Friday, 25 June 2010

Puffin Cruise

I spent some more time volunteering to watch the Chilean Flamingos at Washington Wildfowl Park yesterday. Just as last week the Flamingos put in another lazy performance, but still the research is all in a good cause.
I went to look for the Egyptian Goose once I had finished but there was no sign on the ‘reservoir’. A female Tufted Duck with a brood of 8 chicks were swimming across the water.
From the woodland hide 7 different Bullfinch including 2 young birds were on the feeders along with 2 Jay and 1 GS Woodpecker.

Today I was out with SH to go on the Puffin Cruise, which had been cancelled earlier in the week. First we stopped at a quiet Cresswell Pond where the highlight was a female Marsh Harrier which flew over briefly.

When we got to East Chevington the Spoonbill was showing well at the far side of the south pool.
A Hobby had been seen earlier in the morning but there was no sign. On the North pool 2 Black Tailed Godwits were amongst the flock of terns.

We arrived at Amble harbour earlier than we expected so got on the earlier boat. The sea was flat as we set off and stayed this way throughout the trip.
Just as we had left Amble Harbour we could see a few Puffins on the water and as we approached Coquet Island we started to see more and more as the flew past and over the boat. The boat stopped in front of the Island and we were surrounded by rafts of Puffin.
Grey Seals were popping their heads out of the water near the boat and at least 25 Roseate Terns were on the Tern boxes.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Rough Sketch

Yesterday I had planned to go on the puffin cruise around Coquet Island with SH and DMcK but it was cancelled due to a large sea swell.
Instead we started off the day with an hours sea watch from Church Point. A few Great Skuas went passed but without a scope they were hard to see. I did manage to see 2 Manx Shearwater heading north and a flock of Teal.
On the beach from the car park I spotted a single Med Gull lurking amongst the gull flock.

We went inland next to Beacon Hill. A few family parties of tits were flicking around the treetops as were a family of Nuthatch. Also a juv Spotted Flycatcher was being fed insects by an adult.
A cuckoo was resting on the lower branches of a tree on the moor viewed from the gate.

We then headed back to the coast were the highlight of the day was a stunning summer plumage Ruff feeding on the shoreline right in front of the Oddie Hide.
Now that I have a bit more time on my hands I intend on doing a few more bird drawings, instead of taking crap photos.

Out last stop was Arcot Pond were the water level is lowering nicely. An Arcot mega was calling from the reeds in the northeast corner, a Reed Warbler- Patch tick.
For some reason they only turn up at Arcot every couple of years and Valley Park has become more reliable for them in resent years.

107 - Reed Warbler

Thursday, 17 June 2010

First Flamingo watch

I did my second day of volunteering at Washington Wildfowl Park today. First duty was to spend two hours watching the 42 Chilean Flamingos and filling in the ethogram.
The time flew by as I observed their behaviour on a five-minute basis. On the whole I have learnt that Chilean Flamingos are amazing, graceful and very lazy birds.
They spent the majority of the two hours asleep in the grass whilst a few preened and gathered more mud for their nests.
Occasionally they fed and waded through the water before pecking at each other and wing flapped whenever the sun disappeared behind the clouds.
Although the shed in the flamingo enclosure is designed for the flamingos to sleep in, it belongs to a pair of Oystercatchers, which have young near it, and dive-bombed any flamingos which got too close.

After I had done my other duties I had a look at the wader lake where I soon spotted the pair of Avocet and their now well-developed young, avoiding passing Terns.
I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine and looking at the Crane enclosure and watching a Little Egret hunt insects on feet away. Also I checked the American Lake and the diving duck and other wildfowl on it.

Drake Buffelhead

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Marsh Squirrel and Hedge Quail?

