Sunday, 28 June 2009

How many Meadow Pipits

do you get to the square yard? Well not quite one but last night it seemed that every other fence post had one and earlier in the week it was the same on my BBS at Broomfield Fell. A sign of a good breeding season or is it just the wet grass driving them out into the open? Also Tree Pipit still singing on my BBS where they seem to be increasing each year. Originally they were restricted to one small group of trees but have expanded to another nearby and with the felling of the coniferous woodland by Scottish Woodland who do a great job of retaining some deciduous species and clearings within their woods, the birds seem to have expanded into the now felled area. Other birds that have taken advantage are Wrens and Whitethroat who seem to like the almost great war like battlefield that remains after felling.

Still wet this morning and glad to see three young Bullfinch pass through my garden first thing but I'm off to Tynemouth Station for the book fair to feed my compulsive habit for collecting bird and many other types of book. Watch out wallet.

Friday, 26 June 2009


Friday afternoon so stuck indoors and to avoid working compiled some more lists of sightings. Dug these out from a few years ago at Banks Pond and assume they're female and male Ruddy Darter but haven't seen any yet this year.

Good news from the Carr as Wednesday afternoon found adult Willow Tit feeding at least three fledged young. I think the nest site was nearer Dinnington but never did locate the precise tree.
Was at out about this morning and the Common Terns I've been watching have now hatched all their eggs. The first pair have two, two week old young from three hatched and the second pair have three young about 4 -6 days old. Reading Rob Humes book this seems to be good productivity in line with an abundant food supply although statistics still only give chick 3 a 22% chance. More very dodgyscoping........

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Singing the blues

Not me……I’m cock a hoop. Was distraught though at 8.45 when I saw there was a Nightingale at Bolam and I had an appointment that I’d been trying to complete for over a month at 9.30. Said appointment turned up at 9.50 so it was 10.30 before I headed north.
Checked Banks Pond out on the way with Emperor, Four Spotted Chaser, Common Bluet and my first Blue butterfly of the year. More blue at Bellasis with banded Demoiselles below the bridge but couldn’t see the green female that was there yesterday.
Arrived at the gate to Howlett Hall as AG, MSH and lady were leaving. They gave me directions saying the bird was still singing and off I set. Down the lane through the railway cutting, turn left past the bales and follow the lane 200yards to the flowering Elder where I stopped and waited. A Buzzard called high overhead and Whitethroat launched a song flight to my right. A red tail grabbed my attention as a Redstart disappeared into the undergrowth then……three faint woo, woo, woo calls followed by jugg, jugg, jugg, chat chat chat a pause then repeated with volume and variation. My first Nightingale.
I listened for fifteen - twenty minutes not moving closer but scanning the bushes from whence the song emanated. The variation in song was amazing yet controlled sometimes recalling Song Thrush then Blackcap but interspersed with many other notes and fluting calls.
RD who I had met earlier at Banks Pond joined me and we slowly proceeded up the lane to where the bird was singing. So hard to predict the exact spot just twenty feet away but sometimes high in the bush then next moment low, soft then loud but no sight of the bird. Every movement attracts our eye but Willow Warbler and Whitethroat just confuse the situation as a Blackbird joined in the chorus from the other side of the lane. At least it wasn’t as bad as the Marsh Warbler at St Marys’ as the Nightingales song continued unabated. We moved round the bush convinced the bird was on the other side of the outstretched branch but no sign until a brief movement as the bird doubled back on us. We retraced our steps toward the singing and a bird flew across the lane only to show itself as a Willow Warbler. Another bird crossed and the familiar singing started at the new location…had I seen a Nightingale? We moved closer and the bird moved round us again then stopped singing for a while. As we followed another bird back across the lane the singing started again right next to us and the briefest glimpse of a bird on a branch but it moved before bins could be raised. Then breaking cover the bird flew back across the lane to it’s favourite bush in clear view and the singing started again. We had both seen a Nightingale and we left satisfied.
I’m still undecided if it’s the best bird song I’ve heard but I’d love to hear more.

Monday, 22 June 2009

A torrid tale

Yesterday found a dead nestling hanging out of my front House Sparrow terrace. Not sure if the bird had died in the nest and the adult had been unable to drag it out or if the box had been raided. This was the second brood this year for this box so I wonder about conditions inside but don’t want to disturb another pair nesting in the same terrace! Problems problems.
The picture above is last years episode with the same box. I had observed a young bird over a period of days peering out of the box and had puzzled over why it hadn’t fledged or was it just returning to the box. Heard a commotion one morning and went out to find a Kestrel trying to pull the nestling out of the box. It eventually flew off without its prize which was left hanging by some fishing line. My neighbour later explained she had seen the young bird fluttering around the box unable to fly away as it was tethered by the line which the adult had used to build the nest. The fluttering had attracted the Kestrel which dispatched the poor wee thing but was unable to pull it free!

On a lighter note some good news from a site in Northumberland which was dodgyscoped last week. More news shortly.

And finally, a mystery bird for EA……… yes, it is a bird not a smudge and happens so quickly it’s difficult to spot even when you’re standing looking at the wall!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Green days

The clack clack of young Greenfinch begging alerted me to the first brood in my garden this year and nice to see. Other than that the first flush of breeding appears to be over and flocks of Jackdaws, Sparrows and Starlings take over the place at various times during the day. First thing whilst the Sparrows have their communal chirp, the Jackdaws empty any and all feeders which once refilled attract Sparrows feeding fledged young and nestlings. Then the Starlings arrive en masse their favourite time being late afternoon when I’ve had 40-50 bathing, preening and singing in the trees. Other birds are less frequent just passing through for food or with young.

It looks like the female Sparrowhawk has a brood as visits are becoming more frequent. Fortunately the Swallows normally give good warning but last year the wretched bird managed to make my garden ground zero as she taught her young to hunt and my regular birds dispersed to safer places.

Unfortunately due to work and family commitments I’ve had little time for any serious birdwatching but the late nightly trip home from Cramlington has been interesting with Tawny Owl twice on the telegraph poles opposite the Fox Covert Plantation, lots of Bats both over Banks Pond and behind my house, one fox cub, plenty of Rabbits and a near miss with a fire engine! Also got a report of young Tawny Owls by the field edge at Moory Spot so the long days can pay dividends when time is short.

On a serious note, I’ve just had a report that Police turned up this morning looking for a Red pick-up containing men with shovels and dogs possibly involved in Badger baiting. There are plenty of Badgers locally but I don’t know of a sett on the Carr so will keep a wary eye out.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Watch out!

it’s that foreigner again. Not that I'm a xenophobe mind. All birds are welcome in my opinion but I was avoiding the monsoon in the Ponteland hide at Hauxley and began musing on the origin of species in particular, the two Bar Headed Geese.

Don’t know if anyone has any theories where they came from but presume they must be escapes. One is unusual, but two birds that should be in highland asia is pushing the bounds a bit. I understand a feral population did exist in Scandinavia in the 30's (BWPi) and maybe they are still there and naturally move east as a breeding strategy. The north sea is a bit easier than the Himalaya I guess.

Or did someone recently acquire them for a collection and they did a flyer. If did they find each other again. I'm sure birds can sense the presence of other members of their species and hence an inate ability to flock or find a mate. Anyway my musings came to no definative theory other than if they are escapes then one must misquote Wilde ‘ to lose one would be taken as misfortune but to lose both must be careless’

Sunday, 14 June 2009


with a happy ending. Well, pair of Redstart actually. Female pitched up on 02 May and immediately started nest building at a site used succesfully by possibly the same pair last year.
I never saw a male till the end of the month but he had been seen by others and I got occasional views of the female entering the nest but never leaving.
On Saturday 23rd May the female was still on eggs but fairly active around the nest and by mid week the male appeared but tended to stay around the nest while the female fed. I still only ever saw the female enter the nest and then realised she was popping out of another hole to sit above the nest site before flying off. By 8th June both birds were bringing food regularly and were very alert, bobbing constantly when they realised I was watching from some fifty meters!
On Thursday evening last, activity was frenetic as the warm wet weather provided an abundance of food but on the Friday things were very quite with only a glimpse of an adult flycatching. Couldn't check the site Saturday so this morning first thing, made a point of heading straight there. Nest site was quiet and I thought like last year I was to be left unsure as to the final outcome (although when the weeds cleared sufficiently for me to check the nest later in the year, it was clean and undamaged). Walked further on up the lane and some tac tacing like Wrens came from two locations to my right and In front of me a sudden flash of red as a bird crossed the lane. It landed on a branch and head, white flash and red breast, the male... chit chit chit scolded me for disturbing his parenting and flew off back to the nest area where he collected more flies and returned to the bushes to feed at least three young. Hopefully the female is nearby with more I thought but left them to get on with it in peace.

Sorry for the duff picture as I've just realised that all the shots I've taken identify the nest site......bugger

Friday, 12 June 2009


Good news about the Osprey pair. Lets hope for more to come. Locally things appear to be very productive with my Jackdaws having left the nest in my front tree the young are being feed in the back garden. The mess of sticks and bits of cloth below the tree is staggering but given the state of the rest of my garden there’s no great problem.

Having not trimmed my rear hedge seems to have paid dividends with the Blackbird pair who earlier lost their nestlings to a Magpie having re-nested lower down about one meter closer to the house and now with a clearly audible brood. There appears to be only one way into the nest from below therefore hopefully secure.

In the front garden I watched with trepidation last weekend as the female built a nest in a Berberis bush. Good nest site…poor access as the bird flew repeatedly low across the road with nest material thankfully missing the speeding cars and vans. The male meanwhile just watched from a perch on next doors porch. She’s now on the nest but I fear for the pairs road safety when they start to feed.

Nearby the latest of six broods of young Sparrows are being fed with two more audible broods in my trees and possibly two second broods from the Sparrow terrace. The two broods of young Starlings have now largely headed out to the fields with all the chums they attracted so the garden has regained a degree of calm.

The garden bird watch list this week is very varied with single Bullfinch, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Sparrowhawk and remarkably Lesser Black back Gull! This is the second record of this species for my garden this bird hopping up onto the front wall as passing cars forced it off a dead Rabbit it was devouring on the road…..Blackbirds take note.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

In the heat of the moment

during the first two days this week it was far too hot so I decided to book a haircut. Saw Lino today and with the weather back to normal I'm now freezing so here's some memories of the heat wave to remind us of summer.

Monday, 1 June 2009

New month

and a new bird. Was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t given way to my impulse to go to Whittle Dene last night and missed two Black Terns as a result plus today my car is in the garage and no chance to get out should the need arise so chances are a Red footed Falcon will be perched on the Gosforth Hotel and the Caspian Tern will be at Cresswell……anyway, took said car to Prestwick and started the walk back. Lots of Greenfinch song as I started out and Tree Sparrows visiting Alan F’s garden then, as I emerged onto the Carr a rattle in the hedgerow that I’ve been waiting for over a month to hear. Up to now it’s always been a Yellowhammer doing half it’s song but this is quite distinctive and is undoubtedly a Lesser Whitethroat. Followed the very vocal little chap up and down the hedge a few times and got some good views but he was definitely camera shy so I ticked the box and moved on.

90. Lesser Whitethroat

Very hot and sunny so Grasshopper Warbler reeled in the breeze, Mistle Thrush family still in front of the wood and plenty of song from Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat with less from Willow Warbler now. Snatches of Curlew and Snipe backed by Reed Warbler and a splendid Blackcap as I reached the end of the bumpy road. Flocks of young Starlings building and adults carrying food everywhere, some with more enthusiasm than others!

Great Tit family still calling in their traffic sign nest and another emerged group with parents further up the road as a Pied Wagtail carried food to a nest in the old Robert Pit Baths, the dereliction providing ideal habitat. Lot’s of House Martins investigating my neighbours eaves when there's a perfectly good ready built nest on the back of my house and still the noisy Jackdaws in my front tree. Back home with forty on the list before midday on the 1st and the depression returns with the thought of a day solving problem after problem………wish I had wings.