Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Messing about with some shots of Swifts I couldn't help but notice that they all had that steadfast, almost evil glint in the eye

Is it determination or something more menacing.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Terek and the Dominoes

But for a meeting with a kind lady at East Chevington who said her husband had seen Derek Sandpiper at Hauxley I would have headed on home and missed this little stunner.

Back I raced to find Liverbirder, Dusty Bins and many of Northumberlands elite in the wader hide where the bird performed spectacularly if not too distant for my small equipment. Previously in the day I had bemoaned the distant views of Great White Egret at Castle Island (which for those that don't know is a few hundred yards east of the old railway bridge at Stakeford NZ283855 and probably best accessed via the Industrial Estate on the north bank of the Wansbeck at North Seaton) so for lunch I took some easy targets of Rook and Black headed Gull in Amble car park before heading south to East Chevington for some Little Gulls which were again miles away.

Then after the excitement at Hauxley down to Druridge for the Spoonbills and Cresswell for the pair of Avocets now with three mini-cets in tow. There is a theme developing..........all black and white birds

But again well distant so sod the theme, here's my favourite view of the day as five Black tailed Godwits two approaching breeding plumage arrived at Hauxley.

Splendid birds, splendid day.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mind the gape

The first broods of spuggies have emerged over the last few days and make the garden a constant frenzy of activity taking over from the Starlings that emerged over the weekend.

It doesn't take them long to arrive on the kitchen roof where they soon learn to start pecking at the seed put out rather than wait for Mum or Dad.

The young Dunnocks are about a week old now and appear virtually independant already.

Whilst the Starling flock comes and goes as youngsters chase parents back and forth to the fields at the rear of the house.

Unfortunately there is the inevitable casualty. Probably a window strike from the location although I wouldn't put it past the Magpies who are determined to get some plunder. The corpse was gone within fifteen minutes so re-cycling at its most efficient in the bird world.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Catching the moment

Ducked under the ash cloud yesterday and went up the coast where it was a might windy but everything just seemed to be getting on with it despite the conditions. At the entrance to Cresswell this Stonechat was carrying food to a nest hidden in the grassland.

Arrived in the hide to be advised I'd just missed a Spoonbill and that a Crane had been reported overhead. Saw neither but on the pond there were good numbers of Gadwall and the Avocets had increased to six. It is hoped that the first Northumbrian Avocets will be hatching shortly and a sand spattered Mum sat tight whilst the wind and occasional rain shower tore around her. How this pair have protected the nest in such an exposed location beats me and you must fear for the young. Dad was nearby and was up and at Heron, Shelduck, Gull or Jackdaw as they passed.

Was joined in the hide by some ladies who lunched and then Sedgedunum Warbler turned up and we had a long chat whilst taking in the action. There was a sudden squall and four Black tailed Godwits appeared in flight only to disappear into the distance. JK left to be replaced some minutes later by the three Musketteers (JSB/EC/JC for those in the know) on one of their regular county circumnavigations. Info was exchanged and as the hide filled with folk I headed up to Druridge where the Spoonbill (just the one) and male Garganey were both showing at a distance.

The wind dropped momentarily and I remembered why I love this coast so much. The whole of the bay to myself...............not even a dogwalker in sight..........bliss

Then on to Hauxley in search of the reported Little Egret but just Geese, Shelduck and Redshank were showing joined briefly by this Common Tern who caught its tea with just the one attempt.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Bills and Martins

That's Spoony and Sandy up the coast yesterday. Four Spoonbills at Druridge Pools could not be resisted despite the lack of fuel in the car so I headed North quickly checking on the Avocets at Cresswell before joining the gathered throng at the Budge screen for a fine view of these handsome birds. Two slept and two fed whilst I swapped notes with ADMc but after an hour the wind chill was getting to me so I headed onward. East Chevington was scanned for Little Gull to no avail so further on to Hauxley where I spent an hour trying to capture Sand Martins in flight.

