Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hartford Bridge

On Friday evening I went to Hartford Bridge with LMcD in search of Dipper. When we walked down to the river from the roadside, the first thing we saw was an overweight Labrador trying to avoid drowning in the river, ruining any chance of the Dipper appearing.
Instead we walked the 1 ½ miles down stream to the Stannington Viaduct. Apart from a few Mallards the river was quiet.

On the way back now that the dog had gone (or drowned) we looked down both sides of the river from the bridge and straight away I spotted an adult Dipper sitting preening itself on a floating log on the left side of the river.

The Dipper was on the Cramlington side of the river so this is a long overdue new species on the patch for me. Also whilst watching the Dipper a Kingfisher flew west along the river and under the bridge.

101 – Dipper

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Last week at CLV

Last week myself and Cain (Holywell Birder) were helping out at Cramlington Learning Village (or community high school, like it was when I was a student there).
We were offering our limited knowledge to a year 9 class of 26 students, the majority of which seemed to enjoy the week.
The aim of the week was for the students to produce a brochure showing what wildlife is on offer around Cramlington as part of science investigations week.
The brochure was also to include their own photos, drawings and observations from the sights we visited.

On the Monday we went around the school grounds in small groups to see what was about. The strip of trees bordering the railway line was the sight of most of the activity. A family party of Whitethroats and a pair of Bullfinch were the highlights on the bird front whilst a set of fox tracks in the mud were interesting.

With no transport during the week we were limited to visiting local sights by foot so it was a good job the weather was kind to us.
On Tuesday we visited Beacon Lane and Arcot Pond. Although there was nothing out of the ordinary at Arcot, the Common Tern preformed well, diving for fish over the pond. Fighting Grey Herons, Tadpoles with legs and Fresh Water Mussels also seemed to capture the imagination.

On Wednesday we walked from the school, past the fields with the giant spoon in near East Cramlington and ended up on the border of Seghill.
Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Whitethroat were all showing well in the hedgerows around the tracks. With field after field of Wheat and Barley I though I might hear a Quail but had no luck.

During the rest of the week we helped out with the content of the brochure. It was amazing to see a class that couldn’t name a Blackbird at the beginning of the week, manage to pick out key features of a Yellowhammer by the end. Also we went down to the workshop to offer advice to another class who were spending their week making bird tables, boxes and feeders.
As well as this they were helping to make the worlds largest nest box, a record currently held by Heighley Gate Garden Centre.
By the end of the week they had beaten the record and will soon be in the Guinness Book of records!

I wish something like this existed at the high school when I was there!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


I went out with SH and DMcK on Sunday morning to do WEBs. So far this year the WEBS counts at Castle Island haven’t been that interesting, but from now until November they should get better. Sundays count was proof of this.
As soon as we began scanning the river we could see a Spoonbill asleep (of course) on the edge of the island.
As we scanned the island further we found a Little Ringed Plover on the near shoreline.
Surprisingly the Spoonbill soon woke up and began wading and feeding through the river behind the island.
Amongst the regular wildfowl on the river was a Goldeneye and a 1st summer Med Gull was bathing amongst the BH Gulls near Stakeford Bridge.

On the way back we stopped at West Hartford and Arcot Pond. We soon moved on from WH as the main flash is completely dry and there is only a small amount of water left in the smaller flash.
Arcot has also dried out, exposing some good-looking muddy margins, which will hopefully attract some waders in the next few months. A Roe Deer and her fawn were drinking from the pond edge; this is the first fawn I have seen at Arcot.
Whilst watching the deer a Reed Warbler began singing from the NE reed bed.
This is the second year in a row I have heard a Reed Warbler call from this same spot.

Reed Warbler - 100

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Norfolk and Suffolk 2011 part 2

Day 3.

Before moving up to Norfolk for the last few days we went back to Westleton Heath early morning.
This time I got much better views of a pair of Nightingale along one of the tracks. In total we had 4 separate singing birds. Nearer to Dunwich Heath a Stone Curlew was sitting close to the ground and 4 Dartford Warblers – Lifer, were moving around the heath. After being initially shy the Dartfords soon began singing from the top of gorse bushes. Also around the heath we had good views of Little owl, Green Woodpeckers and 3 Turtle Dove as well as a few family parties of Foxes.

On the way to Norfolk we stopped for most of the day at Great Ryburgh watchpoint. We had one possible Honey Buzzard along with 6 Common Buzzard, 1 Red Kite, 1 Little Egret, 1 Barn Owl, 1 Egyptian Goose and strangely 1 Sandwich Tern.

Over the next couple of days we put in a good few hours at various Montagu’s Harrier sites without success. Also on the way we briefly stopped at Choseley Drying Barns where Corn Bunting were singing from the surrounding hedgerows.

With our accommodation in Norfolk less than a mile away from Titchwell RSPB we had a quick look around that evening. Whilst walking down the main path through the reserve we checked the pool on the left of the track. A pair of Red Crested Pochard - a long overdue lifer, was amongst the wildfowl on this deeper pool.

