Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Red in the hedge

Checked the bridleway north of Big Waters yesterday for any rare Geese or even a Shrike but none to find although two Short eared Owls were sparring over rough ground near Brenkley. As I walked back a tit flock approached all alarm calling. I looked around expecting to find a Cat on the ground but there in the hedge was a Squirrel.
When it saw me it froze and I spent a couple of minutes trying to find an unobstructed camera angle without avail. It let me walk up right below him in the attempt though.

It was clear no spectacular pose was to be had so I let it be. Still the cutest animal about although where it was going to was unclear as the nearest plantations were a good hundred yards away.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Feather brain

A question. I've been interested in birds all my life although more particularly in the last eighteen years or so. As such I have amassed a knowledge to be quite helpful but on occasion absolutely lethal to boot. I have on this blog recently stated that an Owl has P2 missing when in fact it was P9. Nobody complained.........So here my knowledge falls short again. Red breasted Merganser in Amble harbour Saturday afternoon.
Wings extended primary outermost...........so what are the two v shaped projections? I am so dumb

Nice hair day anyway

Eider, I knew that one of you would show up. For those of an artistic bent.........try mixing the colours of the green neck or the pink breast flush. Quite a challenge!

On the Carr , play Mistle Thrush for me. All paired up and raring to go.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Heading up to look at a building near Wallington yesterday I stopped off at Bolam Lake and having got out of the car was debating whether to pay the exhorbitant £1.40 parking fee when six of these beauties glip, glipped overhead. Well actually there were three males and three females but I only caught sight of the females briefly on the roadside before they flew back up into a lichen covered tree. Obviously pairs collecting nest material I grabbed six shots before they headed off. I've been wanting to get up to Harwood Forset these last two weeks to see this very bird but work has intervened so a work visit eventually saved me the trip.
I did also have a walk around the Lake which was pleasant if uneventful. I was hoping for a Smew like a couple of years back but the usual ducks were boosted by two female Goosander and a splash of Goldeneye. Plenty of Mute Swans, Canada Geese and large flocks of Tits with calling Nuthatch and drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker all made getting back to work a bit of a hassle.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Off to the states.....not

Oh I'm such a lucky chap. Two tickets from American Airlines in my junk e mail. One to Chicago and one to Indianapolis strangely both costong 117.12 US dollars and neither telling me where I'm flying from. Another scam amongst the offers of canadian meds, rolex watches and the services of ladies. If you get one don't touch it. The instructions are to print the ticket but if you examine the file it's a self extracting program, no doubt of the...............phishing kind.
AJJ advises that the Great Grey Shrike was north of Big Waters on Monday again before flying off east. Heading home perhaps as I couldn't find it yesterday but plenty of Owls still even if the weather is crap.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

dn.. dn..dn.. d.d. dn dn...........Ice Ice baby

Saturday, and after my mornings trip down to the Carr I checked Birdguides who repeated Iceland Gull sightings at North Shields. I'd been down earlier in the week without success but....well its Saturday and I deserve it. Turned up and nowhere to park. Where are all these people coming from and more to the point where are they going? Headed up to the High Lights and parked overlooking the Fish Quay. Out with the bins and thar she blows...adult Iceland Gull doing circuits up the Quayside. MSH parked a car in front of me and pointed out a second first winter bird on the fish quay roof.
Telephone conversations with AC on the quayside ensued and the adult was re-classified as fourth winter sub adult .........not that I would know but it was showing well so down to the waterside where I joined Northumbrian Birding in a quest for images.
The sub adult was very obliging

but the juvenile less so

I'm sorry son, Ostrich tactics don't wash up here in the grim North. But then again it's the deep south to him! Met Killy birder along the way who advised of a Glaucous Gull seen earlier but we never found it.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A great half hour

Friday morning had been a bit of a rush so headed down to try and find the Shrike. It has been ranging quite widely in the last week and finding it never mind getting a view had been hard. My experience with this bird that has now been resident for ten weeks, is that if you don't get straight onto it you probably won't see it at all.

As you can see, half way along the road there it was, 30m away atop a large bush. I watched for three minutes or so and then it flew.
Strong low purposeful flight with a slight undulation then............

a ten second hover before deciding to carry on to the hedgeline near the road. It disappeared momentarily before re-appearing low down at the roadside. The beauty then allowed me to approach to about thirty feet which is where I got the header shot. Dull light, hand held, high iso, loads of noise but comments on one of my previous posts has made me relish the quality of the moment rather than the quality of the result. After all, I bet there's not many get so close

A more typical view.............dare I trip out the old favourite........ from an undisclosed location!

Better still after watching the bird from 12.45 to 1.10 when it was never more than 30m away he offered up another close up but this time through the hedge.

I bet its going to be a boring weekend as I've used up all my birding tokens.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Below the area into which the Collared Dove below was taking twigs I found the remains of the first breeding attempt this morning.
The dint on the base of the egg suggests the egg has fallen or been dropped out of the nest and the presence of yolk that it has been predated. Never fear though, this pair did exactly the same last year although the single egg they laid was left to go cold after which they produced three broods of two with at least three surviving to fledge.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A rare sight these days

No not him, this............

looking east

looking west.