Then a return trip witnessing a Harrier food pass whilst stuffing my own face with Chopped Ham and Pickle Sarnies and a second visit to Druridge where the Spoobills were having a communal wash and brush up which was nice to see. The resulting photos were less than successful ( see Birding Sometimes for JM's quality shots) but all had a painted quality so I've added a bit of canvas grain to the Spoonbills to cover up a myriad of faults.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Killy & Byker

Meetings in the east of Newcastle today so stopped off at Killingworth Lake for lunch on the way down forgetting that South Gosforth Fisheries had burnt down last week. Anyway, hungry I did a lap of the lake and was surprised to hear a singing Reed Warbler on the south bank next to the fishing stands. Despite the minimal stand of reeds it studiously failed to show itself so I aimed at easier targets of freshly hatched Coots still on the nest with mum. Nearby Dad was collecting food and seeing off any Tufties that came close. The Great Creasted Grebe pair were feeding their two youngsters now well established and likely to survive which is more than can be said for the prospects of this duck egg.

Is that mine?

Why she laid it here beats me. People and dogs within feet either side and no cover whatsoever. Maybe she got caught short or possibly just hopelessly optimistic.

Setting off again I noticed a plume of smoke in the sky and arriving in a gridlocked Byker, found the cause. Shepherds Scrapyard was well ablaze so I watched for a while taking the opportunity to get some shots.

It's always nice when you can tell a story with the image and helpful graphics.

Even from 150m the heat was noticable and the fire service had their work cut out to protect the adjacent building. Fortunately the wind was in their favour but had it been otherwise the situation would have been a whole lot worse.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Taking a Tern

More Common Tern contorsions at Whittle Dene

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Crane higher

Having finished my morning sojourn around Prestwick Carr I was contemplating what to do with the rest of the day when Birdguides announced Common Crane at Whittle Dene. Straight downstairs into the car and back to the place I had left just 18 hours ago. I joined Liverbirder and two enthusiastic young birders with parents in tow in the hide and was pointed in the direction of said bird who, unusually for this species, was in the corner of a field and hidden from view. We waited, the kids dragged a reluctant Dad back to his car and eventually the bird wandered out into the open to feed. Just like all my previous views, a distant white dash in a big field. The head colouration showed in the scope and three Canada Geese made their way down the field to gawp at the leggy visitor.

We got some views, took some shots and were packing to go when I noticed the bird was in flight and heading our way. Struggling with the windows to the hide which we had just closed, I got off one shot as it passed overhead.

There was a two person stampede for the hide door (Liverbirder was most courteous in opening the door for this ageing old git to get some pics) and there was the bird circling in and out of the sun over the Military Road where a number of other birders including Dusted off Bins had arrived in at the perfect moment.

The bird circled and climbed, eventually disappearing from view over the Tyne valley.

Keep yer eyes peeled you southern types. It may be heading your way.

Whittling away

Spent Friday afternoon recovering from a torrid week by sitting in my car on the causeway at Whittle Dene watching a pair of Common Terns bond.

The wind was brisk and from the west so the birds always faced away and the light was up and down like a brides nightdress with occasional rain squalls to boot.

The birds didn't seem to bother though and their endless chatter and fishing flights made for an enthralling hour or so. The ringed bird is the same bird that I photographed post breeding last year and its amazing to think where it has been in the interim. Have got half the number of the ring but need to confirm it before submitting the details. Last years breeding at this location was a success so there's hope for more of the same this.

Less successful for Brock though with one dead on the Military road near Hedley on the Hill and another also seems to have met a slightly more natural end.

