Friday, 14 January 2011

The owls are not what they seem

After almost finishing both of my assignments during the week I finally got the chance to do some birding yesterday. Cain (Holywell Birder) came down to Middlesbrough to pick me up and we went off to Saltholme.

After a quick stop in the visitors centre for breakfast we accidentally ended up going on the (pensioners) owl tour.
Whilst waiting for the walk to begin a Little Egret landed on the visitors centre pool near to the window. It or another bird was seen flying around the reserve throughout the rest of the time we were there.

We were told that up to 7 Long Eared Owls have been seen in the communal roost site but only one had been found before the tour began yesterday.
With about 30 people wanting to see the owls we were allowed to view from a distance in small groups. Cain with his hidden ability to see through trees managed to pick up the LEO straight away but I could only see it when looking through the scope.
My poor knowledge of tree types didn’t help when Cain was trying to describe the area the owl was in but the fact that it was roosting behind a branch and only half of its body and its ear tufts could be seen didn’t help. There was another LEO near it but I couldn’t see that either.

Before leaving we checked the Saltholme pools hide where 8 Pintail (6 Drakes, 2 female), 1 Shelduck and a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers were on the water amongst large numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall.

On the way home we stopped at Cowpen Bewley Country Park where the Ring Necked Duck was still showing well amongst the Tufted Duck and Pochard.
This is presumably the same bird, which has over wintered at Teesside for the last couple of years. It is almost a year since I saw Ring Necked Duck at this site, at least this time it was a lifer for Cain.

The patch list has been largely ignored since the 1st apart from the birds I have had in the garden but this morning I planned to twitch the 28-32 Waxwings LMcD had found at East Cramlington during the week.
Before leaving there was a lot of activity at the feeders and after a while checking with the bins a pair of Brambling dropped in.

When we got to the site at East Cram there was no sign of any Waxwings.
On the way back I noticed 5 flying around the treetops opposite the High Pit chippy. We pulled into the Burton House car park to get a better look but by this time the birds had landed out of sight.
I then heard the distinctive trilling coming from behind the car. 4 Waxwings were feeding on rotten apples on a tree in the car park. After watching them for 5 minutes the 5, which had disappeared, flew from one of the joining gardens and began feeding on the apples.
As if it couldn’t get any better, a male Blackcap (the first over wintering one I have ever seen), joined the Waxwings.

30 - Brambling
31 - Waxwing
32 - Blackcap

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