Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Using my ears

On my way to crammy train station yesterday morning I could hear plenty of birds but didn't see many. I am always trying to improve my bird call ID so yesterdays journey acted as a test of calls I already know.
First was a GS Woodpecker and a flock of Siskin which flew over the woodland on Crowhall lane and a mixed flock of Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush were in the bushes surrounding the horse fields at Nelson.

Just before passing the post office I heard the unmistakable trilling of a single Waxwing, which was in the trees in the middle of the allotments.
Whilst waiting for the trian which was delayed by 10 minutes, a GS Woodpecker worked its way along the trees lining the platform.
More Siskin this time in groups of 1-2 flew over and whilst listening to the mixed tit flock near the platform I could hear a pair of Bullfinch.

Not hard calls to ID I know but this time a few years ago I wouldn't have been able to ID any of them, well maybe the Woodpecker.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

S-No-W Bunting

I was suprised by the amount of snowfall when I got home from uni the other day, there was only a light covering in Middlesbrough.
On my way back from Crammy train station it began to snow and as I passed the bus stop at the top of my street a Woodcock flew low overhead.

On friday morning I sorted out the feeders in the garden and put out some more seed, nuts and fruit. The birds around the estate are the most picky I have ever known and on friday snubbed the food on offer.
I got a message on friday from JM saying that a Snow Bunting had been at the east end of West Hartford. With only 20 minutes of light left I went over with LMcD to investigate.

11 Siskin along with a few Goldfinch were stripping the buds from the only non snow covered tree at the far west end of the entrance plantation.
Althougt the pools were frozen, a few Teal, Lapwing and Snipe were at the back of the bigger pool.
A group of 8 Meadow Pipit were along the edges of the smaller pool as was a male Stonechat which at one point in Treecreeper style, crept up the side of a dead tree trunk before dropping down onto the ice, behaviour I have never seen from a Stonechat before.

With no sign of the Snow Bunting, which would be hard enough to find when the ground is clear never mind in the snow, we headed back.
In the near darkness groups of Redwing, Fieldare and Skylark flew over, no sign of any owls.

Since friday the garden birds have become less picky and today the feeders were alive with activity. House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Coal Tit and a record 12 Blue Tit have been in the bushes behind the feeders for most of the day.
Other more unusual garden visitors today were a Jackdaw and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
I have been hearing this GS Woodpecker every sunday morning for the last 5 weeks and last weekend was the first time I managed to see it.
After doing some acrobatics on the neighbours fence it flew onto the feeders and chased of the Starling which mobbed it.
30 Pink Footed Geese went south yesterday and 60+ seemed to land over WH yesterday afternoon.
Also I got a call from DMcK this morning telling me that he was watching a Peregrine over Valley Park. Its a good job I have already seen Peregrine on the patch this year, I didn't fancy going to the other side of town in this weather.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

One will do

Out for WEBS with SH and DMcK this morning. Water level was very high at Castle Island so most of the activity was on the water.
When we first arrived the light was poor and there was a slight mist over the river. Amongst the murk the first bird we saw was a female Scaup. A group of 8 Goldeneye and 8 Little Grebe were the other highlights.

We went to Morpeth for another look at the Squacco Heron afer WEBS. The Heron hadn't been seen all morning and we were starting to give up hope until a group of birders on the bridge waved us over.
The Squacco had flown over the town centre being chased by gulls before landing on the bankside. The sun was now at its brightest and made the Heron look even better than it did yesterday.

Whilst watching the Heron a Kingfisher flew up stream and a Willow Tit called from the bushes next to the allotments before flying accross the river.

Next we went up to Alnwick for the Great White Egret. We walked along the riverside up to the wier but there was no sign. 20+ Tufted Duck were swimming upstream with a few Goldeneye. Also a Dipper was heard but not seen near the wier.

On the way back we called into Hulne Park. No Hawfinch but good views of Treecreeper and Nuthatch in the trees near the entrance.
As we were leaving 6 Waxwings landed in the trees further down the road from the entrance before flying back towards the town centre.

I got a message from JM on the way back saying that 20 Waxwings were in Sainsbury's car park but they were gone by the time we drove past.
As we passed the roadside just past the turnoff for Nelson I at last saw a single Waxwing- Patch Tick, in the tree tops.

117- Waxwing

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Calmed Down

After having a day to calm down I had the chance to go back to Morpeth this morning.
We didn't have long to spend so it was a good job the Squacco Heron - Lifer, was standing on the shingle bank next to the blue bridge when we got there.

During the 20 minutes we watched it, the Squacco crept along the side of the grassy islands in the river, fished and scratched itself before flying further down the river twice.

Like many birds I have see I was suprised by the small size of the Heron, roughly the same size as the nearby Mallards.
Its easy to see why it has been missed as it is so well camoflagued amongst the riverside vegetation.

After elegantly flying down the river the Squacco would then land on the bank side and clumsily run along the shoreline.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bad day

Last night I had it all worked out. I was going to go get the train straight from Middlesbrough to Morpeth, get off and see the Squacco Heron. The reality was much different.

After the lecture this morning went past 11 for the first time this year, I had 5 minutes to run to the train station.
After just making it onto the train as it was pulling away I then nearly got kicked off after an argument with the driver, lets just say I was close to doing a Joey Barton.

Half way through the journey I got a text from the Liver Birder saying that the Waxwings he was watching had now flown over my house!
I don’t know what more I can do to get them in the garden or to see them on the patch this year.
If I had got off the train at Cramlington I might have seen them but instead I got off at Morpeth.
After getting directions from SH and Birding Sometimes I finally found the Blue bridge.
Despite searching up and down the river I and a few other birders couldn’t find the Heron which hadn’t been seen since this morning.
Whilst searching a group of local pissheads started throwing things at me from the bushes next to the allotments. Things just get better.

So in what has been an all round crap week for me for a number of different reasons, I now have a book report to look forward to and now doubt more Waxwings will be seen and the Heron will return. Will I see them, probably not.
At least the weather was kind to me today.

Maybe I should take up a relaxing student hobby such as rioting.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hide and seek

Since I got back on thursday afternoon I have been playing a game of hide and seek with the Waxwings which are all over Cramlington.
First I checked Sainsbury's car park then Aldi car park and the berry bushes around the youth centre and finally Blagon beer garden and the bushes around the old village square. no sign.

Friday morning I went to the reported sights on Birdguides but again no sign despite arriving only half an hour later.

Saturday morning I was out with some friends and spent about an hour driving around the estate but again nothing.

Sunday morning went to the area JM (Birding Sometimes) has been seeing them and guess what...nothing.

I put out three different types of apples in the seed tray on friday but this has only attracted Starlings.
Waxwings have been top of my garden wishlist for years now and with the apples doing nothing and Blackbirds picking off the few berries in the garden it's not looking good again.

I remember the morning two years ago when I had three seperate groups in the space of 45 minutes when walking to school.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Interesting Behaviour

I was waiting to cross Newport Road in Middlesbrough this morning when I spotted a Sparrowhawk perched on the edge of a building, a small flock of Feral Pigeons were feeding on the pavement below the building.

The backlog of traffic had passed so I crossed the road just in time to see the Sparrowhawk fly form the building and chase the pigeons. The pigeons obviously had no idea it was on the building above so the Sparrowhawk had the advantage of a suprise attack from above, but instead it dived over the pigeons forcing them into the air before coming back around and chasing the flock accross the road in front of oncoming buses and cars.
All the pigeons managed to escape (just), and the Sparrowhawk disappeared over the roof tops still giving chase.

What interests me is that I noticed the Sparrowhawk about five minutes before it attacked the flock so it knew the pigeons were there. It had plenty of chances to use the element of suprise but instead risked its own life to force the flock in front of live traffic.
Was this just a coinsidence or had the Sparrowhwak been watching the traffic, noticed it had stopped and waited until it moved again before trying to use the traffic as a way of killing its prey?

Has anybody seen hunting methods like this before from any bird of prey or was this just coinsidental?
I have heard of Sparrowhawks forcing birds into windows before and was wondering if this was an advance on that technique which comes from the bird living in the city centre.
The same sort of thing as Peregrines using lights at night to hunt in city centres

Also I got a text from DMcK yesterday saying that he had some Waxwings on the roundabout near his house. This morning I see somebody has seen 60 in Sainbury's car park. I was walking past there last week and spotted a few good beery trees.
I hope they stick around until Thursday at least, I haven't seen any on the patch this year.