Saturday, 22 January 2011


Shrike 1:Take 2 - Harwood Forest at dawn; cool, damp and generally unpleasant, although better than last year's Great Grey Shrike-quest when it was three hours in the rain and completely sodden (29/3/10).  I had a go yesterday afternoon and dipped so this morning, up the forest path and off right towards Redpath so as to cover the east side of the plantation looking west towards the wee, towery thing.  No joy!

Off to Tutehill Moss, scene of last year's success, just on the off-chance.  Walking north, there is a bit of summit before the road drops down and the Moss is on the left.  150 yds ahead, on the right of the road, is a plantation of 12' conifers in front of a set of much larger pines.

On scanning the shorter trees, voila, the quarry, facing away from me but visible and not photographable.  I tried to get nearer, but it dropped down and out of sight, never to be seen again.

But it's there, and waiting for more attention (I was the only one, but two other hopefuls were walking north as I entered the village (it should be a hamlet as it doesn't appear to have a church)).

The path through the woods was alive with Coal Tits, Goldcrests, Chaffinches and Crossbills.

Off to Whittle Dene next for a spot of Smew action (so far, it's G for Great, G for Goldcrest and hopefully S for Smew making this entry's title doubly clever?!?!).

The bird was pretty easily located on the reservoir opposite the Western one, which appears not to be called the Eastern but the Lower Northern.  Anyway, the bird flew west and when I left at 12:20 was on the Western Reservoir.

And in the field to the north of the Great Northern Reservoir, a dozen Stock Dove, nicely complementing three Goosanders (2M:1F) and innumerable Teal and Mallard on the water.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

More Haw

The just-about-tickable Hawfinch activity yesterday could not be the only exposure to an absolute stonker of a bird and, like the R-n Duck before it, one that I have invested a reasonable amount of time over the last four years seeking (without success).  Freezing hours outside Hulne Park, Sizergh Castle and Croxdale too, and zilch!

So back today and arriving just after 9:00, Sir McLevy of Morpeth  was already there and a guy with a camera lens that looked like a cooling tower on its side.  So far, no joy.

Yesterday's activity started at 9:37, and today, half an hour of ornithological bliss commenced at 9:34.  Thirty minutes of watching what is probably one of my birding highlights so far, feeding on the beech mast not too far from the south end of the east hedge.

Then it was off high and west and over the west hedge and out of sight.  Boo!  Hiss!

Mr Meadows arrived (nice to put a face to the blog - PC Wanderings, have you ticked Abbey Meadows off your list yet?) and he spotted the bird overhead and landing in a tree close by.  As usual, camera out and bird off east.

And then a few other arrived inc. Sir Cowell of Kingston and having eventually got my eye in, I spotted the little (or not so little) blighter in the middle of the east hedge.  Camera already out, some shitty-shotties follow.

Monday, 17 January 2011


Everything comes to he who waits, used but probably not originated by Violet Fane (1843-1905) in her poem Tout vient ß qui sait attendre

Saturday's ex-bogey was the R-n Duck, and then within 48 hours, another eliminated.  To read yesterday of a Hawfinch that was NOT at Hulne Park, NOT at Croxdale and NOT at Sizergh Castle was great, but nearly on the house/office doorstep at Morpeth was too good to miss.

So, using BirdGuides' directions, off to the B6343 looking for a big beech hedge or two.  After calls to a couple of mentors about where they interpreted the location as, and you know who you are, after 30 'wasted minutes', I found the mini-twitch with a few other notable birders there.

Having just missed one fly-over from the SW, the bird was allegedly somewhere in the middle of the field, probably on the ground, near the fourth tree north of the path, we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Then, imagine my surprise when it appeared from the east (probably the south end of the eastern-most tree in the hedgerow) and flew high and west and then south, did a circle of the horse field to the south of the path and then disappeared into the woods.

And that was it.  Or so it seemed.  Until Vee of veefotos fame spotted a distant bird at the top of a tree at the north end of western most hedgeline.  But the combined bins of four could not be 100%.  I had left my scope in the car, which was parked on the main road, as my perception of a hedge was NOT a line of trees over 20 feet tall and a hundred yards or more long.  PC Wanderings was one of the quartet, and his photoskills show that the was it/wasn't it debate should be firmly the former.

So there you are, two bogeys well and truly blown away - and back tomorrow for another try and some closer views.

And loads of Jays about too (and Marsh Tit heard but not seen).

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Nice couple of hours this afternoon, starting with a quick goose at Woodhorn - or rather a Barnacle with the Mutes and Whoopers opposite the QEII (thanks Whitley Birder, but I could only see one B and two W's as opposed to your two and four resp. yesterday) and the four White-fronts in the field opposite the windmill (actually the second field in, over the stone wall when viewed from the 5-bar gate).

Next stop Blyth Harbour, with the Red-necked Grebe looking good along with a female R-b Merganser, and on the roof of the Blyth Fish Supply Ltd buildings, five Snow Buntings.


Competition time now - spot the Waxwings in the apple tree at the Burton House Pub car park yesterday.

And some Snowies: