Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Squirreling about

Was out sharp this morning to recover a skull for Northumberland resident bone collector (STH) and as soon as I reached the Carr I was overwhelmed by the chorus of Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler and new arrival No 94 Sedge Warbler.

As I walked up an old sheep track to the edge of the woods the Grasshoper reel that I thought was near the gate into the field followed me such that fifty yards in it still seemed about twenty feet away to my right. On the edge of the wood I was greeted with a curious look from tufty (anybody my age will remember his road safety guidance which from my experience of Red Squirrels they certainly do not follow) and the click of heels from departing deer. Quickly so as not to create any more disturbance than possible I recovered the skull in question and stopped to listen to the birdsong.

Lots more Willow Warblers, Whitethroats with occasional Goldcrest, Blackcap, another Redstart territory and No 95 Garden Warbler were all identified. Also Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker all joined in. Absolute bliss till the bell sounded and I realised that the working day must now start.

No not this bell which is some fungus or other that just loves Silver Birch trees or is it part of the tree? Not my strong point.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Reeling in the ears

The dominant sound on Saturdays count at Prestwick Carr was the descending cadence of Willow Warblers as they established territories in the hedgerows all over the area with at least twenty three found over my 2km route and probably many more. The backing track was Grasshopper Warbler with eight to ten reeling birds, one behind my house, five to six up the bumpy road and three to four up the range bridleway. Only one deigned to show itself briefly before dropping back into the grass. None of your Arcot show off's here much to my disappointment but my mood was tempered by the talking bush that is the Whitethroat (No. 91) who chattered away at three locations but was also a bit camera shy. You wait till next week and they'll be throwing themselves off the top of every bush around!

Up the range track the flock of neatly dressed Golden Plover remained numbering 100 or so with at least four Wheatear and still some Fieldfare. ACo and friends were looking without success for the Redstart but had found a Yellow Wagtail No.92 which I later re-located in the horses paddock to the south. As the intrepid threesome set off in search of the Whitethroat a sole Redwing 'kekked' then 'tseeeped' away above the sentry box. With winter and summer migrants in attendance I realised today would be a big count.

After optimistically checking near the golf course for Lesser Whitethroat I headed up to Banks pond and found N0.93, a singing Blackcap in the plantation near Curlew Cottage. The pond held the usual suspects, 2 Canada Geese, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Mallard, 2 Coot, 2 Moorhen and a Little Grebe with a Chiff Chaff in the wood beyond trying to make itself heard above the clay pigeon shoot!

So the mornings count done, the score was 55 species. After a cancelled meeting in Morpeth up the coast for a nice White Wagtail at Cresswell but far too many folk for my liking so back to the Carr to find this Redstart and would you believe it, the place was heaving with birdwatchers! Howdon Blogger had found a roosting Tawny Owl.

Pretty good roost site with not a clear view possible from any angle, even grovelling on the ground didn't work. Beats me how John found it. Any hoo whilst watching the un-moving Owl the male Redstart flashed past only for the gathered to realise he was chasing another bird. Yes the missus has arrived and hopefully nesting can commence. Just a flash of rear was all we were rewarded with.

After hanging around looking for big bird No.84 without success I re-marked to AF that a Barn Owl on the way home would be nice and the gods duly provided No58 for the day hunting near Prestwick Road.

Friday, 23 April 2010

LO and behold

Managed half an hour escape from the torture to check out Prestwick Carr just before lunch yesterday. The flash water has all but gone now with just a couple of puddles remaining to keep the attentions of eight Oystercatcher. Further away 2 Wheatear hopped about feeding whilst 80 or so Golden Plover basked in the sun. As I turned to head up the lane a brown bird flushed from twenty feet away on the far verge. First thoughts from the low straight flight ran like Partridge, Mistle Thrush, Cuckoo! but the sound and vision was wrong. The bird perched on a fence post one field away and the size / profile instantly identified Little Owl. Out feeding in bright sunshine (as you can tell from the wretched heat haze) just on noon. It was soon mobbed by all the local Meadow Pipits and dropped to the ground for some respite.

Later in the day returning from a meeting I called at Bellasis Bridge. Great work ethic eh! Never mind, seven Mute Swans fed in the field to the west where they have been a fixture since the floods. Checking the copse singing Blackcap and Willow Warbler were a pleasant soundtrack along with a Starling doing a good impersonation of Curlew! In the fields a couple of very smart Pheasant were staying close to a female. Not sure I've seen many of this type before, the ones on the Carr are drab by comparison.

