Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year

Its been a mixed year for me with the death of my grandmother, finishing my A levels and starting University.
But what a year on the birding front it has been for me. I thought last year was good but this year has surpassed all expectations.
My three favourite birding experiences this year were seeing the Cirl Buntings in Cornwall, the Nightjar night at Slaley and the Strom Petrel night at Hauxley.
Day trips to Kielder, Blacktoft Sands, Harthope and Saltholme have also been amongst the highlights.
I haven't been to Salthome as much as I would have liked since starting at Teesside but I will try and get down there more often.
The thing I have enjoyed this year the most has been the patch birding and I have finished the year on 113, not bad considering I made myself an optomistic target of 120.

Thank you to everybody that has helped me this year and I hope to see you all in 2010.

Happy new year!

Sunday, 27 December 2009


With not much being reported from Northumberland recently I went to East Chevington this morning with SH to see if we could find anything.
On the way up we stopped at QE2 lake which was half frozen. A channel had been created between the ice and it was full of wildfowl.
Good numbers of Coot, Goldeneye, Mute Swan and a few Gadwall were in the channel. A group of Wigeon were feeding on the grass next to the car park.

In the fields opposite QE2 next to Alcan there were 28 Whooper Swans amongst a flock of Mutes.

We stopped at the fields just past Widdrington as there were a lot of geese spread over two fields.
There were near 300 geese mostly, Greylags but two stood out as they were near the front of the flock by themselves.
One was the Greylag/Canada Goose hybrid which I have seen at Chevington and Hauxley and the other was a Bean Goose.
I was just about to get a better look at it through Steve's scope when the flock took off towards Chevington.

At Chevington the North pool was frozen and only a few birds were on the islands.
Instead of staying at the pools on the off chance something would drop in we went to check the fields around the dunes and the smaller pools near the bottom of the south pool.

As we were going around the corner towards the end of the south pool I saw something flying low down which looked like a Buzzard or a small heron.
On second look I could see it was a Bittern, as I was watching it it disappeared behind the fence line over the south pool.

There wasn't much in the fields near the dunes apart from a flock of Goldfinch and Skylark. Although we did see a total of 7 Stonechat around the reserve.

Our last stop was at North Blyth where 10 Goldeneye were on the river and 13 Grey Heron were roosting in the docks.
A single female Common Scoter was amongst a group of Eider offshore.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


I gave West Hartford a good thrash at midday today. I checked the still completely frozen pools first, where a few Common Gull had landed.
The ice is still thick on the pools as deer tracks could be seen with no cracks around them.
15 Long Tailed Tits flew from the trees next to the pools and a vocal Fieldfare was sitting at the top of the dead trees.
A Buzzard flew low to the ground over the fields, I was hoping that sunday's Red Kite would be around.

Next I chcked the fields behind the small pool. A group of 10 Fieldfare were flying overhead and seemed to follow me everywhere I went as did a pair of Stonechat.
The sound of wings flapping soon caught my attention as the Woodpigeons which roost in the woods along the river Blyth took to the sky.
All 70+ birds were flying in different directions and diving into the tree tops. Soon the reason why appeared as a raptor came into view.
At first glance I thought it was a Peregrine but as it flew directly overhead it's body didn't look muscular enough and its wings didn't seem as broad.
It's underside was silvery grey and it was slightly bigger than a Kestrel but it just didn't look like a Peregrine.
It ignored the Woodpigeons completely and flew south west quickly.

The addition of niger seed to my bird feeders has been successful as yesterday a Siskin was feeding with a group of 5 Greenfinch and 4 Chaffinch.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Egyptian Dilemma

I am off for the best part of a month now so today I went with SH and DMcK to do the Webs count at Castle Island this morning. At first the count was just as you would expect, cold and tedious with only 14 species recorded, but as we were leaving things started to get interesting.
Dee spotted an Otter swimming up the river, it seemed to have something big in its mouth but it never stopped so we couldn't see what it was.

As we were watching the Otter two dog walkers went past and mentioned something about a Snow Goose.
Last month I was too busy to help with the Webs count so I didn't know that Steve and Dee had been told that further up the river a Snow Goose had been reported.
When they went to check it out they found a strange albino hybrid type bird, which wasn't a Snow Goose and looked more like a Shellduck.
After being told that it was definitely not a Snow Goose the dog walkers then mentioned its Egyptian friend, with this we headed off to investigate.

