Saturday, 30 March 2013


I headed north with SH and DM this morning. Spring was trying its best to break through but the cold wind and occasional snow flurries still made it feel more like winter.

Our first stop was to check the swans at Buston Links. No sign of the Bewick’s and only 2 Whoopers amongst the Mute Swans in the roadside fields.

Next we stopped at the Coquet Island viewpoint where worryingly there were no Auks on the sea or around the island. We decided to give Hauxley a miss but on the way out of the village we stopped and scanned a flock of 300+ Pink Footed Geese. They were in a field close to the roadside but we couldn’t pick out anything unusual amongst them.

There was no sign of the Marsh Harrier at East Chevington. A redhead Smew was asleep on one of the islands on the north pool and a Water Rail was squealing from the Reed bed below us. Whilst the sun had its most prolonged appearance of the day a Chiffchaff began singing from the scrub between the two bottom hides on the north pool.

We briefly stopped at Hemscotthill Links in search of Wheatear. No sign but a Peregrine flew low overhead as it chased a group of Starlings. Every bird between Druridge and Creswell seemed to take to the air when the Peregrine was hunting including a flock of finches in the dunes, which had at least one vocal Twite amongst them.

At Cresswell Pond Moorhen and Coot were feeding on the open grass between the barn and the hide. 3 Stock Dove flew north and 7 Red Breasted Merganser, a drake Shoveler, 60 Wigeon and a long Tailed Duck were on the water.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Local Ponds

Whilst out and about with the family today I checked some of the local ponds. A quiet Marden Quarry only held a pair of Pochard amongst the usual ducks. At least 7 Stock Dove were in the trees surrounding the pond including a nest building pair.

Despite its small size West Allotment Village pond still managed to hold 5 Mute Swan, 5 Pochard, 20 Tufted Duck and a pair of Shoveler along with many Moorhen and Coot.

Killingworth Lake was also busy. Tufted Duck were in good numbers on both sides of the lake along with a few Goldeneye, 6 Pochard, a pair of displaying Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe asleep on the edge of the reeds.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Spring into action

With a mixture of sun and snow showers this morning I wasn’t holding my breath when I went to West Hartford.

Walking passed the entrance plantation I could hear a WH rarity calling form the hedgerow next to the Substation, a Tree Sparrow. As I approached it flew south towards the next hedgerow down before going into the entrance plantation. Just out of view it then flew back into the hedgerow near a single tree before working its way down towards the border of East and West Hartford.

From here I could see that it was a male as it popped in and out of view also I could hear at least another two birds with it but the strong wind made listening difficult and seeing was made even harder as the newly ploughed fields were hard to move across.

Whilst watching the sparrows I noticed all the gulls in the nearby field get up and begin mobbing something. Expecting to see a Buzzard I was surprised when I looked up and saw a cream-crown Marsh harrier being mobbed. I flew off north avoiding the gulls and disappeared over the river towards Bebside.

SO that’s my first new species at WH this year, all I need now are House Sparrows! These Sparrows must have come from the newly discovered population at Laverock Hall Farm just over a mile away.

Friday, 22 March 2013


As I plan to do more often this year, I had a ''landwatch'' from the top of Nelson Hill this morning. 60% of the patch can be seen from the top of the old pit heap and on a clear day you can even seawatch! Although I am yet to clearly make anything out from there.

There wasn't much today as snow flurries kept blocking my view and the howling wind made it hard to hear anything. The highlights were a drake Mallard flying north and eight Waxwings perched on the scrub at the base of the south side of the hill. They soon took off and landed in a garden in Nelson Village.

I checked Browckwell scrubland on the way back but only found a pair of Song Thrush and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


Whilst passing I quickly checked Arcot Pond this morning. Nothing new apart from a diving Little Grebe and 60 or so bathing Black Headed Gulls. I scanned through the ducks and gulls hoping for something rarer but no luck, not even a Chiffchaff singing yet.

Later on I went to the easterly border of Cramlington at Laverock Hall Farm in search of the Tree Sparrows spotted there at the weekend. The farm itself is just outside the patch boundary but the row of cottages on the opposite side of the road are just inside and luckily the Tree Sparrows were there this morning.

It was hard to get a proper idea of how many were there as they were in and out of the cottage gardens and mixed amongst a flock of House Sparrows. I have passed here many times before and regularly buy birdseed but have only even seen House Sparrows.
There were at least four Tree Sparrows in the trees above the stables and around the same number in the hedges surrounding the cottages.

The fields behind the cottages are usually good for Golden Plover most winters but they only held Lapwing today.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Record Count

Duelling Dunnocks and singing Song Thrushes were the theme of the morning as I walked to West Hartford.

A Short Eared Owl was hovering low over the fire station field as I arrived before perching on a fence post next to the sub station. Oystercatcher numbers were down from the weekend high count of 18 to just three today. Usually when a seo hunts over the marshy field nothing much happens but not today. It was mobbed by gulls and at one point four Skylark.

Also it flushed up 2 Common Snipe, 20+ Teal and best of all a persona record West Hartford count of 16 Gadwall!

Gadwall seem to be increasing everywhere over recent years but 16 especially 14 drakes and 2 ducks would be a good Arcot record never mind on the smallest body of water at West Hartford. They landed briefly on the main pool before heading back to the marshy field.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Enemy Territory

With the Cramlington vs Big Waters 2013 patch listing competition in full swing I visited enemy territory to see what was about. Not really I went to Big Waters with Cain this morning to practice using my new camera.

The wasn’t much out of the ordinary on the water from the 5 star hotel hide but its comfortable seats did make practicing with the camera in the freezing cold conditions more enjoyable even if the light was awful.
Whilst in the hide we were shown the unfortunate Long Eared Owl, which had died on Monday. Up close I really appreciated how small they are.

Once the feeding station was filled up the birds appeared with 8+ Moorhen, Pheasants, Reed Bunting and a Willow Tit amongst the mass feeding on the grain. 

Anyway it was nice to practice and take a few shots even if they are a bit dull.

Flight Shot


Monday, 4 March 2013

Getting Louder

As I walked to West Hartford this morning the birds are getting louder. Both Blackbird and Song Thrush in full song throughout the north end of Northburn. Before I left the garden was full of Great Tits and a GS Woodpecker passed through.

The birds at Hartford all seemed a bit nervous as they kept taking to the air. I soon noticed a Sparrowhawk being chased overhead by a Carrion Crow. The Sparrowhawk then disappeared into Hartford Woods causing chaos as 200+ Wood Pigeon and 96 Fieldfare took to the air. I know there were 96 as they landed briefly in the tree tops along the river before flying off.
When things settled down again on the pools there were 4 Greylags, 1 Shelduck, 3 Mallard, 50+ Teal, 9 Oystercatcher and 6 LBB Gulls amongst the BH and Herring Gulls.

The highlight of the morning were 5 bright red male Crossbill which flew south low overhead in the field behind the main pool. I watched them in the bins for about 30 seconds before they disappeared over the top of the fire station. I think this was the first time I had ever seen only male Crossbill together.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Quick roundup

Shasun yesterday- nothing

Arcot Pond - nothing (new anyway)

West Hartford - (Two Linnets flew over)

Holywell Pond today - (Nothing)