I checked the wood to the east for a Redwing I thought I heard last weekend. No Redwing but a Blue Tit who seemed to be excavating or doing some housekeeping at a prospective nest sight in a split tree trunk.

Was just thinking this would be a more suitable home for a Treecreeper then.....................

The very same crept past but didn't avoid the attentions of the house proud Blue Tit.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bad birdwatching

Bit of a hectic weekend with webs moved to Saturday due to family commitments on Sunday which meant no Black headed Wagtail for me although I took consolation on Monday lunchtime with my first Yellow Wag of the year at Whittle Dene.

At Prestwick Carr things have been quiet as there is no Airport noise.......heaven, just like Christmas morning every day with all calling birds clearly audible although there are still quite a few missing. Nevertheless, two found and missed one which isn't too bad although it could have been the other way around. AF and I scanned the flash water north of Mayfair Cottage on Friday and dismissed two birds in the distance as Redshank only to be advised by JL and another on our return that one of them was a Ruff. Anxious searching re found the bird so No 89 was ticked but a Common Sandpiper has apparently evaded my attentions.

ACo found the returning breeding male Redstart singing above the nest site on Saturday morning so I was out early on Monday to try to do the same. Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler and displaying Snipe kept me amused till a chuck chucking from a copse away to the west alerted me to some lingering Fieldfare. Crossed the field to get a count and eight birds dropped into the hedge with the bonus of the Redstart, No.90, singing in the tree above. The bird was flighty and I couldn't get a decent view so......last night back again and crept up the lane setting up quietly to the side of a gate behind the hedge to scan the area but no sign. I sighed and leant on the gate only to flush the target bird from the hedge just twenty feet to my right. Bugger.....off it flew into a small bush giving me just enough time to get the white over black and red chest before it disappeared into the undergrowth. Not so showy without his female for encouragement!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When a colleague put an envelope of cash through my door this afternoon I knew my luck was in so headed down to Prestwick Carr to see what was about and on the flash behind Mayfair Cottage were No 87 a Ringed Plover and No 88. a pair of Shoveler. The water conditions are ideal for these ducks but the last time seen here was 2001 so I was cock a hoop. The pictures unfortunately are from Druridge Pools last Friday as the birds in question were fifty meters into the sun away but a solid tick all the same. Also present, 17 Oystercatcher (getting on for a site record), 4 Mallard and a Redshank.

Thanks also to Sedgedunum Warbler for the tip from Bill. I watched special bird No 84 for half an hour this evening and managed a couple of shots for a later post. Now for that lottery ticket...

Monday, 12 April 2010

Who's watching whom?

This weekends additions to the 2010 list were pretty good as the Prestwick Carr list blossomed with the hedgerow to 86 whilst away from the patch some splendid action. Two Garganey in the background above at St Marys wetland for the county year list along with one at Druridge Pools and a couple of nice Pintails but better still, two Avocet at Cresswell were additions to my county life list. Redhead Smew at Whittle Dene, three Green Sandpiper and some splendid display from the Great Crested Grebes all avoided being captured on film.

80 Coot late arrival to the list but calling on the Carr and preparing to breed at Banks pond

81 Ring necked (Rose ringed) Parakeet . OK I couldn't resist

82 Willow Warbler arrived on mass with seven singing birds on Saturdays count

83 Grasshopper Warbler one on Saturday reeling at the top of the range bridleway and four on Sunday spaced at 100m intervals when I walked up the track in search of a roosting

84 tell you later

85 Swallow finally one on lines at the Dinnington end yesterday with one feeding in the lee of the wood late evening

86 Stock Dove displaying bird near the Swallow (thanks Mike)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Frog porn

A splendid morning on Prestwick Carr with many new arrivals including Coot, Willow Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler of which more later, I was still missing Swallow from the list and concerned at the lack of hirundine action I headed up to Whittle Dene to see if I could find any there.
As I scanned for an early Yellow Wagtail another birder flushed three Green Sandpipier from the inlet to the Great Northern Reservoir. Just Pied Wags at the moment but three Great Creasted Grebe grabbed my attention as they displayed on the Western Reservoir and there in the distance with two Tufties and a female Goldeneye was the long staying Redhead Smew. My next two hours were spent circumnavigating the reservoir from behind the banking to try and get a close up shot but every time I poked my head above the mound to look for the bird it was on the other side of the water. It must be psychic. Even lying hidden in the undergrowth didn't work...so I gave up but in the process of walking down the western bridleway alerted by what seemed like distant goose calls, I came upon an amazing gathering. Hundreds and hundreds of frogs in the water, on the banks and on the track itself. I started treading very carefully.

