Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Get into upvc

No don't worry folks I'm not getting kinky. The statement is more a bit of investment advice as this weather is taking its toll on guttering and conservatories everywhere. The neighbour to my left has lost rear gutter and eaves whilst neighbour on the right has lost guttering and soil pipe whilst my own rear gutter is severely twisted and the eaves in the process of failure. I watched yesterday as the snow melted just enough for a huge slab of snow to be supported of this tiny piece of plastic until eventually gravity won sending gutter and snow to the ground. Not too bad I suppose as I know of at least three conservatories where snow has plunged through the glazed roof the installation of snow boards having been sadly neglected over the last decade. Anybody with an eaves / gutter repair service is going to be very busy when the white stuff eventually turns to water and no doubt the insurers will be putting up their premiums for those inadequately prepared.

As for birds, the garden has been very busy with additions to the weeks garden list of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crow, Rook, Woodpigeon, Coatl Tit, Wren and the first Yellowhammer for a good while. That's 23 species so far with first winter Common Gull almost making the list but couldn't work out how to make a safe landing and a Snipe doing a close fly past.

Better still the seen from garden list added Jay all of which you will have noted managed to avoid having their images captured. The only half clear shots were the easy ones for which I may as well have been shooting in black and white.

Or is that blue and black?

Monday, 29 November 2010

I blame all of you!

For writing such interesting blogs. There I was at 7.55 having topped up the bird feeders and prepared some fatty morsels consisting of bird seed, sultanas and bread all soaked in lard. Dropped another pack of lard into the frying pan for the next batch put the kettle on to boil intending to return to prepare a cuppa and retired to my computer to brace myself for the days torment. Of course I had to check my e mail and thought I may as well see what blogs had been updated overnight....lots, as usual on a Sunday, so I perused for a moment.
There was a small crash from downstairs and then the fire alarm went off. I knew what I'd done in an instant and ran downstairs to find the back room half full of smoke. Dashed into the kitchen and there amidst the flames from the frying pan was the cover for the cooker hood extract which, despite being alight at either side was still working! Covered the pan with a damp tea towel and dowsed the flames with a pan of water. Then it's close the doors to as many rooms as possible and open all other windows and doors letting the arctic weather rip through.
Well, no serious damage other than the loss of a pan and hood extract and the need for some re-decoration,. Oh joy! I guess it could have been worse if not for the alarm.

Bumpy road......not half! O.k I don't really blame you. It is perfectly obvious there is only one numbskull and he's typing this ..............................

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Aerial view

Replenished the feeders at first light and after trying to get some shots of Saturn and Venus which were a spectacular failure (I'm sure my lens doesn't focus on infinty) submitted my Garden Birdwatch tally for last week at 22 species and started this weeks count. 2 Robins, 2 Dunnock, 2 Magpie, 5 Blue Tit, 3 Great Tit, 10 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 5 Goldfinch, 18 Starling, 22 House Sparrow, 1 Blackbird, 5 Jackdaw, 2 Collared Dove, 1 Pied Wagtail and joy of joy 2 Tree Sparrow all in the first hour. Then, as I returned back upstairs I noticed the garden was suddenly deserted.

Well hardly suprising with this old girl keeping an eye out. Tatty looking female Sparrowhawk saving effort in the cold and just waiting on next doors aerial. This is one of at least three birds that visit my garden although with limited success of late although I'm sure the increased numbers of birds feeding will result in them getting a meal.

I'm not sure I want to be the provider of this bounty but I suppose live and let live.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frozen food

It was a Christmas card scene every way you looked this morning and after a brief snow flurry at 9.00 the sun came out and allowed some better photo opportunities than the flat cold light earlier. Not so many birds about today although still recorded 35 species with by far and away the most abundant being Meadow Pipit at 30+, closely followed by Pied Wagtail all feeding on the frozen floodwater. When I got to Mayfiar Cottage a small flock of Lapwing lifted of the field and there remained a single solitary Hare.

