Thursday, 30 September 2010

Furrowed brow wanderer

Here I sit at this wretched screen with the sun streaming through the window after three days of wet miserable weather and my phone keeps reminding me of the influx on the coast to which I am unable to respond as work must be cleared otherwise the weekend will be lost.
Tried to cheer myself up by writing some invoices this morning but I expect the lag between issue and receipt will be on a geological timescale as usual. Haven't taken a photograph in four days and the grim reaper appears to be sitting on my shoulder as all around me are pegging out. My mood was not helped by a dead Red Squirrel on the road by Banks Pond this morning.
Oh bugger it! The weekends probably gone already. Watch out all who know me. I'll be out and about at 3.30!

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Flycatcher that is, No 105 on this years Prestwick Carr list and a nice find on a pleasant morning which started out in bright sunshine with blue skies and ended as previous days being cold overcast and windy. Unfortunately I stumbled across the bird next to Ponteland Golf course just after the sun had been obscured so bumped up the iso settings and managed a couple of images before the bird dropped over the hedge out of sight.

The morning was marked by a continuous stream of Skylarks overhead. Not always heading south so I'm not sure whether it was passage or local movements but about thirty birds counted. Also conspicuous was a large mixed flock if Tits, of which half were Great 15, Blue 7, Coal 3 and Willow 2 which I pushed up the bumpy road moving through a group of 7-10 Bullfinches which have been feeding in the same area for a week or more. In front of the wood, Reynard was hunting in the strong morning sun.

Meanwhile up the range track flocks of Goldfinches fifty or more strong fed on the thistles as they have all week along with up to 35 Pied Wagtails all feeding round the same area of flash water. On the other hand Swallow numbers were down below ten for the first time in months and the number of calling Willow / Chiffs was noticably less than even yesterday.

Friday, 24 September 2010

a boring post

Ah, at last a bird on a post. But this week has been trully bad. Two good friends have died and I've spent hours battling the wind for no good result.

When you spend time searching for returning Short eared owls or passing raptors the endless scanning means most of the fence posts become very familiar to you. Some of my best friend are fence posts!

Somewhat sad I may say but they can trick you so just beware. I know of many that look like sitting owls and one that in low sunlight resembles a perched Kestrel.

If you know your patch well you'll have a close relationship with your fence posts and personally I favour the straining variety. Rugged, sturdy with an angular slant!

Well what a surprise, a post that supplies precisely what it says on the tin.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Weekend ended

As another week of torment commences, memories of a pleasant weekend remain with No 104 on the Prestwick Carr list achieved.

Saturday morning lost to work but the afternoon spent at Hauxley battling with quick moving waders, strong light and poor focus.

Sunday morning dodging rain to complete my webs count and afternoon spent recovering from Sunday lunch and reflecting on how I got here.

Sunday evening, mission accomplished. Now back to wading bollock deep through life with work levels increasing and running rings all around me...........just like the picture. I'm definately a Dunlin not a Redshank in my next life.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Good Friday

Walked the length of Prestwick Carr three times on Friday as my car was having it's MOT at Prestwick. Badly under dressed for the cool autumn chill on the return home but warmed by two Willow Tits hanging round the Mayfair Cottage crossroads. Both birds actively feeding and not too interested in the passing traffic other than to look into the mirror of my lens.

Shame birds can't lick their lips. I think this morsel got away as did the blessed Bullfinches I also tried to photograph. At least seven in three groups all calling away but none showing. I regard Bullfinches as difficult to photograph on the Carr as Grasshopper Warbler and Water Rail but what's more annoying is you can plainly see the Bullfinches. It's just they always stay on the other side of the bush rarely coming into the open and never sitting on top. Yet, the Bullfinches that visit my garden occasionally ( presumably some of the same birds ) are quite happy to show on the feeders. Very frustrating.

Also plentiful were Chiffchaffs with at least three singing birds and many others calling although some would likely be Willow Warbler so counting at the moment is a bit difficult. Normally you can say that 99% of these little green birds you see on the Carr will be Willow Warbler.

Black legs yes but the song was more of a giveaway. Anyway back to Prestwick to collect my car which amazingly passed without undue problem and four Willow Tits on the return journey! Also a sign of Autumn in two Goldcrests moving along the hedgerow.

Later in the day a third visit spending an hour searching for a big bird Mk II which has come in to roost every evening since Wednesday but has so far evaded my optics. Next chance Sunday evening as its webs count tomorrow morning.