The area we went to was the stretch of river next to Stakeford Bridge beside the Cambois Rowing Club.
We went to the far left side were the most bird activity was and there on the shore was a single Canada Goose, the hybrid type and an Egyptian Goose.
The Canada and the Hybrid stayed whilst the Egyptian Goose was a lot more wary and moved off further into the water.
After talking to some of the locals we found that the hybrid type had been present for 7 weeks or so whilst the Egyptian had only appeared 3 weeks ago.
Whilst looking at the strange white bird, which we presumed was a hybrid; it became more and more obvious that it was an albino Egyptian Goose.
Steve got some photos of the pair, which I hope to upload soon if they will upload; i've been having problems with that recently.

At first I thought it was all straight forward and that the Egyptian Goose was another county tick but after looking at the evidence I am in two minds.
Is this the wild bird which has been present in the county and over the border in Durham throughtout the year ay Washington, Boldon, Derwent, Grindon and Whittle Dene?
After all it was acting the most wild and seemed to be chasing the albino at times.
Or was it released from captivity with the albino?

Steve text IF who came down to check them out after we went and he mentioned that it was missing its second set of primaries.
I suppose only time will tell if I can add the Egyptian Goose to my county list but for now I am more inclined to keep a clean list.

On the way back we checked a completely frozen WH where a Woodcock flew low over the new fire station building.
We flushed four snipe and two Mallard along the Horton Burn whilst checking for the Kingfisher which appeared briefly.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Starlings, Sparrows and Harris Hawk

I went to West Hartford at dusk yesterday in the hope that some wildfowl had dropped in. At the best of times WH is never lifting with birds but last night it was Suspiciously quiet.
Usually it means that dog walkers, dicks on dirtbikes, hunters or just people in general have scared off the birds but yesterday the set was complete when a Harris Hawk flew from the tree next to the small pool into its owners hands.
FFS, why can't you people just piss off and stay away from my patch.
As excpected there was nothing on the now flooded pools apart from a single Grey Heron.
Also a small holes has appeared next to the small pool which the flood water is running into, so soon I might have no patch to get pissed off about.

I could hear the hawks bells jingling as it flew from lampost to lampost before landing on the new fire station.
When I got back to the car my parents told me that the Harris hawk had landed on the roof and had made scratches with its claws.

When I came back from uni last week I found that my parents where having the drive and part of the garden dug up. Good idea the drive looks shite, only one problem they dug up the plum tree!
This is the plum tree where I saw my first Woodcock, Redwing and many others and is still the main attraction for birds in the garden.
With the work being completed last week I found that some compensation had been given in the form of another bird feeder.
The new feeder combined with the old one seems to be doing the trick as today I watched 40+ Starling invaded the garden and feeders along with 20+ House Sparrow.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Prestwick SEO

Yesterday afternoon I went to Prestwick Carr with SH to look for the Short Eared Owls which have been there for the last month or so.

I always enjoy watching SEOs but I have only seen them at West Hartford and usually I don’t get good views. There was a group of birders scanning a marshy field next to the bumpy track, so we went over. It was getting dark as we waited, 2 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels were flying around the field and 70 Fieldfare went overhead. The occasional Snipe could also be heard going over.

Birds were coming into roost all the time including a good number of Woodpigeon which settled in the tree tops. A flock of 11 Long Tailed Tit passed through the hedges behind followed by a flock of Great Tit then Blue.

Soon after, the first Short Eared appeared at the far side of the field. It was soon joined by another and there pair began hunting over the marsh. As both birds dived down another appeared and it wasn’t long until and aerial battle broke out.
We could hear the owls screeching at each other occasionally before flying towards each other and tussling with their feet.
One of the owls landed in the top of a tree in the field and the other two came gradually closer and began hunting over the area behind the Goat field.

Another of the owl landed on something on the edge of a flood pool in front of us. It had its back to us but through bins we got very close views. It was ripping something to pieces and eating it although we never found out what. It occasionally turned around and stared at us, its yellow eyes looking directly at me at one point. It stayed on the ground foraround 5 minutes before joinging the others hunting over the field. By this time another SEO had joined the three.
As we were leaving one of the birds flew behind where it began hunting on the other side of the bumpy track.