Monday, 27 December 2010

More Snow

Bank holiday turns out to be another gloomy day so limited photo opportunities but I've got work to do anyway so not too much of an inconvenience. Memories of the buntings last Wednesday seem an age ago after another interminable Christmas.

As I look out of my back window seven Pheasant are feeding in the horse field behind, driven closer to the village by the continued freeze and yesterday a Fox made a close sortie to my back garden where bird feeding continues to be the main activity.

The next few days will be spent tying up the many loose ends of the year including trying to compile the 110 Waxwing records for the Bird Club in November into some sort of reasonable prose.

It would be nice to get a new species in the garden just to end the year on the up....Snow Bunting would be heaven.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Meddy Christmas

The unseasonably regular Med Gull at Briar Dene last Wednesday

Not that keen on the blizzard blowing though

But look on the bright side the new plumage is coming in nicely and I'll soon put these Black Headed types to shame. I mean ...........chocolate brown........can't even get the name correct although on that subject why am I standing in North East England!

Season Greetings and all the very best to all of you.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Lap dancin

Good grief I've had a communication from beyond the grave. Here's some more shots of one of St Mary's Lapland Bunting for G o St.

Little bugger trying to run through the frame

Is that a cold hard stare.

And after all that I messed up my best Snow Bunting opportunity

Apologies to all the pervs out there who linked to this blog hoping to see some scantily clad Norwegian bird sliding up and down a pole. All I missed out was the pole!

Just a snap shot

My first shot taken yesterday just as a record at St Mary's Island before spending the next two hours waiting for better shots of the bird species in this pic one of which I thought had eluded me until Northumbrian Birding helped me out and I filled my sdhc. Many thanks Brian. Then, I looked again at this and he was there all the time. Can you spot him while I process the rest of the days efforts?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


My depression at constantly dealing with the problems of the freeze and those others that just seem to pile in on top was lightened by a brief stroll yesterday afternoon, first at Newburn where three Bullfinches were feeeding near the visitor centre.

and the river was just about frozen across.

Then Prestwick Carr where there were few birds although the Curlews were still calling and Scottish Air Traffic Control was getting in on the act.

A burning sun set accompanied a cold moonrise

and now it's the shortest day and we can look forward to the days lengthening. Undue optimism methinks.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Chaffin freezin

It certainly was for this chap and gave me a one off shot of Chiffchaff on ice! Prestwick Carr has had wintering Chiffchaffs for at least the last three years but I'm amazed after the conflagration earlier in the year that this bird did not review its policy and follow its mates to warmer climes. Just think he could be freezing in Iberia rather Siberia.

The bird didn't seem unduly concerned and was feeding quite actively on tree bark and picking bits off the surface of the ice. Fortunately there has been no rain and the bark is still largely unfrozen as are some areas in the drainage ditches so food and water seem to still be available. This Goldcrest certainly seemed to be finding stuff as it moved along the hedgerow with a tribe of 14 Long tailed Tits.

Managed to get up the range track although it was hard work as the flood had been churned up by the range Land Rover and had re-frozen so some bits were very solid and bumpy whereas others were paper thin so I ended up with wet feet in the end. As I waddled along I heard a Skylark overhead and looked up to see it performing a dance with what I think was a Peregrine. The Skylark seemed to be running rings round the larger bird but they disappeared up into the gloom before I could get focus.

Another unusual bird for this time of year is a small flock of six Curlew in the horse paddocks. Very common during breeding they don't normally winter so these are probably birds forced down from upland habitat by the weather. Hopefully they'll be joined by a Short eared Owl or two.

Of the 41 species recorded Blackbird and Redwing were in good numbers the reverse of previous weeks when Fieldfare would outnumber them both. A good few Song Thrush also but not so many Robins or Wrens who have perhaps moved nearer habitation for warmth and food. Mrs Woody looked on as Mr grubbed about on the fenceline near the new viewpoint.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Nordic conditions

The other week whilst watching my local Jackdaws feeding on the kitchen roof I noticed a bird with a white collar. Grabbing the camera I got a shot of it on the neighbours soil pipe (last pic)and e-mailed it to GB with the query 'Nordic race?' Graeme answered certainly showing characteristics and added he had observed a bird at Killingworth Lake that was most noticeably of this Northern race.

Having spent Monday and Tuesday housebound waiting 48 hours for the delivery of my replacement zoom lens sent on 24 hour delivery, I was eager to test it and with Wednesday being so dull here was my first proper opportunity.

Initially I spotted these two birds below the right hand of which is showing a collar although light conditions were testing. Then, after half an hour the bird pictured above showed up. Quite bold and certainly not afraid of the camera I just wonder if there is too much white for it to be Nordic Jackdaw but head on it certainly has a collar.