I realised also that many of these frogs were not ones but twosomes

room for one more on top somes

and even mud bath somes

Amazing what a bit of sunshine will do!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Flash....ah.ah.its a.....

Parakeet. Yes the Ponteland Ring necked Parakeet paid a visit to Prestwick Carr this evening. Only last week Ponteland Historian asked me if I had seen the bird as it was visiting his garden in Prestwick to lunch on Horse chestnut buds. I responded just once on the Carr near the golf course on its daily commute between Ponteland and Prestwick. I've seen it numerous times in Ponteland, generally near Bell Villas where I know a certain lady feeds it grapes. But then two weeks ago I was informed by an eminent Prestwick resident that the bird was turning its nose up at his offering of Bramley Apples!

On my count last Saturday a passing cyclist told me of a bird he thought he had seen but he couldn't quite believe it. Thinking he meant the eagle I responded only to find out he was from the deep south, Kent, and had seen a Parakeet just north of Dinnington so the bird, if it is the one bird, is ranging more widely.

In previous years it has roosted in the transcept window of St Mary's Church in Ponteland and has been known to 'serenade' the drinkers in the Blackbird pub during summer months. It has survived the harsh winter and to my knowledge been around for at least three years, initially being fed then by the owner at S Fix in Prestwick who even put a box up for it, subsequently usurped by Starlings. It appears now to feel somewhat at home.
The question is ....can I call it a tick? I think yes. Those who disagree make the appropriate Parakeet noises.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Singing for supper

I doubt an eagle sings for it's supper like this energetic Wren but it certainly looks from this link that it eats in proportion to its size.....
and how jealous am I of those Marsh Harrier shots.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Collared Love

I caught these two at it on my kitchen roof last evening. I mean, colloodling in broad daylight! I suppose it is that time of year and they parted like guilty teenagers when I caught their eye.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Little Cracker

Ok I know lots of blogs have featured this male Black Redstart at St Mary's but it's such a stunner and the symbolism seems appropriate for the moment. Additionally my snatched pics of the Great White Egret were less than impressive. Might try again tomorrow. But for the moment....
Always on the move quite a challenge it managed to give me the slip on numerous occasions and twice dropped over the boundary wall into someones garden. What a garden tick!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Marching on

After all the excitement of the last couple of days I have been updating the Prestwick Carr list and realised two March omissions those being

No 73 Coal Tit

No 74 Golden Plover

plus on the day the WTE was about two

No 75 Lesser black backed Gulls and

No 76 Jay called in the woods

Then last night as I was heading home a birder told me that a Little ringed Plover and two Wheater were in the horse paddock so off I set to find AF and his good lady, AC, and City Birding already on the scene. We scanned the fields but no LRP or Wheatear although

No 77 Redshank was present and correct.

This morning up bright and early to a clear frosty start and out in wellies to make sure I could get up the range bridleway and flush out this eagle. At the crossroads Segedunum Warbler and Howdon Blogger were already in waiting along with a zoom of photographers. Again no LRP or Wheatear so off up the bridleway to find a Water Rail sharming and a Snipe chitting, Oystercatchers peeping and finally a handsome male

No 78 Wheatear

sunning himself on top of a molehill. His girlfriend was further down toward the road where I returned to find AG and Joe who despite their persistance had so far dipped out on the eagle. Joe headed off for the LRP and returned saying it was showing in the middle of the field. For the third time of asking off I set and was straight onto it as bold as brass. I must have been blind although in my own defence, when it turned it's back it virtually disappeared.
No 79 Little ringed Plover

We waited but no flying barn door was evident so I set off home to find three Willow Tits having a churring battle and got yet another could have been shot. Oh well, off for the Black Redstart at Whitley Bay Cemetery.