Looks like it's praying for better weather but it could really take some lessons in camouflage from its Scottish relatives! Other mammals seen were Stoat with prey, Roe Deer, Fox and Rabbit so the white stuff has some benefits for the observer if not the observed.

Reed Bunting also seem fairly adaptable to the harsher weather and I noted Blue Tit and a pair of Willow Tit still feeding on exposed bark so the food supply hasn't been iced up just yet. Plenty of berries too so Fieldfare were about especially up the range bridleway where 50 - 100 fed along with a few Redwing and Starlings.

I wish these little blighters would stay still for as moment though. This was the only shot that was close to bad. Watched a snow storm head down the coast as the planes taking off from the airport did climbing turns to avoid flying through it then filled my boots trying to get that Christmas Card Robin shot but I think the light won.

On the way home 38 Pink footed Geese flew south showing a good deal of good sense but I noticed there was an interloper among them. Greylag I assume due to size although it does appear very pale.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Water twite

Was just reading Artur Morris' blog Birds as Art linked through fantastic Woodlark shots on Birding Sometimes and was wondering if I could euphemistically get away with calling these soft focus! In actual fact they were taken in one of the few moderately sunny moments yesterday at the dunes between Cresswell Pond and Druridge (generally known as Bells Farm). Unfortunately the little Twite was bathing and wouldn't keep still for my hand held fixed 600mm zoom and consequently lacking in focus. Nice bird though. Please do not enlarge.

Managed to get the splash in focus though. Eat your heart out David Hockney,

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Returning to its historic state Prestwick Carr is well flooded with water levels rising steadily yesterday. Only hidden by the grass and reeds the extensive central area is under water and attracting 20+ Snipe and a good few Moorhen, Mallard and Teal that can be heard but are rarely seen. Look you can even see the curvature of the earth....... well, lens anyway.

This structure has puzzled the locals and I assume it is the formwork for a viewing platform put in by the wildlife trust. Clearly the deck access across the ditch, currently 18 inches below water level, may require some further thought although why it was considered necessary to cross the ditch putting the observer in full view of the wildlife he is viewing and giving the dog walkers possible access to the field is open to debate. Nice Treecreeper and Willow Tit just to the left of this shot

The current policy not to clean out the ditches is also contentious with the locals which they believe exacerbates the flooding and only time how nature will re-posses this man made feature.
Would be nice to see a Water Vole again or even an Otter straying up from the Pont.

That sky doesn't bode well for the week ahead and my depression was compounded by another hefty bill to repair my car. Pretty bleak all round but some good birds to be seen.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Oh for the wings

for the wings of a Dove and I would have scored the half century on Saturdays Prestwick Carr count. Out early and got some reasonable views of a big bird before it headed off northwest. Around me hundreds of Fieldfare with a smattering of Redwing and the odd Mistle and Song Thrush completed that set. The tits were also out in abundance (can I say that) with only Marsh missing (I am currently a Bearded tit!). The flooding brought Black, headed, Herring and Common Gulls an unexpected Redshank along with a flock of 150 Lapwing and a couple of Curlew. There were plenty of duck noises from Mallard and Teal although few to be seen in the grass. Overhead passed three Common Redpoll with Greenfinch and Chaffinch at the golf course and a single Bullfinch at Mayfair Cottage. Crows and Jackdaws aplenty but only the odd Rook. Flocks of Starling and spuggies going about their business. A couple of Great Spotted Woodpecker accompanied a few hundred Woodpigeon emerging from the wood. Two Mute Swans on the pond and a Buzzard perched on a fence post brought me to 49 so I returned home with the almost guarantee of a Collared Dove...................no such luck so much as I expect will be happening in Brisbane on Thursday........so close but so far away.
Sunday turned out grey and wet and with the windscreen wipers on my car doing a go slow I paid my respects to a fine, not so old lady. Canny superstructure and a clean line to the stern. That's what I like in my women.