Friday, 17 September 2010

More Black Tern

I was belatedly reading JTR Sharrocks Frontiers of Bird Identification which has a chapter on separating Marsh Tern species and noticed that two pictures I had taken identified one of the statements in the book.
'Both ( Black and White winged Black Tern) occasionally gave the appearance of having a slightly forked tail, but when fully spread the tail appeared square:'
If you compare the pictures above and below of the bird doing the same manouvre they seem to demonstrate the comment. What a shame such books cannot be kept with you at all times to help when you come up against a tricky I D but I'm afraid the backpack would get pretty heavy and the books pretty tattered!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tern up for the books

Having just mis-identified a Common Tern what do you need but the quandry of having a Marsh Tern flying its pattern in front of you knowing that you may call good people to the site to see what may be a juvenile Common Tern. Such was the problem as I headed up to Hexham for the Planning Committee meeting, stopping off at Whittle Dene on the way. A Tern on the western Reservoir sitting on a buoy looked interesting but the wind was blowing and with the bird facing away the scoped views didn't conclude much.
Then it took off and flew, laying down what could almost be an invisible line on the water over which it flew from one end to tother, diving, darting never touching the water but picking off insects as it went to get to the end of the line to return and repeat the process. My vast knowledge of this species (three previous encounters) concluded marsh tern but which one?

I pondered and consulted the Collins Bird Bible. Initially the rump appeared white but upon closer inspection may be grey. Then a shot from the side showing the dark band on the chest near wing. Well, that's it then, Black Tern and I bottled it posting a possible ( I later discovered somebody else had fortunately reported earlier confirming Black Tern juvenile) A car pulled up and a birder I recognised but whose name escapes me scanned the adjacent field of Common / Black headed Gulls. I identified the bird to him and he noted it, and possibly another had been present on the lower reservoir for some time but had not been reported as there is no public access to that area.

As I left for my meeting the sun came out and I swore but another year tick was recorded. I wonder how many Tern puns there are?

About tern!

There I go again wishing to see rather than observing. Dusted off bins advises me that the Arctic Tern posted previously is actually a Common Tern. I was relying on the lack of black tip to the bill but he points out not all Common Terns have this and in addition its too orange, the bill and legs are too long and the black primary plumage too diffuse. Thanks Alan. I'll stick to getting unusual angles rather than unusual birds.

Illustrated ..............Common Terns at Whittle Dene early August.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Many thanks guys. I'm neither a 21 year old stud nor 60 year old codger. Just a 52 year old t**t. Now that's something to laugh about not withstanding the Hen Harrier that may have moved through Prestwick Carr this evening.

Tern about

Found this nice Arctic Tern at the outfall in Druridge Bay at the weekend whilst searching for any passage visitors. 5 Ruff at Cresswell and a three to five Red Throated Diver offshore were the most interesting.

Most Terns seem to have left the area and this bird still seems to be in breeding plumage so perhaps a Johny go lately? My brother sent me this useful Tern ID birthday card last month. Wonder if you can guess the punch line?

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Struggling with a malfunctioning lens and variable light levels over the last few days I seem to have taken a lot of scruffy shots. Of course birds in various stages of moult and youngsters with new plumage have added to the problem. This pigeon has become the second racer this year to abscond to my neighbours back garden.

A young Moorhen at Cresswell Pond was trying to dry out after the heavy overnight rain which has left the water level very high. This meant no waders and a degree of boredom which anybody visiting the hide in the next few days may see evidence of. The major advantage was that four nice Snipe were driven close up giving some good views as they preened. O.K. for the keen witted amongst you, I hold my hands up to a terrible error......a Snipe is indeed a wader but you know what I mean. I'm thinking Little Stint, Pec Sand, Slender billed Curlew (dream on!) etc etc.

Even young Goldfinch were getting in on the act between feeding on the Thistle heads.

and of course the ubiquitous Mallard (my Teal shots had too much contrast in late evening sun). Still nicely plumaged birds though if one spends the time to consider.

Friday, 10 September 2010

On their way

Hundreds of Swallows passing over the Carr tonight. Nothing for minutes then groups of twenty to fifty all apparently heading west into the wind but side sliping south, feeding as they go. Five Bullfinch evading the camera as usual but a Chiffchaff managed to give some song to identify itself.

Some Swallows grouping before heading onward and pilot training was in full swing on a somewhat larger scale.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Look sharp!

