Tuesday, 29 March 2011


When I got to Arcot Pond yesterday I was thinking I would never get Whooper Swan on the patch this year if I didn't get one in the next week. At first I could only see 4 Mutes dotted around the pond but when the one which had its head submerged, put its head up I could see it was a rusty looking juv Whooper Swan. 78 - Whooper Swan

Monday, 28 March 2011

Another good weekend

I seem to be getting a good balance between birding and doing work during my two weeks off. After spending most of Saturday doing work, I went up to Cresswell with CS Holywell birder to see the American Wigeon. Cain was short on time so we didn’t stay long; we soon spotted the American Wigeon amongst the flock of Wigeon to the left of the hide, not a lifer for me but a county tick. Also a Dark Bellied Brent Goose was amongst the flock of Pink Footed Geese. We also called into Druridge Pools briefly where 17 Shoveler and 4 Pintail were on the budge field. Also I have seen an undisclosed bird at an undisclosed site on the patch recently. 77 – Undisclosed. I have no idea why the writing is so crushed together, I have tried editign it 3 times but nothing happens.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Hartford History

That’s what was made tonight, with West Hartford’s first ever Great White Egrets, which are the third and fourth records for Cramlington.
Also is this the first multiple Great White Egret record for Northumberland?

When I got the call from John saying that he had a GWE I was lucky enough to get a lift there within 5 minutes. When I arrived I could just see a flash of white above the reeds. Soon after another GWE appeared next to the other and the pair stayed at the edge of the main flash, viewed from the roadside for about half an hour before flying off NW.
They turned around a few times in flight before deciding to go NW, where will they turn up next?

See http://birdingsometimes.blogspot.com/ for details and record shots.

76 – Great White Egret

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


I checked West Hartford this evening to try and scan through the gull flock but they took off as soon as I quietly approached. 2 Greylags had joined the Teal and Oystercatchers in the grass behind the main flash.
As I was leaving I spotted a Short Eared Owl sitting on a fence post, which overlooks a small flooded channel (ideal for voles), between the main flash and the marshy field.
It flew from the post and began hunting along the edge of the flash before dropping down onto something. Soon it was mobbed by Magpies and flew off towards the fields behind the flash.
This SEO looked darker than the bird I saw here last month, which was particularly pale.

I was able to get a lift down to Valley Park tonight to try for the Tawny Owls, which have been heard for over 6 weeks now.
The night was calm and still and as soon as I opened the car door to listen, a female Tawny Owl started calling from the edge of the trees opposite the houses. It didn’t take long until the male responded and the pair called non stop for 5 minutes.

75 - Tawny Owl

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

More of the same

I’m trying to get to Arcot as much as possible at the minute as it is a key time of year for seeing certain species on the patch e.g. Goosander, Whooper Swan and Sand Martin.
As soon as I got out of the car today a Chiffchaff was singing away from the trees near the SW corner of the pond.
When I got to the pond itself most of the activity was in the NW corner where 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard, 5 Mute Swan, 8 Coot and the Muscovy Duck were.

As I was leaving a vocal Curlew flew over the fields opposite the pond.

73 - Chiffchaff

74 - Curlew

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Shrike Song

I was out this morning with GB, ML and DMcK, to do some proper birding for the first time in weeks.
We headed up to Harwood Forest, stopping at the layby opposite Winter’s Gibbet first. It was overcast with rain clouds on the horizon and as a result only 2 Buzzards were seen.
Small groups of Crossbill were flying around the plantation to our right and a pair landed on the gibbet itself.
Instead of waiting to see if more raptors appeared we went in search of the Great Grey Shrike, last seen on 2nd March.

We parked in the village and walked along the forest track until we reached Tutehill Moss, a few miles form the village. At the top of the clearfell there is an army look out post, we scanned for the Shrike from there.
The rainclouds which had been on the horizon soon caught up and it drizzled for the rest of our time in Harwood.
Whilst scanning below, more small groups of Crossbill and also Redpoll and Siskin flew over calling, apart from this the forest was quiet and Tutehill Moss was Shrikeless.
On our way back towards the village we stopped about half way along the track and took a short cut back across and area of clearfell surrounded by a young plantation.
As we got near a crossroads between the clearfell and the plantation at Fallowlees Burn, Graeme spotted the GS Shrike flying low to our left before landing on top of a tree in a small alder plantation.
The Shrike stayed perched at the top of the branch for around 10-15 minutes and looked like it was going to cough up a pellet at one point. After about five minutes of watching the so far silent Shrike, it started to sing, at first we thought it was another a crossbill or something but when watching it through the scope we could see its mouth opening at the same time.

I never though I would hear a Shrike sing and it sounded nothing like I had imagined.
First it sounded slightly like a warbler but kept adding mimicry and sounded like a wader then a bird of prey.
The lack of birds and poor weather until this point was frustrating but I was in need of a good walk after lazing around for most of the winter, so the Shrike was an added bonus to an excellent day.

On the way back we stopped at Arcot where 5 Pochard, 8- 10 Tufted Duck, a trilling Little Grebe, a drake Shoveler and a Muscovey Duck were all on the pond.

71 – Shoveler

72 – Little Grebe

Friday, 18 March 2011


I broke up for Easter yesterday, so spent a couple of hours at West Hartford this afternoon.
As I was approaching the main pool, a good number of gulls were bathing at the back along with 20+ Lapwing and 8 Oystercatcher. Most of the gulls were BH, Common and Herring but there were also 3 Lesser Black Backs amongst them.
I checked again for Jack Snipe but only found 21 Common Snipe and around 30 Teal. Most of the Teal landed on the pool and after checking through them, couldn’t find a vertical stripe.
2 Skylark and 4 Meadow pipit were vocal the whole time I was there and 2 Common Buzzards circled above the farm building and back fields.

The two patch ticks which took me to 70 today were a pair of Gadwall and a pair of Shelduck which swam around with 4 Mallard before both pairs flew off south.

69 - Shelduck

70 - Gadwall

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Teesside Wax

After seeing the somebody had 25 Waxwings on the Teesside campus on monday, I went and had a look yesterday. I took a shortcut to the area where they had been seen and as I did 6 flew overhead, trilling, before landing in a row of trees opposite.
These trees are near to where they had been originally seen so I checked the surrounding area but I could only see the 6.
Still they were a good campus tick, almost as good as Tawny Owl and it was a good way to spend my lunch break.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Not much

I haven’t done much birding since my last post due to uni work again, but I only have two months left then I can get back out in the field.

On Monday morning as I was leaving for the train, a Song Thrush was singing from the top branches of a birch tree in my garden before being joined by a female Brambling which landed on the branch below it.

At Arcot this afternoon I managed one new patch tick, 2 female Pochard were on the pond along with 2 Tufted Duck, 4 Coot and 5 Goldeneye.
As we were waiting at the Dam Dykes crossing a Peregrine flew slowly over SW, they are getting a lot more regular in the Cramlington area over the last few years.

68 - Pochard

Sunday, 6 March 2011

February Results

The results on the patch for last month are as follows:

LMcD: 69
DMcK: 67
PJA: 66
GM: 63

I have been twice up to Valley Park in recent nights listening for the Tawny owls which have been calling every night this week. Despite getting a call from DMcK saying that he was listening to them and me and the Liverbirder getting there less than 10 minutes later, they didn't call again that night.

The highlight of thursdays train journey home was my first Stonechat of the year, sitting on a fence in a field near Seaham

67 - Coot - a pair were on Arcot Pond yesterday