Friday, 30 April 2010

Garden Drama

When I got back from Teesside last weekend I heard young birds calling from the bush between the shed and the bins.
I watched the bush for a while and saw that a pair of Blackbirds were visiting it regularly with mouthfuls of worms. I saw them up until thursday digging up worms on the lawn before flying around the corner, this is where the drama began.

Wednesday 7:00pm
The male Blackbird was in the bird bath whilst I was watching TV, suddenly it flew off faster than I have ever seen a Blackbird fly. This was because a male Sparrowhawk landed in the bird bath a few seconds later before it also flew off.

Wednesday 11:30pm
Usually the Blackbirds stop calling at around 10 in the garden but again whilst watching TV I could hear the pair getting louder and louder.
I went to the window and saw that the neighbours outside light was on, this is only ever triggered by cats.
The female Blackbird was on my neighbours lawn hopping up and down calling frantically. I noticed what I first though was a frog on the lawn behind her but once I got my bins on it I saw that it was on of the fledgling Blackbirds. I could also see three cats lurking in the shadows which the female could not see.

It was time for action, me and my dad armed with stones went to the fence where two of the cats ran off straight away but the other, which was hiding behind a plant pot was getting closer.
The fledgling bird didn't help matters when it ran towards the cat.
In the next five seconds the cat began running for the fledgling, the female dive bombed the cat, we both started throwing stones, and the neighbours came out.
This resulted in the cat jumping over the fence, the fledgling disappearing and the neighbours looking very confused.
After this there was an awful noise which I have only heard a few times before which was a bird being killed. Another cat them jumped over the fence.
I checked the nest which was now empty and went to bed fearing the worst.

Thursday 8:30am
On his way to work my dad had found one of the fledglings alive in the plant pot next to the front door. I watched for a while and saw the parents feed it worms until it was gone less than an hour later.

Thursday 1:15
On my way out I heard the same terrible noise as last night. One of the cats ran from under the car with a fledgling in its mouth. A combination of my throwing a football and the parents dive bombing it made the cat drop the fledgling which ran onto the middle of the lawn.
I left hoping that it wasn't injured and the parents could protect it for a while longer.

Thursday 6:00pm
Both parents are now flying into another bush with worms, I can only hope the fledgling got into this bush and will stay there.

Also whilst in the garden two Sand Martins - Garden tick, flew over and a Buzzard flew over being mobbed by Carrion Crows, only the second time I have had one over the house.

The birds would stand a better chance if the cat's owners would lock them in the house at night instead of letting them run around willy nilly pissing in the bushes, shitting on the lawn, scratching the car and killing birds.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lightening strikes twice

First of all, I was out with SH, DMcK and LMcD yesterday for a trip to Teesside.
We checked west Saltholme pool first for the American Wigeon without any luck. Two Little Ringed Plovers were on the small flashes between West and Back Saltholme.

At Dorman's Pool two Cetti's Warblers were singing in the scrub between the pool and the car park along with Reed and Sedge Warblers which were in the reeds.

Next we went to Greatham Creek were 16 Avocets were on the gravel island with a LRP. On the way to the hide 5 Wheatear flew around the rough ground and a White Wagtail was on the edge of the pool.
Plenty of Seals were swimming up and down the river and on the sand banks. Also a few Black Tailed Godwits were on the sand.

We then had a walk around the whole of the Salthome reserve. Although it was fairly quiet we did get excellent views of 6 or more Yellow Wagtail.

News then came through saying the American Wigeon- Lifer, was on Reclemation Pond. It took a while to find but it was there with a pair of Eurasian Wigeon.

On the way back we stopped at Arcot. 5+ Swallows were flying around Arcot Hall and a Nuthatch and Treecreeper were calling in the woods.
The pond was quiet, a pair of Canada Geese were on a nest amongst the reeds and three Stock Doves landed on the dead trees.
A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling next to the railway bridge near Beaconhill on the way back.

This morning I got a text from SH saying that a Great White Egret had flown NW over Arcot Pond!!!
A year ago to the day since the GWE landed on Arcot and just like last year I had missed it.
I went straight to West Hartford on the off chance it had dropped in but no. Only 7 Canada Geese had dropped in and 2 Grasshopper Warblers were reeling away.

Also I found out that I have missed Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and 20 Whimbrel (I have my doubts about that one) this morning on the patch.
What is it with this day last year I missed the GWE and a Ring Ouzel but at least I had a consolation Drake Garganey.

82 - Stock Dove
83 - Swallow
84 - Nuthatch
85 - Treecreeper
86- Grasshopper Warbler

Saturday, 17 April 2010


I was up early to West Hartford this morning. The sun was shinning when I set off but it soon turned cloudy and quite cold.
The highlight on the way was a singing male Blackcap in the bushes at the end of Horton Burn.
I checked the small flashes in the fields overlooking East Hartford, right of the substation first. Only Lapwings were on the muddy margins.

On the main pool 6 Greylags were calling loudly before flying off. Also 4 Shellduck and a pair of Gadwall were on the pool.
Whilst scannign the bushes behind the substation 4 Sand Martins flew over and a Willow Warbler - Patch Tick, started singing.

81 - Willow Warbler

Friday, 16 April 2010


Brief visit to West Hartford for the first time in a few weeks this afternoon. Last time I was there both pools were joined and it was heavily flooded but today the water is starting to evapourate slightly just in time for some waders. Speaking of which, a Redshank - Patch Tick, was feeding in the grass in front of the smaller pool before flying off towards East Hartford with a flock of Lapwing.
10 LBB Gulls were on the water with a few Oystercatchers.

80 - Redshank

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ticks Galore!

A birding timeline of my day.

I was woken up not by a siren this morning for a change but instead an Oystercatcher as it flew over the car park. Another addition to the Teesside campus list.
Also I found the two Drake Mallards asleep on the grass in a car park on the opposite side of the university today along with a female I recognised from the MIMA pond. It has all the same marking and patterns as a female mallard but is a lighter more orangey buff colour, not sure if this is just a variation or hybridisation.

On the way home:
Two more species added to the train list also today, a LBB Gull was flying around Stockton station and 8 Shellduck on the creeks opposite Cowpen Bewley Country Park.

This Afternoon:
Had a quick five minute look at the garden, as I often do, incase anything was hanging around the feeders.
At first all seemed normal until two birds within the space of a minute, the first was a Patch Tick and a Garden Tick.
A male Blackcap flew onto the seed tray before flying back to the bushes. It repeated this proccess a few times before disappearing into the bushes. Whilst still scanning the bushes a Grey Heron crash landed in the school field before flying off again.

Not all that exciting to most of you but I am starting to appreciate more common species, the Blackcap was definately the highlight.

79 - Blackcap

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


After giving up on my Teesside University list since I have only added two species since october, today I made an unexpected addition. Two Drake Mallards were sitting amongst the bushes in the car park behind the libary.

With no source of water on campus I can only think that they have come from the pond in front of MIMA art gallery which is not that far away,or they have come from the other side of the river. I also had a Cormorant fly over.

Maybe I will add a few more species to the list before the year ends, I should also check the MIMA pond surely it's overlooked.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

It's as if Linnets can read

I was out to Arcot early this morning as it was warm and there was no wind.
8 Mute Swans and a pair of Great Crested Grebe the only birds of note on the pond.
I headed to the golf course after this where I heard two seperate drumming GS Woodpeckers.

Whilst walking around the course I heard the elusive Arcot Green Woodpecker - Patch Tick.
It yaffled its head off for about five minutes before sounding more distant.

I then went to the back of the pond and thrashed the north west corner where a Woodcock- Patch Tick, flew out of the wet grass and onto the golf course.
I then heard a familiar sound as a flock of 50+ Linnets - Patch Tick, landed in the bushes above me.
Thanks to everybody who comment on my previous post about Linnet numbers, maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough.

76 - Green Woodpecker

77 - Woodcock

78 - Linnet

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Pale SEO

I was watching what at first I thought was a Barn Owl at West Hartford tonight. As I looked closer I could see that it was a very pale Short Eared Owl. Unlike the other WH SEOs this bird flew very quickly from either side of the field behind the main pool.
The other SEOs glide over the field before occasionally dropping down on prey where as this bird kept diving unsuccesfully every 20 seconds or so.

Not much on the main pool tonight apart from a pair of Shellduck and a Mute Swan. Both of the pools have now merged due to flooding.
I flushed a pair of Grey Partridge from the track leading to the pool and there were around 6 Reed Buntings in the area.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Stonechat Mix up

Yesterday after reviewing my patch list so far this year I noticed that I had included Stonechat after hearing one at WH in early January.
I listened to the call again on CD and realised that I have made a mistake and have removed Stonechat from my patch list putting the total on 73. I haven't seen a Stonechat in the county this year and I'm sure they are one of the biggest casualties of the winter.
Also I haven't seen or heard the usually reliable WH Linnet flock so far this year. Has anybody noticed if Linnet numbers are down elsewhere?

Yesterday I added an undisclosed patch tick to the list along with a Sand Martin.

74 - Undisclosed

75 - Sand Martin

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Two posts for the price of one

I was out on Thursday with Cain ,(Holywell Birder). We went to Prestwick Carr first in case the eagle had gone back to where it was seen the night before.
After a couple of minutes walking down the bumpy road we refound the eagle flying over the plantation being mobbed by Buzzards.
It flew right over our heads giving some amazing views, it then flew over the goat fields and off towards Dinnington. We lost sight of it soon after as it was mobbed by Corvids.
We tried to refind it but failed.

After this we headed off to Eshott for the Common Crane. After finding the field it was in opposite the entrance to Shaw Farm (no thanks to my shocking map reading skills), it didn't take us long to find the Crane which was in the far corner of the ploughed field. It stayed for a few minutes before being mobbed by Lapwings and flying off into the next field. As it was in the air we could hear it calling.

After a quick stop at Amble where I saw the Mallard x Eider hybrid in the harbour, we went in search of a Black Redstart.
After not finding one at Druridge we tried Whitley Bay cemetry but didn't go in as there was a funeral going on.
Instead we had a good look around Arcot. The three GC Grebes were still on the pond as was a Little Grebe - Patch Tick.

This morning I was out with SH and MH in search of yesterdays Great White Egret- Lifer. We headed to East Chevington South Pool first where it had been reported and just in time managed to see it fly off over the reed bed and land at Druridge Pools.

We checked from the Budge screen and soon relocated the Egret wading through the water at the far right side of the pool.
We watched it for a while as it fished and flew around, I could even see the silvery white plumes on its back.

74 - Little Grebe