Day 4.

We started off the day a couple of miles up the coast at Cley. No sign of the Shorelark but close prolonged views of Bearded Tit and Little Egret were nice. Rather than go onto the main part of the reserve we went back to Titchwell. On the way out a pair of Egyptian Geese were at Salthouse Ditch.
Titchwell was quiet buy its usual standards but Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Pintail with young and Ruddy Duck were still on the reserve, not that quiet!

Day 5.

On our way out of Norfolk we planned to stop at Welney WWT. But first we tried our look at Wolverton Triangle for Golden Pheasant. No Pheasants but a Muntjack Deer fed close to the car. We also tried a nearby site for Woodlark and as soon as we entered the site a Woodlark – Lifer, began singing before dropping from the sky like a Skylark.

When we got to Welney we stayed around the area where the Bluethroat had been seen. After 3 hours with no sign we moved on, only to find out the next day that it had been seen an hour after we left.
Our final stop of the trip was nearer to home at Blackhall Rocks where the Surf Scoter – Lifer, was showing well amongst a raft of Common Scoter.
A good way to finish the trip.

This week:

I went down to Hartlepool with Holywell Birder, BM and TM on Monday to see the White Throated Robin – Lifer. I won’t go into details but I was in the chaotic scenes at Hatlepool and only saw the bird after climbing up a ladder.

After a quick stop at McDonalds in Hartlepool we went to the dunes near the sewage works at Seaton Carew where the Red Backed Shrike had been seen.
The shrike soon appeared and showed well on a fence line for ten minutes before hunting in the dunes. Although not as rare as the Robin the RB Shrike was much better looking and I didn’t have to climb a ladder to see it!

Yesterday whilst walking from Seaton Sluice to St.Mary’s I flushed a pair of Yellow Wagtails from the cycle track. They then landed in a stubble field near Hartley. These were the first Yellow Wagtails I have seen this year, we didn’t even see any in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Norfolk and Suffolk 2011 Part 1

This post is about the trip I went on down to Norfolk and Sufflok with Liver Birder, SH, DMcK, LMcD, GB and LR last week.
Liver Birder has already included photos in his post so there is no need for me to include my crappy scenic shots.

Day One

After a quiet journey down to Norfolk we stopped at Weeting Heath first before the heat haze started. Spotted Flycatchers were tacking away from the treetops as we entered the hide. After a couple of minutes scanning the Heath we spotted a Stone Curlew – Lifer, sitting down. It wasn’t long until we spotted another 3 well-camouflaged stone curlews on the horizon. When they were next to each other we noticed that one of the birds much smaller than the others and that the white stripe on its wing was much less visible indicating that this was one of this years young.

After leaving Weeting our next stop was Lakenheath RSPB, a couple of miles down the road. We quickly went to the end of the first plantation on the reserve as a Golden Oriole had been singing earlier in the morning. Despite spending two hours waiting to see the Oriole we could only hear one bird singing from inside the plantation.
During the two hours we were treated to excellent views of Marsh Harriers gliding overhead, Hobbies hawking insects, a Bittern flew between the reed beds and a Kingfisher flew past, not a bad way to spend two hours.

We then moved on to the area overlooking the reed beds, from here a Cetti’s Warbler blasted out its call nearby but remained illusive. Whilst walking along side the Little Ouse, three Hobbies landed on fence posts next to each other before hunting and pair of Garganey were on the wash pool.

Before arriving at our accommodation we made another stop, this time at an undisclosed location where Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been seen just over the border in Suffolk.
Gordon and Steve arrived at the area a minute or so before the rest of us and they had a LSW fly overhead but despite us waiting for half an hour in the poring rain it didn’t return, though a singing Firecrest did make up for missing what would have been another lifer.

After arriving at our accommodation we explored the nearby Westleton Heath an area we would visit over the next few days in more detail.

Day Two

With Minsmere RSPB only 1 ½ miles away from where we were staying we spent most of the second day on the reserve. I had been once before back in 2005 so knew what a good reserve it was.
Alsmost as soon as we walked along the track to the first hide, an obliging Cetti’s Warbler began singing from the edge of a tree before flying to the bushes surrounding the… hide where it sang out in the open for long periods, it even flew onto the railings outside the hide door.

On the mere there were over 20 nesting Med Gulls, 20+ Barnacle Geese, Little Tern, 4 Little Egret, 51 Black Tailed Godwit, 7 Spoonbill flew over and an escaped Greater Flamingo.

We went around most of the reserve, visiting most the hides. The other highlights on the reserve were good flight views of Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Hobby, a squealing Water Rail, a family party of Marsh Tit and my best ever views of Bearded Tit.

That evening just after dark we visited Westleton Heath again. After listening to a Nightingale – Lifer, singing for over 5 minutes it finally decided to show itself in the middle of a bare bush.
2 Nightjars were churring out on the heath and after hearing one bird wing clap it flew up and landed on a branch 10 meters in front of us.

Only two days in and better was still to come…