Once again the English lower the flag prematurely and don't have the gumption to stand by their best inventions (Harrier follows Concorde) and symbols of status. (Ark Royal follows Britannia). God we're crap. Third world here we come...........

Friday, 19 November 2010


As the sun set on Preswtick Carr this evening only tones of grey and red were in evidence but plenty of action as birds went to roost. Three Mistle Thrushes battled with a dozen or more Fieldfares which later grew to about 150 as they headed for the central area.

Ninety six Jackdaws added to the cacophony as they made their way home from pinching the goats feed.

Meanwhile a Buzzard draped itself untidily in a tree and I missed another big bird that flew over Bills head. Will be out first thing for that maybe.

Two Swans splashed across the pond then lifted into the air as they headed south meanwhile a dozen or so Mallard circled cautiously while 14 Snipe dropped into the grassland nearby.

No Owls though no matter how much I long for one and worse still I was told of a road casualty near Ponteland earlier in the week. It's been one of those death and destruction weeks what with the Squacco and all.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Busy garden

The colder weather has brought more birds into my garden this week with todays tally (maximum seen at any one time) as follows:
House Sparrows 21
Starlings 15
Jackdaw 8
Goldfinch 8
Blue Tit 4
Great Tit 3
Chaffinch 3
Magpie 3
Robin 2
Collared Dove 2
Pied Wagtail 2
Greenfinch 2
Blackbird 1
Dunnock 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Coal Tit 1
Tree Sparrow 1
A very warm welcome to Willow Tit 1
and two fingers to Sparrowhawk 1

There was a large movement of Starlings over Prestwick Carr this evening with about 1000 birds in a tight dumb bell flying east close to the airport followed by 500 spread over a wide front and two further flocks of fifty or so. I drove over to Brunswick where there is a regular roost to see if there was any flocking display but couldn't find a single bird.

Monday, 15 November 2010

More Wax than Johnsons

Some of the 39 at Wylam today.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Squacco heaven

Is a close quarter walk past which after one and a half hours waiting was worth every second. Following a count on Prestwick Carr this morning when a Swallow again put in an appearance, once up the bridleway and later over Prestwick Mill Farm, I headed up to Morpeth for a second shot at the Squacco Heron hoping for some flight shots in the sunny weather. I arrived and got plenty of distant views of the bird heading off downstream as myself and many others were left in its wake. We followed up to a point but I decided to stay put at a clearing in the trees ideal for a fly past and waited for the bird to return. After an interesting chat with James who left in persuit of the Great White Egret at Alnwick and further discussions with a Yorkshire birder whose name I don't know we noticed some waving from AdMc back down the path and it was clear the bird had taken a short cut back to the bridge. Returning upstream those on the bridge clearly had the bird in view on the bankside below us. I propped myself up against a tree and scanned the waters edge as a volley of camera shots rang out from the people in front of me. Then I saw it, almost glowing in the afternoon light and took these shots as it stalked the riverbank.

The bird continued up and down the south bank for the next hour offering occasional glimpses and some short flights but no further great opportunity in poor light conditions. It did however make one gentleman from Manchester very happy for making the journey and a local scum bag very angry because his bridge was cluttered up with birders.

Great advert for the people of Morpeth thanks Chris! (name obtained from the plaintiff wailings of his girlfriend as she attempted to control the nutter)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Me to

Having suffered all Monday working whilst knowing a major year tick was just a few miles up the A1, Wednesdays fine weather broke my resolve and I headed for Morpeth. Parking in the lay bye at the bottom of Worral bank I walked back along the river to where the bird was being reported, passing a group of four Yorkshire birders heading in the oppsite direction, the bird having been seen flying downstream. After a chat with a chap I often meet on these occasions I decided to set up vantage on the bend in the river with views downstream and upstream to the metal bridge where many birders were already gathered. After fifteen minutes or so just as the numbing cold was beginning to take effect a small Heron, obviously my target for the day flew towards me and I snatched a few flight shots as it approached then filled the viewfinder and landed a mere twenty feet away.

The light was not good and the views obscured by reeds / grass but I watched as the bird hunted using floating vegetation on the swollen river as a platform. Amazingly small like an overgrown Redshank it worked its way down the river edge.

Becoming harder to spot in the vegetation frustrating TT and JM who had joined me with their big lenses it eventually flew back to near the metal bridge where the next fifteen minutes were spent chatting with the many birders, bloggers, photographers present and trying to spot the bird in vegetation. It then took off and flew toward the bridge amazingly white in the late afternoon sun it took a brief glance at the assembled throng and circled once before flying over our heads upstream.

Here it was nervous for a while crossing the river back and forth a few times before settling on the far bank where it fished for five minutes or so and some better images were obtained despite the poor light.

A generous bird and so much better than my previous experience with a Squacco Heron at East Chevington when mere silhouette views in flight were obtained. Strangely, this bird has probably been there two weeks as all the dog walking locals were familiar with it. On that basis I'm now off to find that Hoopoe at Hepscott a little old lady told me about at the weekend!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Creeping up

Two early starts on Prestwick Carr found the same flock of 99 Greylag Geese on both days bolstered on Sunday morning by a Treecreeper which becomes No 109 for the year. The geese fly off to Big Waters around 8.30 returning mid afternoon although shortly they may not have to bother as the flooding is getting worse attracting Lapwing, Golden Plover and Wigeon.
On Saturday after the count journeyed to Cramlington to feast on Waxwings and found a flock flycatching from a roadside tree. Lots of shots mainly badly out of focus except one.......


Friday, 5 November 2010


No 108 on the Prestwick Carr 2010 list in the form of four Whooper Swans flying over west this afternoon and a relief after missing out on this species earlier in the year. Also present 93 Greylag Geese which I hope roost overnight because its goose count tomorrow. The Carr is flooded again after the weeks deluge so they may do so or equally they may return to Big Waters which is almost certainly from whence they came.

Also pleased to meet PRM who just happens to be the goose count organiser but he was counting Pied Wagtails at the time. Plenty of those on the flood but for photography it was just so grey as indeed it has been all week.

Grey Heron on a grey background.

A grey Hercules as well along with other birds putting in a show were Willow Tit, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer, shaved leg Buzzard, and a decent tribe of Long tailed Tits.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Red letter day

Well it could have been but maybe it should be red face day as I was contacted by young Foghorn whose keen eyes spotted that the Swallow posted on 24th October under Summer and Winter collide may have been Red rumped Swallow! The pic above is the only other I took which is amazing as, but for the time of year, I wouldn't normally have paid much attention. In my defence at not announcing the bird for all and sundry, I have no experience of this species, the sighting lasted fifteen seconds at most and I was distracted by having seen two Swallows over Prestwick Mill farm the week before so just assumed a late nest. The matter is now open for those who decide such things whether the pictures are sufficient to support adding the bird to the Prestwick Carr list. Thanks to Andrew, Mark and Tim for their comments.
Meanwhile my latest attempt at adding to the list has floundered as GB kindly pointed out that the possible White Wagtail has a black rump therefore is just a Pied.

As my Swan song I called in at Whittle Dene yesterday where nine Whooper Swans flew in for a drink after feeding in the nearby fields. The birds are a family party of two adults and five juveniles present for a week or so who have been joined by two more adults.

After half an hour or so the birds returned to their feeding with the encouragement of the local Mute Swans of which the male of one of the two pairs present is particularly bolshy. Also present 40 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Goldeneye, 10 Wigeon, 14 Teal, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Coot, 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Green Sandpiper in the sluice and a few passing Black headed and Common Gulls.