Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Drive by Raptors

On the train home this morning I had excellent view of a Sparrowhawk chasing a flock of Feral Pigeons near the centre of Hartlepool.
Later on I spotted a Merlin sitting in a dead tree overlooking a costal field near Seaham.
Also I have heard a Song Thrush singing in Middlesbrough town centre early morning over the last few days.

Monday, 27 February 2012

From hill to garden

With not much spare time at the moment I only did an hours birding at the weekend. Rather than going to West Hartford I took the five minute walk from my house to the top of Nelson Hill.

Despite the strong winds I could still hear Siskin going over in good numbers and a singing Skylark. 3 Buzzards were soaring over the River Blyth also.

A pair of Woodpigeon in my garden have been nest prospecting in the third different conifer in a week and a Song Thrush has began singing from the grounds of Northburn first school as it did for most of the early part of last year.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday AM

I was out with SH this morning as we both had the day off. First stop was a quiet Bothal Pond, 107 Canada Geese there.
At Cooper’s Corner just outside Ashington we spotted 7 Whooper Swan in a field.

East Chevington was our next destination. As soon as we looked on the South Pool we saw the Green Winged Teal in the SW corner.
Rather than shying away from the other Teal like GW normally do this bird was aggressive towards the male Teal as it swam around the females.
Also a Redhead Smew showed briefly in the SW corner of the pool.
In the field between the South Pool and the road were a lot of Grey Geese and at least 16 Whooper Swan.

The hour we spent at the North Pool was even better as we managed to see the Slavonian Grebe, 3 Scaup (1 male, 2 female), 1 Drake Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Drake Common Scoter, 1 Otter and another Redhead Smew.
The Common Scoter was sitting on west bank amongst a flock of Wigeon before flying back out to sea.
The other Smew was quite close in at first before flying off to the back of the pool. The best sighting of the day though was a Bittern, which jumped out form the reedbed in front of us before flying across the pond and landing in the reeds. It was seen again a few minutes later as it flew a quarter of the way across the pool before turning back and landing in the reeds in front of the L shaped hide.

On our way out of Chevington near Red Row, a Peregrine was chasing a flock of Woodpigeon.

West Hartford was our last stop. Only one Short Eared Owl was showing as was the Fox which spooked the Lapwing flock.

Monday, 13 February 2012

2 WEBS and too many good birds to count

First WEBS count, River Blyth, Saturday with LMcD:

A huge number of Dunlin were on the river at low tide along with a few Grey Plover and Bar Tailed Godwit. The highlights of a quiet count were a pair of Gadwall and a fly over female Goosander.
We checked the stubble field at Gloucester Lodge on the way back. Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting were in the surrounding hedgerow and a group of 14 Snow Bunting landed I the middle of the stubble.
At West Hartford there were 4 Short Eared Owls and a flock of Siskin flew south.

Second WEBS count, Castle Island, Sunday with SH, DMcK and IFo

Not much of note at Castle Island. We headed north after the count, stopping at Maiden’s Hall Lake first. An adult and Juvenile Bewick’s Swan were very close to the roadside in a field just south of the lake. Both pools at East Chevington were quiet with the highlight being a Slavonian Grebe on the north pool.

Next we stopped at the new site near Warkworth Gut. If anyone hasn’t been yet I strongly recommend you do as it looks like one of the potential best new sites in the county.
It is a series of fresh water scrapes with a large phragmites reed bed, situated between the caravan park and the dunes at Warkworth. Also part of the River Coquet flows through and floods around the channel at high tide.
With the potential to attract anything on the River Coquet, in Amble Harbour and coming off the sea, this place is really exciting.
From the path near the car park, which looks really good for migrants, we could see the Spotted Redshank with a few Commons in one of the scrapes.
We walked the length of the path until we crossed the wooden bridge and scanned from the viewpoint near the car park.

Next stop was Stag Rocks but first we stopped at Monk’s House Pool. Not much on the pool but a pair of Stonechat were on the fence opposite the pool in the dunes.

With our usual spot at Stag already taken we scanned from the bench half way down the hill instead. A vocal Stonechat was flitting around the grass in front of us.
At least 6 Slavonian Grebes and 4 Red Throated Diver were spotted on the calm sea along with Common Scoter, Fulmar, Brent Geese and a Harbour Porpoise which I missed.
A Merlin was sitting on the rocks below us before chasing the Purple Sandpiper flock up and down the beach, almost catching one in mid air.
The best find of the day though was by Steve as he spotted a Black Guillemot just off the foghorn. This was my second sighting of Black Guillemot in the county in the last two years almost in the exact same spot.

Before heading further north to Fenham flats we stopped at Budle Bay where despite the large number of Carrion Crows there was no sign of a Hoodie. A Greenshank in the main channel was nice to see at this time of year.
As the tide got further in at Fenham a group of over 5000 Geese took to the air andf began landing on the flats. 2000-3000 were Brent Geese and the rest were mainly Pink Footed. Whilst scanning the geese I pick out 4 Barnacle Geese and a Eurasian White Fronted Goose. 50+ Pintail were also on the flats and a few Tree Sparrows were near the hide.

Our final stop of the day was back on the patch where we finally caught up with the female Green Woodpecker at Bassington N.R. It took a bit of finding but once found it showed well in the Beech trees.

Friday, 3 February 2012

First West Hartford tick of 2012

I went to West Hartford at mid afternoon yesterday, not for a look at the owls but at the gulls. Usually when I take my scope to WH it is blowing a gale and I can’t get a proper look at the gulls as a result but yesterday there was no wind so I though it was as good time as any to find an Iceland or Glaucous Gull.

As I was setting up my scope at a safe distance, a flock of 25 Meadow Pipit flew over and landed on the ground in front of me briefly before flying off again.
As I approached the rubbish pile a Short Eared Owl lifted form the ground behind it and joined another hunting over the marshy field.

100+ Lapwing were on the main pool along with BH, Common and adult, and juvenile Herring Gulls. The only interesting gull I could see was one, which looked similar to a juvenile Herring gull but was significantly paler with an almost white head.
I was just about to take a better look at it when all of the birds on the pool lifted and only half relanded. The reason they got up was a Fox ran between the two pools before walking off into the fields behind the substation.

Around 30 Teal had also lifted from the main pool before landing again in the NW corner, when I looked closer I could see that 6 Mallard were also in the NW corner along with 2 drake Wigeon – a long overdue WH patch tick for me!

AS I approached the main pool I noticed another two SEO. One was sitting on a fence post behind the main pool and another was even closer on the metal railing.
The two Owls I had previously seen were now fighting with each other over the marshy field, hissing and screeching as they wrestled in mid air.
As I was leaving a GS Woodpecker flew over the entrance plantation.