As I turned to walk back up the Bridleway at the west end of the reservoirs I noticed a Fox playing behing the hedge abou 150m away. It walked three paces into the field paused then dashed back into the hedge only to re-emerge and do the same another five or six times. I guess it was aware of my presence and didn't want to leave his prize so, with some difficulty, it carried this bundle away into the longer crop. I think from the size and shape it's a young badger and was suprised that a Fox would take such prey.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Red eye

I've got those after a good dose of the screaming abdabs Monday night! Dad was in hospital last week for a day after a minor turn and discharged by the weekend as one would expect these days only to develop the sickness by Sunday from which I duly contracted the same and after a 24 hour incubation there it floweth. What's the point of going to hospital if you come out with more than you went in with?

Anyway a sleepless night during which I was most impressed by an Oystercatcher bleep bleeping overhead at 3.50 which prompted my Spuggies to commence a chirp in. I can think of a few bleeps I could add particularly as everything is getting fed except me. Juvenile Collared Dove is hanging round the rear nest site hoping for the adult to feed it although the pair seem more interested in begetting the next offspring.

Front garden Collared Dove is back on her craptastic nest...........

and the Dunnocks have done it again for a second year. There's a nest somewhere but I'm buggered if I can find it.

A pair of Blue Tits started feeding the nest box brood this week and there's at least three broods of House Sparrow in boxes and two in trees. Both front garden trees have Jackdaw broods and there's one in the chimney as usual.

Two broods of Starlings one in the back eaves which is a nest used for the last six years and one in the gable used the last three years ( I really should repair it as it flaps about in the wind). One Blackbird nest lost to Magpies again and a possible Greenfinch in the front tree.
So, plenty of noise and everything is rosy in the garden if not in the cheeks.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Driving range

Up at 5.00 to get up to do my first Breeding Bird Survey Count at Longwitton starting at 6.00 which included an extra hour and three times the walk so I could also get full Atlas coverage thus by 9.00 I was wet and worn. Delivered some record cards to County Recorder Tim Dean in Rothbury then headed out into the wilds.

Lambs were everywhere so I knew the ranges at Otterburn would be open and took the single track road up from Alwinton to the Chew Green access and got the camera out for some car based sniping. Most common were Meadow Pipits who nearly always posed.

Then Skylarks ever present but not always so keen to come to post. This one was having an argument with his neighbour so wasn't worried about Astra man.

Probably a dozen or so Wheatears. Tended to move with the car but can't always resist a good rock on which to perch.

Then emerging at Holystone a Tree Pipit was displaying just near the road but just far enough so my shots were all silhouettes however Photoshop rescued this much enlarged image.

Other than that a couple of Buzzards, Crows and a pair of Canada Geese on one of the few ponds up there.

Birding by car, totally contrary to any sensible effort to protect the environment but I never saw another soul and enjoyed every moment.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sitting tight

Bit of a panic at the weekend when I noticed the Canada Goose who's been on eggs for the last three weeks looked very still and the male bird normally close by in the pond was nowhere to be seen. I walked over as close to her island as I could and still there was no movement but her eyes appeared open. Now fears that she had been shot darted through my mind and despite walking round her twice she lay still. Then just as I was about to get the wellies out to wade over I noticed that her head was moving ever so slightly to keep me in vision. I retreated and waited for another five minutes before the bird eventually raised her head.

I know ducks sit tight but geese in my previous experience normally attack you. Perhaps she's learnt its better to play the dummy which may be prudent as there is a Fox track just yards away.

Lots of warblers singing and many mating. This was some wing flicking I presume as a prelude to copulation.

More Whitethroats present than in previous years with a count of 30+ over 2km at the weekend and a second Lesser Whitethroat passed through as I hunted for a possible Red Kite that had been seen being mobbed near the Airport. No joy though for that elusive record on my patch.

Yesterday evening saw the arrival of Swifts over Prestwick Carr and a friend took me to a Buzzards nest he'd located just 2km from Kingston Park and the start of Newcastles urban sprawl. The female flew the nest as I approached but soared with her calling partner as we retreated back to the main road. Will keep an eye out to see if breeding is succesful.