Just Robin and I left at on a calm, quiet evening at 4.00pm. The sun had just set, the hoards departed early after the owls failed to show and I was left to contemplate life and its complexities. Where exactly had numerous owls disappeared to? Plod (hardly in his 4 wheel drive) had played a fleeting visit earlier. Was foul play suspected or was it possibly due to complaints about the parking at the road ends.

MH had found the Shrike way over near the main road and it was just visible from my location but only because it's grey and sits on the highest branch possible. As I waited for the Owls Robin played around my feet and fed on some seed left by the visiting folk. Confident little chaps when the weathers cold.
Did the owls appear? Well lets say that three clear nights on the trot with a hunters moon mean they have full bellies and don't need to hunt during the day so adding a fourth session wouldn't be so unexpected.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Nowt to say

Frustrating weekend but nice Wren at Cresswell

Buzzards continue to search the mole hills on the Carr

This Coal Tit was singing in centre frame but when I took the shot!

Great Tits are a wee bit more obliging.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Need a hand with that?

The last few days warm weather have seen many signs of Spring which no doubt will ignore the cold snap threatened for the weekend. The gardens growing, my Collared Doves are nesting and on Thursday the Robin was in full song at 1am in the morning.

They're cheeky chappies but the choice of sticks always seems to be on the long side so maybe we'll get a decent nest compared to some of the flimsy affairs last year.

I met Harry on the Carr last night who mentioned the hedgehogs in his Ponteland garden had emerged and were taking food as was the Fox.

This particular animal apparently has a liking for hens eggs which it takes away to eat and fortunately Harry can provide some out of date morsels rather than the fox having to raid any local hen houses.

With owls still flying in good numbers although over a much wider area than previously Prestwick Carr has been pretty busy of late.

The voles in the favoured area around the roost site must have been exhausted and now the birds are hunting the roadsides and the area west and north of the bumpy road. One flew through the beam of my headlights the other night flying toward the airport so I hope any collisions with car or plane can be avoided.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


After cracking out some work early Monday morning I spent the afternoon in excellent sunlight and almost calm conditions at Prestwick Carr. Richard was there and put me straight onto the Shrike which showed well for about an hour. We eventually got quite close but the light was never just right and I with my dodgy mirror lens I managed to mess up most of my attempts.
Still a good looking bird even with the soft focus

We then met John and spent another half hour in the company of eight or more Short eared Owls as they hunted and squabbled. Again I was less than happy with my photographic efforts.

I like this one for the action qualities even if it is a blurry mess.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Where are the birds?

A poor count on Saturday as the wind seems to have blown all the birds away. Struggled up to thirty three species and couldn't even find a Fieldfare which is unusual. Spent a good bit of time trying to find the Shrike but never did. At least the owls are reliable although I apparently missed a Long eared in flight on Wednesday which still smarts a bit!
The Prestwick Carr list has eased up to a half century with Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail and Treecreeper added. There are precious few Wagtails around the horse fields which is unusual. A couple of Mute Swans landed briefly on the flooded fields but they didn't stay long heading off west.
Today a quick look at Bellasis Bridge with Grey Partridge, Jay and an overflying Cormorant being the only birds of note. Now for Sunday lunch and an afternoon in front of the box watching posh cats.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Cuddys duck

I spent a few spare moments yesterday lunchtime watching the Eiders surfing at Blyth Quayside. I'm sure they didn't intend to surf but such was the ferocity of wind and wave that they were on occasion forced to.

It's also that time of year and there was a little bit of display going on although you couldn't hear the strange noise they make above the noise of the wind.
Further off the quay a Red throated Diver fished in what it would think was the relative calm of the estuary.

For those in far climes Cuddy is the local nickname being a typical geordie shortening for St Cuthberts duck.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Starting over

The 2011 Prestwick Carr list finished at 111 with some notable omissions and should really have been around 116 so I must try harder this year. A nice start yesterday with the third bird I saw being a Tree Sparow on the garden feeders. After topping them up and a quick breakfast out to start again. The day generally was very quiet and numbers were hard to find but it was noticable that many birds are already travelling as pairs and Great Tits were singing.
It didn't take long to locate the most important tick of the new year as the Shrike was being mobbed by Tits in the top of a large tree. It didn't seem to be bothered and stayed faithful to this location for most of the day giving many others good views although some made harder work of it than others. One photographer almost hit lucky as the bird impaled a vole on a hedge near the road. He described that the luckless animal as still dripping blood so staked out the staked out creature but unfortunately just drew attention to the area and was soon surrounded by onlookers which of course meant the Shrike didn't return for its meal.

Nothing else spectacular of note other than a nice tribe of 18 or so Long tailed tits accompanied by a couple of Goldcrest.

The day finished with Short eared Owls aplenty and the new list standing on a moderate 46.