Sunday, 29 November 2009

Atlas Comb

Yesterday I went with SH and DMcK to do 2 Atlas Tetrad squares at Kielder Forest. We left crammy at 7:30 and the heavy fog on the road didn’t clear until we arrived at Kielder.
The squares we were heading for were at Comb in Kielder Forest, an area none of us had been to before. I had done some Atlas work around Blyth, Havannah NR and Plessey Woods with LMcD in the summer so I knew that it was more about number of birds than species. It gave me another chance to improve my bird call i.d.
Before we started we guessed how many species we would end up seeing or hearing, I decided on 15.

We decided to do the longer walk first, which proved to be a good decision as the first part of the walk was uphill over an area of felled trees which were still covered in frost. The occasional stream and the boggy ground only added to the fun.
It was worth it once we reached the top as the views were stunning as was the silence. On the way we managed to add Robin, Dunnock, Wren and a flock of 25+ Crossbill to the list.
Meadow Pipit and more Crossbill were going over head as we finished off the 2 hour walk.

We drove further up for the next square which was on the edge of the Forest and had a flat path to walk on, which was just as well as the first walk nearly killed us.
We scanned the felled area in front of us when we heard a Raven calling. Soon two Ravens started calling to each other and it wasn’t long until they flew off as a Buzzard came into view.
The other highlight of the second square was the flock of 15 Bullfinch which flew in front of us before landing in the trees, always good birds to see. In total we had 19 Bullfinch in the second square. Good numbers of Coal Tits and Wrens were also present.

So after the four hours we ended up seeing 14 Species, 1 off my prediction.
The 14 were:
Dunnock, Wren, Coal Tit, Bullfinch, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Raven, Buzzard, Goldcrest and... I’ve forgotten.
Helping to do Atlas work always makes me appreciate nature more and it’s nice to work to see the birds rather than just stepping out of the car.

On the way home we made a detour to Ridley Stokeo which was Mandarin-less as the river was very high and Ridley Stokeo itself was completely flooded.

The fog was still visible in the valleys and it seemed to be following the river which would have made for some atmospheric shots, if I’d brought the camera.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Car Park Patch Tick

After coming back from the dentist yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the car, which was parked in the Sainsbury's car park at Manor Walks shopping centre.
I have always thought that car parks are under watched areas and usually Waxwings are the only birds to be reported from them.
So whilst waiting I scanned through the BH Gull Flock which was on top of the bottle bank and scanned through all the trees and bushes surrounding the car park.
My old bins were on the floor of the car, so once I readjusted my eyes I began looking.
Nothing was in the bushes or amongst the mobile gull flock but I did get some close up views of some Starlings which were feeding next to the car.
I opened the window to see if I could hear anything and it wasn't long until 6 Redwing flew over, Seeping as they went.

Whilst watching the Jackdaws fly above Cramlington Hall I noticed a large duck struggling against the wind as it flew quite low over the treetops.
At first I thought I was watching the outline if a Diver but as it flew closer I could pick out the black wings, heavy white body and dark straight pointed head of a male Goosander, Patch Tick!
Still struggling against the wind it flew over towards Arcot.

I just remembered that back in February I was sitting in almost the same car parking spot when a flock of Pink Footed Geese flew over.
Also many years ago L McD had a Fulmar fly over Manor Walks, I wonder how many other species have been overlooked over the years.

113 - Goosander

Sunday, 15 November 2009

King at last

On Friday I quickly went to West Hartford at Dusk. I thought that with the influx of Short Eared Owls to Prestwick Carr that a few could have turned up at Hartford but there was no sign.
There wasn’t much around apart from 2 scruffy looking Juv Mute Swans on the main pool.

This morning me and my mate, (who is slowly becoming more interested in birding) checked the Horton Burn again for what must be nearly the 20th time over the last two months for the elusive Kingfisher- Patch Tick, but finally today it was there.
It flew from a branch just over the burn wall towards the fire station and landed on a pile of compost where it stayed for a few minutes before flying back towards us, flew over our heads and back down towards the other end of the burn.
As it flew overhead I could hear it making a high pitched whistling call which I heard later on further down the burn whilst watching a Grey Wagtail which was hunting insects.

We also checked the trees behind Cramlington Hall, later on, for Brambling but no sign, nothing else seen during the trip back despite searching the the graveyard for while.
112 – Kingfisher

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Two Black: One Lifer, One County Tick

Back at home this weekend, something which is becoming more regular.
I went up north early yesterday with S.H with Stag Rocks our intended destination. We had a quick and optimistic check of Hulne Park for Hawfinch on the way up but we were soon told to leave as a hunt was taking place at the park.

Before going to Stag we checked Budle Bay where the tide was out. A flock of Pink Footed Geese flew over but no Snow Goose amongst them or in the bay but plenty of Barnacle Geese. A single Goldeneye was swimming in the channel and Dunlin and Golden Plover were amongst the groups of Lapwing.

We checked the sea at Stag Rocks from the lower car park first. 30+ Purple Sandpipers were on the beach 13 Shag were on the rocks. A pair of Slavonian Grebes were very close in and gave excellent views as they dived together.

Although we were seeing some good stuff there was no sign of the Black Guillemot as we scanned every bird on the water between the shore and the Farnes. Bob Dack , also in search of the BG soon arrived and it wasn’t long until Steve found the Guillemot almost as close in as the Slavs.
It was an almost white first winter bird which preened itself and flapped its wings before fishing in front of us. It was so near that we went onto the beach so that Steve could get some record shots. The Purple Sands were also nearly at touching distance as we moved across the rocks. The Black Guillemot was soon joined by the two Slave grebes which made for an impressive sight. I’m glad I got such views of a good county tick, it saves going on a November pelagic to the Farnes one year.

We then moved to the top of the bank next to the golf club and scanned the sea from there. 9 Red Throated Diver were on the sea along with a huge number of Cormorants. A line of 10 Long Tailed Duck were doing some nice synchronized diving but I was surprised to see no Scoter or any Gulls.

After looking in the area around the Red throats BD soon found a Black Throated Diver- Lifer, which I just saw in time as it dived and exposed its large white thigh patch. When it resurfaced it was joined by another Black throat and the pair dived along side each other. A Great Northern Diver was soon spotted near them and I could see the size difference and features between the three species of Diver.

Our luck ran out after leaving Stag Rocks as a check of Monks House Pool provided nothing and there were no Corn Buntings at East Fleetham, which was not surprising.
There was nothing of note at either Arcot or West Hartford but I did get my first look at a Sinensis Cormorant during a Cormorant count at Blyth Harbour.