Of course as soon as I got focused on the bird some old giffer laboured out of his car and started feeding the (approximate numbers) 100 Swans, 100 Coots, 75 Canada Geese, 2 Greylag Geese, 50 Tufted Duck, 50 Mallard, 50 Moorhen, 2 Farmyard Ducks, 2 Goldeneye, 1 Pochard and Gulls too numerous to mention. The bird was of course lost in the ensuing melee.

I haven't managed to find this bird again but the soil pipe now resides horizontally in the garden due to snow pushing it off the wall.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A bit of a mix

Around and about at the weekend commencing in some nice sunlight on Prestwick Carr and ending in the murk up the coast.

Early morning Yellowhammer

Young Great black backed Gull napping with a wary eye at Blyth.

Bar tailed Godwit at Boulmer

One of five Purple Sandpiper at Stag Rocks (Bamburgh).

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Looking to roost

After a Snow Bunting less visit to Blyth this afternoon I stopped off at St Mary's Island and joined the merry throng crossing the causeway for no good reason (although I think the cafe may have been open for once). No Long tailed Duck mooching about in north bay and most waders on the shore far away as the tide was out (hence crossing the causeway). A trio of Rock Pipits played nearby one of whom was very confiding but refused to budge from a small area in total shade next to the landing area. So as I headed back to land I noticed the spuggies darting all over the roof of the keepers house looking for their roost spot for the night. As it turned out it appears all of them were male (they weren't) and had a tendency to look to the left.

Meanwhile at home Prestwick Carr has returned to being a lake and the roads have been breached in a number of places resulting in the melt water running out of the ditches and into the central area which is filling up nicely. Good count of 43 species this morning the notables being 120 Teal around the melting edge of ice in the horse paddocks, 15 Yellowhammer at the goats and 4 Goosander flying north.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Larking on ice

A dubious benefit of the freeze was that it brought otherwise distant birds close enough for crap photographers like me. Pity the evening light was so strong. These were taken in the car park at Amble on Wednesday where the birds were feeding on grain put down by some good souls.

Hopefully the thaw give the birds some welcome respite from cold feet.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


The problem with feeding birds in your garden is that you can't always choose who gets the tasty morsels. I've had problems in the past with Rats, normally when the landfill was operating near Dinnington but recently things have been clear with only Mice present below the shed and the occasional visit from a Mole or Hedgehog. I noticed that Rabbits have been making merry in my front garden from the myriad of footprints in the snow but was a little more concerned when a rat sized hole appeared in the drift under the Niger feeder. Air Rifle was placed at the ready as the clear nights with a white background make despatching the hapless rodents easy and without fear of mis-identification. I remember a few years back being all ready to fire when the supposed rat curled up into a ball and was clearly a hedgehog. Now frankly I'd rather not kill anything however my neighbours are more civilised than myself and the need to deal with any infestation before it gets out of hand and they reep the benefits is paramount.
So this morning as I opened the door to put some more fat flavoured bread balls out I was disturbed to see what I thought was a rat, disapppear behind the coal bunker although it was unusual in that it sprinted over the top. I put said morels out and retired to the kitchen as birds descended to feed. After five minutes they all flew up into the tree and I assumed the prescence of the Woodpecker had disturbed them but then a familiar head appeared in the hole just like the daft mallet game you play in the fair. Up and down it went till eventually either bravery or hunger took hold and it, a Weasel, dashed out to nick some food returning to its burrow to eat it.

I watched for a number of minutes as it made sorties around the garden and it had clearly a well established 'rat run' below the snow. Now the question is it vermin? I for one wouldn't harm a hair on it but I guess it could feasibly take one of the birds I'm spending time and money to keep alive. Anyway whilst I considered the merits of said creature it did its best to look the picture of innocence although I suspect it was eyeing up a Starling in the conifer tree!

Whilst writing this there is scuffling from above and being the sole inhabitant of this slum I suspect there are mice in the loft again. Oh the benefits of living on the urban fringe or is that just being on the edge?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


No Newburn actually. The ice floes were moving upstream with the tide this lunch time. Plenty of Black headed Gulls attracted by people putting bread out for them and even two folks feeding a colony of Cats next to the river and leaving a lorry load of rubbish into the bargain. I couldn't find my target for the mission, a Kingfisher, although nearly got clobbered by one in Ponteland Park later on as it took a short cut across a bend in the river! Three Song Thrushes drank in the Newburn and the usual Moorhens strutted their stuff. A pair of Bullfinch were feeding fairly acrobatically for Bullfinch but shots taken through the windscreen of a car are not to be recommended.

A rare ice beaked Gull flew past as his mates took the more sedate route on the river.

Wey hey these islands are un-commonly slippy as the Crow took full advantage of the bounty from the Greggs seconds shop.

Further downstream at the business park the Teal took advantage of the last sunlight of the day to do some dabbling amounst the flotsam trapped by the staithes.

Nice birds Teal and this stretch of the River Tyne can be home to 300+ at this time of year. My Webs count isn't for two weeks so hopefully there will be a thaw in the weather before then and the area will be Teaming with Teal.