainly on the road as was a Wheatear and a Whinchat which disappeared once we stopped to, look for it.
As we were going down one of the roads we heard a set of keys jangling which was the song of a Corn Bunting – Lifer! It was in a bush on the roadside and after some hard searching I finally saw it. I have always wanted to see a Corn Bunting and it didn’t disappoint, a top bird, what a beak!
It’s a bird I’m sure I’ll struggle to see in Northumberland.
It stayed in the bush for a while before flying into the ditch; another was on a wire in the next field.

On the way home we called into Saltholme after hearing out about the Spoonbill.
We tried back Saltholme first but no sign, it wasn’t on Dorman’s or Reclamation Pond either.
Nothing out of the ordinary was about apart from a couple of Common Terns, my first of the year.
Finally we checked Arcot Pond where a Sedge Warbler- patch tick, was in the row of bushes, south east of the pond.

Once again another good day out and I feel like I’m starting to learn a lot more about all aspects of birding.

93 – Sedge Warbler