Saturday, 31 December 2011

And now, the end is near................

..............I did it my way!

This morning was a burn fest/quest.  Only one Kingfisher, this time east of Horton Drive, a nice Grey Wagtail to the west, and a GSW that obligingly stayed put whilst the camera was out of the carry case, pointed etc.

Now check out this photo.  Focus, colour and artistic use of reflection,  Sometimes, watch out!

Off to Blyth after a spot of tiffin, and in search of the 15 Snow Buntings in the stubble field south of the cemetery.  Crafty buggers, these birds are; all too easily dropping into the lines of straw never to be seen again.  A flock of 50 - 60 Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting were very flighty, but the Snowies rarely lifted and did not form part of the larger group.  They took to the skies twice, on both accasions flying over the road ad lost in the dunes.  I did go and look, but could I relocate them?  NO.

Two coveys of Grey Partridge were there, plus some Rock Doves, Crows and Mistle Thrushes.

Yellowhammers in the foreground, Tree Sparrow top/right.

Happy New Year to one and all.

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Last Post.....

.....of 2011?  Hopefully, not!

But a nice few hours started in a crisp and sunny search for the GGS near North East Mason Farm.  In the words of the legendary Scouse comedian and game show host (no, not Tarby) Les Dennis....(click here).

Nonetheless, seven of these was reasonable compensation:

And in the field between Big Waters and the bridle path, a flock of Greylags accompanied two of these:

Does the difference in the facial pattern signify anything?

Next stop, Arcot.  En route back to the car, parked near the Chinese takeaway on the old A1, the small wood was alive with GSW, LTT, Blue Tits, Wren, Blackbirds and Great Tits.

Arcot was quiet, with BHG, Teal, Wigeon, Mute Swan and six Goosander (3M & 3 F):

Two Kingfishers were along Horton Burn and the Grey Wagtail.

After a spot of nurishment and some canine exercise, off to West Hartford, arriving at 2:00 pm with a few spots of rain.  One, two then three Short-eared Owls hunted the field to the SW of the flash (where the brick house is), but as the spitting became rain, so the owls were grounded never to be seen again.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Four Kin' Hell

Day Four - the Kingfisher's doing fine - predictable activity with some superb scope views.  But the digiscoped images are sh*te.

Nice Grey Wagtail too.

Come on Sometimes, Richard Dunn, Messrs Howdon and Sedgedunum et al, do the wee chap some justice!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Oui! Three Kings!

For the past three days, I have seen Kingfishers within 50 yards of my home.  Horton Burn regularly turns them up, anywhere along the mile west of the old fire station.

On Xmas Eve, one up and down along the length parallel with Hauxley Drive.

Yesterday, alerted by my son, not one but two, causing a right commotion in the trees to the west of the footbridge on the burn's south bank, again parallel with Hauxley.

Today, a singleton in the same tree at 9 am (dog walk one) and again in that tree and also the one to the east on the north bank, at dinner time (dog walk two).

And whilst dealing with yet another, 'What you lookin' at, Mister?' the blighter using my scope actually saw it fishing!

Digiscoped at 50 yards:

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Seasonal Greetings

To everyone who has aided my knowledge over 2011, to those I may have inadvertently upset, those who have been entertained by my blog, those who played a part in the Great Norfolk and Suffolk bird trip and anyone else I have not described:

Friday, 23 December 2011

A Nice Grey Day

Glaucous.  Derived from the Latin for silver or grey.  Grey weather, but a far from dull bird at the Fish Quay this afternoon.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Cat and Mouse

Thought I'd spend some quality time with the Wheatear this afternoon.  For about a half hour, I did.  Light was good, the bird showing very well, but would it keep still?  In short, a big fat NO!  It was up and down like a whore's drawers.

It liked having a look into the Sand Martin 'burrows':

The beach was very busy with Ringed Plovers, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Redshank, Crow, Curlew and gulls.  Oh, and this fella (there were two):

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Deserter Wheatear

Scrambled by a text from Crammy Birder, it was 633 squadron-like into the Fokker and off to Royal Newbiggin for some superb, albeit very brief glimpses of my first Desert Wheatear.  Fantastic, but it was very mobile and within minutes of getting there, it was off, never to be seen again.

Yesterday, I travelled to Seaton Common for my first Caspian Gull.  Magic!  I have read some blogs that talk of the gulling season.  Interesting terminology is the word 'gulling'; a natural extension of the past-time dogging, so I am told! 

I thought I would use the phrase 'gulling' in this blog to get some more hits from those who will be looking for a gulling or dogging website and all they will get are details of gulls and if they want, a picture of my dog!

And I know the 633 team flew De Havilland Mosquitos and not Fokkers, but I am sure 'Fokker' will add to the dogging and gulling 'hit' tally!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Introduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England

Responsible department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Scotland, recognising that those who persecute birds of prey frequently do so at the direction of their employers or others with vested interests, has introduced an offence of vicarious liability, the purpose of which is to bring those parties to justice. This petition calls on the government to introduce an offence of vicarious liability to bring to justice those who direct or turn a blind eye to raptor persecution in England. As an indication of how bad thing are, in the last year only four pairs of hen harriers successfully reared chicks in England, fourteen peregrine falcon territories failed on grouse moors in Lancs forest of Bowland, and only one successful goshawk nest was recorded in the Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Current legislation is not enough to deter those who break the law and destroy our heritage; the introduction of vicarious liability would hit those directing the slaughter.

Sign it here, please.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Jeux Sans Frontieres

Today, I tried the barrier method (now that phrase will get me a few blog hits, no doubt)!  As fast a hurdles to success appeared, they were overcome, I am pleased to say.

Before I regale the tale, Crammy Birder, if I had known you were not at Uni today, I would have called you.  Really sorry!

So, off north at 10am and intermittent fog patches had the ol' ticker affected and first stop, Dunstan Hill for the goose flock.  Viewed from the B1339, the main group was over, well, the hill, but all species seen except the Ross's (not to worry, they're not a BOU 'tick'!).  And three Welsh birders there too.  Luvv-leeee!

Then off the Newton-by-the Sea.  Blissful, with Barwits, Starlings, Oystercatchers, BHGs, HGs, RedshanksCrows, Rooks and Turnstones sifting through the seaweed on the beach.

On 'Stringer Scrape', nice to see 10 White-fronted Geese were the highlight:

And off to Holy Island ahead of the safe crossing time of 1:40pm, arriving at 12:40.  En route, news the the A1 was closed both ways at Scremerston and as I neared the Beal turn-off, a diversion off left at Fenwick. 

After a 'Bridge of Death'-like examination by the Traffic Managers, I managed to convince the finest Hi-Viz bedecked chaps that I was, indeed, in need of a twitch to Holy Island and not wanting to bypass (superb road-related pun or what?!?!) their beautifully-honed vehicular direction training!

Hurdle No. 1 in the It's a Knockout series successfully navigated, off to No. 2, the 'Ebbing Tide Challenge'.

Of course, the EBR was still there and if we had not crossed the causeway ahead of the allotted time, it would have 'dun orf'.  Not. 

Being hugely impatient, me and a guy from Ebbw Vale (he set off at 2am for the Yellowlegs and then the Redstart) watched as one or two 'pathfinders' slowly drove towards the island as the water raced from left to right over the road.  And as they successfully crossed almost an hour early, so did we.

Next stop, the school, and two bays nicely vacated for me and my Welsh sidekick to occupy.

And then No. 3, the 'Rope Down The Slope' (Good Lord - poetry too.  I do spoil you!!).  So a 6'4", 47 year old with a penchant for You've Been Framed-like, arse-over-tit behaviour, slowly maneouvred down to the beach, with kit in hand.

The Ebbw Valean had walked off north along the top and I teetered north along the beach with its 'high-grip' Fucus vesiculosus covering and scanning the route ahead, I saw a wee birdie flying up and down in Ficedula fashion.

And nearing said bird, voila, yet another ornithogasmic experience:

Sunday, 20 November 2011


I am attempting to add some logic and rationale to birding, because doing so keeps the carbon footprint as a size 9 as opposed to a big 11.  So the Eastern Black Redstart; 110 mile round trip; only a sub-species etc.  Easy!

Easy my a#s*.  Only the fifth in Britain.  First for Northumberland.  A stunning bird.  And so today I considered going for it but the weather was shown as foggy to noon so I throttled back and tried again to resist.  It's a killer!

Warmed up with 20 Waxwings on Horton Drive at 8 am today, and as I walked up the cul-de-sac to Chez Moi, a beltin' female Sparrowhawk over the wall and between my place and the neighbours.  As Louis Balfour would say, Nice!