This blog has been lacking bird pictures of late so I set off yesterday to rectify that situation. Up the coast to Cresswell, normally a banker at this time of year. After managing to park alongside an RV that almost filled the car park joined ADMc and colleagues at the north end who instantly put me onto a juvenile Peregrine as it passed overhead. As the panic subsided got decent views of two Curlew Sandpiper, Wheatear and plenty of Dunlin along with a visit from SH and Crammy Birder. Was advised of Pink footed Goose, Pintail, Goldeneye and Scaup but all views into the sun so no photographs were taken.
Druridge was packed with trippers so off to the Ponteland hide at Hauxley. Seven Dunlin, three Redshank, one Ruff one Mute Swan and a whole lot of stink but decided to make a go of it. Something passed overhead, possibly the same Peregrine but everything bar the Swan and a few Teal flew off north. I was joined be a couple armed with some decent equipment and we spent the next twenty minutes watching nothing but the Swan. They called it a day and as they left, advised me that the Tern hide was providing more action. I replied I was doing a timed count and stayed put. All comes to he who waits and no sooner than the gate was shut than a peeping put me onto a Kingfisher right in front of the hide. I had waited for years to finally see these inanimate bits of wood that someone had hopefully placed there be used by their intended target. No sooner had I focused (or not as it turned out) than someone else came into the hide and the bird flew off. I didn't mention that he had just missed a wonderful sight and we spent the next ten minutes watching the bird fishing from the fence line on the other side of the pond.

Off then to Amble for some sustenance and actually bought a pasta salad and fruit cocktail rather than fish and chips. No not some health kick, the queue for F & C was down the street and the Co-op had them going cheap. Parked on the front and instantly noticed a white ring on one of the many Black headed Gulls present. Un packed the scope and to the entertainment of those in sitting in their cars chased the damn bird back and forth not helped by some brat who thought putting the flock to flight was a great game. Eventually got 72J as the last three letters and either T or J as the first. Cut the bloody grass can't you (hypocrasy at it's highest if you see my garden!). Anyway some research in Birds in Northumbria 2008 suggested that the bird was J72J ringed in Trondheim 2005 and seen at Amble numerous times since.

Back then to the hide at Cresswell where four Snipe in front of the hide kept us amused and I finally found the Pink footed Goose and Pintails in the distance.

Was joined in the hide by Nigel and Vee at which point I found the Scaup quite close near the sandbar. We waited in vain for her to get closer but after a brief stare back she put her head under her wing and slept.

The Snipe provided more amusement as we tried unsuccesfully to get shots as they took off but a dragonfly in front of the hide was a bit more obliging. I described it as a Green Hawker but after consulting the book found they don't occur in the UK so I guess it's a female Blue Hawker.

Returned home happy in the knowledge of some shots in the can (on the disc doesn't quite scan).
Loaded into Photoshop and .............. depression. A total failure of sharpness normally in the head region of each shot. Beware anybody who enlarges any of the afore posted pictures.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


With the hot weather Banks Pond has been alive with Dragonflies engaged in some x rated action as they mate and deposit the seeds of their progeny. Mainly Common Darter there must be scores of couples dancing about the pond edge male supporting female as she touches the water and oviposits unfortunately at a speed I've been unable to capture clearly yet!

Occasionally hassled by two Common Hawker also present

Many Damselles still in need of their Romeo.

More soixante neuf action than one would care to consider.

Ah.....finally a female that just wants to pose for the photographer.

Also found Common Hawker on a building site in Darras Hall and at Reeth Pond Newburn where a Kingfisher also evaded my 600mm mirror as the coppers hovered overhead. I don't think they were after me for perving at Dragons.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bank Holiday blues

Into every life a little rain must fall but it's bloody heaving down on my turgid existence at the moment. One of those periods where work, family and home are all providing more challenges than solutions. I haven't taken an in focus bird shot in what seems like days so the camera has been aimed skyward reflecting the mood.
One lightener was Prestwick Carr bird No 103 a Whinchat on Monday evening but the pleasure was short lived as moments later I was told of the death of a client and friend. Went in to hospital last week for a ticker check and never came back. Larger than life bloke Mel which appears to have caught up with him.

Speaking of chatting there was more of that than watching at St Mary's for the Greenish Warbler. Some well known faces in the crowd but I notice they have become somewhat camera aware after my recent postings. I couldn't stay long as I'd just had my birthday lunch and the folks needed to head home. ...perhaps thats why I'm depressed...52 fold.