I served my first day as a volunteer at Washington Wildfowl Park yesterday. I was straight in at the deep end (literally in the pond), helping catch 5 Philippine Duck chicks in a net. It felt momentarily cruel taking the week or so old chicks away from their mother and walking off with them in a bucket but they wouldn’t have survived long if we hadn’t.
A Jay was looking at them from the treetops and the local gulls and magpies had already taken other chicks around the reserve this week.
By the time we had taken the Philippine ducklings back to the centre they had started to use teamwork to try and escape the bucket by climbing on each other’s backs.

After spending some time becoming more familiar with the site I went home only to step in the front door and get a call from JM about Quail at West Hartford, yet another crammy first I have failed to find. I was planning to go down to the massive newly planted cereal field near East Cramlington some time during the week to check for Quail.

I was short on time so only stayed at WH for about 15 minutes and in that time the potential 4 birds had gone quiet only to start singing again when I had left, typical.

So this morning I was at WH just after 7 where I met Liver birder and Howden Blogger who had heard no Quail so far.
Although it was colder and more overcast than yesterday Sedge and Grasshopper Warbler were still singing so there was always a chance of the Quail starting.
I decided to walk around the outside of the marshy field (being careful not to trample through the long grass), to the brick building and see I could hear anything from there.
On my way I saw the back of what I thought was a Stoat but as it bounded closer towards me through the tufts of grass I could see that it had a bushy tail.
I thought it was a Fox cub and followed it around the other side of a small grassy hill where I met the amazed Howden Blogger who just got a record shot of the mystery creature as it came around the corner. It was a Red Squirrel!
Now I didn’t see that coming especially in a marsh covered field. I searched again for it but it had gone, I didn’t realise how fast they can move. I presume it was overshoot from either the Arcot or Plessey Woods population.

By the time I had got to the brick building without hearing a Quail I had given up hope until whilst walking from the building to the hedgerow two Quail – Lifer, flew from a tuft of grass I nearly accidentally stood on and landed near the hedgerow.
One of the birds landed in the hedge for a few seconds before dropping to the ground and out of sight.
And in case anybody is wondering I didn’t deliberately flush the birds it was pure luck, I didn’t even know they were there as they were silent anyway. So please no comments about how what a sensitive issue it is I don’t want to get involved in a Quail row like the one, which broke out on birdforum last year.

Talking to the Liver Birder later on he told me that AC had two Quail earlier further down the field.
Also a Cormorant flew over the river Blyth and the Barn Owl that showed briefly was nice to see.

105- Quail
106 – Cormorant

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Marsh Mimicry

Do you ever get the feeling that when you step out of the front door that today is going to be a bit different?
I did on Monday when I went out with SH, there was a hint of thunder in the air combined with the previous day showers and a slight easterly wind which where all good signs.

Whilst driving to the bay a Merlin flew in front of the car whilst we crossed over the river Wansbeck, a failed breeder?
Things got better at Cresswell when a Grasshopper Warbler was acting strangely to the left of the hide. It seemed confused as it kept flying up and down the path towards the hide and perched on fence posts before reeling weakly.
Steve thought that from its behaviour that it had probably arrived over night meaning that something else was out there to be found.
A Little Gull, which landed on the sand bar in front of the hide, was the highlight on the pond itself.

We were going to check Druridge Polls from both hides but whilst walking up towards them we both stopped and listened to what sounded like a false House Sparrow calling from the trees to our right.
As we listened the House Sparrow suddenly changed into Blue Tit with a few Warbler type notes in between.

Carefully we went further into the long grass to listen and whilst we did the song which we now thought was coming from a Marsh Warbler, mimicked a Blue Tit again, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, House Martin and a strange Little Grebe style trill.
It seemed to be calling from the same area of trees and only once flew into the reed bed were we could see its head as it sang its olive head and white throat poking out from between reed stems.
After making sure we were happy with the identity without actually seeing all of the bird we sent a few texts and as birders arrived so did the rain, which stopped the Warbler signing.
Eventually it started signing again and we left happier with what we had heard rather than seen.