And very little at West Hartford at lunchtime.

And so out north at 12:30pm.  First stop, East Chevington, and as I alighted form the car, the geese decided to up-sticks and fly west to the field beyond the conifers along the west side of the south pool.  Bugger!

Mainly Greylags remained with the odd White-front, but not the 180-odd that I had hoped for.  And on the North Pool:

Cresswell was busy with those from far afield looking at the Greater Yellowlegs that was parading up and down the reedbed east of the mud outside the hide.  Very good views, but I'll let the guy from Bristol with the biggest lens I have ever seen do it justice.  And loads of Snipe too - which was nice!

Female Red-breasted Merganser on the little pool too:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Even Greater Yellowlegs

Some of today's highlights, insufficiently described through the medium of 'photography':

And a Bittern showing well (but VERY well a few minutes before I arrived) at Cresswell, viewed from the access road, at the NE end of the smaller pool.

And I'll not bother with the Green-winged Teal shot as all that can be made out is the buff tail wedge and the horizontal white stripe on the body!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

No. 248 - Yellow Bean Swan

Not the newest meal at my local Chinese takeaway, but the latest three listed species today!

After sorting a car for No. 2 son 'early doors', turning t'interweb on just after 10:50 had a huge grey square on BirdMap over this fine county of ours and the Greater Yellowlegs rollercoaster left Cramlington.

Two minutes down the road, and a cry for help from Crammy merited a U-turn and after a hurried collection, off north, with news it had just flown south.  Then it was back at the North Pool (and a pit stop required as the dieselometer was showing 'fumes-only'!).  With just 100 yards to go before the right turn to Megasville, news the bird had flown off high and long and west! 


Despite Crammy's attempts to see a vaguely wader-like profile going high over the car and tick it (!!), we continued to the North Pool hide to see a mixture of birders, some with a facial expressions akin to having just bedded Kelly Rowlands, and others with the look of someone who had just done the same with Susan Boyle! 

We joined the latter queue and stood until 12:10 before driving off along the access road for a 3-point turn to the doldrums, following iPin and ahead of the No. 1 seawatcher.  And on passing the path to the hide, Mr Robson lept out of his car (he did a fine emergency stop beforehand) to announce the bird was back; some Sweeney-like parking and a wee sprint and voila l'oiseau rare!

This afternoon, off to Boldon Flats to add a Bewick's Swan to the Life list.  Having seen them before at East Chev several years ago (and missing the Blyth birds), I failed to record the fact and knowing that last year's (at Boldon again) did not stay long, it had to be done.

And as bonus, in the greylag flock near the northern-most viewpoint at the road side, three Bean Geese.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Great Grey Shrike Ate Short-eared Owls

Bloody puns! 

Great Grey Shrike, eight Short-eared Owls.  But now I have your attention....

Spent a great hour this afternoon with Lanius excubitor and Sir Cowell of Kingston in the presence of two of my favourite birds, the shrike and Asio flammeus.

The shrike was much further west than I thought, a field or two to the west of where those who have viewed the SEOs before will have stood.  The bird was up and down the hedgerow running south from the south side of the bumpy road.  The shots were from about 100 yards away.

The owls appeared at 2:25pm, and they were spectacular.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

'S' is for...................

Short-eared Owls (West Hartford) this afternoon from 3:00pm (which, as you will have heard all day today, would have been 4:00pm!):

And for Snow Bunting:

And for Sometimes (that's him in the background!):

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Trips and Dips

Purple Heron at Saltholme? Dipped.  Richard's Pipit at St. Mary's?  Dipped.

And now the better news.

Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Greatham (consolation prize):
(Trust me - it's the one on the left!)

Pectoral Sandpiper at Castle Lake:

And today, early start (via Maccy D's), and to Sleddale/Commondale.  Windy, cold, clear and occasionally bright.  It took until 11:00 am for the first Rough-legged Buzzard to show, from the chevrons, arriving from the north over the tumulus and after two failed attempts at catching Red Grouse, it landed on the west side of a tall conifer along Sleddale Beck (so out of sight).  A second Rough-legged Buzzard arrived a wee while later and had a dogfight with a Common Buzzard.  Also seen were Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine by the time I left at 12:30pm.

The one that got away:

Seen the hunted, now the hunters: